Michael Uslan Made Batman Fandom His Career

Batman is the arguably the most relatable superhero for humans.  He doesn’t have super powers, he’s relies entirely on his brain and honed skills, and his grief stricken backstory makes everyone shed tears.  The only thing “super and powerful” about Batman is his bottomless fortune.   We could consider that superpower if you refer to the 2017 Justice League movie script.  Flash asks Ben Affleck Batman what his superpower is and Affleck Batman replies, “I’m rich.”

I’m a Batman fan and one of my goals is to write either a Batman animated movie or a comics story arc.  My dedication to the Dark Knight pales in comparison to Michael Uslan, who is probably the ultimate Batman fan and responsible for making the Caped Crusader part of the modern zeitgeist.  Check out this Mental Floss article, “The Boy Who Saved Batman.”

Ulsan has been a Batman fan since he learned to read from his older brother’s comic books.  He amassed a huge collection of 30,000 books that consumed his parents garage.  He eventually sold 20,000 of his books to pay for his wedding and college education.  His first claim to fame was becoming the first professor of a college-accredited comic book course.  I wish I had access to his syllabus!

Ulsan so loved Batman that he wanted to buy the rights to the character and make a movie restoring the character from his campy Adam West days.  After earning a law degree, Ulsan worked in United Artists’s legal department.  Through sheer determination and persistence, he persuaded a production team to buy the Batman film rights for $50.000 in 1979.  Ulsan’s plans for a Batman movie languished in Hollywood for years, which is nothing new for any creative property.

Ulsan needed a steady cash flow to keep his Bat dream alive, so he

As the clock ticked, Uslan grasped for salable ideas. Then one day, he had an epiphany: What about dinosaurs from outer space?The kid-friendly lightning bolt resulted in Dinosaucers, a 1987 animated television series that provided just enough cash to get by.

Come the late 1980s, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was published and reinvigorated interest in the Caped Crusader.  Ulsan’s Batman producing partners were attached to Warner Brothers, whileTim Burton had finished directing Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and was about to film Beetlejuice with Michael Keaton.  Burton asked screenwriter Sam Hamm (also a Batman fan) to work on a script inspired by Miller’s work and finally the project got the AOK.

Batman directed by Tim Burton, starring Michael Keaton as the Bat, Jack Nicklson as the Joker, Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, and Michael Ulsan as a producer premiered on June 23, 1989 and quickly became that year’s summer blockbuster and more:

Batman’s cultural impact was enormous. In November, Uslan watched the Berlin Wall fall on CNN and saw a boy in the wreckage wearing a Batman hat. “This had become more than just a movie,” he writes. “It was, indeed, revolutionary.” In North America, the film was the highest-grossing movie of 1989.

Ulsan has been a producer on every Batman movie since 1989, including the Christian Bale Dark Knight Trilogy.  

Professional fans are are the ones who truly make franchises successful.  When a fan like Ulsan gets their hands on a property they have loved since childhood, they can do some serious wonders with it.

 

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