May 28, 2017
I’ve never produced a Batman movie, but other than that slight difference between us, I completely related to producer Michael Uslan’s autobiography, The Boy Who Loved Batman. It probably starts with us both being Jersey boys smitten by four-color dreams as young boys, buying the latest comics at a neighborhood drugstore or Mom & Pop convenience store. Then it was our similar devotion to organizing our friends according to their interest in arguing about who would win a fight, DC’s Batman or Marvel’s Daredevil, Superman or Batman, Deadman or, uh, never mind.
MICHAEL USLAN audio excerpt: "I think Michael Keaton was essential to that first movie taking hold and setting the standard for what would come in the entire genre over the next 20-plus years. Christian Bale totally nails Bruce Wayne for every single generation of Batman fans... Christian Bale makes you believe in Bruce Wayne and therefore, Batman, completely."
And there were the creative professionals who made appearances in our teens; for him it was comic book writer Otto Binder; for me, hard-boiled detective novelist Michael Avallone. Also: Uslan made a pilgrimage to DC Comics and spent a day with vice president Sol Harrison; my friends and I went to Marvel, met a very young artist named George Perez and followed him home, where we watched him draw. (Harrison later hired Uslan; Perez and I are friends on Facebook but I can’t swear he remembers our momentous meetup in 1976.)
There were other, smaller things that tickled me in The Boy Who Loved Batman:
• Uslan wrote many of the DC adaptations of The Shadow, which I loved as a teen and, many years later, it was one of the few comics I kept and that I introduced to my wife and she enjoyed at least as much I did.
• And just days after my teenage daughter finished reading Beowulf for her English Honors class and I remembered a comic book version in the 1970s, I discovered in his memoir that Uslan conceived and wrote that, too!
• It also turns out we have a mutual acquaintance, Steve Huntington.
Huntington and Uslan went to grade school and high school together back in Jersey; I covered smooth jazz radio program director Huntington as a media writer in the Tampa Bay area in the 1980s. I could go on and on without even getting close to the meat of the book: how Uslan obsessed over the need for a full-length movie of The Dark Knight to redeem Batman after the campy ‘60s TV series nearly ruined the character forever. Not only did Uslan acquire the rights and bring every modern version of the Caped Crusader to the big screen, from Michael Keaton to Christian Bale, he also was responsible for TV and film versions of Swamp Thing among other characters. His book does leave out a couple of his movies he’d probably rather forget, though, including Catwoman and Frank Miller’s The Spirit. (Sorry, Michael.) And one more thing: at the top of his IMDB page is this curiosity: Untitled Batman Reboot, 2015. Hmm…