I'm always on the lookout for spooky comics to write about whenever the weather starts to get cold and the scent of pumpkin spice is carried aloft by a chill wind, but after years and years of doing this, I sometimes worry that I'll run out. I mean, there is a theoretically finite amount of weird old comics floating around out there, and once you've already talked about that issue of Star Trek where they find a haunted house in space and fight Dracula, it's easy to think that here might not be a whole lot left to talk about.
That's why I was so glad when reader Ian McDougall recommended that I dive into the back issue bins and find a copy of 1975's Beowulf #6, which he describes as a comic where "Grendel vies with Dracula for Satan's throne, Beowulf solves a maze by punching it." And folks, if there is a sentence that will make me read a comic faster than that, I have not found it.
Look in the credits on any Batman feature of the past 26 years, and you'll see one name on all of them: Michael Uslan. In addition to serving as a producer/executive producer on seven Batman films, Uslan was executive producer on the Swamp Thing movies, Catwoman, The Spirit and, believe it or not, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? Uslan is also a comics writer, with Archie and DC credits including The Shadow under his belt, and a professor who teaches a class called The Comic Book in America.
On Thursday Uslan opened up for a Reddit AMA Thursday, answering a handful of questions using his wealth of knowledge about superheroes, Hollywood and comics history.
If you're interested in the history of superhero comics --- and I sincerely hope you are, since I've spent an awful lot of time writing about that very subject --- then here's something that you might be interested in. As part of the edX series of online courses, the Smithsonian Institute is launching a series of lectures on the history of comics, featuring Stan Lee and Michael Uslan.
If you're getting a sense of deja vu right now, that's because you actually have read this article before. Right before the latest volume of Batman: Black & White began back in 2013, ComicsAlliance published a list of the ten best stories in the celebrated anthology series. But the fourth volume was really, really good, and included some stories strong enough to be considered among the very best.
Making a new version of that same list with just a few replacements would be cheating you, and require me to read my own writing (ecch). So instead, we're just going to stick with the 'ten best' thing. Here are the highlights from the latest volume of Black & White, and a few that were barely edged out of the first list. Will there be another version of this article after the next volume? You bet your ass. We're gonna stay here until we get this right, people.
As one might suspect, the major thrust of Thursday's "Spotlight on Bill Finger, Co-Cceator of Batman" panel was that Bill Finger never got the credit he deserved.
Comic-Con's organizers made one big gesture to make up for that, presenting Finger's granddaughter, Athena Finger, with a posthumous Inkpot Award just as the panel got started. The panelists tried their best to heap credit on Finger, too.
Michael Uslan's name might not be known to most comic book fans, but he is probably one of the most important figures in the cinematic history of superheroes. He obtained the film rights to Batman in the late 1970s, spent ten years fighting to bring a project to fruition, and since the completion of Batman '89 twenty-five years ago has been credited as producer or executive producer on every major cinematic Bat-project since (including Batman: The Animated Series, Mask Of The Phantasm, the Christopher Nolan trilogy of Dark Knight blockbusters, and the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice film). He's a life-long comic fan, a pop-cultural historian, a conversationalist, and an author (his memoir, The Boy Who Loved Batman, is an essential read for anyone interested in comics and comic-influenced media).
As the man largely responsible for Batman '89 existing at all, there's no person better suited to tell not just the story of the film's production, but the long and winding path the project had taken over the preceding decade on its way to success. But besides the unusual story behind Uslan's relationship with the Dark Knight on film, the producer told us about his broader goals for Batman and comic books in general, which went far beyond simply making a successful motion picture.
One of my favorite cartoonists, Dave Bullock is well known to comics art collectors and the denizens of artist alley, and in comics has produced covers and illustrated short stories like the standout Deadman piece from Wednesday Comics. Most often he's worked as a storyboard artist and director on such impressive animated titles like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Batman Beyond, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures and Justice League. Most auspiciously, Bullock directed the Warner Bros. Animation feature Justice League: The New Frontier, adapted from the work of Darwyn Cooke, who shares Bullock's affinity for mid-century stylings.
Naturally, Bullock is an ideal candidate for participation in the enduringly popular DC Comics art project that is Batman: Black & White, which reunites the cartoonist with his Wednesday Comics editor Mark Chiarello for a story that plays to Bullock's mastery of period style and dramatic storytelling. Written by longtime Batman associate Michael Uslan, "The Bat-Man In 'Silent Knight... Unholy Knight!'" takes inspiration from the era and aesthetics of silent film. Given Bullock's filmmaking background, it comes as no surprise that he put together a silent-film-style trailer for his story. What is a surprise is just how well it works, putting the traditional "comic book trailer" to shame.
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