BATMAN ON FILM: We just talked about how you “reconciled” the 60s BATMAN TV show with your own personal Batman sensibilities. Mr. U, I’ll admit to you that it’s what made me a Batman fan. Of course, I soon realized it was not “My Batman” when the darker stuff of the early 70s came around. But I still look back on it with a great amount of fondness…
MICHAEL USLAN: I hear you and let me say something. There needs to be Batman for little kids. For example, lots of people came up to me back in ‘08 and said “Can I take my kid to see THE DARK KNIGHT?” And I’d say “Well, how old is your kid?” And they’d say “Four” (laughs). And I’d say “Not unless you want to scar ‘em for life!” And they’d ask for Batman suggestions and I’d tell them to go get BATMAN MEETS SCOOBY DOO! Or go watch the 60s TV show or the current BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. That’s a great way to get them going, get them started into the who superhero/comic book thing.
I know that a lot of Batman fans weren’t too thrilled with THE BATMAN and THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD after being spoiled by the magnificent and phenomenal and brilliant BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES thanks to Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Alan Burnett. BUT, we need vehicles that will “get” kids and then let them grow up with this stuff.
BOF: I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t think I was going to dig THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, but I ended up loving the thing and believe it’ll go down as a great addition to Batman’s history. What do you think?
MU: I agree, but let me go in a different, but still similar, direction. THE FANTASTIC FOUR films. When the first one was about to come out, I had been tipped off that if I was expecting Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s “dark” FF stuff, I was going to be terribly disappointed. But then I was told it was like SPY KIDS -- someone had made a comic book/superhero movie for kids that was still very respectful to the source material. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making these films for 10, 14, 8 year olds. They play an important part [in the genre] in we need to have them.
BOF: Exactly. We’ve talked about this before and you told me -- and I use your quote a lot (laughs) -- that not every comic book film has to be BATMAN BEGINS or THE DARK KNIGHT.
MU: Absolutely, absolutely.
BOF: Well, a BATMAN: YEAR ONE film is coming out -- one of those DCU animated films. It’s going to premiere at Comic Con in San Diego in a few weeks. Any thoughts on that?
MU: Love it. It’s absolutely one of my favorite Batman stories of all time. When you step back and look at the seminal Batman stories of all time, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and BATMAN: YEAR ONE have got to be on top of the heap. Together, these two stories helped to reconstruct Batman, if you will, and reconstruct the comic book genre. They also helped give us these movies that we’re seeing now and the fact that they are being done in a far more serious way than people every expected 25-plus years ago.
They “filled-out” the character and made Batman real -- as well as assessable to a “sophisticated” audience. So it’s just one of the all-time greats in my opinion.
BOF: So I take it that you’re excited to see it (laughs)?
MU: (laughs loudly)
BOF: So, looking forward to THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (laughs)?
MU: (laughs) You know, it’s very rare in someone’s career that you are involved with someone who can be called a “genius.” So how amazing is it over [my career with Batman on film] to be involved with projects with three geniuses. To me, those three were, and are, Tim Burton, Anton Furst, and, of course, Christopher Nolan. And it’s always exciting from the head to the toes when there is a GREAT filmmaker with a PASSION for a character and for a story. A filmmaker who “gets it” and proves to the world that he or she “gets it.” Someone who has a VISION and has the ability to execute that vision.
It’s just been a great pleasure in my life to see people like that turn audiences on their heads and open up the world of superheroes and comic books to people who never in a million years think they’d go to a movie based on a “comic book.” And have them love what they’re seeing and have it impact them in such a strong manner and have them take something away from the experience.
BOF: Chris [Nolan] has said that this will finish up his Batman on film story. What do you think about this being the first true comic book movie trilogy? A cinematic superhero story with a beginning (BEGINS), middle (THE DARK KNIGHT), and end (THE DARK KNIGHT RISES). I know some will say “SPIDER-MAN,” but it’s just not they same because they did want to continue on…
MU: Let me jump in. When THE DARK KNIGHT came out, there was an absolute run on BATMAN BEGINS DVDs. There were so many people who had not seen BEGINS, raced to the stores, and pretty much cleaned ‘em out for a while! They did this to “fill in the blanks” and add another layer to the experience that made THE DARK KNIGHT so effective. It was just an incredible experience.
You know, I keep going back to me -- “The Boy Who Loved Batman” -- when I was 8 and 12 and 16 and 21. To think today that the bar has been raised so high -- by a genius director (Chris Nolan) -- that people are walking out of these movies saying “That was a GREAT movie” and not “That was a great comic book movie.” People now believe in Batman, believe in Bruce Wayne, believe in Gotham City -- that’s an amazing accomplishment.
It’s just incredible and that’s exactly what has happened.
BOF: I’ve got to ask you this because I know you’ll be involved. Since Chris has said this is his last BATMAN -- and Warner Bros. has already said that they plan on rebooting Batman on film with Chris and Emma Thomas “overseeing” it -- do you believe that Batman on film can go on and one and one? Whether it be trilogies, one-offs, etc., etc.?
MU: (laughs) I can’t answer that in terms of the Batman movies, but let me say this: Look at the character himself.
Batman has now been around for over 70 years now and growing strong. When you look at the comic book sales figures each month, Batman is still up at the top. Year after year, people -- not just comic book fans here -- still vote him as their “favorite” superhero. Look, he’s been around for 72 years now been a part of several generations. He’s been around for this long -- and I’m including writers, artists, colorists, editors, publishers, inkers, and everybody involved with Batman. These folks have been able to bring people back every Wednesday for 72 years and that’s an amazing accomplishment.
The fact that the Batman movies are reaching people in very, very different cultures, across borders, across demographics, across gender -- it doesn’t matter. That’s simply stunning. That’s due to the talent of the people who have been at it over the years. A big part of it has to do with Batman’s creation by Bob Kane and Bill Finger -- as well as contribution by Jerry Robinson and SO many other people. He has an origin story that’s so primal that anybody anywhere in the world can still relate to it and feel what Bruce Wayne felt.
That’s where it all starts. And I completely subscribe to “The Stan Lee Theory.” It says that the only way that superheroes survive and are interesting is if they have great supervillians! And I stand by this: NOBODY has ever forged a rouges gallery like the Batman writers and creators have done over the decades.
BOF: Absolutely! One more question Mr. U and I’ll let you go. DC Comics has announced that they are going digital. Well, they already are, but they are going to digitally release their titles the same day as they are available in comic book stores. Thoughts? Do you have any issue with this?
MU: Issue? My God, everybody should be embracing this!
I’ve lectured at colleges and I’ve had folks come up to me and say “How and where do I get comics?” And I’ll say, “Well, you’ve got to drive 30-plus some-odd miles and find a comic book shop.
We are never going to be able to bring in the adult market, the “mainstream” without this. Comic book shops are very, very important and essential to the equation. There are generations -- like you and me -- who still want to touch, feel, collect and have the textile experience when it comes to comics. But let’s face it Bill, we’re in a whole new day and age. Comic books now can be made available everywhere and instantly via every App you can imagine all over the world.
I have never understood why a comic book that I love only sales 20,000+ issues a month! I suck at math, but that’s only like 400 or 500 per state. I don’t understand it!
So, if this “Brave New World” -- this digital explosion -- can get these characters, these writers, these artists, etc. out all-over the world and build and audience for them, we ALL need to embrace it!
I think part of the future is how creative can these folks be in giving a reader something more than just reading a comic book digitally on a PC, Mac, iPad, smart phone, etc.
As a comic book fan, collector, and historian, if I knew that I could read the entire DC, Marvel, and Archie comic book history digitally, I think I’d go away for a few months and put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door!
BOF: What’s going on with you and THE BOY WHO LOVED BATMAN at Comic Con?
MU: I will be speaking about THE BOY WHO LOVED BATMAN on Friday (July 22, 2011) from 4-5 [Details coming soon on BOF! - Jett]. And I’m going to be doing a book signing Saturday (July 23, 2011) at 3:30PM in AA18. We’re going to have a very limited edition -- the book itself won’t be available ‘til September 1st (2011). But we’ll have a limited edition just for San Diego Comic Con. So I hope all the Batman fans will come out for it!
BOF: Michael, I’ve already ordered mine, but PLEASE save me one of those! (laughs)
MU: I’d be honored to Bill.
BOF: Well then, a big THANKS for the interview and I will see you in San Diego! I know I’ve told you this before, but I can’t say it enough: You are one of my heroes when it comes to Batman and it’s an honor to be able to speak to you and call you a friend! I belive in the book and I can‘t wait to read it and help spread the word.
MU: Bill it’s my pleasure and I always love visiting with you. You were -- and still are -- at the forefront of all of this. The way you run the site with integrity is much appreciated by all of us.
One more quick thing about the book. I think that anyone who loves comic books, comic book movies, and Batman will enjoy it. And there’s a lot of new things in there that’s never really been revealed!