University of North Carolina Interviews Michael Uslan

October 29th, 2008

Batman producer to visit UNC
by Kevin Turner, Arts Editor

For “The Dark Knight” executive producer Michael Uslan, getting the chance to teach, write and transform comics into movies is a lifelong dream realized.

Uslan, producer of all the Batman movies since 1989, will speak to University students today about his career journey: from a childhood fantasy to producing the record-breaking 2008 Batman movie.

“I was a kid that didn’t come from money, without connections,” Uslan said. “I had this dream to take what I loved in life and make it my work, and for me that was making a definitively dark, serious Batman for the movies.”

Uslan’s career aspiration started at a young age, when he first picked up a Batman comic.

“Batman was always my favorite superhero, from when I was an 8-year-old,” Uslan said. “As a kid, I honestly believed that if I studied enough and worked out real hard and if my dad bought me a cool car, then I could be Batman.”

Although he never made it into the famed suit, Uslan’s passion for comics enveloped his life while at Indiana University at Bloomington.

During his undergraduate studies, Uslan taught a course on the history of comic books through a program akin to UNC’s C-START program. His class was the first course that taught about comic books at an accredited university in the nation, which instigated a media frenzy.

The press about Uslan’s course gained the attention of famed comic book artist and writer, Stan Lee, whose creations include Spiderman and Iron Man. Uslan also received a call and a job offer from DC Comics, the company that produces the Batman series.

“The comic book course generated so much press,” he said. “While in college I began working at DC during summers and writing comics and then writing Batman comics, which was a dream that I had since I was 8 years old.”

Uslan worked his way up the comic book industry and eventually bought the rights to the Batman series. He then began soliciting movie studios with his concept of a darker, more intense Batman, in sharp contrast to Adam West’s portrayal of a campy, goofy Batman in the 1960s television series.

“I was turned down from every single studio in Hollywood,” Uslan said. “It was a long journey — the first movie took 10 years for me to make. Having gone through that to the point where we now have Chris Nolan, a genius, directing ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’ — it’s like we got to the top of a tough mountain.”

Uslan’s perseverance and climb to the top of his industry is why Carolina Union Activities Board brought him to speak with students, said forum chair Maryam Al-zoubi.

“The journey he took from being a fan to a filmmaker is an interesting one,” she said. “What he did was make the Batman movies incredible — he made them a serious genre. He continued and persevered.”

For Uslan, the chance to speak with University students makes his success even sweeter.

“To me, validating my journey is going back and talking to students now,” he said.

“Saying, ‘You can do this too; you can make it possible and make it difference.’”