“http://expertaccess.cincom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/93917202-300×200.jpg” alt=”Batman mask – Cincom Expert Access” width=”300″ height=”200″ />It took 23 years of passion, hard-work and bloody knuckles to bring one of the most iconic and real superhero’s to life on the big screen for a caped career that has spanned decades and brought in $2.6 billion with a slew of branded franchise merchandize and a brand new movie – The Dark Knight Rises – which hits theaters at midnight tonight.
But just how did Michael Uslan, the author of The Boy who Loved Batman, restore dignity to his childhood hero?
Uslan, who was a guest on Expert Access Radio in 2011, tells us his Batman moment happened in 1966: “My parents were safe upstairs in the kitchen and I was downstairs in the den watching the debut of the Batman TV show and I was simultaneously thrilled and horrified by what I was seeing on TV.”
It was the first time that many were being exposed to the masked crusader and Uslan realized that the campy “Bam!,” “Pow!,” “”Wham!” and “Zap!” were adding a comedic element to the character. The whole world was laughing at Batman, so while he enjoyed seeing his hero on television he made a vow that “somehow, someday, someway [he] would show the world what the true Batman … was really like.”
That Batman show was the first TV series about a superhero since George Reeves’ Adventures of Superman. But Superman has always been seen as a superhero who can transcend the world of comic books, according to Uslan. It wasn’t until recently that others have shared the television or silver screen.
That doesn’t make sense, considering that deep down, Batman’s origin story transcends borders, demographics and even cultures. Bruce Wayne is actually just a normal guy in extraordinary circumstances. He sacrificed his childhood and swore he would avenge the death of his parents after they were murdered in front of him.
And that is where the similarities of the story of Bruce Wayne and Michael Uslan intersect – though, thankfully, Uslan’s parents were alive. Bruce Wayne decided he would honor the commitment he made to his parents for the rest of his life even though it wasn’t always easy and it wasn’t always the popular thing to do. Uslan dedicated himself to honoring the vow he made in 1966 to rescue Batman’s image and continued that journey even when it wasn’t always easy, or popular, or even supporting his family in the best way possible.
Uslan acquired the rights to Batman in 1979 with his partner Ben Melniker. Even though Sol Harrison, who became the president of DC Comics urged them not to waste their money. Everyone believed Batman was dead as a commercially viable character, especially as Uslan wanted to reinvent him in his true form as a gritty, “creature of the night stalking criminals in the shadows.”
After acquiring the rights, Uslan immediately quit his job and headed to Hollywood even though he had no friends, family or business contacts in the city.
“I thought with Batman in my back pocket, I could convince them that dark and serious Batman movies, the way he was originally created, would be something the world had never seen before and a chance for tremendous success,” he said.
But that wasn’t the case as studio after studio shut the door on his face with the excuses of “no one does dark superhero movies” and “nobody makes movies about old television shows” – keep in mind this was 1979, not 2012 when we’ve seen The Avengers, two reboots of Spiderman, and Dark Shadows on the big screen.
Regardless of collecting enough rejection slips to fill a closet, Uslan kept pushing for the caped crusader to make it to the big screen.
“These comic books are truly today’s modern day mythology. It carries on from the ancient gods of Greece, Rome and Egypt except today they are all in spandex and capes.” he says of his perseverance in exposing the true Batman to the masses. “When you find a superhero who has no superpowers, his greatest superpower is his humanity, somebody who is not a guy who slugs his way out of a fight with a pow, zap and a wham, but it’s a guy who typically outthinks his opponent …” you can relate to that.
So how did Uslan finally get the 1989 Batman movie starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson?
He continued to fight for his vision to be realized.
“At the bottom of it all it tests your mettle. When life turns into a 10-year long human endurance contest and everyone is telling you, ‘you are crazy,’ everyone is telling you, ‘you stink, your ideas are terrible,’ you really have to look deep inside and say, “okay, am I just being stubborn or do I really absolutely believe in myself and my work?”
Uslan had the support system behind him to recognize that he really absolutely believed in Batman.
“I believed in this from day one,” he said. “When everyone was telling me no; when everyone told me it was the worst idea they ever heard, I never faltered in my belief in this.”
At the heart of it all, Uslan never let what the critiques said about him, his ideas and his passion force him to quit. And now that Batman is once again one of the biggest franchises on the planet, he hasn’t let the support for the movies helmed by Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher and Christopher Nolan go to his head.
“If you don’t believe them when they tell you how bad you are and how awful your work is, and if you don’t believe them when they start telling you how wonderful you are and how great all your ideas are and just believe in yourself and your work, you will do fine in this life,” Uslan said.
Thirty-three years after Uslan bought the rights to Batman, he will once again be credited as a producer on the latest inception of the character played by Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises – the final movie in a trilogy which might not have been made without his perseverance.