The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #5 Michael E. Uslan

Michael E. Uslan is the undisputed father of the modern Batman film. A comics lore legend, he was the first professor to teach a course on “comic book folklore” at an accredited university (his alma mater Indiana University.) He famously convinced the Dean of the school to allow his course after equating the Dean’s recollection of the story of Moses with the story of Superman. Since 1979, he and co-founder of Batfilm Productions #8 Benjamin Melniker have owned the feature motion picture rights to the DC Comics Batman franchise. Uslan has shared production credits on every one of Melniker’s comic book screen works, including every Batman film since 1989. He was the first to pitch the idea of a darker Batman, as opposed to the campy 1960s TV Batman, to producers, but was turned down repeatedly. His persistence, however, eventually led to the production of Tim Burton’s 1989 classic, and he has remained the Batman authority since then. In addition, he was executive producer of 2008’s direct to video Turok: Son of Stone, based on the Dell, Gold Key and Valiant Comics hero. He is set to produce Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam, based on the original DC Comics Captain Marvel. With #11 Sam Raimi, he will be producing a film adaptation of The Shadow, a long time pet project of Raimi’s.

Influence Meter: +++++++++


4 Responses to “The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #5 Michael E. Uslan”

  1. nanzee Says:

    You guys are crazy. Uslan should be behind Stan Lee. He has fought his whole adult life to legitimize the comic book. He has come up again all the major studios in Hollywood since 1978. All your others contenders ( other than Melnicker who Uslan brought in ) have just been in positions where someone came to them with an opportunity OR they were already in a power seat to make things happen. Not with Uslan. He was a nobody who had a vision. Maybe you should revisit your list.

  2. sophosmoros Says:

    Thanks, Nanzee, and I agree that he’s had a profound impact on the comic book movie industry. That’s why he’s #5 on the list. David Goyer ranks ahead of Uslan because he’s been a writer, producer, and director of movies featuring characters accross the comic book spectrum, having shaped the cinematic images of characters accross the board, including Batman. I don’t doubt Uslan’s legacy or his tenacity, but I believe there are others (like Goyer and the as yet undisclosed #3, #2, and #1) who can and have effected more change in the comics film industry than even him.

  3. Nanzee Says:

    Hey Sophosmoros,
    I agree that Goyer is wonderful but I repeat, he was hired for the work. Did someone mention “Comic Book Spectrum”? Uslan brought rights, conceived properties and produced, Swamp Thing, Catwoman, Constantine, The Spirit all the Batman movies. The Shadow and Captain Marvel are in the not to distant future. His writings are not only in comic book form but graphic novel and academic text. His written indroductions for many of the major comic book companies archival collections have established ” Truths” that cannot be changed even by the goliaths of motion picture making. If you’ve ever been to a major comic book convention, like San Diego and New York City, the crowds he draws and the overwhelming positive response he gets should indicate how appreciative we as comic book fans are to have someone like Uslan guiding the comic book genre movie industry. He wants to and IS raising the bar. Thus… maybe you should revisit your list.

  4. sophosmoros Says:

    You make a compelling argument, and your points are well taken. However, while it’s true that Uslan has worked on other properties outside the Batman franchise, so has Goyer, and in higher numbers. Goyer has influenced the screen legacies of The Crow, Nick Fury, Blade, and Ghost Rider, and has future projects in the works involving The Flash, Green Arrow, Doctor Strange, and a couple of lesser known titles, not to mention his recent Batman work. The fact that Goyer was hired to do the work doesn’t necessarily mean that he has proven to be less influential than Uslan, who is primarily a producer. This is not to say that producers deserve more credit than writers or directors. Goyer has been and is set to be a producer/executive producer for many projects himself, so he’ll be doing exactly the kind of work that Michael Uslan has done. To use an extreme example, Pope Julius II hired Michaelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. So who was more influential to art history, the Pope who commissioned the work, or Michaelangelo who actually created it? It’s not the easiest question to answer. I will grant you this, though: Michael Uslan’s literary and academic contributions to the history of comic books in popular culture are undeniable. And the fan support that he has (notwithstanding whatever fan support Goyer enjoys) gives him a lot of weight to through around Hollywood. Still, you have to ask, aren’t there four people in the comic book film business who are even more capable than Michael Uslan of affecting the course of comic book movies? I think there might be.

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