Famous cartoon characters in the public domain are Robin Hood, Zorro and Popeye the Sailor. The two former characters are in the public domain worldwide, and the latter is in the public domain in Europe and other areas, but not in the United States.
The character of Robin Hood first appeared in poems and songs in 15h century England. The early stories portray him fighting for the causes of the lower classes. He is also a superior archer, with great skill using other weapons as well, such as swords and knives. He first appeared in a comic book series called New Fun #5.
Zorro is one of the best-known sword fighters in comic books and films. The character first appeared in a 1919 novella by Johnston McCulley, and made his debut as a comic book character in Hits Comics #55. The mark of Zorro, a capital Z slashed by the end of his sword, has remained one of the few consistent details in the many versions of the character.
U.S. copyright law extends the copyright of characters created by work-for-hire artists to 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation. European copyright law extends to 70 years after the death of the creator, no matter how he was hired. Therefore, some cartoon characters may at times be in the public domain in one area and not in another.