The Boy Who Loved Batman: The Beginning
The following is an exerpt from Michael E. Uslan's The Boy Who Loved Batman, available in bookstores everywhere on October 1, 2019.
In comic books, you were always graduating from one book to another, from one super-hero to another, from one age-appropriate level to another. Almost every baby boomer comic book reader had a nearly identical experience to his peers. I started my comic book reading with Richie Rich, Little Max, and Casper, and then moved up to Archie, Little Archie, and Cosmo the Merry Martian, before Paul turned me on to Superman. From Superman, the normal progression back then was to Batman. DC Comics, which published both Superman and Batman, was aware of this and wanted Batman to share in the heftier popularity Superman enjoyed. This is why in the ’50s, the publisher began a character-destructive program to turn Batman into a clone of Superman. In fact, in some stories, like the stunningly crappy “The Superman-Batman of Planet X,” they gave him the superpowers of the Man of Steel, including flying! While I admit that Batman’s billowing, scalloped Bat-Cape looked cool in those flying scenes,* it was such a basic violation of his character that even as a little kid, I knew it was wrong. Same thing when they turned Batman into a Bat-Genie in another story. GURRK!
When I officially graduated to Batman, I was eight. Oh, I had read some Batman comics since the age of five, but they were tougher, darker, and scarier than the safer, brighter ones about Clark Kent, the super Boy Scout, who appeared five days a week on TV’s Adventures of Superman. Every day, the announcer said something like, “Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers—bend steel with his bare hands.” I asked Paul what that meant. I was five, for Chrissakes. And he told me there was a famous circus strongman who fought in a cage with a pet grizzly bear he captured in Germany. “So?” I asked, utterly baffled. “Mikey,” Paul said shaking his head in disgust and frustration “that’s the guy they’re talking about on Superman—Ben Steel with his bear, Hans.” Of course I told everyone I knew about this and swore it was true, and they laughed and made mincemeat out of me!
Now, though, in 1959, I suddenly felt that Batman made more sense than Superman. It was hard to believe in a man who was invulnerable, indestructible, invincible, and all those other “in” words, but easy to believe in a guy who gushed blood when he got stabbed or shot by super-villains. Batman was human. I could identify with him more than I ever could with Superman, the Hulk, or the Human Torch (whom Dr. Wertham referred to in his book as “The Human Torture”). Batman had no superpowers. His greatest super-power was his humanity. His origin story was utterly primal. It transcended cultures, languages, and borders, generation after generation. I mean, his mom and dad get shot dead right in front of his eyes! Over their bodies, in the belief that one person can make a difference, Bruce Wayne sacrifices his childhood and swears to get the guy who did this . . . to get ALL the bad guys. When the bat flies through his open window and he sees it as an omen, becoming a human bat in the process, it’s all so powerful! And what about those super-villains? Batman had the best rogues’ gallery in the superhero business. No one can rival him. In all Superman’s movie serials, TV shows, and feature films, he’s faced Lex Luthor how many times? ALL the time, it seems! And his other adversaries? Toyman? Weak. Prankster? Boring. Terra-Man? Gimme a break! He wears a cowboy hat and rides a flying horse! Stupid. Metallo? Boring. Brainiac? Okay. You got me on that one. I’ve been waiting since 1976 for him to show up in a movie.
The Boy Who Loved Batman by Michael E. Uslan
Meet the man whose life-long quest to reclaim the true, cool soul of Batman wonderfully transformed today's comic book movies. He'd be the first to grab the latest issues off the shelves of the three local comic book stores, including four copies of the now legendary Fantastic Four#1. His favorite superhero was the brooding, crime-fighting vigilante, Batman. Despising the campy 1960s TV show, Uslan became determined to bring the real Batman – dark, serious, burdened by a tragic past – to the silver screen. Undeterred by Hollywood's initial lackluster response, Uslan went on to become Executive Producer on every modern Batman film, beginning with Bruton's widely hailed Batman in 1989 to Christopher Nolan's celebrated Dark Knight trilogy and well beyond. Warmly told and inspiring, Uslan's remarkable story is a testament both to the profound imaginative power in comic book heroes and the tenacity of the New Jersey boy determined to bring one of them to life. This second edition includes a special foreword and afterword by Uslan, bringing us up to date on everything Batman.