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: +++++++++

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The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #8 Benjamin Melniker

Batman '89 logoFormer Executive Vice President at MGM and current film industry legend, Benjamin Melniker is the co-founder (with #5 Michael E. Uslan) of Batfilm Productions, Inc. On October 3, 1979, Melniker and Uslan acquired all feature motion picture and allied rights on Batman from DC Comics. Since that time, this dynamic duo has executive produced every modern Batman film, including Batman (heavily influenced by the work of #7 Frank Miller), Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Batman Begins (helmed by #18 Christopher Nolan, co-created by #5 David S. Goyer and instigated in part by an early script by Frank Miller) and the immeasurably anticipated The Dark Knight (also directed by Nolan and co-written with Goyer), opening on July 18, 2008. Melniker and Uslan have produced or executive produced many Batman animated projects, television shows, and spinoffs, including the 1992 “Batman” animated TV series (with development assistance from #13 Mike Mignola), Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, Batman: Gotham Knight (written in part by David Goyer, to be released direct to DVD July 8, 2008), Batman Beyond: Return of the JokerSubZero, and Catwoman. Other projects include their work together as producers of DC/Vertigo‘s Constantine (along with #16 Lauren Shuler Donner and executive producer #15 Gilbert Adler) which has led the two to sign on as producers of the hopefully coming sequel Constantine 2 (also with Adler and Shuler Donner), and The Spirit, which Melniker and Uslan will executive produce and which Frank Miller will direct, starring Gabriel Macht and Samuel L. Jackson, due to be released on December 25, 2008.  Prior to Batfilm, Melniker and Uslan also notably produced Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing, as well as the 1990 “Swamp Thing” television series, all based on DC’s eponymous character.

Influence Meter: ++++++++

My Top 40 Comic Book (or Strip) Movies

1.        Annie*                         1982
2.        American Splendor**†           2003
3.        The Dark Knight¨               2008
4.        Superman¨                      1978
5.        Batman¨                       1989
6.        A History of Violence‡◊        2005
7.        Batman Begins¨                2005
8.        300†                           2007
9.        Dick Tracy*                    1990
10.       V for Vendetta◊                2005
11.       Batman Returns¨               1992
12.       Road to Perdition‡             2002
13.       X-Men©                        2000
14.       Iron Man©                     2008
15.       Spider-Man 2©                 2004
16.       Spider-Man©                   2002
17.       Men in Black§                 1997
18.       Hellboy†                       2004
19.       Sin City†                      2005
20.       Constantine◊                   2005
21.       X2: X-Men United©             2003
22.       From Hellª                    2001
23.       Mystery Men†                   1999
24.       Timecop†                       1994
25.       Over the Hedge‡‡               2006
26.       Superman Returns¨             2006
27.       The Incredible Hulk©          2008
28.       Daredevil©                    2003
29.       Wanted††                       2008
30.       X-Men: The Last Stand©        2006
31.       Hulk©                         2003
32.	 The Mask†                      1994
33.       Fantastic Four©               2005
34.       Hellboy II: The Golden Army†   2008
35.       Blade©                        1998
36.       Batman Forever¨               1995
37.       Men in Black II§              2002
38.       Blade: Trinity©               2004
39.       Howard the Duck©              1986
40.       Elektra©                      2005
 
*  Chicago Tribune Syndicate
** Self-Published
†  Dark Horse
‡  Paradox Press (DC)
◊  Vertigo (DC)
¨  DC Comics
©  Marvel Comics 
§  Aircel/Malibu/Marvel
ª  Top Shelf Productions
†† Top Cow
‡‡ United Media Comics
Last revised and updated: July 19, 2008