The ’90s was a huge time for cinema. Technology and the perspective of movies was evolving, films were constantly reinventing their respective genres, and several heavyweight directors were starting to make a name for themselves. It’s hard to imagine, but in the decade that saw The Blair Witch Project and The Matrix change the cinematic landscape forever, we were also introduced to the talents of Quentin Tarintino and Kevin Smith, two directors who are now held with highest regard in the Hollywood echelon. Many conversations about movies can steer to them with no effort now, but back in the ’90s, they were just making their mark with directorial debut features Reservoir Dogs and Clerks.
Fast forward twenty years, and a lot has changed. Superhero movies are king, but in the ’90s, this wasn’t the case. In fact, several huge superhero franchises were either dead in the water or struggling under the weight of their superior originals. One of the characters in question was Superman, possibly the most popular superhero in comic book culture, and although he was never brought back to the big screen during his period, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. In fact, Kevin Smith was approached to bring Supes back in Superman Lives, but as history will tell you, this never materialized. However, the director still has a little hope that his script will see the light of day.
Kevin Smith recently held a Facebook Q&A, and the subject of such an adaptation was broached. The director agreed that Superman Lives could be adapted into an animated movie, and even mentioned a few names he would love to see bring his characters to life.
“Oh like based on my script, based on the Superman Lives script? That would be tight, dude. I’m not going to lie, that would be fun to see. That’s something I worked on 20 years ago at this point, so that would be really amazing to kind of see, like they turn it into a cartoon and get the people to do the voices. Nic Cage is still around and stuff. And I wanted Michael Rooker for my Lex Luthor, so that would be amazing. Um, but, you know, I’m game. That ain’t up to me, kids. That’s up to the good folks at Warner Bros. and stuff, but if they were ever to call and say hey, we want to do a cartoon version of that Superman script we wrote, believe me I’d be like, that’d be dope, man. You know you close all loops in life, one way or another, and that would be a nice way to close that loop.”
Kevin Smith originally pitched his Superman idea to Warner Bros. back in 1996. At that point, it had been nine years since Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, a movie that stalled the franchise. The ’90s was particularly sparse when it came to superhero movies — compared to the present culture, anyway — and Superman Lives was projected to bring the Man of Steel back in a new and exciting way, as per the bizarre directives of producer Jon Peters. Although Smith was a life-long comic book fan and familiar with the Superman mythos, the script had some weird deviations; it had Clark Kent’s alter-ego wearing an all-black suit and fighting a giant spider. Regardless of this, Superman Lives moved forward, went through several rewrites, and landed on the plate of director Tim Burton, who had huge success with the Batman franchise. By 2000, due to various complications, the project was dead in the water.
It’s been a long time since then, and superhero movies are king right now. An animated adaptation has every chance of seeing the light of day, what with TV streaming offering an alternative to the big screen, but the biggest obstacle is simple; DC has already adapted Superman for the DCEU in various forms. He now exists in the Justice League and Supergirl universes both on the big screen and TV, so a live-action version of Smith’s beloved script would seem impossible. Still, an animated movie idea has some legs. Just last month, DC released Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, which saw Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar voicing their original roles from the 1960s TV series. The feature premiered at New York Comic-Con on October 6.
With The Killing Joke also being adapted into an animated feature, it seems there is a little hope for Kevin Smith’s project after all. True, his version of Superman may differ from the current DCEU version, but comic book characters are always being reinvented and reimagined in the comic books; it’s a trend that has been ongoing for decades, and it keeps them fresh and interesting. Whether or not it will come to fruition is another thing altogether, but the idea of Nicolas Cage as Superman is certainly something that lends the potential project some credibility.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the effort that went into Superman Lives, check out the documentary The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?, which features interviews with Smith, Tim Burton, Jon Peters, and many others.
[Featured Image by DC Comics]