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The Batman vs. Superman movie that almost happened in 2002

Batman vs. Superman is the big news of San Diego Comic Con 2013 – but the project was on the drawing board before Superman Returns

The internet has been abuzz the last few days since it was dramatically announced at San Diego Comic Con that Zach Snyder's sequel to 'Man of Steel' will see Superman cross paths with Batman, marking the first time DC's greatest icons have ever met in a live-action film. The quote used from Frank Miller's 'The Dark Knight Returns' - "remember my hand at your throat," etc. - would seem to imply that this movie isn't going to see Bats and Supes being best buddies.

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This, however, is not the first time a movie of 'Batman vs. Superman' (or, to use the title of DC's crossover comics starring the two superheroes, 'World's Finest') has been proposed. The eagle-eyed may have even seen a billboard ad for the aborted film in the Times Square sequence of 'I Am Legend' in 2007 (pictured above) - a plant from screenwriter/producer Akiva Goldsman, in the vague hope that the superhero smackdown might have materialised in the years ahead. Obviously, it didn't - but why not? And just what would the film have been all about?

Well, for a time Goldsman's 2002 script - itself a revision of an earlier script by Andrew Kevin Walker, acclaimed writer of 'Seven' and 'Sleepy Hollow' - was available to read online, though it has since been removed. Still, a number of script reviews are out there, which give us some indication of how things might have been; and considering Goldsman's history with the Caped Crusader (he wrote the two most garish and widely disliked instalments, 'Batman Forever' and 'Batman and Robin'), it doesn't sound as kitsch as we might have expected.

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Firstly, as would be a relief to all and sundry today, there isn't even a hint of origin story for either character. Batman and Superman are firmly established within the storyworld, and outside of their capes they're close friends, Clark Kent even serving as best man at Bruce Wayne's wedding. Kent himself is already married to Lois Lane, but the two of them are about to divorce; meanwhile, Wayne has hung up his cowl following the death of Robin, and is looking forward to a quiet married life. However, his bride Elizabeth is murdered on their honeymoon by none other than the Joker, who it turns out to has been brought back from the dead via the technological know-how of a certain Lex Luthor. Distraught, Wayne suits up again, dead set on vengeance; fearing for his friend, Superman tries to steer him off his murderous path. This sets the two on the road to a conflict, in which Batman may well stand a chance once he happens to get hold of some Kryptonite.

From that synopsis alone, it does seem all a bit gloomy and weighed down with midlife crisis drama; perhaps this was a reaction against the camp of the last two Bat-movies, or perhaps it's because the script was written so soon after 9/11. Either way, it didn't convince the bosses at Warners, and hit the bin - much as did JJ Abrams' reputedly overambitious reworking of the Man of Steel mythos, 'Superman: Flyby,' also submitted to Warners in 2002. Three years later came 'Superman Returns' - and we all know how that turned out.

For more details on the 'Batman vs. Superman' that never was, see these script reviews from Mystery Man on Film and CHUD.com.

Ben Bussey is an editor of horror website Brutal As Hell, and holds an MA in Cult Film & TV from Brunel University.

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