Batman executive producer Michael Uslan talks comic books, growing up with more than 400 in Plachta
In January 1966, a young Michael Uslan, brimming with anticipation, rushed to his living room and sat anxiously in front of his television.
It was the premiere of the new Batman television series, the first since the 1949 serial “Batman and Robin.”
“I was excited and horrified at the same time,” Uslan said. “I was excited because the show was colorful, it was bright. They spent a lot of money on everything. The costumes, the vehicles, the gadgets. But I was horrified, because this was not the Batman of Adam West … everyone in the world was laughing at Batman.”
Uslan rushed down to his basement, and in a manner very similar to Bruce Wayne vowing to avenge his parents, Uslan vowed to show the world the dark and serious Batman, to return him to a “dark creature of the night.”
Uslan, who spoke to a crowd of about 420 people at Platcha Auditorium Wednesday night, has been a producer of every major Batman film since Tim Burton’s 1989 film, and has also been involved in the production of various full-length animated Batman features based on the popular TV shows “Batman,” the animated series, and “The Batman.”
He shared his life story to Platcha Auditorium, from his start as a poor college student who stumbled into teaching the first college class about comic books in American education, to writing Batman comics for DC Comics, to buying the rights to Batman in the 1970s and facing 10 years of laughs and derision before finally releasing Tim Burton’s “Batman” in 1989.
Uslan is most known for his involvement with Nolan’s recent breakout “Dark Knight” trilogy.
“I’m no different from any of you,” Uslan said. “I was just a geeky fanboy comic book nerd who wanted to show the world a serious Batman.”
Along with his film achievements, Uslan has been recognized academically, receiving a Ph.D in comic books from Monmouth University in October. Uslan has also been recognized internationally, gaining the privilege of giving a presentation in the United Nations to cartoonists from around the world.
Uslan said these achievements indicate that comic books have finally arrived in today’s mainstream.
“Comic books are a legitimate art form as crucial to America as Jazz,” Uslan said. “The Gods of Rome, Greece and Egypt still exist, they just wear spandex and capes.”
Nick Potter, a Sanford freshman, said he found Uslan relevant as he plans to go into filmmaking.
“I assumed there was a lot of door slamming, so that didn’t surprise me,” Potter said in response to Uslan’s attempt to make his first Batman film. “But his determination and persistence were just really inspiring.”
Jacob Deering, a Mount Pleasant resident, said he also found Uslan’s talk inspiring.
“You have to do what you love to do,” Deering said. “You just have to find your dream, and you have to find your plan, and you have to follow it.”
Uslan said the road to his current career, which he compared to reporting to a sandbox everyday and playing with your favorite toys, did not come easy.
“People always ask me how did you do it? What is your magic?” Uslan said. “The magic is there was no magic. The magic is pounding on doors until your knuckles bleed. My dream came true because of bleeding knuckles.”
Uslan said his dream came true while watching a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” where at the end of the movie he started crying in the middle of the theater.
“It was everything I wanted Batman to be since I was 14-years-old. This was my dream. This was my epitaph,” he said.
He explained this to his wife, who was sitting next to him in the theater. She looked at him, he said, and responded with a single sentence: ”Well, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
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