Exclusive Comikaze Interview: Michael Uslan
by BatmAngelus

Michael Uslan is living every Batman fan's dream.  His journey from comic book collector to major Hollywood producer, as covered in his fantastic memoir The Boy Who Loved Batman, has been inspirational to fans across the globe.

It was no surprise, then, on Saturday, September 15 during Stan Lee's Comikaze, that Batman Online found Mr. Uslan to be the open, eloquent, and passionate figure that we had expected him to be.  His two panels, Spotlight on Michael Uslan and Comics on Comics, were the highlights of the convention.  And, as a further treat, Mr. Uslan was generous enough to agree to a brief interview with Batman Online, right after his second panel.

Working with Christopher Nolan on The Dark Knight Trilogy

When asked about the recent rumors of an extended director's cut of The Dark Knight Rises, Uslan said, "That’s a question he [Christopher Nolan] should respond to."  

Something that the executive producer could share about, however, was his opinion on why Nolan's Batman movies, now dubbed as The Dark Knight Trilogy, have become so successful.

"It’s all very, very simple.  In this business, when things work well, a director comes on board [and] has a very specific vision.  And it quickly becomes very clear how much he understands and loves a character.  So much of the success that results from this business comes from passion.  I really believe that’s where it emanates from.  Before you get to the great story you need, because your script becomes your blueprint for the skyscraper you’re about to build, it’s important to have that vision."

Uslan went on to describe his rewarding experience working with Nolan. "Over the course of Batman Begins and then with The Dark Knight, [there's] an utter belief and utter trust in a filmmaker, where, in the process, you are not only trying to be a hundred percent supportive of his vision, but you become the greatest cheerleader on the planet.  And that’s why I’ve always wanted to be clear how all the credit and all the accolades for the wonder and the great things that have transpired with The Dark Knight Trilogy belong to Christopher Nolan, because he had a vision from start to finish. 

"Now, you’re talking to a guy who’s been dreaming of Batman on film in a dark and serious way since he was fourteen and a half years old.  And that night, as you heard, when I made that vow, that this was what I wanted to do with my life and my career.  And when you see, first, Batman’s dignity and integrity restored in Batman Begins.  And you have all of those great questions that had never been addressed before, after the origin story, that needed addressing on a human level- what happened to this kid after his parents were killed?  Where does he get these cars from?  Where is his cape from?  Why does he refuse to carry a gun?  And to have every one of them addressed in a way that over- it’s not three stories, it’s one story- a trilogy of one story, is so beautifully woven together.  Where every setup has its payoff.  Every character has an arc that is beautifully completed, all tied together in a bow.  

"That first time I saw The Dark Knight Rises, I was with my wife.  And, honestly, I just started crying.  Because, to me, this represented everything I ever hoped and dreamed, since I was fourteen and a half, to see on the screen with Batman.  And I think what Christopher Nolan has done is made it his legacy.  He’s made it my legacy.  He’s made it- everybody whose hearts or souls or work were attached to this in any way, shape, and form- their legacies.  And it’s amazing because, for me, it’s been a virtual lifelong journey.  And it really culminates this way because of him.  Period.  End of story."

Batman Live

The 2012 Comikaze took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center, only a few blocks away from the Staples Center, where the stage show Batman Live will perform from September 27-30th.  

Uslan regretted that he would not be able to attend.  "I have been traveling.  And I’ve never been in the right city at the right time to see it.  My whole family’s going, but I am going to be on an airplane, as I always am."

The Justice League of America

With The Dark Knight Trilogy ending, fans have been speculating on where WB will go next with the Batman universe.  After the announcement that writer Will Beall has completed a script for a Justice League of America movie, rumors have spread that the next onscreen incarnation of Batman will be introduced with his fellow DC superheroes in a film adaptation of the JLA.

While this has not been confirmed by the studio, Batman Online did ask Uslan about his thoughts, as a DC fan, on Batman's role in the Justice League comics when he was growing up.

"In the history of comics, there were usually about eight different editors at DC Comics.  And each one had their own stable of characters.  It was their fortress and they often build a moat around it.  And they had their own stable of artists and writers.  And each one was very protective of their own characters.  As opposed to say, at Marvel, where everything was written by Stan [Lee] and everything was edited by Stan, so it was one unified vision.  One unified tone.  One unified setting.  One unified set of rules for science and magic and the supernatural. 

"But at DC, characters, except for the Superman and Batman crossovers, generally were developed very independently.  And often, they really did not fit together in terms of tone or rules.  Or locales. 

"And when I was a kid, in the early Justice League stories, there was almost no Superman and Batman present.  They were very much off the page.  And I remember being disappointed as a kid that they weren’t part of this group. 

"But then, when they first started to show up and be part of the group…it was a struggle for me, as a kid, to see Batman in the same panel as J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter from Mars.  I was so identified with Batman because he had no superpowers.  He was always real to me.  Well, J’onn J’onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, was not that for me, as a kid.  So having them together in one adventure in the comic books didn’t make a lot of sense to me as a ten or twelve year old. 

"And it’s one of the reasons that some of my favorite issues of The Brave and the Bold, when they matched Batman up, were not Batman-Metal Men.  Or Batman-Mr. Potato Head.  It was Batman-Sergeant Rock.  It was Batman-Wildcat.  It was Batman-Deadman.  And so there were a lot of challenges when you take someone who's so human and then put him into a group of characters representing different tones and concepts."

The Shadow Movie

While it's too soon to tell where the Batman films will go next, Uslan has reportedly been working on a movie adaptation of the pulp hero, The Shadow, whom many credit to be the predecessor to Batman.  

A dark avenger created by Walter B. Gibson who "knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men," The Shadow has many similarities to The Dark Knight, including his billionaire playboy secret identity, his working relationship with the city police, and his incredible detective skills.  Earlier, in the the Comics on Comics panel, Uslan shared that his dream casting choice for the role would be Daniel Day-Lewis.

While Sam Raimi was announced as the director of the film in 2010, there has been no news on the project in awhile.  When Batman Online asked Uslan for a status report, he stated, "I can only say 'stay tuned.' " 

We, at Batman Online, would like to thank Michael Uslan, not only for speaking with us, but also for his major contribution to the Batman films and inspiring people worldwide to follow their dreams.  We'd also like to thank Michael's son, David, for helping to make this interview possible.

Be sure to pick up The Boy Who Loved Batman at your local bookstore.  It's a must-read for every Batman fan.

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