Producer Benjamin Melniker, one of the Batman film franchise’s biggest champions, passed away February 26 at age 104.
According to Deadline, Melniker and producing partner Michael Uslan purchased the rights for Batman in 1979. From then on, Melniker worked as producer on almost every Batman project, from Tim Burton’s classic 1989 film through to last year’s Justice League, which starred Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader. Melniker also oversaw animated Batman films like The LEGO Batman Movie, Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman: Ninja and Gotham by Gaslight.
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“In 1979, Ben believed in me and in my outlandish idea to buy the rights to Batman in order to show the world the TRUE Batman as created in 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, a creature of the night who stalks disturbed villains in the shadows, in a series of dark and serious movies,” Uslan wrote in a Facebook post. “Ten long years later, thanks to the relentless efforts of Ben, we succeeded, changed the comic book industry, changed the movie industry and changed history.”
Melniker and Uslan’s interest in superhero films extended beyond Batman; the producing partners also worked on Swamp Thing, Catwoman, Constantine and The Spirit.
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“‘Legendary’ is the only word capable of describing the man who strated work at MGM in late 1939 and came to be known as ‘The MGM Lion’ for his forcefulness in negotiating the deals for the studio while building his reputation for integrity at the same time,” Uslan recalled. “It was Ben who taught me, ‘The only thing you get to take with you when you die AND leave behind is your good name.’”
The Dark Knight is set to return in a new solo movie of his own, as written and directed by Matt Reeves. The film does not yet have a release date.