Tonight, The Man of Steel arrives in theaters across the country, and we’re excited as only nerds can be. But the history of Superman in the movies is almost as fascinating as the movie itself. This is the payoff to a long, torturous process that involved millions of dollars spent and dozens of scripts and hundreds of executives, and took nearly twenty years to pay off.
There Was Going To Be A Fifth Superman Movie, That Involved Him Dying
Before DC actually killed Superman off, the producer of the ’70s film series, Ilya Salkind, proposed a fifth movie. Based largely off the success of the Superboy syndicated series, it would again star Christopher Reeve, and would feature Superman buying the farm… only to be revived in the Bottle City of Kandor.
If that sounds bad, consider that the people responsible for the last two movies in the franchise, Cannon Films, wanted to do a fifth one too, only this one would be directed by the infamous Albert Pyun. That thankfully never came together, although Pyun did manage to direct a superhero movie eventually.
The Death Of Superman Revived The Franchise
The Death of Superman is, for better or for worse, one of the best selling comic books of all time. It sold enormous numbers, and had a string of effects on the comics industry. But that, combined with the ongoing success of Batman, convinced Warner Bros. that the Superman franchise had been lying fallow long enough to start making a Superman movie. After all, the comic boom was a big deal, and there’s no way that such an enormous franchise could be mishandled, right?
The First Revival Attempt, Superman Reborn, Was Meant Literally
As hard as it is to believe, Superman Lives, the notorious movie featuring Tim Burton directing Nicolas Cage as Superman, wasn’t the worst idea Warners had. That would be the first script commissioned.
It’s incredibly difficult to find, partially because Warner Bros. has spent a lot of money trying to make sure nobody reads it, but in the original draft by Jonathan Lemkin, Superman transfers his life force to Lois, she gives birth to a new Superman, and the franchise continues. No kidding. And this was written to be a family friendly movie, by the way.
Our only explanation is that it was the early ’90s and cocaine must have still been common. Thankfully, somebody somewhere realized that this was an absolutely insane idea and should not be done. So instead they did something even worse: Had another script written with Superman in a robot suit and a Doomsday with “Kryptonite blood”. And when that wasn’t awful enough, they decided to fire up Superman Lives.