A Dark Knight, a Day-Long BAT-Bash in AP | Upper WET Side
The Paper’d Persuader himself — mega-movie producer, author, editor and comic book authority Michael E. Uslan — returns to his formative stomping grounds of Asbury Park and Deal this weekend, in a slate of events keyed to the publication of his new book, THE BOY WHO LOVED BATMAN: A MEMOIR.
This happened in Newark, way back when we were a little kid: the Batman movie, starring Adam West and the gang from the 1960s TV show, was playing in some downtown theater when the familiar George Barris Batmobile made a promotional appearance on the streets of Brick City. Interest was high as a couple of guys in Bat-regalia hopped in, hit the atomic turbo power (somewhere alongside the Detect-O-Scope), and…nothing. No flames shooting out the back, no raptor-like scream of turbines, no Neal Hefti theme music. Just some movie house employees and helpful onlookers pressed into service for a manual push down the block, around the corner, and presumably off to the same local garage that your dad’s Rambler American would have landed in. Scarred us for life, it did.
Things worked out differently for Michael E. Uslan, a kid from the mean streets of Deal, an Ocean Township HS grad and a comic book aficionado of a level that one simply doesn’t outgrow. Possessor of a legendary collection; present at the creation of the very earliest comic book conventions, the graduate of Ocean Township HS became the professor of the first-ever accredited college course in comics — a much-publicized laurel that eventually landed him his first writing gigs in the field, on the short-lived DC series Beowulf and The Shadow.
Being a media-savvy comics expert (and the smartest guy in the room) also got him into the motion picture business, in a Local-Boy-Made-Hollywood-Good way that usually only happens in the movies. In cahoots with longtime producing partner Benjamin Melniker, Uslan’s production credits on the Swamp Thing films led to his pitch for a new, big-budget, big-screen treatment of the Caped Crusader — a tough sell that would trace a torturous path to the multiplexes with the first two films in the latter-day Batman franchise (directed by Tim Burton and highlighted by the controversial casting of Carrey-esque comic actor Michael Keaton).
With the Bat-flix an instant sensation, Uslan would turn to “sequential storytelling” repeatedly for lesser-loved projects like Catwoman, Constantine and The Spirit — in addition to producing the hit National Treasure movies and winning an Emmy for his work on the kid-ucational TV show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? But it’s to the Bat-cave that Uslan has returned time and again for his greatest successes; following through on the franchise with two relatively goofier films directed by Joel Schumacher (with future fatman Val Kilmer and smilin’ celeb George Clooney donning the cape ‘n cowl) — and an edgier re-boot that teamed one of the most unpredictable stars of our age (Christian Bale) with the filmmaker who brought us such convoluted mass hallucinations as Memento and Inception (Christopher Nolan). It’s a dynamic duo-ism that’s resulted in one of the top two or three box office boffos of all time (The Dark Knight) — and a collaboration that comes to a close with the upcoming trilogy-capper The Dark Knight Rises.