Catch a Classic! Warner Bros. 100th Anniversary: The Superhero Era Begins
TCM, beginning at 8pm
Marvel may rule the big-screen superhero game nowadays, but in the late 1970s and ’80s, when the modern form of the comic book feature film was being introduced, it was DC Comics — which is under the Warner umbrella — that dominated the box office. That came largely through the two Warner Bros. blockbusters, starring DC’s two most popular characters, that are airing tonight as part of Turner Classic Movies’ monthlong celebration of the studio’s centennial. Up first, though, there is a cartoon: director Chuck Jones’ classic 1953 Merry Melodies animated short Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century, starring Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Marvin the Martian. Then, the evening’s comic book-themed double feature takes off with Superman (1978), in which Christopher Reeve cemented himself as the quintessential big-screen Man of Steel. Several elements of the film — Reeve’s interplay with Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, director Richard Donner’s deft ability to re-create the colorful feel of a comic book without descending into camp, visual effects that earned a Special Achievement Oscar and followed through on the film’s tagline that “You’ll believe a man can fly” and John Williams’ rousing, Oscar-nominated musical score — combine to give this production an enduring magic that subsequent Superman films have not been able to duplicate. Following that is Tim Burton’s 1989 blockbuster Batman. Just as Superman has forever linked Reeve with his screen character in the minds of many, so, too, did this film make Michael Keaton the favorite big-screen Batman/Bruce Wayne to a lot of people, as unlikely as that might have seemed before the film was released. Likewise, Jack Nicholson’s brilliantly crazed and iconic performance as Jack Napier/Joker has cast a long shadow over other actors who have since portrayed that legendary supervillain.