Zorro (originally called Señor Zorro) is a fictional character created in 1919 by pulp writer Johnston McCulley. He has been featured in several books, films, television series and other media.
Zorro (Spanish for fox) is the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega (originally Don Diego Vega), a nobleman and master swordsman living in the Spanish colonial era of California. The character has undergone changes through the years, but the typical image of him is a black-clad masked outlaw who defends the people of the land against tyrannical officials and other villains. Not only is he much too cunning and foxlike for the bumbling authorities to catch, but he delights in publicly humiliating those same foes.
The character's visual motif is typically a black costume with a flowing Spanish cape, a flat-brimmed Andalusian-style hat, and a black cowl mask that covers the top of the head from eye level upwards. In his first appearance, he wears a cloak instead of a cape, a black mask covering his whole face with slits for eyes, and a sombrero.
His favored weapon is a rapier which he often uses to leave his distinctive mark, a Z made with three quick cuts. He also uses a bullwhip, rather like the later Indiana Jones. In his debut, he uses a pistol.
The fox is never depicted as Zorro's emblem, but as a metaphor for the character's wiliness ("Zorro, 'the Fox', so cunning and free..." from the Disney television show theme).
His "heroic pose" consists of rearing on his horse, sword raised high (the logo of Zorro Productions, Inc.).
Zorro (often called Señor
or El Zorro
in early stories) debuted in McCulley's 1919 story The Curse of Capistrano
, serialized in five parts in the pulp magazine All-Story Weekly
. At the denouement
, Zorro's true identity is revealed to all.
Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, on their honeymoon, selected the story as the inaugural picture for their new studio, United Artists, beginning the character's cinematic tradition. The story was adapted as The Mark of Zorro in 1920, which was a success. McCulley's story was re-released by the publisher Grosset and Dunlap under the same title to tie in with the film.
Due to public demand fueled by the film, McCulley wrote over 60 additional Zorro stories starting in 1922. The last, The Mask of Zorro (not to be confused with the 1998 film), was published posthumously in 1959. These stories ignore Zorro's revealing his identity to everyone. The black costume that modern audiences associate with the character stem from Fairbanks' smash hit movie rather than McCulley's original story, and McCulley's subsequent Zorro adventures copied Fairbanks's Zorro rather than the other way around. McCulley died in 1958, just as the Disney-produced Zorro television show was becoming phenomenally successful.
In The Curse of Capistrano Don Diego Vega becomes Señor Zorro in the pueblo of Los Angeles in California "to avenge the helpless, to punish cruel politicians," and "to aid the oppressed." He is the title character, as he is dubbed the "curse of Capistrano."
The story involves him romancing Lolita Pulido, an impoverished noblewoman. While Lolita is unimpressed with Diego, who pretends to be a passionless fop, she is attracted to the dashing Zorro. His rival and antagonist is Captain Ramon. Other characters include Sgt. Pedro Gonzales, Zorro's enemy and Diego's friend; Zorro's deaf and mute servant Bernardo; his ally Fray (Friar) Felipe; his father Don Alejandro Vega, and a group of noblemen (caballeros) whom at first hunt him but are won over to his cause.
In later stories McCulley introduces characters such as pirates and Native Americans, some of both who know Zorro's identity.
In McCulley's later stories, Diego's surname became de la Vega. In fact, the writer was wildly inconsistent. The first magazine serial ended with the villain dead and Diego publicly exposed as Zorro, but in the sequel the antagonist was alive, and the next entry had the double identity still secret.
Several Zorro productions have expanded on the character's family and future:
Douglas Fairbanks also starred in a 1925 sequel to his film titled Don Q, Son of Zorro, playing Don Diego's grown-up son, Don Cesar, as well as reprising his role as Don Diego.
Zorro Rides Again (1937), starring John Carroll, features a modernized Zorro named James Vega, the great-grandson of Diego.
Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939) starred Reed Hadley as Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro in a storyline set shortly after Mexican independence.
George Turner stars in Son of Zorro (1947) as Diego's descendant Jeff Stewart, who operates as Zorro after the American Civil War.
Another incarnation of Zorro appears in Ghost of Zorro (1949). Ken Mason (Clayton Moore, best known for depicting the Lone Ranger) is Diego Vega's grandson.
In the comedy Zorro, the Gay Blade (1981), Don Diego passes the mantle of Zorro to his son, also named Diego (George Hamilton). But when Diego the younger breaks his leg, his flamboyantly gay brother Ramon a.k.a. Bunny Wigglesworth (also played by Hamilton) takes over. Bunny's Zorro eschews the traditional black garb for more colorful outfits.
In The Mask of Zorro (1998), a younger protagonist, Alejandro Murrieta (fictional brother of Joaquin Murrieta), becomes Diego's successor. Alejandro returns in the 2005 sequel The Legend of Zorro. In his second appearance, he is called Don Alejandro de la Vega. He is played by Antonio Banderas.
The critically acclaimed The Mask of Zorro gives one possibility of Don Diego de la Vega's (Anthony Hopkins) end. In 1821, Governor Rafael Montero finally discovers Zorro's secret identity. The two enemies fight in Diego's mansion, accidentally killing his wife, Esperanza. Diego is captured and imprisoned and his infant daughter Elena brought up by Montero as his own daughter. Twenty years later, Diego escapes from prison with the intention of taking revenge on Montero and telling Elena her true origin. He also trains Alejandro Murrieta as a new Zorro. By the film's end, both Montero and Diego die. The new Zorro and Elena get married; their son Joaquín is born by the end of the film and returns in The Legend of Zorro.
The animated series Zorro: Generation Z features a descendant and namesake of Diego de la Vega who takes up the mantle in the future.
In The Curse of Capistrano
McCulley describes Diego as "unlike the other full-blooded youths of times"; though proud as befitting his class (and seemingly uncaring about the lower classes), he shuns action, rarely wearing his sword except for fashion, and is indifferent to romance with women. This is of course a sham.
The first remake (1940) of The Mark of Zorro, starring Tyrone Power as Diego, more or less adopts the book version, where he masquerades as a brilliant swordsman but a decadent, foppish, and self-centered human being - until the staged final fight with Captain Pasquale (Basil Rathbone); critics single out the swordfight as arguably the most realistic and thrilling on film.
However, Walt Disney's television operation clearly decided that, while such an arrogant and condescending character may work in print and even in a one-shot movie, viewers would quickly tire of him on a weekly show. So in Disney's Zorro (1957-59), Diego instead masquerades as a passionate and compassionate crusader for justice -- but as "the most inept swordsman in all of California." In this show, everyone knows Diego would love to do what Zorro does, but thinks he does not have the skill.
Skills and resources
Zorro is a quite agile athlete and acrobat, using his bullwhip as a gymnastic accoutrement to swing through gaps between city roofs, and is very capable of landing from great heights and taking a fall. Although he is a master swordsman and marksman, he has more than once demonstrated his more than able prowess in unarmed combat, against multiple opponents.
His calculating and precise dexterity as a tactician has enabled him to use his two main weapons, his sword and bullwhip, as an extension of his very deft hand. He never uses brute strength, more his fox-like sly mind and well-practiced technique to outmatch an opponent.
Some versions of Zorro have a medium-sized dagger tucked in his left boot for emergencies. He has used his cape as a blind, a trip-mat--and when used effectively--a disarming tool. Zorro's boots are also sometimes weighted, as is his hat, which he has thrown, frisbee-like, as an efficiently substantial warning to enemies. Usually he uses psychological mockery to make his opponents too angry to be coordinated in combat.
Zorro is also a skilled horseman. The name of his horse has varied through the years. In The Curse of Capistrano it was unnamed. Later versions named the horse Tornado/Toronado, or Tempest.
McCulley's concept of a band of men helping Zorro is often absent from other versions of the character. An exception is Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939), starring Reed Hadley as Diego.
In Disney's Zorro television series, Diego's servant Bernardo pretends to be deaf as well as mute and serves as Zorro's spy. He is also a capable and invaluable helper for Zorro and Diego, even wearing the mask himself occasionally to reinforce his master's charade. The character was both deaf and mute in the original McCulley stories.
Zorro bears some similarities to historical Californian bandits. He is often associated with Joaquin Murrieta
, the "Mexican and/or Chilean Robin Hood
", whose life was fictionalized in an 1854 book by John Rollin Ridge
, and in the 1998 film The Mask of Zorro
, where Murrieta's (fictional) brother succeeds Diego as Zorro. Other possible inspirations for the character include Robin Hood himself, Salomon Pico
, Tiburcio Vasquez
, William Lamport
(an Irish soldier living in Mexico in the 17th century, whose life was fictionalized by Vicente Riva Palacio
and whose biography "The Irish Zorro" was published in 2004) and Yokuts
, who led a revolt against the Mission San Jose
Although not completely original in its concept and recognizing influences from previous publications like the Spring Heeled Jack adventures, notably including motifs such as the secret subterranean lair and the habit of marking the bodies of his enemies with a signature letter, Zorro is one of the earliest precursors of the superhero of American comic books, being an independently wealthy person who has a secret identity (as with Spring Heeled Jack and The Scarlet Pimpernel) which he defends by wearing a mask, and who accomplishes good for the people with his superior fighting abilities and resourcefulness.
Zorro the "Fox" is in this respect similar to the American historical figure Francis Marion, "The Swamp Fox", who was also the subject of a Disney television series in the 1950s. Disney also highlighted Zorro's connection with the Robin Hood tale in its 1973 animated interpretation, Robin Hood, wherein the lead character is drawn as an anthropomorphized fox.
A source of inspiration for The Mask of Zorro is probably Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, where a wronged hero returns as an independently wealthy man, and under an assumed elegant persona wreaks vengeance on those who betrayed him, and does secret good for those who tried to help him in earlier days (all somewhat applicable to Alejandro Murrieta).
Zorro in turn became a key inspiration for the characters The Phantom
, The Lone Ranger
, the Green Arrow
, Doc Savage
, and other non-superpower-endowed pulp fiction and comic-strip action heroes.
The Mark of Zorro was one of many works that inspired comic book artist Bob Kane when he created the Batman character in 1939. This inspiration has been worked into the comics themselves, establishing that The Mark of Zorro was the film which the young Bruce Wayne watched with his parents at the cinema the night he witnessed their murders. Zorro has been portrayed as Bruce's childhood hero and an influence on his Batman persona, from the masked hero in the dark costume to making his public persona of Bruce Wayne seem foolish to deflect suspicion. Zorro keeps his horse in the basement of his house, and Batman keeps his Batmobile in a similar hideout, the Batcave.
Zorro was also the inspiration of the remarkably similar characters El Coyote and El Aguila.
In the movie The Princess Bride, the protagonist dons an all black costume and mask.
In horror fiction, Kim Newman's short story "Out In The Night, When The Full Moon Is Bright..." reinterprets Zorro as a near-immortal Mexican werewolf fighting against evil, injustice and oppression from colonial Mexico to the ghettos of a near-future Los Angeles.
In the dreamworks film Shrek 2, a new feline character is added. His name is Puss in Boots who shares a very large resemblance to Zorro and is also voiced by Antonio Banderas, the then-latest actor to play as Zorro. Like Zorro, Puss has a trademark signature which he creates a "P" with three quick slashes with his rapier very similar to Zorro himself.
Appearances in media
- Johnston McCulley's original story "The Curse of Capistrano" was reprinted by Tor books in 1998 under the title The Mark of Zorro. ISBN 978-0-8125-4007-9 A full list of McCulley's Zorro stories can be found here
- Johnston McCulley's Zorro short stories were reprinted by Pulp Adventures Inc. in a series of trade paperback editions.
- Zorro The Master's Edition Volume One (1932-1944) February 2000 ISBN 1891729209
- Zorro The Master's Edition Volume Two (1944-1946) January 2002 ISBN 1891729217
- Zorro The Master's Edition: A Task For Zorro (1947) July 2002 ISBN 1891729314
- A series of paperback novels were published by Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. Books in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- Zorro and the Jaguar Warriors by Jerome Preisler September 1998 ISBN 978-0-8125-6767-0
- Zorro and The Dragon Riders by David Bergantino March 1999 ISBN 978-0-8125-6768-7
- Zorro and the Witch's Curse by John Whitman April 2000 ISBN 978-0-8125-6769-4
- Isabel Allende gave her interpretation of the Zorro legend in her 2005 fictional biography Zorro. ISBN 978-0-06-077897-2
- Gerard Ronan's Biography of William Lamport "The Irish Zorro" was published by Brandon Books in 2004. ISBN 978-0863223297.
- Minstrel Books published A series of young reader novels based on the motion picture The Mask of Zorro.
- The Treasure of Don Diego by William McCay 1998 ISBN 978-0-671-51968-1
- Skull and Crossbones by Frank Lauria 1999 ISBN 978-0-671-51970-4
- The Secret Swordsman by William McCay 1999 ISBN 978-0-671-51969-8
- The Lost Temple by Frank Lauria 1999
- Zorro filmographic books have also been published:
The character has been adapted for over forty films. They include:
- The Mark of Zorro (1920), with Douglas Fairbanks
- Don Q, Son of Zorro (1925), with Douglas Fairbanks
- The Bold Caballero (1936), with Robert Livingstone
- Zorro Rides Again (1937), with John Carroll as a modern-day descendant, Jim Vega
- Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939), with Reed Hadley
- The Mark of Zorro (1940), with Tyrone Power
- Zorro's Black Whip (1944), with Linda Stirling as an 1880s female descendent, The Black Whip
- Son of Zorro (1947), with George Turner
- Ghost of Zorro (1949), with Clayton Moore
- Zorro, the Avenger (1958), with Guy Williams
- The Sign of Zorro (1958), with Guy Williams
- Zorro (1961) and The Shadow of Zorro (aka Zorro, the Avenger) (1962), two Spanish features starring Frank Latimore.
- La Gran Aventura del Zorro (1974), Mexican Western with Rodolfo de Anda, the first Mexican actor to play the role. With Pedro Armendáriz Jr as the villain. Set in a very primitive San Francisco Bay Area.
- The Mark of Zorro (1974), with Frank Langella, a made for TV remake of the 1940 film
- Zorro (1975), Zorro meets the spaghetti western, with Alain Delon as Don Diego fighting the corrupt Colonel Huerta.
- Zorro, The Gay Blade (1981), a parody, with George Hamilton. Diego, Jr., breaks his leg shortly after launching his career as a new Zorro, and his gay twin brother Ramon, now calling himself Bunny Wigglesworth, volunteers to fill in while he recuperates.
- The Mask of Zorro (1998), played against tradition, with Anthony Hopkins as an aged Diego de la Vega and Antonio Banderas as Alejandro Murrieta, a misfit outlaw who is groomed to become the next Zorro.
- The Legend of Zorro (2005), The sequel to the 1998 The Mask of Zorro again starring Antonio Banderas.
- Zorro, a Walt Disney-produced half-hour television series, running from 1957 to 1959, and starring Guy Williams as Zorro. The two Guy Williams-starred features above were episode compilations, and there were two one-hour follow-ups on the Walt Disney anthology television series in the 1959-1960 TV season.
- The New Adventures of Zorro, 1981 animated series from Filmation.
- Zorro and Son, 1983
- Zorro (also known as "The New Zorro"), a television series running from 1990 to 1993, starring Duncan Regehr as Zorro
- Kaiketsu Zorro (1996) Japanese anime version from NHK and Mushi Productions.
- The New Adventures of Zorro, 1997 animated series from Warner Brothers.
- The 2000-01 syndicated television program Queen of Swords features as its lead character Maria Teresa "Tessa" Alvarado, played by Tessie Santiago. Tessa is the daughter of a Spanish don living in California in the years prior to Mexican independence, who for sympathizing with the local peasants is murdered by men working under a Spanish colonial leader, and she takes on many of the aspects of the Zorro character, including the black costume, the swordfighting skills, a gypsy assistant (also a woman), and riding a horse out of a basement at her hacienda.
- Zorro: La Espada y la Rosa, TV soap opera from Sony Pictures and Telemundo, starring Peruvian actor Christian Meier as Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro (2007). This was filmed in the colonial village of Villa de Leyva, Colombia.
- Zorro: Generation Z, an upcoming animated series (2008)
Zorro has appeared in many different comic book series over the decades. One version was rendered by Alex Toth
for Dell Comics
in Four Color
magazine starting in 1949 and appearing through the 1950s. Zorro was given his own title in 1959, which lasted 7 more issues and then was made a regular feature of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories
(also published by Dell) from #275 to #278. Gold Key Comics
began a Zorro series in 1966, but, like their contemporaneous Lone Ranger
series, it featured only material reprinted from the earlier Dell comics, and folded after 9 issues, in 1968. The character remained dormant for the next twenty years until it was revived by Marvel Comics
in 1990, for a 12-issue tie-in with the Duncan Regehr
television series. Many of these comics had Alex Toth covers.
Over the years, various English reprint volumes have been published. This include but are not limited to:
- Zorro In Old California Eclipse Books ISBN 978-0-913035-12-2
- Zorro The Complete Classic Adventures By Alex Toth. Volume One Image Comics 1998. ISBN 978-1-58240-014-3
- Zorro The Dailies - The First Year By Don McGregor, Thomas Yeates. Image Comics 2001. ISBN 1582402396
In 1993 Topps Comics published a 2-issue mini-series Dracula Versus Zorro followed by a Zorro series that ran 11 issues. Topps created Lady Rawhide, a spin-off from the Zorro mythos, in two brief series. All of this was written by Don McGregor. He subsequently scripted a miniseries adaptation of The Mask of Zorro film for Dark Horse Comics.
A newspaper daily and Sunday strip were also published in the late 1990s. This was written by McGregor and rendered by Tom Yeats. Papercutz once published a Zorro series and graphic novels as well. This version is drawn in a manga style.
The character also appeared in European comics and is universally beloved in Latin America, usually in licensed, translated reprints of American comics.
Starting in February 2008, the comic book adventures of Zorro are published by Dynamite Entertainment with Matt Wagner as the writer and art director accompanied by Francesco Francavilla as the artist. It closely follows the Isabel Allende rendition of the Zorro's story, rather than the most canonical one, including the ethnicity of Don Diego de la Vega changed from a Spanish to a mestizo, the origins of Regina de la Vega as Toypurnia and Lechuza Blanca's role into planting the seeds for Diego turning into Zorro, but diverges to include some more known parts of the Zorro mythology and remove some characters.
1995 saw a Zorro stage production in London.
A new musical titled Zorro opened in the West End in 2008. It is directed by Christopher Renshaw, choreographed by Rafael Amargo and features music from the band Gipsy Kings. Directed by Christopher Renshaw, whose recent UK and Broadway credits include The King and I and We Will Rock You, Zorro features the choreography of internationally renowned flamenco dancer Rafael Amargo.
had a hit in 1964 with the humorous song "Zorro est arrivé". It tells from a child's point of view how exciting it is whenever a villain threatens to kill a lady in the television series. But every time again, to his relief, the "great and beautiful" Zorro comes to the rescue. An early music video was made at the time.
Alice Cooper's 1982 album Zipper Catches Skin includes the song "Zorro's Ascent" which is about Zorro facing his death.
On the commercial recording market release of the Disney series' Zorro theme, the lead vocal was by Henry Calvin--fat Sergeant Garcia!
The Titanic composer James Horner composed the music for The Mask of Zorro and its sequel The Legend of Zorro.
Computer and video games
- With some changes to reflect school colors, Zorro's black mask, cape and gaucho hat have been adopted by mascots at Texas Tech University and Edward S. Marcus High School.
- On the sitcom The Bob Newhart Show, in an episode set at a masquerade party, the low-key Bob Hartley (Newhart) is in costume as Zorro. At the very end, when nobody is looking, he takes a piece of chalk and draws a large "Z" on a wall.
- In the Asterix comic book album "Asterix and Caesar's Gift" Asterix duels with a Roman and makes the iconic Z mark on his tunic.
- Zorro is also referenced in the film "Amélie" (Le Fabuleux Destin d' Amélie Poulain) (2001). In the movie Amélie (Audrey Tautou) dresses herself up as Zorro when she photographs herself for a boy she is in love with.
- The character of El Kabong in the "Quick Draw McGraw" cartoons is a parody of Zorro. Rather than using a sword he smashes his foes over the head with a guitar. It is interesting to note that in some Spanish dubs, the character is called El Cabazorro ("caballo" being the Spanish word for "horse").
- In the Duck Dodgers episode "The Mark of Xero," Duck Dodgers took on the guise of Xero (who is a parody of Zorro) in order to liberate a California-based planet from the clutches of the evil Commandante Hilgalgo (who is a homage to Colonel Huerta from the 1975 movie).
- Zorro appeared in the Robot Chicken episode "Werewolf VS Unicorn" voiced by Seth Green. During Arnold Schwarzenegger's public service announcement about the Mexican Illegal Alien issue, Zorro is seen arrested after he left his mark on a store wall moments after he broke up a robbery.
- There is a serial on the animated cartoon series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show that features a mysterious character called "The Mark of Zero". His trademark is stamping the numeral 0 in unexpected places. For example, the score late in a baseball game is 9 to 1. The "Mark of Zero" changes this to 10 to 9 — to everyone's amazement. At the story's conclusion, his talent for stamping "zero" is put to good use as he becomes the scorekeeper for the New York Mets major league baseball team, at that time the symbol of futility in that sport.
- In the anime series One Piece the character Roronoa Zoro was thought to have been named after him, due to his preferred weapon (swords) and how when he intends to fight seriously he ties a bandana on his head, casting a black shadow over his eyes alluding to Zorro's mask. He is also extremely cocky and arrogant.
- On one episode of Sesame Street, Luis (Emilio Delgado) disguised himself as Senor Cero who resembles Zorro to teach the number zero.
- In the 2004 movie A Cinderella Story, the character Carter Farrell dresses up as Zorro for the Halloween Homecoming Dance. In this guise he manages to impress cheerleader Shelby Cummings, who is repulsed when she finds out who he is.
- Clark Kent dressed up as Zorro for a Halloween costume party in the fifth-season Smallville episode Thirst, noting that while he liked wearing a cape, he found the mask uncomfortable.
- In the sitcom Family Matters, Carl Winslow once dressed up as Zorro for Halloween. This leads another character, Waldo Faldo, to believe that Carl is really Zorro.
- In the video game, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow, one of the individuals Jack and Will Turner must fight is an officer of the Spanish Armada: Don Carerra de la Vega, master of the thousand-strike-spin. The character was probably meant to be a relative of Zorro's.
- In an episode of That '70s Show entitled Halloween the character Red is seen in a Zorro costume in a flashback to 1957
TV Series Remake
is set to do a TV Series Remake for the first time via GMA Network
Channel 7. It will star one of the country's famous young actor Richard Gutierrez