Please enjoy these fascinating storyboards from the Richard Donner Years, presented here in random order.
A handful of storyboards below are scans of originals from the CapedWonder Collection. Please check back for updated, larger scans and more scans of originals, including color ones.
A Super Fan’s Storyboards
by Anthony Knight
The idea behind creating storyboards from the original scripts developed from an idea I had when watching Superman: The Movie. I was left wondering, what would it look like to see how Superman landed the cruiser outside of the police precinct? So, I began to draw the scene in a series of frames and artwork that is respectful of the style of filming of the time. I based my drawings on images from Capedwonder, when Superman ‘cages Non’, capturing dynamic poses and angles as filmed under Lester or Donner.
Then I thought: just how did Pa Kent recover the crashed ship and transport it back to the farm? So, I began to draw how I thought it would have looked, in terms of frames, angles and effects of that time. The action starts with Jonathan holding young Clark’s hand, looking at the crash-site. Then, he walks down into the trench. Pa Kent then starts to push the ship up the embankment, as children do, they copy the actions of their parents and young Clark begins to push up the remains of the ship up the embankment, the ship rolls up, effortlessly as Jonathan ensures Clark’s safety.
They push the ship up into the back of the truck. Jonathan encourages Clark to use his ‘Super-breath’ over the clearing, filling in the trench left by the ship.
Then, I sketched out Superman flying back to the Fortress of Solitude (FoS) from Superman II, after the ‘Metropolis battle’, but before the FoS confrontation. I have always been fascinated by those black and white images of Superman returning to the FoS in Superman, as shot by Donnor but unfortunately, not included in the film.
Then after sharing ideas with Jim Bowers, he started to share an idea of Superman landing Air-Force One (from the original script) to a waiting crowd of excited reporters, including Lois Lane. Superman taxis up the aeroplane and backflips on the wing. The crew of Air Force are stunned as Superman waves to the pilots, mirroring the salute that precedes the scene.
Superman then stands, hands on hips, proud, the reporters surge forwards, Superman notices Lois and waves at her. Superman takes off, swooping towards camera, as he does after rescuing ‘Frisky’.
Each ‘board’ is a line of action in the original script. The script is so well written, it made visualising the words very easy. It drew itself once I began to read.
I then read more of the script looking for ideas that were not fully used or ideas in their original context. (Young Clark refuses a lift from a trucker on the way to the FoS instead of being ignored in Superman II, for example.)
There was a touching moment when Clark leaves home, standing in the wheatfield, Ma Kent gives Clark a bag with sandwiches in. Mothers never let their children go hungry. This also revealed the red, yellow and blue garments in his rucksack.
As previously stated, when Clark is walking roadside a truck pulls over to offer Clark a ride, Clark politely declines the offer, the disgruntled driver (who I have named Rocky… ) speeds away in a cloud of ice and dust. As is Superman 2 this idea was flipped so the truck driver leaves Clark by the frozen roadside on his way back to the FoS.
I filled in ideas that were interesting, drawing Clark looking up at the Daily Planet after the NYC ariel shot as seen in StM TV cut and in the opening credits to Superman II.
Following the script.
Once Clark reached his destination, here, he uses his heat vision to burn a perimeter into the ice, creating a crater in the ground and here, he climbs down into the recess and places the crystal by hand and climbs back out of the sunken area then he fixes his heat vision on the green crystal and the FoS starts to solidify, rising up from the ground. Again, flipped in Super man 2 when he uses his heat vision to destroy it.
During Superman and Lois’ first flight, instead of flying up into the clouds, they literally fly around the world crossing several time-zones, from Paris, Vatican City, the Sunrise in Giza, Egypt, over the pyramids. They then fly past the Taj Mahal and final over the Great Wall of China before Superman drops Lois off. This is visually more interesting than a backdrop of clouds and stars. A wonderful idea.
I then sketched out the Concorde scene, as we know it from Superman II: The Restored International Cut (RIC). Here, it precedes a wonderful scene where Superman rescues an oil plant and an oil spill (recycled for Superman III). He knives through the surface of the water, welds the pipe bit together using his heat vision before flying back up to the surface. He then uses his breath to contain the spill, forcing the mass into a spot, flys around the area, whipping it up from the sea into a mass, trains his X-Ray vision on the gooey clot, turning it white hot, it explodes and disappears! That would have been incredible. My boards follow the script closely and are a visual representation of each line of action in the script.
I think Superman is absent from Superman: The Movie for too long. So the last time we see him prior to Lex’s ‘Sonic Greetings’ is Superman taking Lois out for a spin. The Concorde / oil spill would fill that gap.
Moving forwards, onto a script dated 1976, Superman startles some kids who a spraying graffiti in an alley (I used the alley from Superman II). Then, a gang member is thrown from a peer by to two bosses, where the hood’s feet are encased in cement. The hood screams for help as he falls to the water, Superman hears his cries and turns back towards the action. The gangsters s[eed off in theor car. The water is dead silent, Superman trains his X-Ray vision on the water where he sees the hood sinking to the murky depths of the river.
Superman cuts into the water, the water holds still, suddenly Superman appears, soaken with hood in his arm (similar to Superman saving Jimmy) and takes off. Superman then pursues the car, through the concrete jungle of the city, think of the shots of the villains flying through the city during the ‘battle’.
Superman picks up the car by the trunk (this reminds me of Non picking up the police car in SII when the Sheriff and his deputy are jolted by the impact as Non drops the car back down. Clearly a recycled idea), the front wheels burn into the ground, the hoods surge forwards. Superman drops the car down, as he does the car speeds forward into a lamppost in a flurry of steam and metal. Cut to: the hoods are wrapped in the bumper on top of the car as crowds gather.
Long shot of the Chrysler Building, Superman is stood, hands on hips on the gargoyle, looking out across the city – proud.
An alternate ‘Sonic greeting’ scene takes place in Lois’ apartment which was later recycled for Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. Clark and Lois bicker about Superman’s ability to fly. As Lois walks off camera, Superman hears Lex over the ‘air’, Clark has nowhere to go to change. He turns towards the mirror and metamorphoses into Superman, pinstripe jacket on his back, but his reflection is full Superman, dark rimmed glasses still on. Lois comes back and laughs at Clark, ‘take off that silly costume!’’, Lois then turns away, exits into her room and Superman takes off from Lois’ balcony.
This is followed by an alternative ‘fire, ice and bullets’ scene, instead of being ‘500 feet’ below street level, Superman enters an abandoned warehouse where, upon entry, he walks through rooms that are decorated and furnished like an apartment. First, he is confronted by fire, ice and bullets in each separate room. A pellet hangs above a vial, the pellet falls, Superman uses super-speed, ripping apart a rigged, wire fence and catching the pellet before it lands into the vial. Superman swallows the capsule, muffling an explosion from his mouth with his hand, ‘acid indigestion’.
The next storyboard idea illustrates section in the 1976 script and is the basis of a scene in Superman Returns in 2006. So, In Superman Returns Lex ‘fixes’ the brakes on Kitty’s car which puts her in immediate danger, knowing Superman would hear her cry and come to her rescue, which he does.
This idea was staged slightly differently as you will see. Lex and Even are in a light aeroplane, known as ‘Piper Club’. Lex and Eve are in the cockpit, Lex uses the only ‘parachute’ to jump from the plane, leaving Eve helpless and in peril at the controls. The plane twists and turns, doing all kinds of manoeuvres as Eve tries to contact Metropolis Tower, but to use. Piper-Club corkscrew, turns through the air, Superman bullets through the vapour trail, flies beneath to balance the plane, steady.
Superman boards the plane and rescues Eve, he takes a seat left vacant by Lex and steers the controls, ‘take me to your leader’.
Superman then goes to confront Lex, tossing him into the pool which is filled with alligators, I sketched the ideas to reflect the action in Superman: The Movie.
Next, onto Superman II.
The action starts as Superman cuts across the Houses of Parliament, London. Superman is out for a ‘a spin’ over the English countryside. A hunting party are in pursuit of a fox, Superman stands in the clearing, fox at his feet. Superman admonishes, gives them a harsh dressing down. Superman takes off with the fox in arms, leaving the hunting party shocked.
The London Times headline: Superman Out Foxes Hunt.
Cut to: Exterior of the Daily Planet, a yellow cab pulls up outside of the fruit stall, the driver gets out to buy fruit, Superman steps in the rear of the cab, the driver turns around and a bespectacled Clark Kent gets out of the back seat and offers the driver a few dollars for the fare.
An alternate version of the waterfall sequence, instead of the boy falling from the rails, the action starts as he is in a small boat, fishing, the current builds up, Clark goes to get Lois orange juice, waits patiently in the queue. Lois is looking across the vista with the viewfinder, the small boat is now hurtling towards the tips of the magnificent falls. Lois screams, the boat approaches the edge, Clark turns around, the boat goes over the edge, tumbling over in his boat. Superman soars through the curtain of water, catching the boy. The boat smashes into the rocks.
Superman lands the boy on a small pier.
Lois looks around for Clark, who is not around as usual.
Then, I sketched out ideas for unused concepts which later appear in Superman III, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was pushed straight as Superman was celebrating his love for Lois.
The ‘home movie’ idea where Superman and Lois watch the images of Lara and Jorel, dissolve and fade in images across the space in the FoS. These scenes plant the seed of the idea for Superman to forego his powers.
Finally, I visualised the siege of Washington DC as opposed to Huston, Idaho. The scenes are mainly of Zod atop of the Washington Monument intercut with police and public responses while there is global destruction in Paris, Japan and Russia at the hand and eyes of Non while Ursa destroys Mount Rushmore, as we see in the finished film.
Some wonderful ideas which were never fully realised were ahead of their time. We got to see some of the ideas watered down or recycled and staged differently.
The writers were clearly ahead of their time with their scope and vision. I hope I have faithfully realised some of the ideas for you to enjoy.