THE DARK KNIGHT HOLLYWOOD OUTSIDER: MICHAEL USLAN

This implies to everyone whether you are a boy or girl, you can definitely say you are “The kid who loved Batman.” Please do not be disappointed, there is a book out called The Boy Who Loved Batman. You are kind of thinking to yourself saying “Wow! That’s a classic case of narcissism. Conceited much?!” Apparently not, since he is Michael Uslan. If you do not know him, he is a film producer who is the Hollywood fore front of making anything and everything Batman come onto the big screen.  This is the guy who brought you Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman and Robin. Yes, I know boo to the last two movies and maybe boo to Tim Burton’s version of Batman for some of you. Still…let’s be honest without those movies, Batman would not have existed in 1989. We would still be waiting for Batman to come out now. Maybe Christopher Nolan would not have even touched Batman. It sounds so disturbing to think about that and quite depressing as well. Clearly, the point is we have to give credit where credit is due and it is due to Michael Uslan.

Michael Uslan is responsible for the production of Batman (1989) bringing you the fantasy based serious Batman with a Tim Burton twist. He is described as much of a loner in Hollywood for his ideals of giving credit to comic book artists who are discredited for their artistry. Uslan also tells his perspective on Hollywood’s and movie industries’ interpretations on superheroes. As a comic book writer, producer, and fan he discusses his origins into the comic book universe as a child. Uslan was interviewed by [email protected] discussing his upbringing and his fascination with Batman:

“There was a progression when you read comic books growing up. I started with Harvey Comics — Richie RichCasper, Little Max [followed by]Archie Comics, especially Little Archie. And then I discovered Superman, mostly because of the influence of the TV show and my older brother. Then it was every issue with Superman I could get my hands on: SuperboyLois LaneJimmy Olsen, whatever. Batman was a little bit different than Superman. It was a little scarier.

At age eight, I graduated from Superman to Batman. I identified with him more than I did Superman or Spider-Man or the others. I realized that with the right costume, the right training, the right car, I could be this guy. That was when I said, ‘I want to write Batman comics.’ “

Uslan started off with the campy good-doer saving the world and progressed into the noir enriched Dark Knight Detective. He grew up seeing Batman as a dark serious character and jumped at the opportunity as a producer, ten years before Batman (1989). [email protected] describes Uslan’s ambition in an attempt to produce the film:

“Uslan was convinced that Hollywood would jump at the chance to develop a big-budget, serious film about The Dark Knight. He was wrong. His idea was rejected by studio after studio — often with bizarre responses, a few of which are described in Uslan’s new memoir, The Boy Who Loved Batman, to be published in August. It took 10 years to get a studio to commit to the production. The resulting film, Batman was the top grossing film of 1989 and launched a franchise that is still going strong.”

Even though, there was a hesitation for the first serious Batman film it was still a hit in 1989 making a way for future Batman movies. Uslan describes how the movie industry and Hollywood were approaching comic book superheroes during the mid 1990’s and in general:

“I’m chagrined that in a lot of places, they still don’t get it. They’re still making changes just for the sake of change in comic book superheroes that are being brought to TV and movies.

Let’s talk, generally, in the movie industry rather than specifically. Generally, years ago you were dealing with simply movie studios. Today, the bulk of those studios are worldwide conglomerates that have their hands in many different businesses. Sometimes, unfortunately, people lose track of what is important. As a result, at some points in time, the tail begins to wag the dog. [These conglomerates] become way too focused on merchandizing, toys and Happy Meals, and begin to impose directives that movies should have three heroes, three villains, and each one should have two vehicles and two costume changes. Then the danger you run into — which I have seen over and over again — [is that the movies become] products that closely resemble a two-hour infomercial for toys, rather than a great piece of film that’s character-driven and plot-intensive. That’s sad.

There is another trap in the movie and TV industry, whereby people who do not understand the comics and who don’t have the same respect for the integrity of the character or its creators, are willing to ignore 20, 40, 60 years of history and mythology of a character, and make changes for nothing more than the sake of change or, on some occasions, for [the sake of] someone putting their own ego stamp on it so they can claim it as theirs. I have found that never works.”

Part of his conversation was based on how Warner Bros. approached making Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. In which, some of us can agree that both movies were interpreted in a trippy and campy way similar to the television series Batman (1966). I wished they knew the difference between a parody and good interpretation of a dark comic book hero like Batman. I believe that the approach of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin was based on the time of production, director, and what the industry’s pursuit of family oriented Batman movies. When I say time of production, I mean mid 1990’s vibe of super neon, white fluffy things, Spice Girls era…yes I said Spice Girls. I am not ashamed, it was the mid 1990’s where raves were going on and lollipops were considered super cute or super stupid depending on the person eating them. They were trying to bring back the trippy 60’s, something more family orientated where parents did not have to cover ears and eyes from the screen. I will just say this, I grew up on all four movies and well I thought nothing of it until I became older. I believed in the essence of the dark themed Batman because it felt more realistic and similar to Uslan’s view on Batman. I wanted…no…I desired a darker Batman.

Uslan is the man who continues to back the vision of bringing Batman to life on screen. He brings the realistic movie portrayal of the Batman movie franchise for the fans. He gives credit to Tim Burton (Batman and Batman Returns), Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises), and Anton Furst (Set designer for Batman). His book, The Boy Who Loved Batman, is filled with his memoirs and Batman facts such as the Giant Penny in the bat-cave and that the influence of Bruce Wayne’s Batman was based on his father’s costume wearing a bat-suit to parties. Those are some cool facts to impress your friends and family members who are just “Bat crazy,” maybe even ice breakers at a party if you find a worthy Batman fanatic. Overall, if you are interested in the movie industry, production, film making, or just plain ole Bat-facts purchase The Boy Who Loved Batman.

 

If you would like to read the interviews and learn more about Michael Uslan, the links are below.

The Book: The Boy Who Loved Batman 

Sources- [email protected] via Nerdage

 

-Kristina