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Emmy-winning Batman producer to speak about challenges in his career

By Jack Kochman, The Miami Student

The master of all things Batman is coming to Miami University to speak to students on Wednesday, April 15, at Wilks Theater. Michael Uslan, an Emmy-winning producer, will speak about the difficulties he faced during production of multiple Batman movies.

Uslan has produced every Batman movie from Tim Burton's 1989 Batman to Christopher Nolan's modern trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), including a multitude of animated movies spawning from television series such as Batman: The Animated Series and The Batman.

Each spring, the Wilks Leadership Institute sponsors a Leadership Lecture. Eric Buller, the director of the Wilks Leadership Institute, leads the search for prospective speakers.

He selects the speakers on criteria such as relevance, appeal to students and having a good story to tell.

"The Batman series of movies (most recently the Dark Knight trilogy) is very popular with students," said Buller.

Buller said the intent is to bring in a speaker that can deliver a relevant and interesting leadership message to students to encourage reflection of each of our own leadership beliefs and journeys. The hope is to connect Uslan's difficulties with students who are entering the job market.

The major problem Uslan faced early in his career was the difficulties with production - no studio wanted to make the Batman movies. Now, years later, the movies are bringing in multi-millions. Uslan will discuss his experiences in accomplishing something that he was passionate about, despite facing obstacles along the way.

There is also an overarching theme that can be applied to comics and life. Batman has no superpowers - just his passion and beliefs.

"We believe [Uslan] has a very important and beneficial message to deliver," said Buller. "However, given his experiences in film-making and other creative works, he will certainly be entertaining."

Before his involvement with movie production, Uslan was a teacher. He incorporated the same values expressed in his experiences through producing the Batman movies.

Uslan wanted to spread his knowledge, and began teaching at Indiana University in 1971. He taught a course entitled "The Comic Book in Society" the first college course to focus on comic books and superheroes.

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Since then, other universities have adopted similar classes. Miami has its own comic-based program. Mark McKinney helps organize a study abroad program called "Culture and Comics in Brussels."

"There are many reasons to study comics," said McKinney. "Comics and their contexts can tell us about many topics, for example, the relations between popular culture and high art or the mass media."

Uslan, in particular, embodies taking an interest and making a living out of it. He has written an autobiography titled, "The Boy Who Loved Batman," in addition to his productions.

Ryan Sonkin, a first-year at Miami, thinks that makes the presentation more appealing.

"Someone made a career out of their passions," said Sonkin. "This is important to me as a student who is worried about where I will end up in life."

Uslan's presentation will attract a diverse audience. Students majoring in media or journalism, business or education can all look for something to relate to Uslan's history.

"I think this audience will be more diverse than expected," said Sonkin. "Batman transcends anything that could separate us as students."