Here is what we actually know about the sequel to Man of Steel: It’s coming out in 2015, and it will somehow feature Batman. Everything else at this point is conjecture or mysteriously-sourced gossip. Still, it’s worth paying extra attention to a casting report posted over the weekend by the Hollywood Reporter. The report features a list of names that run the gamut from obvious (wait, Hollywood wants to cast Ryan Gosling in a movie?) to intriguing (Richard Armitage, so good as the chief Dwarf in The Hobbit) to tantalizingly unlikely (listen, I love me some Max Martini — Herc Hansen 4 Life! — but the odds of him playing Batman are less likely than the odds of Benedict Cumberbatch playing a humpback whale in the next Star Trek movie.) But there’s a key revelation in the report: “According to numerous sources, this Wayne/Batman will be in the late 30s or around the 40 mark… established and rugged.”

There is some evidence to support this assertion. When Zack Snyder came onstage at Comic-Con to announce the new mash-up movie, he pointed to a line in The Dark Knight Returns which supposedly inspired his interpretation. Now, this could have just been a bit of fan-bait theater. (Dark Knight Returns occupies a hallowed place in comic book culture equivalent only to Alan Moore’s Watchmen, another comic book which Zack Snyder has heard of.) But Dark Knight Returns features one the great distinctive takes on the Caped Crusader. The comic finds an older Batman returning to a life of crime fighting with a much more cynical, caustic perspective on the world. In the future-world of Dark Knight Returns, Superman is still young and beautiful; he has also become a fascist superpatriot for the American government, and is ultimately sent by his vile boss (who is basically Ronald Reagan) to take Batman down.

Now, it seems unlikely that Man of Steel 2 will feature an identical plotline, given that Hollywood blockbusters generally avoid makings its protagonists into fascist superpatriots. But it does seem likely that Warner Bros. would want to take the cinematic portrayal of Batman in a new direction, to set the new Caped Crusader apart from the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy. Having an older Batman would certainly accomplish that. It also immediately makes the Batman/Superman face-off all the more stark: Batman is an old bruiser, while Superman is young and Henry Cavill-y. (ASIDE: Of course, you could argue that The Dark Knight Rises already featured an “Older Batman,” although you could also point out that in the Dark Knight trilogy, Bruce Wayne’s career as Batman appeared to last about a year, before an eight-year retirement and a brief-but-memorable comeback tour. END OF ASIDE.)

So who should play this older Batman in Men of Steel? The HR claims that Josh Brolin is a frontrunner. He’s a Warner Bros. favorite who recently starred in Gangster Squad and Jonah Hex. To be honest, it’s hard to think of anybody better than Brolin, who simultaneously looks much older than his 46 years but also totally capable of kicking the collective butt of several street gangs. (Like, check out this Frank Miller picture of old fighting Batman, and tell me that doesn’t look exactly like Brolin.) The HR also lists a couple of slightly less rugged choices: Joe Manganiello, who has muscles the size of your torso; and Matthew Goode, who worked with Snyder in Watchmen and is also, pivotally, a British person, therefore making him the perfect casting choice for an All-American superhero in contemporary Hollywood.

Honestly, it seems unlikely that Warner Bros. would actually go older with Batman. Lately, new superheroes have been cast more in the Evans/Hemsworth man-candy mold. (Heck, even when they cast a Chris Pratt, they make him go full Hemsworth.) But if they are thinking a little older, there are plenty of cool possibilities. Both Jeremy Renner and Michael Fassbender would make for interesting counterbalances to Cavill’s younger Superman, although both are already devoted to Marvel franchises. Speaking as a Dredd fanatic, I’d love to see Karl Urban‘s chin under the Bat-mask. And if the studio wanted to really set their new franchise apart from the Nolan films, they could also implement a brazen new “Let’s not just cast another white dude” concept and consider living charisma engine Idris Elba as Bats.

But I suspect that, for the new movie, they want to imitate the Cavill strategy: Cast a relative (and inexpensive) unknown. With that in mind, let me throw my hat in the ring for Mr. James Badge Dale, the MVP utility player of Hollywood’s Summer 2013. He stole scenes in Iron Man 3, World War Z, and The Lone Ranger, and in each movie, he played a roughly equivalent character: The experienced badass who is unimpressed by the film’s hero. That seems to be kind of what they’re looking for in the new Batman — someone who will be dismissive of Superman before teaching Superman how to be a better Superman so they can be Super-Friends or whatever. (Admittely, Dale’s only five years older than Cavill, but he can play older. Give him some leftover Lone Ranger scruff!)

Fellow Bat-obsessives, who would you cast as the new, “rugged” Bruce Wayne? Is anyone in history more rugged than Josh Brolin?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
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