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Ryan Piurek
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, April 17, 2006

Uslan to address IU Bloomington graduates

April 17, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University President Adam W. Herbert today (April 17) announced that Michael Uslan, an IU alumnus who has become one of Hollywood's most accomplished movie producers, will be the commencement speaker for the 2006 graduating class at IU's Assembly Hall on May 6.

Michael Uslan photo

Michael Uslan shares his knowledge of the motion picture industry with IUB telecommunications students.

Print-Quality Photo

Uslan was recommended by the IU Bloomington Commencement Speaker Committee chaired by IU Alumni Association President Ken Beckley. The speaker committee includes students, faculty and staff.

Herbert said he concurred with the committee recommendation because he believes Uslan's presence will make the commencement ceremonies a memorable experience for IU graduates and their families.

"Former IU President Herman B Wells once said that our 'alumni's achievements represent the fruits of the university's efforts in teaching and learning.' Michael Uslan has earned three degrees from IU and proves the truth of this statement. His career offers clear evidence of the fact that IU prepares students to follow their passion in imaginative ways," Herbert said.

"In addition to delighting the American public with his films and books, Michael is both an academic innovator and a great benefactor of IU," he added. "In 1971, he taught the nation's first accredited course on comic books at IU. His gift to the Lilly Library of more than 30,000 comics and graphic novels provides scholars insights into 21st-century popular culture and graphic design. We are honored to welcome him back to his alma mater. I have no doubt that his commencement address will motivate, challenge and inspire the members of the class of 2006."

Uslan is best known as the architect behind the superhero Batman's renaissance on the silver screen. He served as executive producer of 1989's Batman (Warner Bros.), which many people consider to be the definitive movie version of the "caped crusader," as well as the film franchise's numerous sequels, including last year's critically acclaimed Batman Begins (Warner Bros.).

He is also an authority on comic book history, having developed both the first accredited college course and correspondence course on comic books at IU in 1971, the first textbook on comics and 25 other books on the history of comics.

Uslan first developed the idea to produce the definitive Batman movie as a student at IU in 1975. His concept called for a dark and serious hero such as the one who appeared in the original comic book created in 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Just four years before arriving at the idea, Uslan fought to introduce comics into the college classroom, arguing that the comic book characters he grew up loving were, in fact, modern-day versions of gods in ancient mythology. "The Greek, Roman and Norse gods still live," he told faculty and administrators, "only today they're clad in capes and spandex."

Today, superheroes such as Batman, Spiderman, Superman and the X-Men dominate the movie-making industry. But the Hollywood landscape was much different when Uslan began pitching his idea for a new Batman movie to film producers who had long since dismissed the character as a campy, unmarketable relic of 1960s television. Uslan persevered and endured numerous rejections until his dream finally became a reality in 1989 with the premiere of Batman. The movie, directed by Tim Burton, featured an all-star cast, including Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton and Kim Basinger. It is credited with paving the way for subsequent hit movies based on comic-book creations.

"My mother taught me that you've got to believe in yourself and when you make a commitment, you stick to it," Uslan said. "Then you've got to endure … This is what you've made a commitment to, now you have to see things through."

It's easy to see why Batman is Uslan's favorite comic book character. "Thematically, it's about a guy who makes a commitment and believes that one person can make a difference," he said.

In addition to his role as producer of movies and television programs, Uslan has authored the hardback children's book Chatterbox: The Bird Who Wore Glasses (2006); the acclaimed hardback graphic novel Batman: Detective #27; the internationally syndicated newspaper comic strip Terry and the Pirates; and Batman and The Shadow comic books. He has served as a motion picture production attorney for United Artists in charge of legal affairs of films including Apocalypse Now, Rocky II, Raging Bull and The Black Stallion.

A native of New Jersey, Uslan received his doctor of jurisprudence degree from the IU School of Law-Bloomington in 1976. He earned a master of science degree in urban education from the IU School of Education in 1975 and a bachelor's degree in history from IU in 1973. He has also received numerous accolades and awards, including the Distinguished Hoosier Award (2001) and President's Circle Award (2002). Just last week (April 7), he was inducted into the Academy of Law Alumni Fellows at the law school for his outstanding achievements in the legal world and in the community at large.

In 2001, Uslan donated approximately 30,000 comic books from his prized collection to the Lilly Library, IU's library for rare books and manuscripts.

Uslan credits his experience as an IU student with empowering him to realize his grandest aspirations and helping him through those times when he felt "like a lone wolf in the wilderness." His fondness for IU and desire to help today's generation of students achieve their dreams make him a frequent returnee to the university as a guest lecturer or instructor. In addition to stories from his time as an IU student and how he ascended the ranks of the comic book and movie-making industries, Uslan plans to tell this year's graduates what he has told various student groups over the years. The core message, he said, is "to take something you're passionate about and make it your work."

Uslan will address both of the commencement sessions at Assembly Hall. The morning session will begin at 10 a.m. and will include graduates from the Kelley School of Business; the School of Education; the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation; the School of Law; the Jacobs School of Music; the School of Nursing; the School of Public and Environmental Affairs; and the School of Social Work. The Ph.D. candidates in the same fields who are receiving degrees from the University Graduate School also will participate in the morning session.

The afternoon session will begin at 3 p.m. It will include graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences; the School of Continuing Studies; the School of Informatics; the School of Journalism; the Division of Labor Studies; the School of Library and Information Science; and the School of Optometry. Ph.D. degree candidates in those fields who are receiving degrees from the University Graduate School and all master's degree candidates receiving degrees through the University Graduate School will participate in the afternoon session.

For more information on the commencement ceremonies, visit