EXCLUSIVE: Lex Luthor's Weapon From Tim Burton's SUPERMAN LIVES
John Mann is a veteran concept designer and storyboard artist, having recently worked on Jon Favreau's Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens. Today, I want to show you two pieces of concept art that John Mann created for Tim Burton's Superman Lives.
Before we get to the art let's do a quick recap. In 1987, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which starred Christopher Reeves and Gene Hackman, performed very poorly at the box office. So bad in fact, that the film's producer, Cannon Films, would end up going bankrupt not too long afterwards. The film rights reverted back to Ilya and Alexander Salkind. In the early 90's, they attempted to create a fifth Superman film starring Reeves, which actually told the death and rebirth of Superman. That story idea predates the comic books popular, "The Death of Superman" storyline.
When "The Death of Superman" comic books were published, their popularity sparked an interest from Warner Bros., who quickly scooped up the film rights in 1993 from the Salkinds, but handed them over to Jon Peters (Barbra Streisand's ex-boyfriend & ex-hair stylist). Peters and Warner Bros. would push for a family friendly, and more importantly, a toy friendly Superman film. Peters initially hired screenwriter, Jonathan Lemkin, and the film at that time was known as Superman Reborn. It would be heavily influenced by "The Death of Superman" comic books.
When that fizzled, Kevin Smith ("Clerks") would be hired to re-write the script, but under the bizarre conditions set by Jon Peters. He wanted an all black Superman suit, no flying ability, and for Superman climactic battle in the third act to be between Supes and a giant spider. I'll let video below with Kevin Smith fill you in on the rest of that story.
After Kevin Smith's efforts, Tim Burton would come on board to direct, but he wanted to add his unique elements to the script, so he hired Wesley Strick ("Cape Fear").
"The confirmed details of Wesley Strick's script indicate that, like the previous versions, it followed the "Death of Superman" story. A notable departure from that work is the fact that once Brainiac arrives on Earth, he and Lex Luthor eventually merge into a single entity dubbed "Luthiac". Thematically, Burton and Strick worked to underscore Superman's alienation by virtue of the fact that Superman (Kal-El) is -- literally -- an alien." - Superman Wiki
Burton's version would've had Nicolas Cage playing Superman. Kevin Spacey was approached for Lex Luthor, Chris Rock was set for Jimmy Olsen, Courtney Cox was up for Lois Lane, and Tim Allen claims he was negotiating with Warner Bros. for the Brainiac part. The film quickly went into pre-production with an expected release in the summer of 1998.
Burton hired Rick Heinricks as the film's production designer. This is when artist, John Mann,
would come into the picture. He was hired to be a member of Rick's art department and began conceptualizing parts of the film. You can see two of his contributions below, with descriptions, that he exclusvisely
sent over to ComicBookMovie.com
"The black pyramid shaped thing is a concept for Lex Luthor's proposed orbiting space weapon. One is how it would look normally in orbit then the second would be as it looks inside after deployment/unfolded. There would be solar panels of sorts attached to it when unfurled/deployed. The outside shell becomes usable solar panels when deployed." - John Mann
I'd also like to add that screenwriter Dan Gilroy was brought in to rewrite Strick's script. His job was to bring the budget down by as much as $90 million dollars to a more palatable $100 million. While we don't know much about Strick's script we do have a lot of details about Gilroy's.
"Brainiac comes to Earth and encounters Luthor. The two devise a plan to destroy Superman. They begin by merging into a single cyborg entity known as "Lexiac". Lexiac creates the creature Doomsday to attack Superman. Superman and Doomsday battle to the death, after which time (and a public funeral) the Man of Steel's body is transported to the Fortress of Solitude. The body is revived (powerless) by a mysterious Kryptonian force known only as "K". Superman and "K" leave the fortress and trek back to Metropolis.
During this time, Lexiac--an advanced alien force with the resources of a multi-national conglomerate at its disposal--plans to destroy Earth just as he did Krypton. He begins assembling an arsenal of nuclear warheads to be detonated on all the world's top cities." - Superman Wiki
By the way, John Mann is quite the renaissance man, besides creating his outstanding concept art and storyboards for films, John also directed his first short film, "Girl With a Tail", which you can view below.
You can see more of John's concept art and storyboards at his website storyboardcomix.com
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