Comikaze 2015’s The Death of Superman Lives

Comikaze itself was a blast this past year; a great place to meet up with old friends, make new ones, geek out with other fans, and get the latest and greatest information on the industry. In this series, I’ll touch upon a couple of the panels I had the pleasure of taking part in and give you the highlights of each.

First up is the Saturday panel at 1 pm, accurately titled, “The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?” presented by Jon Schnepp of Metalocalypse and Venture Bros. fame. The feature-length film illuminates some of the mysteries that veiled the production of the movie Superman Lives, its banishment to development hell, and the eventual quiet death of the concept completely.

The documentary starts off with a quick rundown of what Superman Lives had promised to be, and why Schnepp was so interested in its total obfuscation after the cancellation of the movie. Schnepp interviews the iconic Kevin Smith, who had written the first draft of the Superman Lives script, and takes down Smith’s views on the whole incident.

Smith, as it turns out, only wrote the first draft of the thusly titled script, which was an attempt to adapt the then-recent “The Death of Superman” comic-book storyline. The script was given to Warner Brothers Studios and Jon Peters. Tim Burton was hired on to reimagine Smith’s script, and Smith was let go from the project shortly thereafter. Some time in all this, none other than Nicholas Cage was hired on to be the titular hero. Yep, Nick Cage was supposed to be Superman.

Once in Burton’s bony hands, the project went into overdrive. Huge numbers of people went into the art direction and costuming departments. James Carson, Jacques Rey, Harold Belker, and Bill Boes were among some of the big names working on concept art in the film. One of Boes’ later sculptures, a skull-shaped spaceship from a later iteration of the script, reportedly still rests in Jon Peters’ living room to this day. The film was largely taken up by the discussion of the time period Burton was directing, though the script had gone through Wesley Strick’s hands as well, and he had done his best to mold the setting to Burton’s vision.

The end came shortly after Dan Gilroy got the job of scriptwriting, and the funding was abruptly cut. Movie after movie crashed and burned right as Superman Lives was ready for production, leaving the movie with no money and the stockholders with no patience. With the project canceled, the artists who worked on a multi-million dollar project featuring perhaps the most iconic superhero of all time, were forced to walk away, with naught to show for it.

The panel concluded with a quick Q&A session. A particularly amusing break in the middle of the film, as it turns out, was an inclusion of Schnepp’s to break up the heavy movie creating dialogue of the documentary. The film itself was pretty nifty, and while I may have included the pertinent bits in this review, I still suggest checking it out if you, too, are interested in the loss that might have been a great Superman film.

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