We may only be a few movies into the DCEU, but there is a rich history of films based on the properties of DC Comics dating back 50+ years. There were the serials and short films of the 1940s and ‘50s, of course, but it wasn’t until Batman came to the small and silver screens in 1966 that superhero movies became a legitimate craze. Years later, in 1978, Superman introduced the world to the first blockbuster comic book film.
Now, as a fledgling cinematic universe attempts to find success, we look back at all that was… and all that could have been. We remember how the world’s greatest superheroes and villains looked on camera, but too often we forget what was left on the cutting room floor. It’s always fun to compare the finished product to the concept and prototypes that were ultimately rejected. Some of these early designs DC Comics has shared with us, like the early look of the Joker in The Dark Knight before Heath Ledger came aboard. Others, DC has attempted to bury from view or has at least completely ignored. Either way, CBR gives you 16 unused movie costumes that DC Comics doesn’t want you to see.
16. SUPERMAN LIVES
By now we’ve all heard of the infamous Superman Lives film that cast Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel, would have had Tim Burton as director, and was worked on by Kevin Smith. Much of what could have been has been lost to time, but concepts for the suit made it all the way into the prototype phase. The Photos that were unearthed in 2009 provide a lasting legacy for a questionable time in superhero movies.
Pictures show Cage in a plastic/leather-like Superman costume that makes him look like a walking action figure. However, it’s the film’s second suit that really stands out after all these years. Following Kal-El’s death, he was supposed to return sporting a brand new outfit—one that was see-through silver and had rainbow lighting effects. Superman would have actually used gadgets in the movie, too.
15. BATMAN V SUPERMAN
Before Zack Snyder settled for the Frank Miller-inspired batsuit for Ben Affleck, the design team explored several different variations for the Dark Knight. You’ve seen the sleeker suit on CBR before. Concept artist Constantine Serkis also developed a few alternative looks for the film, which resemble Christopher Nolan’s Batman with the plated armor and the sleek, form-fitting suit. After half a decade spent looking at Christian Bale, it’s hard to go for anything else.
The suit they end up with for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is far bulkier and isn’t as “realistic” as these designs. Affleck’s Batman is bigger, stronger, and more of a brawler than Bale’s take on the character. Say what you will about the film and the actor, but BvS sported one of the better batsuits in movie history.
14. MAN OF STEEL
Before Zack Snyder chose the eventual costume for Henry Cavill’s Superman, he had a lot of options to choose from. According to concept artist Warren Manser, the studio was considering a wide variety of designs. Some were faithful to the comic books, some were a departure. There were even some that threw out the traditional red, blue, and yellow color palette.
Manser developed a few ideas that were ultimately scrapped, but we can see what they were considering early on. His concepts featured the traditional red trunks and one even sported some interesting veiny features that resemble the suit from Green Lantern. There’s even a black suit Superman, which likely would have been used in a sequel if they had ever gone down that route.
13. SUICIDE SQUAD
Most of the concept art out there for the Suicide Squad movie shows off alternative clothing the characters could have worn in the movie. Katana’s clothing went through a few different iterations, from a flashier design on the pants to a full set of samurai-style armor. She also almost sported beautiful red dyed hair that would have looked fantastic in action.
Concept artist Stephan Martiniere shared his designs for the film, which include a Katana with dreadlocks that looks almost nothing like the comic book character. He also had a few different concepts for the Enchantress, which made her look kind of like the Scarlet Witch but dressed in green. The movie would have looked a lot different if they had gone with any of these ideas.
12. SUPERMAN: FLYBY
Superman: Flyby was more or less a precursor to the film that would eventually become Superman Returns. Instead of a continuation of the Christopher Reeve Superman franchise, J.J. Abrams wrote the script as a new origin story. Trouble with casting and production ultimately caused the demise of the film, but designs for the titular character still survive.
Several years ago, costume and special effects designer Steve Johnson released concept art for Superman’s suit for Flyby. These designs take a far more alien spin on the traditional Superman costume. You will also notice that, even back then, the studio wanted to get rid of the red trunks. It’s too bad this design wasn’t used for anything because it would make a great costume for an alternate world story.
11. BATMAN AND ROBIN
The universally maligned Batman and Robin film from the ‘90s actually had a lot of good ideas going for it when they were in pre-production. Several designers came up with interesting concepts for the new characters, which were ultimately scrapped. Designer Miles Teves developed a sexy Batgirl costume with a bat-shaped boob window. Admittedly, he knew the suit wouldn’t work for the kind of film they were producing.
A few years ago, concept artist Tim Burgard shared his designs for Poison Ivy and Batgirl. His costumes were a bit more faithful to the source material than what we eventually got. He even made sure to give Batgirl a practical outfit for riding motorcycles. None of these designs would have been right for the actresses in their roles, but maybe that just says they should have found someone to match these looks instead.
Before Warner Bros. pulled the plug on a Superman Returns sequel, Bryan Singer was hard at work bringing Brainiac to the big screen. The movie would have reportedly had the villain travel to Earth in order to “save” it, only for everyone to learn that Brainiac actually intended to destroy the planet. In the process, he would have downloaded his mind into Superman’s son—yeesh.
Though we never got to see it happen, illustrator Michael Anthony Jackson had worked on an imagining of the film’s bad guy. Apparently his Brainiac would have looked like some kind of creepy mashup between Darth Vader and the Martians from Mars Attacks. Between the synopsis and the design, it’s probably a good thing this one didn’t go into production after all.
9. TIM BURTON’S BATMAN
Tim Burton’s Batman pushed the envelope on how dark the franchise could go. What stood out most of all was the batsuit, which took on the look of a suit of armor for the first time ever, pushing the franchise further from Adam West and the 1960s. We know that the director had plans for a third movie after Batman Returns, but the studio had other plans.
Sculptor José Fernandez developed concepts for both Batman Returns and Burton’s proposed third film, which featured sleek designs and over-the-top abs. It is also well known that Marlon Wayans would have been Robin. Costume designer Bob Ringwood even sketched out an interesting costume for him to wear. It matches the visual themes of Batman but gives him a more street-level design with a bizarre ‘80s hairdo.
8. JOSS WHEDON’S WONDER WOMAN
Years before Wonder Woman was turned into a box office success, Joss Whedon tried his hand at adapting Diana to the big screen. Things obviously didn’t work out, but you can still read Whedon’s hilariously bad script online. As for his vision of Wonder Woman herself? That lives on in a few drawings that could be seen as concept art for the film.
Designer Shawna Trpcic tweeted out a few pictures of Diana in 2010. Seeing as how she has worked with Whedon on Angel, Firefly, Serenity, and Dollhouse, it’s safe to say what these drawings were for. Trpcic’s Wonder Woman is a stylized take on the traditional costume and actually holds some similarity to J. Michael Straczynski’s reimagining of the character from Wonder Woman #600.
7. DARREN ARONOFSKY’S BATMAN
Following the end of the Batman movie franchise from the ‘90s, Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky pitched a new beginning for the character in a story (loosely) based on Batman: Year One. He would have turned Bruce Wayne into a homeless youth following the death of his parents, and his Alfred would have been an African-American mechanic.
Thankfully, the film was rejected, and instead we got Batman Begins, but at least the costume was something fun to look at. The bizarre design is very steampunk in nature and looks cobbled together, which makes sense considering his lack of resources. Several of the suit’s features actually harken back to the Golden Age batsuit, which is pretty cool. This would be a great costume for another instalment of Batman: Gotham By Gaslight.
6. KRONA AND PARALLAX
While the finished product ended up looking like a lackluster CGI box office bomb, Green Lantern could have been a lot darker with a more terrifying villain. Before Parallax was the giant head in a cloud it ended up being, there were a few other options on the table that didn’t make it to the animators.
Freelance artist Peter Rubin shared his unused designs for the fear parasite, which made the creature look more of an alien monster with tentacles rather than a demonic dust cloud. Nothing came close to resembling the insect appearance Parallax has in the comics, but these would have been much better. Concept artist Jerad S. Marantz also had some creepy depictions of the unnamed Guardian infected by Parallax, which would have been Krona.
Following the disappointing release of Suicide Squad, concept artist Ed Natividad showed off some new artwork that featured several elements not seen in the final cut of the movie. It seems that there were several key scenes originally depicted in the art, including a part where the Joker steals the Batmobile. That never happened, but it’s a good look at what could have been.
Included in Natividad’s designs is a drawing of a new Scarecrow that never made it into the film. This version of Jonathan Crane carries a sickle and turns the terrifying scarecrow look up to 11. Some farmhand style and plenty of straw poking out from his clothing make this version of Scarecrow an interesting addition to the DCEU. It’s too bad we never got to see him come to life.
4. JUSTICE LEAGUE: MORTAL
It’s easy to forget that Warner Bros. almost released a Justice League movie 10 years ago. The cast was finalized, filming locations were selected, and the costumes were in production. Then everything fell apart and the movie never got made. Things were so far along that they had working prototypes for some of the costumes. Gal Gadot totally nailed the look and feel of playing Wonder Woman, but Megan Gayle’s Princess Diana worked in a very different way.
We don’t have much else to go on, but Weta Workshop had been developing designs up until production fell apart. Concept art for Aquaman was released that shows the king of Atlantis’ take on a more natural look that we’ve never seen before. His armor resembled that of a crustacean and his body suit looked like it could blend in with seaweed.
3. GENERAL ZOD
Artist Ed Natividad also worked on Man of Steel and had several designs for Zod that would have painted the character in a completely different light. Instead of the conniving berserker he ended up being, at one time it looked like he could have taken on more of a foot soldier vibe with full body armor and weapons to match. One of the designs even featured something of an S shield.
Each design is very different, showing how open they were to the final look, which would have made him look more like the Russian Zod from the early 2000’s than the classic character. Ultimately, the studio decided to go with a costume without a helmet in order to show off actor Michael Shannon. It’s a pity these designs couldn’t be used for another character.
The worst thing about Doomsday from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is that he could have looked so much better, but the studio actively chose to turn the villain into a Lord of the Rings cave troll. There are numerous unused designs out there on the internet, all of which are superior to the final thing.
Perhaps the best, and fittingly the most accurate to the comics, was the design created by concept artist Jerad S. Marantz. This Doomsday is big and mean, sure, but he’s also boney and has the wisps of hair that truly make the character feel real. It’s a pity that the studio didn’t go for this look because it would have been perfect and fans would have actually enjoyed something from the movie.
1. HARLEY QUINN
Before Margot Robbie played a stunning rendition of Harley Quinn, there were a few different looks that were being played around with. The general look and feel of the character was there, but the concept art really concentrated on the smaller details like tattoos and makeup. We know what we got, but what could things have looked like instead?
The various makeup art is interesting to compare to the final product. Harley looks a lot more heavily made-up than she does in the movie, but some of it would have been an interesting twist for the character. The dramatic tattoos would have been stylistically crude and similar to the Joker. She even has a giant Joker face on her body. Good call on toning it down a bit in the end.
Do you know of other cool unused costume designs from DC movies? Share them with us in the comments!
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