Trending: Superheroes on Screen

“The Mask of Zorro'”(1954), Serial and Government Publications Division.

Superheroes continue to captivate audiences nearly a century after their film debut.

America loves its superheroes (and villains). These beloved and delightfully despised characters continue to take center stage at the movies and on television.

“The Mark of Zorro” (United Artists, 1920), a silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks, was among the 10 motion pictures featuring superheroes that were released by American film studios between 1920 and 1940. By comparison, four such films came out in 2014, five in 2015, and a record nine are in production for 2016 release.

“Batman” (No. 1, 1940). Serial and Government Publications Division.

The popularity of “The Mark of Zorro” and its subsequent spin-offs, sequels and adaptations paved the way for a rise of the superhero genre in film and television. Comic-book artist Bob Kane has credited Zorro as part of the inspiration for the creation of his DC Comics superhero Batman, who debuted in print in 1940–the same year a film remake of the original Zorro was released, starring Tyrone Power. The film was directed by Rouben Mamoulian (1898-1987) whose papers are held by the Library of Congress. Housed in the Library, the film is among 650 titles that the Library has named to its National Film Registry since its inception in 1990.

Through the years, scores of films and television shows have featured popular masked and caped avengers, from Captain Marvel to Superman and from Spider-Man to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Most recently, the pantheon of Marvel Comics characters has been brought to life, with films about the X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America and Thor grossing millions.

Television is even getting in on the action, with ABC’s “Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Agent Carter” and Netflix original series, “Daredevil.”

The Library receives motion pictures and television broadcasts through copyright deposit. Included in the Library’s film and video collections are such films as the Superman series starring Christopher Reeve (1978-1987); “Batman” (1989) starring Michael Keaton, who also portrayed a faded film superhero in the Oscar-winning “Birdman” (2014); “The Dark Knight” (2008); “Iron Man” (2008) and several X-Men films, including animated and anime features. Also included in the Library’s collections are television episodes of “Smallville,” “Lois & Clark,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” among others.

(The following article was featured in the May/June 2015 issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine. You can read the issue in its entirety here.)

Collecting Comedy

(The following is an article from the May/June 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. Daniel Blazek, a recorded sound technician at the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Preservation,¬†wrote the story. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) Laughter, with its links to the development of the human brain, no doubt […]

Alan Lomax’s Legacy

(The following is a story written by Stephen Winick, folklorist and writer-editor in the American Folklife Center, for the January/February 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. The issue can be read in its entirety here.) A century after his birth, folklorist Alan Lomax is remembered for his preservation of the nation’s cultural […]

Library in the News: December 2014 Edition

Every year, the Library of Congress announces¬†the addition of 25 films to the National Film Registry, and we are always excited about the enthusiasm for the selected films and the opportunity to spread the word about our preservation efforts. The Washington Post reached out to some of the filmmakers for their thoughts on their work […]

Highlighting the Holidays: Happy Hanukkah

In 2014, December 16 marked the first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of Antiochus IV. Also referred to as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah recalls the event. According to the Talmud, a central text of Rabbinic Judaism, at the re-dedication […]

The Big Lebowski Abides

My condition is in fantastic condition today – I’m pleased that “The Big Lebowski” made this year’s list of 25 films selected for placement on the Library of Congress National Film Registry. These movies are judged to have special cultural, historic or aesthetic value and to be worthy of preservation for posterity. Other noteworthy films […]

Veterans History Project in the News

As has been the case every year since its inception, the Veterans History Project receives an increased amount of media coverage during the Veterans Day season, both prior to and after the holiday. This year’s coverage included a segment on Washington’s NBC affiliate, NBC4, which aired on Nov. 8. The segment featured VHP Director Bob […]

LC in the News: October 2014 Edition

Just as the Washington Nationals were closing out a winning baseball season, the Library of Congress discovered rare footage of the Washington Senators’ 1924 World Series victory over the New York Giants. “Finding footage that has probably not been seen since its last theatrical run 90 years ago is usually a moment for celebration for […]