After breaking out onto the scene in the mid-1990s with Clerks and Mallrats, Kevin Smith found himself with a dream opportunity for any comic book and superhero fan as Warner Bros. reached out to him about helping to relaunch the Superman movie franchise.
The project – originally titled Superman Reborn and retitled Superman Lives by Smith – ultimately never made it to the screen, and now on an episode of his Fatman on Batman podcast, Smith has unearthed the initial letter he received from Warner Bros. which outlined its plans to bring the Man of Steel back to the big screen:
“What I hold in my hand is a 24-year-old Warner Bros. letter. May I read it to you? ‘It’s time for the rebirth of a hero. As you know, we are making a new Superman film, taking the world’s most famous superhero into the 21st century. The enclosed collection of comic books forms the basis of the take outline. We would love to discuss this with Kevin Smith.’
“This was the storyline that I was handed. ‘Alienated from the world he protects, convinced his relationship with Lois Lane is doomed, Superman is suddenly defeated and left for dead by the villain Brainiac, an intergalactic genius intent upon collecting the best DNA in the universe. Superman is secretly nursed back to health by his mentor Cadmus only to discover he has lost his superpowers.’
“‘As Lois mourns the loss of her love and Brainiac frantically searches for Superman’s body, the Man of Steel returns, disguised, using a high-tech bodysuit to fight while he attempts to regain his superpowers. While battling Brainiac’s henchmen Parasite and Banshee, Superman rediscovers his powers and his love for Lois Lane. In a final showdown, Superman destroys Brainiac and saves the world that he has come to call home.'”
Smith would exit Superman Lives after director Tim Burton joined the project, casting Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel and bringing in his Batman Returns writer Wesley Strick to take the project in a different direction. Burton too would leave the film in 1998, and Warner’s Superman relaunch would go through several iterations before director Bryan Singer teamed with actor Brandon Routh for 2006’s Superman Returns.