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6 Superman Movies that Didn't Get Made

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By Scott Meslow

In case you've somehow missed the relentless onslaught of commercial spots and promotional tie-ins, Man of Steel—Zack Snyder's massive reboot of the Superman franchise, which stars Henry Cavill—hit theaters last weekend. But for every Superman movie that has hit theaters since the heyday of the Christopher Reeve-starring films, a number of other directors have made failed attempts to get the Man of Steel off the ground and back onto the big screen. Over the past two decades, what are the stories behind the strange, fascinating (and occasionally terrible) Superman movies that didn't get made? Here's a guide.

1. Superman V (1991)

Though both 1978's Superman and 1980's Superman II are widely acknowledged to be classics, the Christopher Reeve-starring films petered out at the end with the disappointing Superman III and the truly awful Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. According to comic book writer Cary Bates — who pitched a concept for a fifth Superman movie in 1991 that he says was almost greenlit — the franchise could have been saved by his script for Superman V. He says it was designed "to leapfrog over Superman III and especially IV, and return the series to the high mark achieved in 1 and 2."

The plan was "to do a fully developed, balls-out science fiction story pitting Superman and Brainiac against each other mano a mano," Bates continues at Newsarama. In Superman V, the extraterrestrial android would have arrived on Earth to shrink Metropolis and put it into a bottle as part of a larger collection of miniature cities. Then Brainiac would discover that Superman was in the tiny city, and he would have shrunken himself down to battle the Man of Steel, resulting in a brutal fight that would have left Superman dead years before a similar storyline appeared in the comics. Ultimately, Superman would have been reborn in Kandor — the capital of his home planet Krypton, which Brainiac kept in another bottle. After reconnecting with his roots, Superman would have escaped to resume his battle with the supervillain.

So what happened? According to Bates, producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind — who held the rights to the character at the time — put Superman V on hold to focus on their other project,Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. By the time they were ready to produce the superhero project, Warners Bros. had announced the TV show, Lois & Clark, which killed any other Superman projects in development. In retrospect, Bates thinks it was for the best: Given the rudimentary state of CGI at the time, his screenplay "was probably too ambitious and ahead of its time, given the modest projected budget." Any fans who are still curious can read an original draft of Bates' script at the Superman Homepage.

2. Superman Reborn (1993)

Producer Jon Peters, who made a splash with Batman in 1989, had his own plan to revive the Superman franchise in a post-Reeve era. Once the rights to Superman were reacquired by Warner Bros., Peters hired screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin to write a reboot of the franchise that owed a heavy debt to 1992's massively successful comic book story The Death of Superman. In Lemkin's Superman Reborn, the Man of Steel would have squared off against a vicious intergalactic killer called Doomsday, with both characters dying at the end of the battle. In his dying breath, Superman would have confessed his love for Lois Lane, which would somehow have rendered her pregnant with a superbaby. For reasons, once again, that went largely unexplained, the baby would have grown into adulthood in a matter of weeks, taking over for his father as Superman.

Warner Bros. rejected the (utterly crazy) first draft of the Superman Reborn script, hiring screenwriter Gregory Poirier to do an extended rewrite. Poirier's script added several new villains, including Brainiac, Silver Banshee, and Parasite — and though it still featured the death of Superman, it skipped the magic pregnancy/superbaby angle in favor of a government project that would have revived Superman. But Kevin Smith, who had his own ideas for the franchise, hated Poirier's script, and pitched his own concept for the reboot.

3. Superman Lives (1997)

So what was Kevin Smith's concept for Superman? The script, which he called Superman Lives, also featured Brainiac as a villain, and included the death and resurrection of Superman in its storyline. Unfortunately, the similarities ended there. In an extended monologue at a fan event, Smith revealed that there were a number of absolutely insane parameters placed on his screenplay by producer Jon Peters.

According to Smith, in his first meeting with Peters, the producer explained that he envisioned Sean Penn as Superman because he wanted the hero to come across as "a violent, caged animal — a f--king killer." Peters also laid down three rules for the script: Superman couldn't wear his familiar red-and-blue costume, Superman couldn't fly, and Superman had to fight a giant spider in the story's third act. After reading Smith's first draft, Peters asked Smith to add "a gay R2-D2" as a sidekick for Brainiac, and a character resembling Chewbacca, in order to capitalize on the success of the then-recent Star Wars re-releases.

Eventually, Batman director Tim Burton signed on to direct Superman Lives, with Nicolas Cage attached to play Superman. Burton had Smith's script thrown out in favor of a new script by writers that he'd personally chosen. Though locations were scouted and Cage did a costume test, the production was repeatedly delayed due to various creative and production problems. Burton left the project in 1998, and Cage left the project in 2000.

4. Batman vs. Superman (2002)

After various writers and directors tried and failed to get the next Superman film into production, one script stood out: Batman vs. Superman, from a script by Andrew Kevin WalkerIn a 2002 interview with Variety, director Wolfgang Petersen expressed his enthusiasm for the project: "It is a clash of the titans. They play off of each other so perfectly. [Superman] is clear, bright, all that is noble and good, and Batman represents the dark, obsessive and vengeful side. They are two sides of the same coin and that is material for great drama." He also predicted that the entire genre would be permanently altered by 9/11.

In the film, a retired Bruce Wayne's wife would have been murdered at their wedding, by the Joker, prompting Wayne to seek revenge and uncover a complex plot that involved Lex Luthor. Batman would then turn against his former best friend Superman before they teamed up once again to take Luthor down. Petersen had originally suggested that Matt Damon was the kind of actor he was looking for, though it's unclear if he meant Damon would play Batman or Superman. Reports indicate that the long list of favorites for either of the two starring roles included Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, James Franco, Jude Law, and Paul Walker.

5. Superman: Flyby (2002)

In the end, Warner Bros. decided to shelve Batman vs. Superman in favor of a competing script that focused solely on the Man of Steel: Superman: Flyby, by J.J. Abrams. (The Batman franchise, which went through its own extended development cycle, eventually reemerged with Batman Begins in 2005.) Superman: Flyby was a full reboot of the franchise centered on the far-reaching effects of a Kryptonian civil war — between Superman's father Jor-El and his uncle Kata-Zor — which eventually extended to Earth. Once again, Superman dies and is resurrected, and the story ends with Superman leaving Earth to go back to Krypton, setting up a sequel.

Over its troubled development process, many, many actors were discussed as possible stars for Superman: Flyby, including Josh Hartnett, Jude Law, Paul Walker, Ashton Kutcher, James Marsden, and Brendan Fraser. After months of false starts, director Brett Ratner dropped out of the project and was replaced by McG, who dropped out when Warner Bros. insisted on shooting in Australia to save money. (Ironically enough, he later conceded that he'd been afraid of flying.) Though Abrams volunteered to direct, Warner Bros. hired Bryan Singer, who finally delivered an actual Superman movie in 2006: The Brandon Routh-starring Superman Returns.

6. Untitled Superman Returns sequel (2006)

Unfortunately for all involved, Warner Bros. was underwhelmed by the reaction to Superman Returns. (Though, perhaps it was an understandable response from the studio, given the movie's decade-plus development cycle.) The studio decided to go in a new direction with the franchise, but a sequel to Superman Returns was already in the early stages of development.According to a 2010 interview with screenwriter Michael Dougherty, the film would have introduced other Kryptonians, though he wouldn't say whether they would be villains. He also hinted that Brainiac might have made an appearance. And while he noted that Snyder's Man of Steel (in pre-production at the time of the interview) would be another reboot, he thought there was a decent chance that Brandon Routh would star again. (Sorry, Brandon.)

And here we are, more than two decades after Reeve's Superman took flight, as Man of Steel hits theaters. Will it be the smash-hit Superman film that screenwriters and directors have been trying to create for so long, or does Superman have yet another reboot in his future?

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Flurry Road: 5 Tips for Safe Driving on Winter Roads
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For drivers in the Upper Midwest, traveling during the winter can range from slightly unsettling to deadly. Between 2011 and 2015, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Auto Insurance Center, an average of 800 fatalities occurred annually as a result of weather-related accidents. Icy roads, poor visibility, and other factors can make cold-weather commuting a dicey proposition.

While we can’t control the weather (yet), we can increase our odds of navigating slush-filled roadways successfully. Mental Floss spoke with American Automobile Association (AAA) driving education expert William Van Tassel, Ph.D., for some key tips on how to get your winter driving in gear.

1. GATHER SUPPLIES.

Before you even start your car up for a trip through inclement weather, Van Tassel recommends you pack a worst-case scenario trunk full of supplies. “In case of emergency, you want things on board like water, a blanket, a flashlight, gloves, and kitty litter,” he says. (That last one is for traction in case you get stuck in a snowbank.) You should also have road flares, a shovel, an ice scraper, and a fully-charged cell phone to call for assistance if needed.

2. SLOW DOWN.

Posted speed limit signs assume you’re driving on clear and clean roadways. If snow or ice has accumulated, you need to adjust your speed accordingly. “In slick conditions, tires lose a lot of traction,” Van Tassel says. “You should be cutting your speed down by half or more.” Unfortunately, a lot of people learn this the hard way. “After a snowstorm, we’ll see more crashes on day one than days two or three.”

Van Tassel also cautions to avoid becoming overconfident on snow tires. While they provide better traction in bad weather, it’s not license to speed up.

3. MAINTAIN A SAFE DISTANCE FROM OTHER CARS.

You should be doing this regardless, but bad weather makes it even more crucial. Keep your vehicle at a safe distance from cars behind, in front, and off to the sides, as well as away from pedestrians or cyclists. If you need to brake suddenly, you need time—and space—to avoid a collision. “You really want more space in front,” Van Tassel says. Try to stay between seven and 10 seconds behind the vehicle ahead. That means seeing a landmark and then counting down until you pass the same marker. If you’re only a few seconds behind, you’re too close.

4. DON’T STEER INTO SKIDS.

“That was an old rule of thumb,” Van Tassel says. “The problem is, by the time I remember to steer into a skid, I’m already in a ditch.” If you feel your vehicle sliding, it’s better to steer in the direction you want to go. “You’ll drive where you look, so don’t look at a telephone pole.”

To help maintain control of the car, you want to focus on doing one thing at a time. “If you’re going through a turn, brake, finish braking, then turn. Don’t brake and turn at the same time.”

5. KEEP YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON.

Yep, even in broad daylight. Bad weather limits visibility, and headlights allow both you and your fellow drivers to orient a vehicle. “You’re twice as visible to other drivers that way,” Van Tassel says. “When people can see you, they can avoid you.”

Van Tassel also recommends that drivers avoid relying on fancy car technology to keep them safe. While blind spot monitoring and lane changing sensors are useful, they’re not there so you can zone out. “The tech is there to back you up if you need it. Drive the car, but don’t rely on those things,” he says.

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25 Polite Compliments You Can Pay a Coworker
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January 24 is National Compliment Day, and a great way to celebrate is by making a concerted effort to praise the people you work with. Be sure to consider when an appropriate time and place for a compliment would be (for instance, shy people would rather be commended on their stellar presentation in private rather than in front of a crowd), but know that whether a coworker is a longtime friend or more of an acquaintance, lauding their work performance and letting them know you appreciate their skills could really make their day.

1. "YOU HAVE A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR."

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Every office has one person who knows how to ease tensions at work by cracking a quick joke or sharing a funny link. If this person's sense of humor makes your job a little more enjoyable, make sure to let them know.

2. "NICE JOB ON THAT PRESENTATION."

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Public speaking is intimidating, especially to someone who's new to their job and not used to giving presentations. Notice your coworker is nervous before a big meeting? Seek them out afterwards. Letting them know you enjoyed and learned from what they said will hopefully make them feel more confident next time.

3. "YOU ALWAYS KNOW WHEN TO LEND A HAND."

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You probably know someone who's always willing to help out with a project when you need it most, and odds are they rarely receive the recognition they deserve. Next time a coworker offers some relief when you're feeling overwhelmed, don't let it go unnoticed. Set aside time to tell them you see the great work they're doing and you appreciate it.

4. "YOU'RE A SAVVY PROBLEM-SOLVER."

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Being able to see problems differently is a valuable skill in the workplace. It can open up a team to new ideas and save precious time and resources. Sometimes you may be the person to spot the way out of a problem, and other times it's a coworker who points out the solution that was right in front of your face. If you're grateful for their point of view, they deserve to hear it.

5. "YOU'RE A GREAT COMMUNICATOR."

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Without communication, collaborating with the people in your workplace would be impossible. A great communicator knows how to understand other people's perspectives, explain their own, and make sure they're never keeping anyone in the dark. They're also not above receiving a compliment every now and then.

6. "I LOVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM."

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For some people, getting up and going to work each day is easy: They're personally invested in the company they work for and enjoy helping it succeed. Maybe you're not there yet, but you might see this level of passion and enthusiasm in at least one person you work with. Don't let that inspiring attitude go unrecognized.

7. "I APPRECIATE YOUR TRUST."

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Effective management is just as much about offering guidance and support as knowing when to back off. Sometimes leaving employees room to breathe is the best thing managers can do to encourage growth and creativity. It's also a thankless move that often goes unrewarded. Expressing your appreciation to your manager can make a big difference in their day.

8. "WHAT A FUN PARTY (LUNCH/HAPPY HOUR/ETC.)."

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People take certain work events for granted without stopping to consider the employees who make them possible. Birthday cakes don't magically appear and after-work happy hours don't plan themselves. Behind every fun break you get from your day-to-day duties, there's a coworker who took the initiative to make it happen, and they would like to hear that you enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

9. "YOU'VE GOT A KILLER WORK ETHIC."

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We all wish we could be the employee who blows through projects without breaking a sweat. If you're not that person, the least you can do is pay the tireless person in your workplace a compliment—especially after a big project that had them tackling most of the work.

10. "YOUR POSITIVE ATTITUDE IS INFECTIOUS."

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Just like one pessimistic employee can bring down the whole office, a positive person can have the opposite effect. It's hard to feel grumpy about starting a new week when the colleague sitting next to you does everything with a smile on their face.

11. "YOU ASK GREAT QUESTIONS."

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Asking about something you're not familiar with at work can be intimidating, whether it's about a new policy or procedure or perhaps about the ins and outs of a department you don't usually work with. But asking for help or clarification is also the only way to learn and grow. Complimenting a coworker who asks a lot of questions lets them know that not only is that OK, it's valued.

12. "I LOVE YOUR IDEAS."

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When someone introduces a great idea at work, people often respond in one of two ways: They get upset that they didn't think of it themselves, or they admire the person for their brilliance. If you want to strengthen work relationships and feel better in the long run, we suggest expressing the latter.

13. "YOU'RE GREAT AT TAKING INITIATIVE."

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Employees who take initiative help businesses run smoothly. Managers don't have to worry about babysitting them, and their coworkers never end up picking up their slack. Next time you go into work, find the person you know who always takes initiative and compliment them for their efforts.

14. "YOU'RE VERY CREATIVE."

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Even if your job isn't particularly inspiring, you may have coworkers who find everyday opportunities to be creative. Their creativity might shine through in the form of a sharply designed flyer, a well-written memo, or an innovative solution to the problem at hand. Sometimes people who don't work in a traditionally artistic field are rarely complimented for their creativity—you can change that.

15. "I APPRECIATE YOU TAKING RESPONSIBILITY."

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Do you know someone at work who's taken responsibility—whether for a botched performance, a failed pitch, or a missed deadline—even when they could have gotten away with keeping quiet? That's not easy to do. Recognize their actions, and they may be inclined to do it more often.

16. "YOU'RE SO FLEXIBLE."

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Sure, you can promise your coworker this is the absolute last time you'll ask them to push a meeting back a couple of days or move up a deadline by a week. Or, you can compliment them on being so flexible and thank them for working around the changes so efficiently.

17. "I LOVE YOUR CONFIDENCE."

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Confidence in the workplace is hard to ignore. It radiates from everything a person does, and when you're working on a project with such a person, it can make you feel more confident as well. Let this employee know that you appreciate their poise and self-assuredness.

18. "I APPRECIATE HOW TECH-SAVVY YOU ARE."

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Who do you turn to when your screen freezes, or when the long email you spent the last 15 minutes crafting suddenly disappears? Likely, instead of running to I.T. every time, you ask a nearby coworker who always seems to have the answers. Even if they don't share their know-how for the praise, they deserve a compliment and gratitude.

19. "YOU'RE A GREAT BAKER."

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People who bake for their coworkers are a special breed. By sharing what they made with the office, it means that they not only took the time to cook with you in mind, but also that they're sharing a bit of their personal likes or hobbies with you. What better time to compliment the chef than when they bring platter of fresh cookies to the morning meeting?

20. "I ADMIRE YOUR LEADERSHIP."

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A good leader is many things, including fair, compassionate, and hard-working. But whatever qualities your manager exhibits that make you appreciate working for him or her, find a chance to let them know you commend their leadership, and that you're a better employee because of it.

21. "YOU HAVE A MIND FOR DETAIL."

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Details make a big difference at work, whether you're writing a big report or a thank you email. Sometimes the details that make the biggest impact on a project are hard to notice on their own. See if you can spot the smart, subtle details the next time you're evaluating your coworker's work, and tell them if you're impressed by what you find.

22. "YOU'RE ON MY WAVELENGTH."

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It may not always top lists of most valuable skills to take into the workplace, but empathy can do wonders for office culture. When team members practice empathy and really make an effort to understand the people they work with, they make everyone's job easier. This is one skill that definitely deserves recognition.

23. "THANKS FOR BEING SO RELIABLE."

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No matter what you do for work, it's impossible to do your job entirely on your own. Reliable coworkers you can depend on for support, guidance, and inspiration are a priceless resource. If they make the effort to show up and work hard consistently, the least you can do is show them you appreciate it.

24. "YOU'RE A REAL TEAM PLAYER."

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In order to succeed as a team, your colleagues need to have the right attitude. Maybe there's one person on your team who sets a good example for the rest of you: They know exactly when to step back and listen to other people's ideas and when to come forward with their own. Sometimes being a good team player means swallowing your pride to do what's best for the group, and that's behavior worth celebrating.

25. "YOU GIVE GREAT ADVICE."

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At some point in your career, you've likely relied on a more experienced coworker for advice. Without mentors, many of the world's most successful people wouldn't be where they are today. Never be ashamed to ask for guidance, and once you receive it, make sure to show your gratitude.

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