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— by Ryan J. Downey

These days, everybody wants to be a hero.

The critical lambasting that met "Batman & Robin" and its "Bat ice skates" and "Batsuit" nipples nearly killed the comic book movie genre back in 1995. But then there was "Blade." Then the "X-Men" movie happened. And then along came a spider.

 Photos: Superhero Stars
Thanks to the record-breaking success of "Spider-Man" and the string of comic book movies like "Hulk" that have enjoyed #1 openings at the box office, Hollywood has a slew of hero properties in the works, and plenty of actors are looking for a piece of the superpowered pie.

John Travolta has signed on as the villain in "The Punisher." Keanu Reeves will play Hellblazer in "Constantine." James "Cyclops" Marsden is looking to trade in his "X-Men" visor to play the title character in a big-screen "Preacher." And Selma Blair has warmed up to "Hellboy."

Ben Affleck may have grown up reading "Daredevil," but it's unlikely that everyone sniffing around for their own comic movie franchise is someone who grew up dreaming about playing their favorite hero.

 "The Wrap"
See which superstars want to be superheroes
J. Lo once told MTV News she'd love to play Wonder Woman, but it's hard to imagine her being well versed in the finer points of Paradise Island. Certainly Halle Berry was no mutant expert when she signed on to play Storm in the "X-Men" movies, though to her credit it was a riskier move back then. But with "X2" now well past the $200 million mark, she didn't hesitate to take on "Catwoman," and she even turned up at this year's Comic-Con International in San Diego to promote her horror flick "Gothika."

"These fans are different than fans [of other types of movies]," Berry explained at the annual comics convention. "They take this really, really seriously. They're diehard. I mean, these people, I heard they sleep outside days before [the movie opens] to get good seats. And they come dressed up like the characters. I think this is the best place to come with movies like 'Gothika,' 'Catwoman' and 'X-Men' because you have a direct line to your core audience, the people who will go see it not one time, but maybe five or 10 times. [The people] who will buy the DVD, who really love what you do and support you."

While Berry's appreciation for the geek contingent seems genuine, no doubt there are other stars who'll view the built-in audience that comic book characters have as easy money. "There will always be some Ben Affleck that loves 'Daredevil,' " said Rob Zombie, who's written a few comics himself. "But then there will be other people that have never heard of it that want to do it because it's a big movie."

It's worth noting that regardless of today's fanboy-friendly environment, signing up for superpowers isn't without risk. For one thing, just because there are a lot of genre movies in the works, that doesn't mean they'll all be as good as "X2" — or good at all.

"There's some really great comics that have made good movies," offered "Lord of the Rings" actor Elijah Wood, who certainly knows a thing or two about playing an iconic hero drawn from the printed page. "But I think because of the success of these films, it's opened the floodgates, which means you're going to have to weed through the kind of sh--ty things to get to the good things."

Prospective superheros also have to weigh the danger of being typecast or potentially losing several years of their career to contractually obligated sequels — factors that reportedly kept Josh Hartnett and Jude Law out of Superman's cape. (Although onetime "Bubble Boy" Jake Gyllenhaal certainly didn't seem to mind the prospect of signing up for a Spidey sequel or two when it briefly looked like Tobey Maguire might not return.)

And beyond that, there are some heroes whose faces are rarely seen because of their costumes — hardly appetizing to any star whose appeal lies as much with their looks as their abilities. Eric Bana may have played the lead in "Hulk," but thanks to computers, he never got to be the Hulk.

So with all of this in mind, perhaps it's time to take a look at a few of the more interesting titles in development and weigh the pros and cons for anyone on the A-list or below who's looking for a hero (or two) of their own.


NEXT: When will Superman fly again? Would the Sub-Mariner sink at the box office? ...
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Photo: Sony, Fox, New Line, Universal Pictures


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