Unproduced Superhero Screenplays By Hollywood’s Finest: Comic Book Goldmine?

We're in an unparalleled time for quality comics coming out in America from the super-hero mainstream to independent publishers and beyond. But with the smorgasbord of books coming out every week, it's tougher than ever to find a blockbuster. But for perennial #2 publisher DC Comics who made it a stated goal last year to beat Marvel Comics, they might have a comic book goldmine in their midst.

DC has a long history of big screen adaptations and until Marvel's recent string of hits, DC was the unparalleled chief figure in comics-to-film adaptations. But in the push to turn DC's heroes to the big screen, there have been gems that never made it past the script page: Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman, J.J. Abrams' Superman: Flyby, and William Goldman's Shazam!. For one reason or another they were never made, but since the studios paid the writers for them… don't they own them?

Much in the same way that Dynamite Entertainment adapted Kevin Smith's unfilmed Green Hornet script to become the cornerstone of their line of Green Hornet comics, what if DC created a new line of books similar to the dead-end All-Star imprint for standalone stories like this? Sure some work would need to be done to tailor these film scripts to the strengths of comic books, but it'd be a small price to pay to see these visions — and these epic storytellers — telling the stories of DC's finest. Here's a rundown of the top contenders:

Superman: Flyby by J.J. Abrams (2002)

This story by the Super 8 writer/director gave an updated origin for the Man of Steel, spending a quarter of the film on Krypton in the midst of a civil war. After Superman's father Jor-El is sentenced to prison by his corrupt brother, he sends his infant son to Earth. On Earth, this Kryptonian grows up as normal as he can and gets entangled with a reporter named Lois Lane who is working on a story about a government agent obsessed with UFO phenomena named Lex Luthor. The script goes on to have three other refugees from Krypton come to Earth, and then the high-point of the script sees Superman die and visits the ghost of his father in "Kryptonian heaven". One resurrection later, he beats his killers.

Wonder Woman by Joss Whedon (2005)

Although we haven't been able to get our hands on what Whedon turned in to Warner Brothers, in interviews producer Joel Silver said it would cover Wpnder Woman's origin, with Steve Trevor crashing on the island of Themscrya and Diana going back with him to man's world. Back in 2006, Whedon said that "With Wonder Woman, you're writing from whole cloth, but trying to make it feel like you didn't. To make it feel like it's existed for 60 years, even though you're making it up as you go along. But who she, and what the movie, is about, thematically, has never been a problem for me. But the steps along the way, it could be so easy for them to feel wrong. I won't settle. She wouldn't let me settle."

Shazam! by William Goldman (2008)

The story of Billy Batson as told by the screen writer of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid? Tawky Tawny by the guy who wrote The Princess Bride? Back in mid-00s Goldman was one of several screenwriters brought on to transport DC's Captain Marvel to the big screen, but due to the success of the darker The Dark Knight Returns and the failure of lighter Speed Racer, WB shelved the light hearted project.


  1. Fascinating idea….could be some great comics there even though i’m sure it would be a nightmare to transfer the rights internally like that. I’ve known several people who work for both companies and they had told me that WB and DC operate as if they are two seperate entities and collaborating isn’t as easy as one would think. Part of the reason why its very rare to see Looney Toons and other WB properties at DC and vice versa.

  2. Also i wonder if the WGA would allow rights to transfer across different media and companies like that? It doesn’t sound like they’d be down for that. 

    Get a lit agent on this stat! haha 

  3. I would buy an adaptation of Kevin Smiths’s imfamous Superman script.

  4. @wallythegreenmonster  You mean other than the monthly Looney Tunes comic that DC puts out?


  6. @conor  –yes besides that! haha i meant more of mixing. Like Batman Bugs and what not. (ok i’m sure someone will find something now like the green lantoon or whatever)

    I based that on what I was told by a friend at WB Licensing a year or two back that its always possible, but very beuracratic and often discouraged to mix characters between the two companies. 

    and on a side note,  I’ve NEVER seen that looney toons comic at any shop. Ever…which is a symptom of a much bigger problem. Just wow. 

  7. these would make awesome Elseworlds stories

  8. Avatar photo Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    @wallythegreenmonster  It’s happened once. But yeah, it’s not common at all. This was back in 2000 that this came out, so it’s been a while.

  9. Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman would be the only time I’d buy anything WW related

  10. BTW. That Goldman Shazam would be completely awesome. I can’t believe they were even developing that. 

  11. @wallythegreenmonster  My store carries it but then it has a very robust children’s section.

  12. Abrams’ Superman was supposed to reveal Lex was an alien himself… which is as about as un-Lex a character development as you can get.

  13. @Zeppo  That’s pretty weird.

  14. @Tork  Indeed.

  15. After seeing how Marvel pulled off Thor. I think there’s no reason a successful Wonder Woman movie couldn’t make it in today’s climate. If it were up to me, Thor is the blueprint I would use for how to depict the mythological/fantastical elements while still grounding it enough in the real world. I would also try to follow it in tone, keeping things epic yet light-hearted at times.

  16. @LBolt  Only if he fights a giant spider in the third act!

  17. If people get angry when Hollywood folk come into comics and try to get movies produced by writing comic books of their unmade screenplays, how is this really any different?
    I don’t care one way or the other, I want to read good comics regardless of the writer.  

  18. I remember reading somewhere that Kevin Smith got paid a pretty penny for the rights to adapt the Green Hornet script. So maybe renegotiating these for different purposes is just too expensive.

  19. English being my second language can someone clarify the idiomatic expression: “from whole cloth”?

    Thank you.

  20. Thats an interesting idea for comics.

  21. Wasn’t JJs one with the symbiote-like superman super-suit, some bullshit in media res storyline, 30 years of plotting to kill one kid and where supes’ mother gets raped by some kryptonian baddie while his dad rots in prison for all of kal-el’s life? hooray! 

  22. that superman movie sounds awful

  23. I remember reading that JJ Abrams script a couple of years ago because I had heard it was really groundbreaking and Abrams does have a following. Printed it out, thought it would be a nice way to spend an afternoon. Good god that script was a piece of shit

  24. Would be a great idea for an “offshoot” imprit.

  25. So I found what “from whole cloth” means but I still can’t figure out what Joss is saying here…

  26. He’s saying that Wonder Woman doesn’t really have the cultural osmosis like Superman and Batman does.  She doesn’t really have as well known an origin or as well-established an arch-nemesis as the other of the Big Three so you have build together an origin and conflict that’ll fit in a mainstream movie while making it seem like it’s been Wonder Woman’s classic origin for decades.

  27. I am sorry, are we speaking of the same Superman script that was ridiculed across the internet.

    Also, I have read Goldman’s Shazam script and it’s quite good.

  28. Also, wasn’t JJ’s superman script tue one where Lex is a secret kryptonian?

  29. Yep. And Superman battles a Kryptonian robot at the end which shot kyptonite missiles…IN BULLET TIME! McG was supposed to direct.

    Glad that never got made.

  30. I think some of these didn’t get made for a reason, such as Abrams’ Superman, but there’s still a part of me that would like to see Aaronofsky’s and Miller’s Batman: Year One get made into a comic, even if it’s so not really a Batman script.