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Costume Designs from J.J. Abrams’ Unmade ‘Superman: Flyby’ Film

Now that the next Superman film is safely in the hands of director Zack Snyder and composer Hans Zimmer (having been conceived by Batman luminaries Christopher Nolan and David Goyer), it is fun to look back on what might have been. We previously showcased and discussed the radically weird costume concepts developed for Tim Burton’s aborted Superman Lives project, which was — for Rao knows what reason — to star Nicolas Cage in the title role. Thanks again to visual effects artist Steve Johnson, we’re privalaged to see how Lost and nu-Star Trek co-creator J.J. Abrams, Rush Hour director Brett Ratner (later of X-Men: The Last Stand), or Charlie’s Angeles’ McG may have envisioned the Man of Steel in the unmade Superman: Flyby.At least, we strongly suspect these concepts were illustrated for the Abrams project. On his Facebook profile, Johnson named this collection of Superman designs “Bryan Singer Superman Concepts,” but the scans themselves are clearly labeled “Flyby,” which would almost certainly reference the 2002 script by J.J. Abrams.

In that story, Jor-El commits suicide in Kryptonian jail before being visited in Kryptonian Heaven by his dead son Superman. Flyby was to be directed by Brett Ratner, who was later replaced by McG, who was later replaced by Bryan Singer, who completed Superman Returns. Actors associated with the Flyby project included Josh Hartnett, who was offered $100 million for a three-film stint as Superman, as well as Jude Law, Paul Walker, Brendan Fraser and Ashton Kutcher.

Johnson’s illustrations depict a Superman much more familiar to us than what we saw in Tim Burton’s vision and those startlingly creepy Nicolas Cage mannequins. There is something vaguely DC One Million about a couple of the drawings, and the chest emblems appear to reference Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come design of Superman. Also included in Johnson’s material is a triptych of what many have guessed is Doomsday, the Kryptonian monster who famously killed Superman in the landmark 1990s The Death of Superman comic book storyline.

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