Josh BrolinJason Merritt/Getty

Ever since Zack Snyder announced, in a packed Comic-Con panel, that the follow-up to this summer's Superman opus "Man of Steel" would incorporate the Dark Knight himself, the Internet has been abuzz with speculative casting for the successor to Christian Bale's Batman.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the production is seeking a 40-something Caped Crusader, which would mean he'd be considerably older and more grizzled than the comparably fresh-faced Henry Cavill, who will return to play Superman/Clark Kent.

Insiders say that Josh Brolin, 46, is one of the chief contenders for the role. Warner Bros. apparently loves him, thanks to his appearance in "Gangster Squad" and his commitment to a pair of future projects -- "Quasimodo," a "Hunchback of Notre Dame" retelling, and "Crazy for the Storm," an adrenalized coming-of-age tale based on Norman Ollestad's best-selling memoir. Two THR sources claim that Brolin is the frontrunner, which would be pretty awesome; we'd love to see Bruce Wayne in white tube socks.

Ryan Gosling also appears to be in the mix, though his reluctance to return to acting after what he perceives as a period of overexposure makes him an unlikely candidate. More likely is strong-jawed "True Blood" star Joe Manganiello, who starred in last summer's Warner Bros. hit "Magic Mike" and was a runner-up for Cavill's Superman role.

Other actors rumored to be up for the part include Richard Armitage, from "The Hobbit" (again, note the Warner Bros. connection), Max Martini from "Pacific Rim" (ditto), and Matthew Goode, who previously starred in Snyder's "Watchmen" and seems, at this point, the unlikeliest candidate of the actors listed.

THR adds that a studio source has dismissed this speculation as premature, considering there's still no script.

Casting could happen within the next several weeks, with Warner Bros. eyeing an early 2014 production start date so it can make its summer 2015 release date. Tentatively titled "Batman vs. Superman," the tentpole will go head-to-head with "Star Wars: Episode VII," "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," and "Pirates of the Caribbean 5," among other big-budget fare.

[via THR]

Top 'Batman' Contenders Revealed

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