Superman Lives: Sylvain Despretz' Skullship concept art
for the unmade Superman Lives



a) The Skullship
Sylvain Despretz designed this enigmatic version of the Skullship for Tim Burton's unmade Superman Lives in 1997. 

It contains elements of machinery and the a crumbling skull face, with a window in place of an eye.

It would have been a spaceship for the Superman villain character Braniac to travel around in.

This one becomes fascinating to me because because of my interest in Giger's biomechanics and this has a certain amount of that in it with its organic forms, its machinery and pipework.


Sylvain Despretz' Skullship
Sylvain Despretz' Skullship (complete image but dark)

b) Skullship references Giger's Derelict?
On September 29th 2016, I suddenly realised that the skull face Sylvain Despretz's skullship concept for the unmade 1997 "Superman Lives" echoed the structure of the arm from this painting of Giger's the derelict ship. 

The upper triangular part of the end of the arm becomes the nasal cavity on the skull. The main trunk becomes the upper and lower teeth although Sylvain would have made it much more rounded. 

On the upper part of the top fin on the tip of the arm, there's an oval shape and the outer rim of this, Sylvain has turned into a fractured sort of a bar where there would have been a left eye socket. 

The horizontal pipes extending from the end of the arm to the right become transformed into a wide eye socket. 

If one is familiar enough with Giger's derelict ship design,  and parts of structure of this ship got into ones mind,  one could easily find oneself feeling out the shape of such a structure in ones own artwork without realising it.
  Giger's derelict painting (Work 374: Wreck)







c) References Salvador Dali's Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing A Piano"?
On the 14th of February, 2017, I suddenly start making  connection between the Skull Ship and Salvador Dali's "Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing A Piano" painted in 1934, which is a painting that looks as if it roughly references the Papyrus of Ani's Henu Barque, because of the stretched eye socked on the right and the expanded left eye socket. 

Many people create pictures of one kind or another that can be loosely Dali like one way or another without meaning to do so because he work has become so widely part of the public consciousness and I would have expected Sylvain to have shown some fascination for this Dali piece amongst many others over his lifetime.

Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Piano
(1934) by Salvador Dali
Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Piano
(1934) by Salvador Dali (detail)

d. References the Mondoshawan design from Fifth Element?
Making the Henu Barque/Mondoshawan connection on Monday 7th of May 2017, I see the images of this creature next to the Skullship designed the same year as the release of The Fifth Element and I make another connection. 

Sylvain would have been familiar enough with the design of the final suit whether he wanted to be or not.

Perhaps in years to come, people will start making up their own stories about how it got there.


See: Mondoshawan from The Fifth Element (1997)

Mondoshawan/Sheridan upside down and Sylvain Despretz's Skullship


e)  Closer comparisons to the Mondoshawan upside down
The Mondoshawan shown upside down for comparison because the light on its groin seems to have become the eye window, and the arm has become the sets of teeth, with the eye like oval on the shoulder in near enough the corresponding place with the shoulder spikes becoming the chin spikes. 

Having said this my next thought was that Sylvain may well have been looking at this design from different angles as well.

The Skullship's eye socket window and the upsidedown Mondoshawan's groinlight

Skullship's jaw and the upside down Mondoshawan's arms and shoulders


f) Thoughts about these comparions
Having made these comparisons, I don't mean to say that Sylvain Despretz necessarily deliberately based his space ship on all of these different paintings and illustrations, but at least features from each have found their way into his work because he would have been familiar with them.

Adding to that I am curiously connecting the three sources of reference with the Henu Barque in different ways, and once you start getting close to things connected with Ancient Egyptian imagery, it can start playing very creative curious games with the mind.

Slightly a later realisation came to that for me , all three of the things hat I chose connected up with Henu Barque in some way, and so in my exploration it's a form of a convergence and quite honestly, one could choose a number of things in art,

I would be pointing out a connection with the Henu Barque mostly because of what seemed to be happening with Surrealism in the earlier part of the 20th Century.
Of course I would assume that there are other things to add to the list of things possibly referenced one way or another even if it's from the back of the mind.

Looking also as the fact that there it's happening in an artroom with other people coming in to tell him to do this and do that, one might jump to the next point and suggest that on some level, their minds were in on it too, drawn to think about similar things..

g) Sylvain's response to this
Sylvain Despretz's response to this whole way of thinking was "It's a bit far fetched, but I understand how people who don't work in an art department can look for connections retroactively by looking at a small selection of published work. The one thing I can say is that Jacques Rey was working not far from me on Superman, and no, the Mondoshawan was not a point of departure for this image. I was actually thinking of the barnacles on the hull of a ship when I did this; more like protuberances made of an organic parasite that would have grown on the belly of the skull ship. You have to keep in mind that none of these designs are arrived at spontaneously, but rather, are part of a continuum of evolving images done over several weeks and feeding into one another, often subjected to commentary by either the director or the production designer. Advice like "make this larger", "have spikes at the top", etc. It is often impossible for us to even recall how many drawings it took to get to the one which was picked. I don't think Jacques Rey knew anything about the Egyptian Book of the Dead in 1992, by the way. If he had, he and I would probably have gotten along better. " ( See thread on Facehook, May 27th 2017)

h) Thoughts via Giger's National Park
On the 23rd of June, 2017, I decided that the the engines section references the pipe work from the lower half of Giger's National Park from 1975 , of course consciously or unconsciously.  This painting itself appears to reference Dali's The Great Masturbator, which in turn is a painting that I think references the Henu Barque. (See: HR Giger's National Park)


Giger's painting "National Park" (1975)





In Giger's National Park, two tentacles form a shape that Sylvain could perhaps have turned into the nasal cavity in this case, and this strange bean like form with a cross vaginal opening becomes the eye and Sylvain perhaps find himself turning this into the eye socket window. 

Of course it would be easy for artists to draw some kind of a skull face, but the position matches up near enough with Giger's painting.

Here we have pipes in Giger's paintings merges with human forms and perhaps in Sylvain's illustration it is almost simple to point out some sort of similarity even if Sylvain has made his own pipe work far more complicated and has no humanoid bodies entangled with the machinery

i) Further thought with Chris Foss' Dune Guild Merchant Ship 
On 24th November 2017,  I find myself taking a look at Chris Foss' Dune Guild Merchant Ship, it's a well known drawing and Foss developed something like this as his Platypus ship design that he drew for as a concept art piece for the Leviathan in Alien.

This day I begin to imagine merging that with Sylvain Despretz' organic skull ship because the roof of the ship with its line running across it turn into the curved front jaws.

It wasn't until 25th November I suddenly worked out a Henu Barque connection and this Chris Foss ship. See: Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune: Guild cargo ship by Chris Foss references the car rally scene in Hergé's "The Adventures of Tintin and the Red Sea Sharks".





Then I suddenly think about the fact that this spaceship by Foss has a snake like mouth at the front, and Sylvain's spacecraft dimly visible in the darker image has another set of jaws lower down making the upper jaw seem almost like some sort of a tusk.

In the past I have had a few small online chats where we have agreed that the top of Foss' spacecraft seemed a bit like the arms of Giger's derelict ship, as if the side bulges were suddenly transformed into gaps in the side, making the rounded top of the craft seem to have the solidity of a something like a snake body or an elephant trunk.

Guild Cargo Ship by Chris Foss for Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune (1975) , has been published in 21st Century Foss published in 1980
j) Sylvain Despretz' biomechanic skullship borrows elements from life support machine from Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira?

http://alienexplorations.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/sylvaindespretz-organic-skullship.html

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