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Who would have made a great superhero, if he or she had just been given the chance?

Please don't misconstrue this as criticism of the actors who ultimately did don the masks, capes or claws of a given character. It's more like a glimpse into a parallel universe, where different choices were made - and some awesome movies resulted.

Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz in "Kick-Ass" (Maple Pictures)

As you'll discover when it takes over the box-office this weekend, the lesson of "Kick-Ass" is that you don't have to be a comic-book character to be a costumed hero, providing you're willing to spend some time in the hospital. But seeing Nicolas Cage stomping around in his not-quite-Batman suit got us to thinking: Who else would have made a great superhero, if he or she had just been given the chance?

Clint Eastwood

Special skills: Unassailable integrity, a terrifying capacity for violence, and a dismissive scowl you can feel in the pit of your stomach.

Should have played: Batman, especially the older, angrier version of Batman from Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns"

Cobie Smulders

Special skills: Okay, so "How I Met Your Mother" doesn't let her do much more than trade quips with one of the finest sitcom ensembles since "Friends," but dig her poise, her fearlessness and her ability to hold her own with Neil Patrick Harris in this season's surprisingly moving Robin-and-Barney arc; the lady has presence.

Could have played: Wonder Woman. No, seriously; she was Joss Whedon's first choice when he was working on the project, and who are we to question his word?

Mel Gibson

Special skills: High tolerance for pain, the ability to bounce back from horrific torture, the power to spin from light-hearted prankster to berserker killing machine if anyone threatens his family, partner or pets.

Should have played: Wolverine

Bradley Cooper

Special skills: Cocksure charm, rascally intelligence, the ability to roll with any situation. (Especially that one time the naked gangster jumped on his face.)

Could have played: The Spirit -- in a much better movie than the one Gabriel Macht got, mind you.

Angelina Jolie

Special skills: Sex appeal, athletic ability, a certain facility with edged weapons.

Could have played: Catwoman

Jon Hamm

Special skills: Quick-witted, good in a fight, almost preposterously charismatic - and, as good old Liz Lemon famously pointed out, "he looks like a cartoon pilot."

Could have played: Captain America

Katee Sackhoff

Special skills: As demonstrated in "Battlestar Galactica," Sackhoff is scary good at intimidating any jerk, male, female or Cylon, who dares to take her on in a contest, a fight or a drinking contest; she's been less effective on "24" this season, but that's probably not her fault.

Could have played: Power Girl

Nick Nolte

Special skills: Shambling, mumbling, physical unpredictability, the power to suggest great conflict and sorrow from behind his hooded eyes.

Could have played: The Punisher... or Swamp Thing.

Nicolas Cage

Special skills: Intense mood swings, bug-eyed panic mode, the physical versatility to play skinny weaklings ("Raising Arizona") or absurdly bulked-up heroes ("Con Air") as the role demands.

Could have played: The Incredible Hulk - without CGI.

Amanda Seyfried

Special skills: Her facial features are exaggerated in a way that suggests someone not quite of this Earth; also, she'd probably look great in a cape.

Could have played: Supergirl

Neil Patrick Harris

Special skills: Boundless charm, chatty energy, the incredible ability to entertain even in a wobbly Oscar number - and as the "Harold & Kumar" movies demonstrate, he cannot be killed by natural means.

Could have played: The Flash (and did, in the animated feature "Justice League: The New Frontier.")

Stephen Colbert

Special skills: Prodigious intellect, boundless confidence, the ability to deflate his own pomposity with self-mocking wit.

Could have played: Reed "Mr. Fantastic" Richards of "The Fantastic Four"... and sort of did, actually, on a couple of episodes of cartoon comedy "The Venture Brothers."
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