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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.

 

Why I Took a Hiatus from Toon-In Talk – Wanderlust, PTSD and Autism

Some may ask why I won’t show my full face. That’s because I want my voice to be heard instead.

It’s been a while since I picked up the microphone for the Toon-In Talk podcast. Instead I was dedicated to the pen and keyboard working on may book Lotte Reiniger: Pioneer of Film Animation (McFarland Books, 2017 and available at fine purveyors such as Amazon) and my second graphic novel script. I sold a second animation history book to Theme Park Press about the golden age of Nickelodeon animation. What is even more exciting is the Trident Media Agency picked me up as their client and my agent is as big a geek as myself. I have traveled across the Atlantic, got lost in Germany, angered a British doughnut seller, and wished that London had more street signs. Perhaps the most exciting thing was speaking at Walt Disney Animation Studios about Lotte Reiniger, who directed, animated, drew, puppeteered  and wrote when Walt Disney was still in inkwell water wings with Ub Iwerks.

Through all my wanderings, I’ve dealt with thoughts inside my head, particularly those related to my mental health. By nature, I am a very private, introverted person. That appears contrary to the personality I project through my interviews, doesn’t it?

Despite the cheerful energy conveyed through my voice, I am different from other people. The difference is my brain. It’s neurological wiring is atypical. I am autistic. To be more specific, I’m an individual on the autistic spectrum a.k.a. a high-functioning autistic a.k.a. what was formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome before the employment of the DSM-V. Autism isn’t the only thing lighting up my synapses (or not lighting them up). I also have depression due to a chemical imbalance and complex PTSD. I probably have dyslexia too, but it was never formerly diagnosed like the other things bobbing around in my head, like Canadian geese inhabiting a pond and making a mess of things.

My PTSD stems from being misdiagnosed and years of bullying. I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until I graduated college and started paying adult taxes. I bet you’re wondering why wasn’t my autism caught when I was younger? There are many reasons, but the biggest ones are that I never displayed the typical autistic symptoms and autism research was more concentrated on boys. There were autistic girls when I was growing up, but they had more severe symptoms. Due to being high-functioning, I skidded under the radar. Socialization, especially reading body language, sarcasm, etc., were difficult for me then and now.

The depression and dyslexia are hereditary. I inherited dyslexia from my father and there is generational depression and anxiety on mother’s side. My parents were attentive throughout my entire childhood as providers, supporters, and exercised their right to embarrass me in public. They did take me to therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists. They did correctly diagnosis the depression and placed me on medication. Some worked, then stopped working as is the case for many people.
Due to my research on autism, I believe my parents’ neurological differences are the cause of my autism. (It wasn’t vaccines, because I displayed signs as a newborn before I was old enough to receive them.)

When you’re misdiagnosed with any health problem, mental or physical, it effs up your life. Toss in years of bullying and it makes the perfect neurological concoction for complex PTSD (or so my therapist says).

I deal with my mental issues everyday. During my hiatus, I’ve had to come to terms with my identity and whether I wanted to keep them secret or share them. Frankly, I’m tired of these mental illnesses controlling my life, ruining relationships, and making me the awkward person in the room. Instead of fighting them, I’m embracing them. I will continue to be the awkward and annoying person in the room, but I’m aware of it. If others are too, then my faux pas are understandable and forgivable.
I strive to present my best self in public and through my podcast. I still annoy people, but that makes me human like everyone else on planet Earth.

Animation, comic books, and puppetry are the three mediums (four, if you count video games) that have kept me alive. (Yes, my family and pets deserve credit too.) I live to read books and watch new shows. I want to make my own. I’m already off to a good start on the book part and someday soon someone is going to buy a graphic novel script written by yours truly (That’s a hint for the publishers out there. Buy my scripts!).

Other than my monthly therapy session and a medication that hasn’t stopped working yet, animation, comic books, and puppetry are what drive me to live and that’s why I’m ending my hiatus.

 

Originally posted at FanboyNation.com.  Many thanks to my editor R.C. Same for his support. (Feedback WOOT!)