Producer, and sometimes comic book writer, Michael Uslan is perhaps best known as the comics fan who scopped up the film rights to Batman in the 1970s for a song then spent the better part of a decade trying to convince Hollywood that a serious movie featuring the Caped Crusader would be big business at the box office. He finally succeeded with 1989’s Batman, a film that was instrumental in launching the modern era of comic book movies. Since then he has served as a producer on all of the Batman films since as well as a number of other superhero film projects.
But Uslan also has a love for the pulp heroes who served as the predecessors for comics spandex-clad chapions, and he almost brought some of them to the big screen as well.
While talking about a new comics project he is writing for Dynamite titled Justice, Inc. that would unite three classic pulp characters – The Shadow, Doc Savage and the Avenger – Uslan revealed to Bleeding Cool that the idea for the miniseries stemmed from an unrealized film project that would have brought the three characters to the big screen.
Some years back, I was working on a way to bring The Street & Smith Pulp/Comics Super-Hero Trinity of Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger to the silver screen. Marvel and DC movies were all about first introducing single heroes then eventually teaming them up in a group. Thinking out of the box and based on my decades of Batman experiences, I decided to try the reverse tactic and start the three of them in one tenuous team-up film, then split them up into individual movies. I wrote a treatment and used “JUSTICE INC.” as the title. I always liked that title and knew that before there was a Justice League. Before there was a Justice Society, there was a Justice, Inc. Ultimately, we could not travel that path in cinema and separated out the characters into a Doc Savage movie project and a Shadow movie project, while eventually and briefly, The Avenger wended its way toward TV.
This seems to be the first time we’ve ever heard of any such project, and I am a bit surprised that Bleeding Cool didn’t follow up on that. Previously, Doc Savage was brought to the silver screen back in 1975, but its campy tone worked against it at the box office. After a number of quick and cheap b-films in the 1930s and `40s, the Shadow returned to movie theaters in 1994 with Alec Baldwin under the hero’s cloak and slouch hat. The Avenger has never been adapted for film, though the character’s core concept of having the ability to disguise his features could have been the inspiration for Sam Raimi’s Darkman.
The interview doesn’t necessarily state that comic was going to draw from his unused story treatment. Since one of Dynamite’s previous Green Hornet series as well as its The Bionic Man series started as adaptations of unproduced screenplays from Kevin Smith, so it is possible. Whatever the origin of the story material in the comic though, if Uslan’s recent Shadow/Green Hornet team-up mini-series Dark Nights is any indication, it will be a fun read for pulp fans.
Currently, Shane Black is hard at work trying to bring Doc Savage back to the big screen in a new period adventure. Uslan and Raimi were working on a possible Shadow film back in 2007 but that project has fallen by the wayside and it seems as if there is currently no interest in bringing the Avenger to the silver screen as well.