Michael Ulsan is one of my heroes.
And I told him that…
From where I sit, this man is directly responsible for not only Batman on film (the film series, not my website), but pretty much the superhero movie genre. In other words, M.U. is the Godfather of comic book films. So…
I had the great privilege of being able to sit down with Mr. Uslan at the New York Comic Con 2009 and visit with one of my personal heroes. Below is part one of my chat with Michael about, well, Batman on film.
BATMAN ON FILM: THE DARK KNIGHT was such a cultural phenomenon this Summer. As someone who’s always loved Batman…championed the character, I was tremendously proud of the way it was received. It’s was like 1989 all over again…in fact it surpassed BATMAN.
Michael Uslan: It did, it actually did. And I never thought anything would. It was just an amazing thing. Let’s go back to the genius of Chris Nolan. He made a film that dealt with very important themes. Themes that resonated with people everywhere.
We know that the story of Batman -- one of the reasons -- is so successful is because he’s human and does not have super powers. People can identify with that. Another reason that Batman is so successful is that his origin is so primal…that anyone in any culture and any age can relate to seeing parents murdered in front of your eyes and THEN going out and trying to make a difference in the world. People just get Batman on a gut level.
I loved how so many critics said [THE DARK KNIGHT] was the most important movie to deal with 9/11 and 9/11 issues. I think that also was something that resonated with people. I can’t tell you how many people told me that those scenes on the ferries…where those passengers were sitting there with that device in their hands and people were thinking “What would I do?” They were actually sitting in theaters questioning themselves and questioning their morals. My God! For a movie to do that on that level and still be entertaining in the process…that was incredible. THE DARK KNIGHT touched a nerve that not only resonated across this country, but everywhere.
I proudly bow before the Nolan family -- Chris, Emma [Thomas], Jonah. Chuck Roven, David Goyer, everyone
BOF: BATMAN ‘89 is probably the most important comic book movie of all time. And THE DARK KNIGHT is arguably the greatest comic book movie of all time. How does it feel that that status can be bestowed on Batman movies?
MU: It’s been thirty years since I got the rights to Batman. I could not be happier today knowing that everything I set out to do has really be accomplished. Between BATMAN ‘89 and THE DARK KNIGHT, they’re great bookends to that.
BOF: I asked Chris last Summer (June 2008) -- and I asked Emma Thomas the same thing. I asked them if they were Batman fans before they got involved with these films and if not, are they now? And Emma told me, frankly, that she was not, but she get’s it now why I -- and you and all the fans -- love this character. But what Chris told me really has stuck with me. He paused for a minute and then said, “I just feel a lot closer to him.” Not “it,” not “the character,” but “him” like he was a real person. How do you feel about this…this Batman…that you’ve spent so much of your life with?
MU: I feel like I’ve become closer to Bruce Wayne. And I really truly believe that these adventures are not about “Batman,” they’re about Bruce Wayne. And I still believe that in terms of the actors in these movies, Bruce Wayne has been portrayed so completely differently in each one. And that’s really fascinating if you stop and think about that fact. And that makes sense because it was that human appeal when I was eight years old that turned me into this huge fan of the character. And it’s still there…this closeness to…this being able to relate to Bruce Wayne.
BOF: Speaking of Bruce Wayne…in the comics. There’s been talk of DC killing off Bruce Wayne and/or replacing Bruce with someone else in the cape and cowl as “Batman” for a while. I’ll ask you, if it’s not Bruce Wayne in the suit, is it Batman?
MU: (smiles) Well they’ve done it before, right?
BOF: Yeah, with KNIGHTFALL and PRODICAL back in the 90s….
MU: Exactly. You know…you got to remember that these comic books are published with multiple titles each month…hey, this year is the 70th anniversary of Batman. There’s been thousands and thousands of Batman stories. It’s not like these movies that come out once every three years or so. And they’ve got this tremendous pressure to keep things fresh, come up with something new, come up with a new angle. They try to turn the status quo on it’s head and I respect that tremendously.
In the end, yeah, only Bruce Wayne is Batman. I know it, you know it, the fans know it, and they know it. Did Superman die for good when Doomsday “killed” him? And I’m sitting here waiting for the issue when the real Captain America comes back. Hey, that’s comic books!
BOF: You’ve got THE SHADOW coming out, right? How’s it coming along?
MU: It’s coming along great, just great! I’m partnering with Sam Raimi and Josh Donen on it at Sony. And Siavash Farahani wrote the screenplay. It’s moving along quite well, we’re making good progress, and it’s very exciting…very different.
BOF: Where is SHAZAM! at right now?
MU: (smiles) Ah, Captain Marvel. I’ll just say the demise of Captain Marvel have been greatly exaggerated! Bill, we should have some news…a much more positive announcement around the time of the San Diego Comic Con.
BOF: Besides all that and the next BATMAN, what else do you have going on that you’d like to mention?
MU: Well, I’m not ready to officially announce it -- but we’re getting pretty damn close -- but DOC SAVAGE is coming along nicely.
BOF: And you’re writing comics. I know you've been working on THE SPIRIT….
MU: Yeah! I’m writing comics and some graphic novels. And THE SPIRIT has been great. I’m writing it with F.J. [DeSanto]. We’ve got a fabulous new artist in Justinian -- who was great in the first story invoking [Will] Eisner and just kicked it up to a whole new level in the second.
BOF: Thank you very much Mr. Uslan...you're one of my heroes of this genre.
MU: Thank you...it's been my pleasure.