The new superheroes -- ''Everyguys'' like Seth Rogen, Edward Norton, and Robert Downey Jr. buck the stereotype of chiseled comic-book protagonists

By Adam Markovitz
August 17, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

From Superbad to super…hero? Funnyman Seth Rogen told David Letterman that he’ll write — and possibly star in — an upcoming film about the Green Hornet, the debonair crime fighter popularized in radio, comics, and a ’60s TV series featuring Bruce Lee as super-sidekick Kato. It might seem like an odd choice, but Rogen — along with Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk) and Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) — is part of a recent wave of unconventional castings in comic-book movies. After bland turns by chiseled actors, like Daredevil‘s Ben Affleck and Superman‘s Brandon Routh, fans are hoping this charismatic trio will take after Tobey Maguire, who brought depth — and an Everyguy appeal — to the Spider-Man franchise. ”In addition to being superheroes, these characters were very human and real,” says founder and comic-book author Rob Worley. ”[Filmmakers] want actors that bring reality to that side of the movie.”

For The Hulk, the idea of casting an unassuming leading man also harks back to the character’s origins. ”Ed Norton is not the first person you’d think of to be an action hero,” says Hulk creator Stan Lee. ”But he’s perfect for the Hulk’s alter ego, who’s not necessarily the strongest man in the world or the greatest fighter.” How far will the trend go? Will moviegoers be treated to the sight of a Jon Heder-type actor in a loincloth in the just-announced Conan the Barbarian adaptation? Not likely, says Conan producer Frederik Malmberg: ”He doesn’t have to be a bodybuilder, but we can’t forget the fact that Conan needs to be big, physically.” Fair enough. But Heder would make a fine Kato.