by JULIE GRAY
IU Press just reissued Michael Uslan’s 2011 memoir, The Boy Who Loved Batman. When asked why, the author replies, “Well, it’s pretty simple. A lot has happened to me and to Batman in the meantime.”
The 2019 edition includes a new forward and, in a substantial, updated epilogue, Uslan assesses the current and future state of Hollywood.
The reissue is also prompted by important Batman anniversaries. It was 40 years ago that Uslan, a New Jersey native who earned three degrees at Indiana University, bought the Batman movie rights. Ten years later, in 1989, Uslan served as executive producer on Tim Burton’s Batman, starring Michael Keaton, and he’s been a producer on every Batman movie since, including The Lego Batman Movie (a sequel is expected in 2022), this year’s Joker, and a new Batman movie that Uslan says is in pre-production.
His memoir is as endearingly modest and gently humorous on second reading. In it, Uslan salutes not only his parents, but his in-laws and even Mrs. Stiller and Mrs. Friedman, his seventh- and eighth-grade English teachers. He writes about the important things in life. IU and Bloomington are included.
“Growing up, we were taught that the most important thing is family,” Uslan says in a recent interview with Bloom. “The second most important thing is making sure your children have a good education.” (His son, David, now his business partner, went to IU, along with a plethora of other family members.) “And the third most important thing is food,” Uslan concludes. His favorite food will always be his late Hungarian grandmother’s stuffed cabbage, which, he says, was made out of magic. But today, New Jersey pizza and a “good old-fashioned Indiana stromboli” fill the void. As a professor of practice in The Media School at IU, Uslan visits Bloomington regularly.
Uslan first came to national attention in the 1970s when he was an IU undergraduate teaching a course about comic books to fellow students. (He’s acknowledged as teaching the first accredited college course on comic books at an American university.) Today he is best known for battling to put the original, dark Batman on the big screen, salvaging him from campy parodies.
Among his other projects, Uslan is currently writing another memoir called Batman’s Batman. He writes in the new epilogue to The Boy Who Loved Batman that “in a world where everything is changing faster than a speeding bullet,” to remain relevant, “we must periodically re-invent ourselves. Batman is my role model for this.”