Let me mention that Uslan is also a producer on The Spirit, and many other comic book movies, and is one of the rights holders to Batman. This man has had a storied career in comic books, of which he talked about in length.
I found Michael Uslan’s beginning of his career interesting. He talked about how during his time in college, there was a experimental curriculum opportunity at Indiana University where a student could pitch his idea for a class to the dean and hope to be accredited with an opportunity to teach it. Well, Uslan, drawing parallells between Greek/Roman mythology as well as other folk lore, religion and tall tales with comic books, pitched his class where comic books were treated seriously as American folk lore. The dean laughed him off, saying he used to read Superman himself and they were nothing more than cheap entertainment. Uslan challenged him to recall the origin story of Moses, where he was abandoned, raised by a family different from his original and became a hero for the people, to Superman’s. He got his course approved.
Uslan moved on to work for DC comics and ended up writing his first comic book script for The Shadow, having pitched an idea on the fly after seizing a well-time opportunity. Perhaps what was most amazing, however, was that Uslan bought the rights for the Batman movies and spent ten years trying to get a dark, serious vision of Batman made. He recalled that his favorite rejection of the movie was from Columbia Pictures, which claimed, “Batman will never be successful because our movie ‘Annie’ wasn’t successful. They’re both from the funny pages.”
Stunned, shocked and almost out of money, Uslan was finally approached by Tim Burton. Uslan praised Burton, especially for the casting of Michael Keaton. Wary at first, Uslan explained that Burton claimed he couldn’t dress up a serious actor in a bat costume and get audiences to suspend their disbelief for it.
Those are some of the highlights from the talk, here are some other notable quick-hits:
– He once asked Stan Lee about changing his name. Stan Lee regretted changing it from Stanley Lieber, having done so originally so his name wouldn’t be tarnished in the frowned-upon “art” of comic books
– Mentioned that him and Sam Raimi are in talks to do a reboot of “The Shadow” movie. I asked him how it felt to be producing a movie of the character that gave him his first break in comic books. Uslan responded that he felt a real responsibility for the character and that he was lucky to have this experience.
– In the original Batman movie script, Gotham City was described as “if hell has erupted from under the earth.” When asked what that meant, Tim Burton replied “New York without planning and zoning.”
– He defended The Spirit, which opened and was received poorly, that Frank Miller brought his vision of a comic book on screen “virtually word balloons and all” with “40’s style dialogue.”
– Quipped that nowadays in the Batman movies you have to explain to the viewer how all of the technology and batsuit worked and that Chris Nolan figured out a perfect way: “hire Morgan Freeman to tell them.”
– Proclaimed that he has two major new comic based movies to announce at this year’s San Diego Comic Con
Overall, it was a very relaxed, informative talk! Which movies do you think he’s announcing at SD Comic Con? Let me know in the comments.