Michael Uslan

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Michael Uslan
Uslan at the Big Apple Con, November 14, 2008.
Born (1951-06-02) June 2, 1951 (age 62)
Bayonne, New Jersey

Michael E. Uslan (born June 2, 1952) is a producer of the Batman movies and was the first instructor to teach an accredited course on comic book folklore at any university.

Uslan has been a resident of Cedar Grove, New Jersey.[1][2]

Early life[edit source | edit]

Uslan was born in Bayonne, New Jersey and was an avid comic book collector from a very young age, owning a collection that included the second issue of Batman and the first Superman comic, among others. He grew up in Ocean Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey and graduated from Ocean Township High School in 1969, by which time his collection filled the garage of his home with 30,000 comic books.[3] While still an undergraduate and a graduate at the same time at Indiana University School of Law - Bloomington, attempting to break into the film industry by sending off over 130 résumés (typed on a typewriter), Uslan "developed a course idea for the Experimental Curriculum program at I.U."[4]

Career[edit source | edit]

Teaching[edit source | edit]

Uslan recalls that Roger Stern "has been teaching a one-hour credit experimental course on comic book history and art," while he (Uslan) was "having fun with an I.U. Free University course on 'The Comic Book Hero'."[5] Stern and Uslan discovered they shared interests, and when Stern "couldn't stand teaching the course any longer," Uslan took it over and changed it into one that took

"an academic approach to the comics, divided into its history, folklore, art, sociology, psychology, and literary/educational value. [Looking] at their stages of relevancy and fantasy, the many aspects of censorship, their effects on other media, penciling and inking styles, their psychological implications, current and future trends, and the role of comics in school systems."[5]

Uslan intended that his course on comics gives students the full three hours of college credit, on a par with "history, physics, or chemistry."[5] Requiring (as an undergraduate) a sponsor in order to be eligible to teach, Uslan found a "progressive and enthusiastic" one in the form of Henry Glassie, a professor in the Department of Folklore, who, as a "leading expert in the field of folklore" was able to see Superheroes as the somewhat logical descendant to Norse, Egyptian and Greek Mythology.[4][5]

The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences challenged the nature of Uslan's course,[5] but gave his approval.[6] Uslan's course, by then-titled "The Comic Book in Society," thus became "the first accredited course on the serious study of comic books."[4]

Uslan won fame for his comic book class by anonymously calling a local newspaper reporter and complaining about the course. TV crews filmed the first five meetings of the course, by then called "The Comic Book in America," including John Chancellor's NBC News.[5] Intending to invite different speakers each semester, Uslan found that Denny O'Neil was voted for by the class so often that he became the regular invitee (Uslan notes that Bob Rozakis was among those passed over in favor of O'Neil).[5]

Press coverage led to Uslan being invited to lecture at a number of colleges and high schools, as well as participate in talk shows on radio and TV (his first television appearance was alongside writers Steve Englehart and Gerry Conway).[5] It also led to phone calls from Stan Lee, and eventually to a job offer from DC Comics.[7] Uslan also wrote a textbook dealing with his course, The Comic Book in America (Indiana University, 1971).[5]

Producer[edit source | edit]

Batman films[edit source | edit]

Uslan is best known as a producer (another being Benjamin Melniker) of all of the modern Batman films to date, starting with Tim Burton's 1989 film, and continuing to 2012's The Dark Knight Rises and also including various feature-length films based on the Batman: The Animated Series and The Batman.

Other work[edit source | edit]

Uslan works with Benjamin Melniker in most of his projects.

As a film and TV producer, in addition to his many DC Comics film credits (in addition to all the Batman films and the two Swamp Thing films, Uslan executive produced the Swamp Thing TV series, 2004's Catwoman and 2008's The Spirit film, among others), Uslan has "produced a surprisingly diverse list of film and television." These include Three Sovereigns for Sarah (1985), starring Vanessa Redgrave, part of the American Playhouse series on PBS dealing with the Salem Witch Trials and the children's geography-teaching TV show Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?.[4]

Uslan is also a producer on the in production Captain Marvel feature Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam.[8]

Uslan was also an associate producer on Disney's National Treasure films.

He created and executive produced (with Ben Melniker) 1980s cartoon Dinosaucers. He wrote a few episodes on the series.

Writer[edit source | edit]

Uslan attempted his first comic writing in 1975 at DC Comics' version of The Shadow (on which he is planning [9] a feature film [10] with Sam Raimi) and publishing competitor Charlton Comics' Charlton Bullseye. He wrote some Batman comics before moving on to motion pictures.

He initiated [11] Stan Lee's Just Imagine... and contributed short stories with renowned artists like John Severin, Gene Colan and Richard Corben to it.

He wrote some The Spirit comics, even before producing the feature film.

With only some brief (foreword) writing and editing stints in between Uslan scripted the 2009 6-part story, Archie Marries Veronica.

2011 saw the publication of his autobiography, The Boy Who Loved Batman.[2] Uslan then wrote the foreword to the 2012 Wiley & Sons book Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight, by Dr. Travis Langley.[3]

Charity and other work[edit source | edit]

In 2005, Uslan donated his 30,000 comic book collection to Indiana University's Lilly Library (rare books and manuscripts library), a collection which (according to his wife Nancy) "filled three rooms of their house."[12]

Uslan was the honorary speaker at the 2006 Indiana University commencement ceremonies, held on May 6, 2006.

Uslan was the honorary speaker at the 2012 Westfield State University commencement ceremonies, held on May 19, 2012.

Awards[edit source | edit]

With his co-executive producers, Uslan won a 1995 Daytime Emmy for Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and he was also awarded an Independent Spirit Award at the 2005 Garden State Film Festival.[13]

In 2009 he was awarded the West Point Cadet Choice Award[14] for the character Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight.

In 2011, He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Peace River Film Festival. On October 10, 2012 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey.[15]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ Genocchio, Benjamin. "POW! Take That, Hitler! Men of Steel and Their Times", The New York Times, September 9, 2007. Accessed December 26, 2007. "One of the single biggest lenders to the exhibition is Michael Uslan of Cedar Grove, the executive producer of movies like “Batman” and “Batman Begins.” He obviously has a thing for superheroes."
  2. ^ Meoli, Daria. "That’s Entertainment", New Jersey Monthly, October 2005. Accessed December 26, 2007. "Fans of the Caped Crusader can add the summer blockbuster Batman Begins to their personal collections. Like all Batman celluloid, it was produced by Cedar Grove resident Michael Uslan."
  3. ^ Voger, Mark. "'The Dark Knight Rises' executive producer remembers", The Star-Ledger, May 29, 2012. Accessed August 20, 2012. "Uslan, a Jersey City native who grew up in Ocean Township, achieved that goal as executive producer of eight Batman movies beginning with the 1989 film "Batman," directed by Tim Burton, and including the forthcoming "The Dark Knight Rises," directed by Christopher Nolan.... 'By the time I graduated Ocean Township High School (in 1969), I had a collection of 30,000 comic books dating back to 1936, which took up my folks' entire garage.'"
  4. ^ a b c d "Batman Producer honored with Exhibit: Comics as Cultural Mythology" Part 2 by Kalynn Huffman Brower. Accessed May 13, 2008
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Uslan, Michael "Confessions of a Comic-Book Professor" in The Amazing World of DC Comics No. 3 (Nov, 1974), pp. 26-29
  6. ^ [Uslan, Michael "Confessions of a Comic-Book Professor" in The Amazing World of DC Comics No. 3 (Nov, 1974), pp. 26-29)
  7. ^ "Comics as culture? Holy textbook, Batman!: IU's Lilly Library displays Michael Uslan comic book collection" news release, September 8, 2005. Accessed May 14, 2008
  8. ^ IMDb: Michael E. Uslan. Accessed May 13, 2008
  9. ^ Columbia & Raimi Team on The Shadow
  10. ^ IMDb: The Shadow
  11. ^ Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe Reviewed by Joe Crowe, © October 26, 2002
  12. ^ "Batman Producer honored with Exhibit: Comics as Cultural Mythology" Part 1 by Kalynn Huffman Brower. Accessed May 13, 2008
  13. ^ IMDb: Michael E. Uslan - Awards. Accessed May 13, 2008
  14. ^ [1] Accessed May 11, 2009
  15. ^ Adair, Torsten. "Michael Uslan to Receive Honorary Doctorate from Monmouth University", Comics Beat, October 7, 2012. Accessed June 4, 2013.

External links[edit source | edit]