The Boy Who Loved Batman – Book Review
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
You’d think a book called The Boy Who Loved Batman wouldn’t be short on interesting Batman content. Unfortunately, that is indeed what Michael Uslan’s memoir suffers from. It’s still a lovely book, but it’s missing an element that would have made it a truly great read.
Michael Uslan is sometimes an unsung hero in the world of comic books. In the early ’70s, he was the first person to teach an accredited college course on comic books at Indiana University, which earned him national publicity. More famously, he tirelessly campaigned for the creation of a dark, serious live action Batman film, which in the years following the campy Adam West show, was given very little consideration by studios. Since then, he has served as a producer on all six of the live action Batman feature films (as well as Swamp Thing, Constantine, the National Treasure movies, and numerous other projects). The Boy Who Loved Batman chronicles Uslan’s journey from a comics-obsessed young boy to a man who built one of the most lucrative and beloved film franchises in the world.
I don’t think anyone can argue that Uslan has lived an amazing life. His is a story of perseverance and a stubborn refusal to give up on a dream. He tells his story with a downright infectious enthusiasm that makes The Boy Who Loved Batman an all the more uplifting read.
However, as I’ve said before, I judge autobiographies not just by the story the author has to tell, but by how well the tell it, and if they can eliminate excess fluff and keep things interesting for readers. The Boy Who Loved Batman fails to do that at certain points. When Uslan talks about his relationship with his brother, certain portions of his school days, and even parts of his law career (which proved integral in his efforts to get the Batman film franchise off the ground), he sometimes goes on too long. This in turn may lead to readers skipping certain chapters altogether.
Also, while he’s been involved with all the Batman feature films, Uslan neglects to talk at length about Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. He simply skips from Batman to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. As a reader, this was frustrating. Given all the build up we get in this book as to how much Uslan wanted to portray Batman as a dark avenger of the night, I’d love to have known what he thought of Joel Schumacher’s colorful, overdramatic take on Gotham City and its inhabitants (though at one point he mentions he was a harsh critic of the now-infamous Batsuit nipples). Considering how positive and upbeat Uslan’s voice is in this book, hearing him talk about some of his films negatively (assuming he harbors some negative opinions) might have been a sharp turn for readers. But if you’re going to write a book about producing the Batman movies, you should probably make a point to talk about all the Batman movies.
Still, The Boy Who Loved Batman is a fun look not only at Uslan’s journey, but the history of the comic book medium. He talks about attending the first ever comic book convention as a boy, getting to meet and correspond with creators like Otto Binder, and how much the industry supported him when he began his course at Indiana University. Longtime fanboys will be able to relate to Uslan almost instantly, as his sheer glee in talking about Batman, comic books and superheroes is something we can easily relate to. It’s something everyone can relate to on some level.
The Boy Who Loved Batman isn’t as good as it could have been, but it conveys the message it wants to: That if you’re willing to work for them, amazing things can happen.
Front page image from nj.com. Image 1 from maggiethompson.com.