Michael E. Uslan
Uslan at the Big Apple Con on November 14, 2008
|Born||June 2, 1951|
Bayonne, New Jersey, United States
|Occupation||Film producer, comics scholar|
|Parent(s)||Joe Uslan, Lilly Stark Uslan|
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. 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 300 résumés (typed on a typewriter), Uslan "developed a course idea for the Experimental Curriculum program at IU".
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'." 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."
Uslan intended that his course on comics gives students the full three hours of college credit, on a par with "history, physics, or chemistry." 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 logical descendant to Norse, Egyptian and Greek mythology.
The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences challenged the nature of Uslan's course, but gave his approval. Uslan's course, by then-titled "The Comic Book in Society," thus became "the first accredited course on the serious study of comic books."
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. 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).
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). It also led to phone calls from Stan Lee, and eventually to a job offer from DC Comics. Uslan wrote a textbook dealing with his course, The Comic Book in America (Indiana University, 1971).
Uslan is best known as an executive producer with Benjamin Melniker of all of the modern Batman films to date, starting with Tim Burton's 1989 film, and continuing to Justice League and also including various direct-to-video feature-length films, including those based on Batman: The Animated Series and The Batman.
As a film and TV producer, in addition to their many DC Comics film credits (in addition to all the Batman films and the two Swamp Thing films, Uslan and Melniker were executive producers on 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?.
Uslan attempted his first comics writing in 1975 at DC Comics' version of The Shadow and publishing competitor Charlton Comics' Charlton Bullseye. He also wrote a comic-book adaptation of Beowulf for DC Comics in 1975. He wrote some Batman comics before moving on to motion pictures.
With only some brief (foreword) writing and editing stints in between, Uslan scripted the 2009 six-part story, Archie Marries Veronica.
2011 saw the publication of his autobiography, The Boy Who Loved Batman. Uslan then wrote the foreword to the 2012 Wiley & Sons book Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight, by Dr. Travis Langley.
Charity and other work
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."
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.
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.
- 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.'"
- "Batman Producer honored with Exhibit: Comics as Cultural Mythology" Part 2 by Kalynn Huffman Brower; accessed May 13, 2008
- Uslan, Michael "Confessions of a Comic-Book Professor" in The Amazing World of DC Comics #3 (Nov, 1974), pp. 26-29
- Uslan, Michael "Confessions of a Comic-Book Professor" in The Amazing World of DC Comics No. 3 (Nov, 1974), pp. 26-29)
- "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
- Bouley, Charles Karel (July 20, 2012). Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe Reviewed by Joe Crowe, © October 26, 2002
- "Michael Uslan IS The Boy That Loved Batman". The Huffington Post.
- Akers, Laura (March 31, 2012). "Travis Langley: Getting Inside Batman's Head". Comics Bulletin.
- "Batman Producer honored with Exhibit: Comics as Cultural Mythology" Part 1 by Kalynn Huffman Brower. Accessed May 13, 2008
- Bartlet, Eric (May 14, 2009). view archive/09may14.pdf "The winner of the 2008-09 Cadet Choice Award is..." Pointer View, Vol. 66, No. 18. p. 1. United States Military Academy (PDF).
- Adair, Torsten. "Michael Uslan to Receive Honorary Doctorate from Monmouth University". Comics Beat, October 7, 2012. Accessed June 4, 2013.
- 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."
- Meoli, Daria. "That’s Entertainment" Archived 2005-12-14 at the Wayback Machine, 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."
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