Michael Uslan, the originator and executive producer of the Batman film franchise that began in 1989, will receive the world’s first fine arts doctorate in comic books on Wednesday from Mommouth University in New Jersey. Uslan said the degree is a long overdue recognition for an industry that has been vilified for decades.
The writer of the memoir ‘The Boy Who Loved Batman’ added that his doctorate will have a tremendously positive impact on the industry, the fans, the artists and writers. With the recognition by academia of comic books as expressions of fine art, we’ll see more talented people going into the industry.”
Momouth President Paul G. Gaffney II said the university chose Uslan for the degree because he has worked for decades “establishing comic books as an important element of American art and culture.” The film producer taught the world’s first accredited college course in comics at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana in 1971. He also wrote the first textbook on comics, ‘The Comic Book In America.’
Uslan has pointed to several reasons why America is finally embracing comic books as an art form:
Comic books are a mirror of American society. Sociologically, since the 1930s they’ve been reflecting our changing culture, our values, mores, fashions and fads, warts and all, prejudices and biases included.
Comic heroes are our modern mythology. The only difference between them and the ancient Greek gods is that our super-heroes and super-villains today wear Spandex and capes. But like the ancient gods, they reinforce values, convey moral lessons and provoke important discussions about ethics.
The explosion of blockbuster feature films based on comic books and graphic novels has made American comics a global fascination. 1989’s ‘Batman,’ directed by Tim Burton, ushered in a new dark and serious portrayal of comic book heroes on the big screen. ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ opened the door to other comic-based blockbusters, from ‘The X-Men’ and ‘Spider-Man’ to ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Iron Man.’ These movies are influencing every aspect of culture, from video games to fashion trends. By 2013, comic book conventions will be bursting on the scene overseas, proving that the characters and stories the creators have given us have the power to cross cultures as well as borders.
Comics have earned recognition in the art world. Comic book exhibits have been displayed in the galleries of noted art museums from the Smithsonian Institution to the Louvre to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the United Nations.
Uslan also said that he’d like to see “creative geniuses from the industry like the venerable Stan Lee recognized with Kennedy Center Honors for their achievements. What were once simply comic books are now being translated into the performing arts and it’s a crime that neither Stan nor any other creator from the field of American comic books and graphic novels has ever been recognized and honored by that illustrious group.”
Written by: Karen Benardello