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Batman

People were skeptical about whether or not Michael Keaton could pull off the Dark Knight, but the mostly comedic actor proved them wrong in Tim Burton's well-received 1989 take on "Batman." Val Kilmer and George Clooney tried on the cape and cowl before the series halted, and now with Christopher Nolan's plans for a relaunch the role seems once again up for grabs. So who will it be? Nolan's "Memento" star, Guy Pearce, sounds like a good idea to some, but he might not be a big enough name for bottom-line-reading Warner Bros., which, incidentally, controls the movie rights to the entire DC Comics universe, including Green Lantern, the Flash and Wonder Woman.

PROS: One of the most recognizable heroes in popular culture, Batman is tough, complex, well respected and comes complete with his own butler. Plus there's his killer rogue's gallery.

CONS: Once again, we direct you to Joel Schumacher's endlessly vilified "Batman & Robin." It's going to be a tough road redeeming Gotham's coolest avenger from the days when he faced a bald-domed Arnold Schwarzenegger stuttering, "Freeeeze!"


Captain America

The product of a government experiment during World War II, Captain America was a super-soldier who defended truth, justice and all of that stuff from Nazis like the Red Skull. He was eventually frozen in ice, only to reemerge in the present day as a crime-fighting hero.

PROS: In the post-September 11 world, with patriotism levels running high, the time might be ripe for this kind of hero to reenter the scene. Plus he throws around a really cool shield.

CONS: There's always the danger that after telling your buddies you're into Captain America, they'll check out the straight-to-video version. And in our ever more complex world, it'd be hard to play the blond-haired, blue-eyed freedom-fries-swallower without offending someone.


Fantastic Four

Fox has promised to deliver a flick based on one of Stan Lee's most beloved group of heroes by Christmas of next year, despite the fact that "Bring It On" director Peyton Reed recently left the project. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" scribe Doug Petrie said he'd like to see Paul Walker as the Human Torch, John C. Reilly as the Thing, "Angel"'s Alexis Denisof as Mr. Fantastic and Charlize Theron as the Invisible Woman, but since Fox dumped his script, they probably won't be listening to his casting ideas.

PROS: The heroic Fantastic Four have all of the diverse powers of a team like the "X-Men" minus the angst. Sure, the Thing doesn't enjoy being made of rock, but whoever plays him will get to yell, "It's clobbering time!" between self-deprecating wisecracks. As an added bonus, some lucky actor will rule the tiny country of Latveria as Dr. Doom.

CONS: Doom wears a mask, and playing the Thing will likely be voice-over work. And you know, a lot of the time Invisible Woman Susan Storm Richards is, well, invisible.


Ghost Rider

He can make you relive all of your sins with a simple touch. His head's a flaming skull, he carries a big chain and he rides a motorcycle. "Daredevil" writer/director Mark Stephen Johnson wants to make the movie pretty badly and is reportedly plugging away on a script.

PROS: Ghost Rider is so cool that Method Man adopted the alter ego Johnny Blaze as his own, Henry Rollins wrote a song about him and Nicolas Cage — who recently sold off his large comic collection — has long harbored an interest in playing him.

CONS: His head's a flaming skull, he carries a big chain and he rides a motorcycle. It could easily turn into the "Spinal Tap" of superheroes if Johnson isn't careful.


Sub-Mariner

Namor, prince of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis, has one heck of a temper, little wings on his feet, pointy ears and the hots for the Fantastic Four's Susan Storm Richards. Marvel Films CEO Avi Arad is particularly anxious to get this one going.

PROS: Who wouldn't want to play a feisty monarch who hangs out in the ocean? Rumor has it we could see Matt Damon donning Namor's green Speedos.

CONS: It could be difficult to make a convincing "Sub-Mariner" movie without, oh, say, about $200 million. Anything less runs the risk of looking incredibly campy — not to mention having to endure all of those Mr. Spock and Aquaman jokes.


Superman

Tim Burton tried to make the "Superman Lives" storyline into a movie starring Nicolas Cage (hey, the Keaton casting was odd, too). It famously fell apart, even after famous fanboy Kevin Smith tried his hand at a script. "Charlie's Angels" director McG was attached for a while. Wolfgang Petersen wanted to pit the Man of Steel against Batman, but that didn't happen either. Brett Ratner threw in the towel on his "Superman" after approaching everyone from Ashton Kutcher to Paul Walker. But sooner or later Superman will fly again ... right?


Back Issues: Previous Comic Book Features


 "Hulk": Smashing First Impressions

 Ben Affleck: Dares To Dream "Daredevil"

 "Spider-Man 2": Even More Amazing

"X-Men 2": Return of the Mutants

PROS: It's a bird! It's a plane! C'mon, it's Superman!

CONS: The long and tangled history of this project is quite a quagmire for anyone to step into, not to mention having to live up to the legendary performance of American-hero-in-his-own-right Christopher Reeve.





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