Special FX artist Steve Johnson has a long and storied career in Hollywood. From working on films such as Predator, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Lord of Illusions, and more, to to makeup on Return of the Living Dead III, Nightwatch, and Night of the Demons 2, his work has been seen in a swath of films that genre fans know and love. Hell, the guy even created Slimer from Ghostbusters! If that doesn’t make him Hollywood royalty, I honestly don’t know what does.
Right now, Johnson has a Kickstarter going for Rubberhead Volume 2: Sex, Drugs, and Special Effects, the second book in a five volume series that chronicles the work he’s done over the years. Included in this particular book is a section called “The Ones That Got Away”. That’s what brings us to today and to this particular article.
We were absolutely fascinated with some of the films that Johnson got to work on that never ended up seeing the light of day and we managed to get our hands on some exclusive concept art from both Tim Burton’s cancelled Superman and Clive Barker’s Mummy project. We also have a suit test video from the former, which features Danny Elfman’s music from Batman, so it’s extra thrilling.
You can read about both projects and see the concept art below (the Superman suit video is above). Also, click on the Kickstarter link above if you want to help make Johnson’s second book a reality!
Tim Burton’s Superman:
For the ill-fated Tim Burton Superman movie, Johnson was contracted to craft all manner of elaborate costumes, props, puppets, and prosthetics for a project that was to be doomed by an overextended budget.
“It was absolutely massive because not only were we working on these Superman suits, we were doing Doomsday, we were doing a Menagerie, a Brainiac and an entire spaceship that was literally filled with creatures. It looked like the Star Wars cantina on steroids,” Steve Johnson exclaims.
Of the standout pieces were multiple bioluminescent Superman regeneration suits, all of which glowed purely by way of practical effects. The effect was created using cyalume, the active liquid in glow sticks, strategically pumped through a series of elaborate tubing patterns which gave the appearance of glowing blood pumping through veins.
Other suits were powered by a fiber-optic light setup informed heavily by Johnson’s groundbreaking work on James Cameron’s The Abyss, a creation he claims pleased him more than any other in his entire career.
Clive Barker’s Mummy:
Clive Barker had teamed up with Mick Garris (Critters 2, Psycho IV) on a brand new Mummy concept that the two pitched to Universal. The hyper erotic plot involved a transsexual occultist protagonist who attempted to reanimate mummies within a prestigious museum setting.
Shortly after collaborating with Barker on Lord of Illusions, Steve Johnson signed up to help him create a visual proof-of-concept in order to help Barker pitch the project which had not yet been greenlit. Johnson signed on and even built proof-of-concept creatures, funding the endeavor entirely out of his own pocket to help Barker sell it in to Universal.
For inspiration, Barker and Johnson exhaustively researched museums, Egyptian sculptures, statues and artifacts to ensure historical accuracy while imbuing the mummies with a heavy dose of classic sadomasochistic Clive Barker style.
Johnson explained, “If you do your research on real mummies in Egypt they look nothing like Boris Karloff mummies or mummies in the new mummy movies. The goal was to include all of the realistic detail and adornment in a way that was accurate to real Egyptian mummies which had never been done before. We were going to make them fascinating, cenobite-like creatures but based entirely in reality and history.”
Unfortunately, the project was never greenlit by Universal. Clive Barker told Fangoria, “Looking back, our version of The Mummy was precisely what the powers that were at Universal did not want.”