The Shadow And The Green Hornet Through The Eyes Of Batman Producer Michael Uslan

Michael Uslan is probably best known as one of the producers of the Batman movies and a regular on all of the Comic Book documentaries. Some may know that he was the first to teach an accredited course in comic book folklore. But did you know that Uslan's first attempt at comic book writing was back in 1975 on the Shadow for DC Comics? So it has to be an amazing trip to end up back on the Shadow almost four decades later. Uslan chatted with Jai Nitz about the Dark Nights series and more.

JAI NITZ: Michael Uslan is writing The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Knights.  Michael, what was your first attempt to write a comic script?  The trustworthy Internet says it was for The Shadow in 1975 when you were trying to produce a film adaptation.

MICHAEL USLAN: I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time (Unabashed Stan Lee-type plug: For the full story, read my auto-biography, THE BOY WHO LOVED BATMAN, published by Chronicle Books) and became the alternating writer on the mid-1970's DC Comics "Shadow" classic series under the mentorship of the legendary Denny O'Neil. My first ever pro script was The Shadow #9 (cover by Joe Kubert!) followed by The Shadow #11 (cover by Mike Kaluta) which featured the one and only meeting of The Shadow and The Avenger. From there, I wrote a plethora of DC mystery comics, the most notable being "Hopping Down The Bunny Trail" for The Unexpected. This story has since been named:

One of the top nine horror comic book stories of all time;

One of the scariest comic book stories ever;

The Best Easter comic book story ever; and maybe

One of the Sickest comic book stories ever!

Then, I created the DC Comics version of BEOWULF (recently revived in the pages of both Wonder Woman and Sword of Sorcery) and got to write BATMAN… my dream come true since age 8! I was also honored to be the first person to write "The Question" after creator Steve Ditko's departure… AND… I got to work with artist Alex Toth!

JN: You're known for producing all the Batman films and for being a famous comic book fan before it was cool.  But The Shadow and Green Hornet are radio/pulp characters.  Did you love radio serials and pulps as much as comics?

MU: They are all intertwined along with the movie serials of the 1930's to 50's. Superman aside, it was almost impossible to get comic book super-heroes on screen or on TV in the years following the demise of the movie serials. When WJRZ in Newark, NJ began re-broadcasting old-time dramatic radio show on Sunday afternoons, it lit up my imagination and gave me the closest thing to super-heroes outside of Zorro on TV. I've always loved the fedora-clad men of mystery. I attended the world's first ever ComiCon when I was in 7th grade, and the night cosplay was born there, I was dressed as DC's 1940 Sandman… fedora, cape, and gas mask in place! Additionally, my comic book writing has included The Shadow, The Green Hornet, The Sprit (both in color and in black & white), The Question, and a pulp-version of Batman I created in my hardback graphic novel in 2004, DETECTIVE #27. All fedoras!

JN: Did you approach Dynamite with the idea for Dark Knights, or did they come to you?

MU: Nick and I had been talking for years about finding some ways to work together. He liked the notion of the guy who wrote the one and only meeting between The Shadow and The Avenger back in The Shadow #11 in the mid-70's, being the guy to write the first meeting of The Shadow and The Green Hornet. And I totally wanted to write The Shadow again after some 35 years! I was also friendly with The Shadow's driving creative force, Walter Gibson, and had the advantage of having spent time with Walter talking Shadow, learning many things that I could inject into my writing.

JN: What's Dark Knights about?  Can you give me the Hollywood pitch? 

MU: A threat so titanic that it forces The Shadow to team-up with The Green Hornet! A plot so deadly that it involves real events in history and such famous and infamous people as Woodrow Wilson, Rasputin, J. Edgar Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Nikola Tesla! An unstoppable power will plunge the world into darkness… and no one but our two crime-fighting icons can stop it!

JN: Is it time for a new Shadow movie?  Or should we just be happy that Orson Welles was the best who ever lived and his radio Shadow will always be the best in our mind's eye?

MU: The Shadow is such a classic character! His prose novels are being reprinted two per month and Dynamite has several Shadow comic book series underway. He's as relevant today as at any time. I wrote DARK NIGHTS, cinematically in three acts. That, to me, is written as a movie. Sure, be it feature films or a quality television series, The Shadow belongs in the eye of the global public.

JN: What's next for you at Dynamite?  What other projects do you have upcoming? 

MU: I just did a fun Batman story with artist Dave Bullock for BATMAN BLACK & WHITE #2. If you haven't seen the cool trailer for it, go to youtube and search: Batman black and white silent knight. We've had almost 51,000 views so far on youtube alone! Next up for me will be a graphic novel/comic book story of historic proportions. From the guy who brought you "Archie Gets Married," here comes… "FAREWELL BETTY & VERONICA!" Riverdale and its inhabitants will never be the same!

For Dynamite? I'll just have to wait and see if Nick calls. He has an inkling there are a couple of Shadow team-ups I would love to do when the time is right… a great villain I would like to have The Shadow battle… and even a property that was a favorite of mine as a kid that I think he just may have the rights to now… Who knows? But it has been a blast working with everyone at Dynamite! They were supportive, helpful, and real pros.





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The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Knights conclusion is in stores now.

Jai Nitz is a writer in his own right having written for Marvel, DC, Image and currently Dynamite on Grimm: The Warlock debuting next month.

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About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.
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