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DF Interview: Michael Uslan prepares for Batman’s 80th
By Byron Brewer
You don’t see many 80-year-olds consistently at the top of their particular endeaver. But then again …
The Dark Knight debuted March 30, 1939, in Bill Finger and Bob Kane's Detective Comics #27 story. Eight decades later, the character and his multi-media adventures have never been more popular. And then some!
As issue #1000 of the comic which gave its publisher a name hits stores this Wednesday, DC and many others are holding year-long celebrations of 80 years of entertainment from the Bat.
The Caped Crusader means a lot to his fans, many of whom have never picked up a comic book. Some openly laugh at other bigger-than-life characters that are now an important part of film, TV and all media. But these fans usually take their respect and love of Batman both personally and seriously.
He’s Batman. He is them.
This 80th anniversary means a lot to fans of the World’s Greatest Detective. And it means even more to Michael Uslan, an avid comic book writer who has also been the originator and Executive Producer of the entire Batman movie franchise since 1989. The title of his autobiography says it all: The Boy Who Loved Batman.
To get his unique perspective on the Year of the Bat, DF sat down with Uslan and talked all things Batman.
Dynamic Forces: Michael, what is it about Batman as a character, a hero that has kept him in the forefront of comics for so many years, so many decades? Or, more simply: Why do you so love Batman?
Michael Uslan: I love Batman for four primary reasons. First, he is a superhero without super-powers. I always contend that his greatest super-power is his humanity. Since I was a child, I could identify most strongly with Batman as compared to the other powerful superheroes. I believed that I could be Batman. Another reason is that Batman has the most primal origin story that transcends cultures as well as borders. No one can read or watch the origin story of Batman without a gut-wrenching reaction that sticks with you for life. A third reason is that Batman has the greatest rogues gallery of super-villains including, inarguably, the greatest super-villain of all, The Joker. I subscribe to Stan Lee’s theory of super-villains: the longest lasting and most popular superheroes are those who have the greatest super-villains because, ultimately, it is the super-villains who define the superhero. Lastly... the car!
DF: For the uninitiated, give unknowing readers just an ample sample of your association with the Dark Knight, especially in film.
Michael Uslan: I’m the originator and Executive Producer of the Batman/Dark Knight motion picture franchise. In 1979, Ben Melniker and I acquired the motion picture and allied and ancillary rights to Batman. It took us 10 years to get the first Batman movie made, which is now celebrating its 30th anniversary. We were turned down by every studio in Hollywood. I was told I was crazy for wanting to produce a dark and serious version of The Batman. Since then, I’ve been Executive Producer of everything Batman, live-action or animated, theatrically and on home video.
DF: A lot of cool things are happening all over for Batman’s 80th year. Are you involved in any of these events, and to which if any are you most looking forward?
Michael Uslan: I am speaking nationally and internationally all year long at comic book conventions, universities and business conferences along with screenings of our 1989 Batman movie which is celebrating its 30th anniversary… in addition to this being the 80th anniversary year of Batman. I speak about the ten-year human endurance contest we had trying to bring the dark and serious version of Batman to the silver screen, the making of the movie, the cultural impact of the movie globally, and how, in its own revolutionary way, it changed Hollywood and the comic book industry.
DF: The shadowy Bob Kane Batman, the high-tech Batman, the campy 1966 TV Batman, the Frank Miller noir Batman, more. If you will, Michael, give us a rundown of your favorite Batmen (Batmans?) in any media, and why they are your favorites. Also: Least favorites, and why.
Michael Uslan: My favorite interpretations of Batman in comics:
1940’s: Jerry Robinson
1950’s: Dick Sprang
1960’s: Carmine Infantino
1970’s: Neal Adams; Marshal Rogers; Jim Aparo
1980’s: Norm Breyfogle
Least favorite interpretations in comics:
The decade of aliens, bug-eyed monsters, Bat-Genie, Bat Ape, Bat-Mite, Zebra Batman, Rainbow Batman, and The Super Batman of Planet X.
DF: Favorite Batman film ever?
Michael Uslan: Tie. Batman 1989; The Dark Knight Trilogy; Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
DF: Your opinion: Batman WITH a Robin or WITHOUT a Robin? Which is best and why?
Michael Uslan: Without. Once again, I subscribe to the theory of Stan Lee’s… this one regarding sidekicks. If you’re trying to make a superhero feel real and able to operate in a real sort of world, it makes no sense to have an adult male running around at night with a young boy, exposing him to deadly dangers instead of to his nightly homework assignments. Dick Grayson never worked better than when he changed his name and costume to Nightwing.
DF: Are you a comic book collector? If so, what is the oldest Detective Comics/Batman book you own? Which particular comics adventure is closest to your heart?
Michael Uslan: Yes. My earliest Batman comics were Batman #1, Detective Comics #45, and World’s Finest #3. My favorite Batman story ever is “Night of the Stalker” from Detective Comics #439.
DF: Detective Comics #1000 is coming out this Wednesday [March 27th]. What does that mean to the Bat-fan in you?
Michael Uslan: It means I’m getting old!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Michael Uslan for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Stay tuned to DF News to catch more of the ongoing celebration of Batman’s 80th!
For more news and up-to-date announcements, join us here at Dynamic Forces, www.dynamicforces.com/htmlfiles/, “LIKE” us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/dynamicforcesinc, and follow us on Twitter, www.twitter.com/dynamicforces.
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