Movies That Never Were – Superman Reborn

In 1992 DC Comics managed what, until that point, was thought to be impossible. They’d gotten massive mainstream media attention to a comics event. The event in question? The Death of Superman. Whilst comics fans knew that his death wouldn’t last the mainstream media was less certain. Newspapers were speculating over what his death would mean and this lead to a massive surge in Superman’s popularity.

Warner Brothers, never one to miss a trick, purchased the Superman movie rights from the Salkinds (the people behind the Christopher Reeves movies) and gave the project to producer Jon Peters (more on him next time with Superman Lives) who hired Jonathan Lemkin to write a script. Lemkin is perhaps best well known for writing Lethal Weapon 4 inarguably the worst of the pretty bad Lethal Weapon films but we won’t hold that against him. Those films were huge at the time so hiring him made box office sense.

Warner gave him clear instructions that this film was to be aimed at mainstream audiences, not comics fans, and be styled similar to the so called MTV Generation that was around in the early 1990s. They also wanted the film to be “toyetic,” a phrase WB loves, which means they wanted the film to sell a lot of toys. Given WBs desire to turn Batman toyetic instead of dark gave us Batman & Robin… Well I’ll leave you all to finish that thought. Suffice to say many blockbuster films make far more money for the studios through product licencing deals, especially toy sales, than at the box office. Star Wars is the prime example of this. Those toys, T-shirts, and even corn flakes are a licence for LucasFilm, and now Disney, to print money.

After that little tangent what would’ve been the plot to Superman Reborn? Well Lois Lane and Clark Kent were to be in a troubled relationship (trust issues perhaps given that he was hiding his true identity from her? I know I’d be pissed off if I found out my other half was secretly a Kryptonian Demigod) and feature a battle with Doomsday. At the end of the battle Superman was going to die and in his final breath he tells Lois the truth and how much he really loves her. So far so more or less direct adaptation of the Death of Superman comics story.

What happens next, however, is where things would have gotten VERY weird.

On his dying Superman’s “life force” was supposed to pass to Lois thus resulting in her becoming pregnant and eventually a virgin birth. Wait Lois Lane? Virgin?! No wonder they were having relationship issues. After a 24 hour pregnancy the baby would then age 21 years in just three weeks. This child would then become the resurrected Superman, defeat Doomsday, and save the world. And leave Lois messed up knowing that her lover is now her son via the means of resurrection. Very strange.

Oddly enough WB didn’t turn it down due to fact it ripped off Jesus’s death and return and the most likely anger they faced from America’s Christian South. They turned it down as they felt that story was too close to the origin of Batman. Seriously. I’m honestly not sure what version of Batman they ever read but I’m pretty sure virgin birth and resurrection were never in any of his origin stories.

Warner told Jon Peters they wanted changes so he hired Gregory Pointer (best known for the script for the straight to DVD Lion King 2 a film that is admittedly better than it has any right to be) to do a rewrite. This rewrite had Brainiac creating Doomsday to kill Superman via his new improved “kryptonite blood.” And those relationship problems in the earlier draft? Now they were so severe Superman had a psychiatrist. Superman, The Man of Steel, the superhero to which all other aspire. That guy would need psychiatric help. If Supes can’t cope with the world emotionally what chance do we mere mortals have.

Superman was still going to die and be reborn however this time he’d be reborn powerless. His powers, long since established as a result of our yellow sun, where now the result of something called “Phin-yar” which was a blatent rip off of The Force from Star Wars. Villains Parasite and Silver Banshee, the latter recently seen in an episode of Supergirl, were also added in to the mix. Warner Brothers liked it, Jon Peters liked it, but when a certain young writer director called Kevin Smith (Yup THAT Kevin Smith of Fatman on Batman podcast fame) was given the script by Warner Brothers to read he felt it didn’t respect the Superman mythos and was a very very campy take on the character.

Warner Brothers decided to give Kevin Smith a pitch and we’ll explore the results of that next time when SUPERMAN LIVES!