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.

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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.

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The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #15 Gilbert Adler

Gilbert AdlerGilbert Adler kept the Crypt Keeper alive, as it were, owing a great deal of his accomplishment to his antecedent, the late writer/producer #24 Milton Subotsky. Where Subotsky first brought EC Comics stories to the screen with the original Tales from the Crypt in 1972, Adler continued the tradition through the 1980s and ‘90s.  Adler started by directing the Crypt Keeper sequences in HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt” television show in 1989, directing two full episodes in 1992 and 1993, and writing several episodes between ‘91 and ‘96.  During this time, he produced over 60 episodes of “Tales from the Crypt” for HBO.  In 1995, he directed Crypt Keeper sequences for the big screen in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight, which he also produced.  He soon directed, produced, and wrote the screenplay for his own feature length Crypt film Bordello of Blood in 1996.  In subsequent years he has served as the executive producer for DC/Vertigo’s Constantine (produced by #16 Lauren Shuler Donner, #8 Benjamin Melniker and #5 Michael E. Uslan) released in 2005, and as a producer of Superman Returns, also produced, directed, and co-written by #9 Bryan Singer, released in 2006.  He is reportedly set to produce the Superman sequel, Superman: Man of Steel, again with Singer, scheduled for release in June of 2009. He may also be the executive producer of the sequel to Constantine (also with Shuler Donner producing) if the film is ever actually made.

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The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #16 Lauren Shuler Donner

Lauren Shuler DonnerIt has been said that behind every great man stands a great woman. Be that as it may, it is certainly the case that behind every X-Man stands Lauren Shuler Donner.  She has (with the assistance of #19 Ralph Winter) brought Marvel Comics’ X-Men to the forefront of American pop culture with her productions of X-Men, X2, and X-Men: The Last Stand. Capitalizing on the success of this franchise, she is currently producing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman, scheduled for release on May 1, 2009. She has also been announced as a producer for X-Men Origins: Magneto, based on a screenplay most recently written by #5 David S. Goyer, also scheduled for release in 2009. Ms. Shuler Donner was instrumental in bringing the main character from Hellblazer (published by DC’s Vertigo imprint) to the screen in her production of Constantine (with producers #8 Benjamin Melniker and #5 Michael E. Uslan and executive producer #15 Gilbert Adler). She remains attached to the possibility of producing a sequel to the film, also with Adler and Melniker, but according to IESB.net, possibilities are waning. Hollywood.com reports an announcement that Shuler Donner will also be producing an adaptation of DC Comics’ Metal Men, but no release date has been revealed.

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The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #24 Milton Subotsky

Tales from the CryptIn 1972, Milton Subotsky (co-founder of Amicus Productions) became the man responsible for bringing the EC Comics tradition of pre-code horror to the big screen. He wrote and produced Tales from the Crypt, and its sequel, The Vault of Horror.  As Roger Ebert observes,

“The titles published by E. C. Publications were more dramatically drawn, scarier and unsurpassed in the department of divine retribution. Six months or a year after I discovered “Tales from the Crypt” and the other E. C. comics, they were taken off the stands during a national anti-comics frenzy. Dr. Frederick Wertham‘s “Seduction of the Innocent” charged that kiddies were becoming sadists because of horror tales, and overnight we were flooded with talking magpies. And so, alas, my career as a sadistic madman was nipped in the bud. . . . There the story might have rested, If it weren’t for Milton Subotsky, British producer of horror movies and old-time E. C. fan. Subotsky bought the movie rights for all the E. C. horror titles from their publisher, William M. Gaines, and “Tales from the Crypt” is the first film made from the material.”

Since that time, he can be indirectly credited as the inspiration for a number of sequels and spinoffs, including the HBO series “Tales from the Crypt” (directed, written, and produced by #15 Gilbert Adler) and Stephen King’s Creepshow. Milton passed away of heart disease in 1991.

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