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Batman producer reveals Stan Lee received film's first thank-you letter

By Jacob Oller & Adam Pockross
Batman 1989 Michael Keaton

After Marvel legend Stan Lee died at the age of 95 last year, the widely revered figurehead for the comics industry has seen tribute after tribute honoring his legacy. Now, one of the sweeter stories about Lee’s impact has surfaced, proving that the comics world is marked by admiration and respect, even amid intense competition.

Speaking to SYFY WIRE at the Lee tribute event Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible & Uncanny Life of Stan Lee Wednesday night in Los Angeles, mega-producer Michael E. Uslan explained the impact Lee, a Marvel mainstay, had on the DC side of the comics biz. Uslan was an executive producer on the first Batman film — the movie that helped establish the Caped Crusader's image in the greater world of culture — and he had quite a story about its release.

Stan Lee

“I’ll never forget the very, very first Batman movie premiere we had,” Uslan said. “1989. It was Tim Burton, Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton. We had this huge, huge premiere. It was in Westwood and every star in Hollywood was there. And then I saw Stan standing there with [Batman co-creator] Bob Kane. That was it for me. I hung out with those boys and totally geeked out all night.”

Who needs movie stars when comic stars are right there? And this was long before the cameo heyday of the MCU. In fact, it was so long before that comic lovers were simply happy to see characters up on screen, rivalries be damned. That’s why Uslan paid his highest respects to Lee after the film came out.

"It was the inspiration of Stan, and Stan always telling you, 'The most important way to make a successful movie is story, story, story, character, character, character, and story,'" said Uslan. "The first letter of thanks, after that movie finally came out and my dream came true, I wrote to Stan, saying, 'If not for you, I never would’ve pursued this, I never would’ve hung through this human endurance contest, this never could’ve happened.' And he was my first thank-you."

As the warring fandoms of the DCEU and MCU rage in comment sections around the internet, it’s humbling to remember a time when petty squabbles could be put aside to appreciate the genius and generosity of an industry titan.