The Internet is abuzz over growing speculation that “Mad Men” actor and male charm Jon Hamm may land the role of Clark Kent/Superman for Christopher Nolan’s take on the Kyptonian hero scheduled for a December 2012 release.  You know a rumor has finally made it when it appears on Regis and Kelly.  A few weeks ago, Jon Hamm was asked about the Superman-talk and claimed to know nothing of it, though he encouraged the “powers that be” to contact him to discuss it.   He took a more comedic position on the possibility later with Jimmy Fallon.  On the talk show, Hamm was asked again about the rumor and suggested his age might take him out of the running.  However, contrary to what some netizens are sprouting, Hamm never suggested he would not want to play the famous comic book hero.

Ever since the TMT in late July reported that WB/DC were looking at Jon Hamm with “serious” consideration, the actor’s name has remained atop much of the comic community’s debates.  While other names such as Matthew Fox and Jim Caviezel have made the rounds, it is Hamm’s name that continues to bring the most commotion.  The BIG question is whether WB/DC would risk their Superman franchise on an older actor, especially one who would hit the 40-mark during production and shooting.

The question is certainly a legitimate one.  Hollywood prefers to cast younger guns, sometimes to the point of absurdity.  Those who witnessed the debacle of Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns” will recall that the Man of Steel in that film had a five-year old child with Lois Lane.  The problem however was that Superman was played by then 24 year-old Brandon Routh and Lois Lane by then 22 year-old Kate Bosworth.  Needless to say, the scenario was unconvincing, and no, neither actor looked older than their respective years.

“Superman Returns” opened in 2006 and failed to meet the WB’s expectations.  Four years later, the seemingly infallible director Christopher Nolan has been given the production chair to revive Superman on the big screen.  Nolan and his screenwriting team of David Goyer and younger brother Jonah Nolan have remained tight-lipped about their interesting take on the Man of Steel.  That doesn’t mean Nolan has said nothing, however.  The director of “Dark Knight Returns” and “Inception” said his Superman movie will feature an established Man of Steel, meaning it won’t be an origin story like “Batman Begins”.  That said, many netizens feel the failure of “Superman Returns” automatically label this film as a “reboot” of sorts, and that Nolan very likely will need to use flashbacks to retell some of the origin.

Nolan also said that his Superman story is not being planned with any sequels in mind, and that he is only interested in pushing this film because he and his team have a unique story to tell.  On the surface, this may sound like typical commercial PR; after all, few directors would ever admit they want to do sequels before even getting one movie done.  But this is Christopher Nolan and his track record clearly shows he is a creative that cares for story-telling only when the story is worth telling.  While commercial success has followed Nolan, his movies have not always been blockbuster smashes.  On the other hand, they have consistently been welcomed by critics and independent movie-lovers alike.  In other words, Nolan is probably really looking at “Man of Steel” as a one-shot film.

The WB/DC are probably in agreement.  That is because the circumstances surrounding “Man of Steel” are incredibly unusual, even for a Superman film.  The main problem confronting WB/DC is that the studio’s control of the Superman license will expire in 2013.  All rights and use of the Superman character, along with mainstays such as Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and the Daily Planet, will revert to the Shuster Estate (Joe Shuster and friend Jerry Siegel created Superman back in 1938).  How and when the Superman “custody” dispute will be resolved is a complicated matter.  Put simply, there is no telling when the WB/DC will get the necessary rights back.  Given the copyright dispute has gone on for many, many years, there are bound to be bitter feelings between the parties.  And since the Shuster Estate isn’t pining for cash, it very well could opt to sit on the license until the WB/DC pay out.  The Estate could also decide to auction the rights to a competitor such as Walt Disney/Marvel.  The latter scenario is highly unlikely due to the WB/DC owning significant derivative rights.  Still, highly unlikely isn’t tantamount to impossible.

What does the pending legal fight mean for Superman?  First and foremost, it means Nolan’s “Man of Steel” is almost assuredly a one-shot film and that the WB/DC are planning it that way.  There’s just no telling when any resolution will be done, and that means any sequel to Nolan’s Superman film could be impeded for years.  Even Hollywood is smart enough to know sequels further than two or three years out are incredibly risky.  Much safer for the WB/DC to treat Nolan’s Superman as a one-shot film and plan on launching a reboot after the company takes care of the licensing dispute.

So if sequel-talk isn’t really in the WB/DC’s plan for Superman, why exactly is age an issue?  Well, it isn’t.

Jon Hamm is just as likely a candidate for Superman as any other male lead.  Scratch that;  Hamm is probably the strongest candidate to take the role under these circumstances.  Not only is the actor very well respected among critics, he has already received the nod from comic book writers and artists alike.  Most recently, artist Alex Ross threw his full support behind Hamm for the role of Captain America.  Marvel instead went younger with former Fantastic Four Mr. Torch Chris Evans.   This was almost certainly motivated by the company’s plans to release the Avengers in May 2012, and of course the prospect of sequels.

The same is not true for “Man of Steel.”  An older actor such as Jon Hamm would only be coming in for one film.  While a second might be possible, the WB/DC would be in a tight spot in negotiating for the license if its opponents knew that the WB/DC had to clear the mess to  make a sequel.  Movie studios don’t like being in that position and I don’t see Alex Horn as being exceptional here.  Truth be told, I’m convinced the only reason “Man of Steel” is getting made at all is because Christopher Nolan is behind the project.  If it were anyone else, it’s hard to see why the WB and Legendary would pull the trigger.  WB executives have been quoted in the past saying that no Superman movie would move forward until the licensing issue is resolved.  It makes economic sense; why put huge value on a license just before it expires and put the studio in a position where it would have to pay even more to acquire it?  Practically-speaking, the WB/Legendary are either (1) persuaded that this film will make a lot of money regardless of sequels or (2) feel that Nolan/Goyer have a Superman film that is worth making, even if it’s just for artistic purposes.  Something tells me (2) isn’t really the motivating factor.

So if (2) isn’t really the motivation and the studio still intends to put out this movie, then how can it ensure it succeeds financially?   The film already has probably one of — if not the best creative team behind it in the Nolan Bros. and Goyer.  Clearly, by the creative team’s pedigree, the film should provide that extra level of thoughtfulness and sophistication other superhero films (I’m looking at you, Spider-Man) don’t have.  The visual impact however necessary for a Superman film is in stark contrast to that of Batman, and here Nolan and the WB/Legendary have outdone themselves.

Enter Zack Snyder.  The man behind the current “Legend of the Guardians,” “300,” and “Watchmen” clearly knows a thing or two about visual flair.  Some have compared Snyder’s early work to that of Spielberg, Bruckheimer and Bay.  From strictly a visual presentation, Snyder is certainly up there among the best action/CG directors of this decade.  The only problem for Snyder thus far has been his scripts.  Few of his movies have garnered immense commercial success, which, compared to how beautifully well choreographed his films are, is a darn shame.  “Man of Steel” could be the film that finally gives Snyder a script to match his brilliant art direction.  Netizens are already swooning at how breath-taking Snyder’s shots of Superman will be.  Given his work on “Legend of Guardians,” Snyder should be well prepared to live up to at least the flight scenes.

But Snyder presents another interesting wrinkle, and that is to the possibility of Jon Hamm donning the suit.  Snyder is currently busy working on “Sucker Punch,” which may finally do what “Ultraviolet” failed to do — and that is have a bunch of beautiful women artistically beat the living daylights out of a slew of enemies.  (Sidenote: Face it, all we wanted in “Ultraviolet” was to see Milla slice and dice (ala today’s “Heavenly Sword”) a bunch of men in suits.  What we got instead was a low-budget, low-action, poorly-directed piece of garbage.  And yes, I wish I could get back my $6, and the 2 hours of my life wasted on this atrocity.)  “Sucker Punch” just happens to include … wait for it … Jon Hamm.

Yes, Jon Hamm is in “Sucker Punch.”  The coincidence couldn’t be any more coincidental.

Now it’s doubtful Nolan sought out Snyder because of Hamm’s connection.  The better odds are Nolan wanted Snyder because he knew Snyder was very good at meeting deadlines and had an incredible knack for delivering superb art direction.  That he’s well acquainted with Jon Hamm and knows how to work with him must have been icing on the cake for the WB/Legendary.

Nolan likes to use actors he’s worked with before.  Check out Michael Caine in “Inception.”  Snyder has a similar reputation.  Indeed, odds are looking very favorably toward Jon Hamm becoming Superman/Clark Kent.

There have been some rumors recently that the script for “Man of Steel” features Clark Kent traversing through the world, trying to figure out whether he should be Superman.  It’s an interesting possibility and one we saw in “Birthright,” a popular Superman graphic novel by Mark Waid.  Some netizens have pointed to this rumor as confirmation that Hamm couldn’t possibly be up for the role because this would require a Superman/Clark that’s in his younger years.

That is of course absolute absurd.  That doesn’t mean the rumor is untrue, however.  Keep in mind “Man of Steel” is a re-boot in the sense that it should have nothing to do with Singer’s Returns (Thankfully).  As such, Nolan/Goyer/Snyder might be re-exploring Superman’s origin through flashback sequences.  Hey, it’s not like this hasn’t been done before.  We saw plenty of flashbacks in “Batman Begins” and “Inception” was riddled with them.  There’s nothing stopping the story from beginning with a younger Clark narrating his journey and concluding the need for Superman.  The film could then move to the present day after showing several clips of news reports and newspapers, and we could see the older Superman for the rest of the story.  In other words, there’s no reason this rumor debunks the notion of casting an older Man of Steel, or for that matter, goes against the earlier reports that this script features a more established hero.

I’m sure the superhero sites will be bombarded by other suggestions in the coming months leading up to the actual casting.  Hamm however remains the favorite for me.  He not only looks the part, but brings a level of acting and maturity to the character unseen since perhaps Chris Reeve’s Superman in the early 80s.

If the talk is true that we’re dealing with a Superman who has been around a while, then there’s really no better choice to play the role than Jon Hamm.  Given the talents of Nolan, Goyer, and Snyder, and the acting demands they place on their characters, I have a feeling they’re on the same page with this one.  Odds are we’ll know for certain before the end of the year.

As a big fan of the character, I have to say December 2012 has never felt so far away.