Entertainment

Batman Producer Michael Uslan Honored at Founder's Day

batman_headline_imageThe University recently had the honor of awarding the world’s first doctorate in fine arts with a special concentration in comic book literature to Michael Uslan, executive producer of every major Batman movie since 1989. Uslan delivered the convocation address at the University’s 79th founders day ceremony.

He also took time to speak with students beforehand, and autographed copies of his autobiography, “The Boy Who Loved Batman”, after the ceremony.

David Knotts, business management major, thought Uslan was a great inspiration. “It’s interesting to see how somebody who wasn’t involved with filmmaking got there by a different path,” said Knotts.

Uslan is a native New Jersey resident who grew up in Ocean Township, in Monmouth County. He got his start reading comic books, but really broke out into the industry when he began teaching comic book folklore, while pursuing his undergraduate degree at the University of Indiana. It was the first course to seriously discuss comic books in contemporary society.

His course, “The Comic Book in America,” dealt with the mythology, anthropology, psychology, and thought processes behind how a comic book is made and how it be became popular. This course brought him significant fame-eventually leading to him being contacted by Stan Lee.

He wrote comic books for DC comics before entering movie production. He also wrote some issues of Batman, his all-time favorite superhero.

Uslan says that he likes Batman so much because Batman and most human superhero of them all. Aside from the fact that she does not really have powers, he has an intense personal narrative and emotional background that serves as the inspiration for his endless dedication to justice. He feels this is a superhero everyone can relate to.

When asked if he had a favorite Batman movie, he said, “it’s a tie: Tim Burton’s was a dream come true. It was the first dark, serious superhero movie. It characterized all those years of struggle, but the Dark Knight trilogy served as acts one, two, and three of the same story.”

In addition to producing the Batman movies, He has produced Catwoman, the spirit, and “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?”, the last of which earned him a Daytime Emmy. He was also involved in producing the National Treasure films.

Uslan’s speech was heartwarming, personal, and funny. He had the right blend of humor and seriousness to bring out the importance of doing what you love despite adversity while still keeping the mood light. He detailed his childhood as a self-professed comic book geek and explained how, when he was young, people found the reading purchasing of comic books to be a distasteful or shameful activity. He also reminisced on having attended the first comic convention ever.

“In the 60s and 70s we were harassed and derided looked down upon if you read and collected comic books, that was not cool. Now, they’re spreading all over the world, affecting fashion and art. Comic books have been featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We win,” Uslan said, in reference to the hardships he faced while trying to have comic books taken seriously.

However, his speech was not limited to a discussion of his work with comic books. He explained the process through which he began to teach his course, saying that he was able to convince the Dean of the Indiana University of Law to approve his course by pointing out the way the origin of Superman parallels the story of Moses.

Michael Maiden, Director of Advancement Publications, thought Uslan was an excellent speaker. “It’s very exciting. He is a dynamic speaker with information relevant to all students across campus,” said Maiden.

He went on to discuss how, in order to purchase the rights to Batman and thus produce the movie, he wound up attending graduate school for law and working the legal aspect of film and TV production. Having originally been denied, used his credentials to prove that he knew he was doing and that he wasn’t taking a foolish risk. While some still try to stop him, it is clear from the overwhelming success that he made the right decision.

When discussing the degree, he was extremely humble. He said that he was accepting it in behalf of all of the writers producers editors and readers of comic books who had been stigmatized in the past, as well as the children and grandchildren of those who had the courage and vision to make comic books of reality but could not live to see them flourish.

Towards the end of his address, Uslan encouraged everyone to do what they love, using his father as an example. His father dropped out of school at 16 to become a stonemason in order to support his family. He worked six days a week from the age of 16 until he retired at 80, and had a smile on his face every day because he enjoyed his work so much. He even did restoration work at our own Wilson Hall.

The man who produced Batman gave more than a speech; he gave an inspiring and powerful message to everyone in attendance. He reminded the audience that as long as you have passion for what you are doing, you will succeed, even if it takes 10 years.

Uslan showed a significant similarity between Batman and the common man, and it is that sometimes things don’t go according to plan. We all face setbacks, we all have enemies, and we all feel pain, but what makes a hero is being able to stand against the forces that would keep us down. Uslan is a man who, like Batman, has a personal drive and unrelenting passion that anyone can admire.