El Zorro

Conor’s article really got me thinking this week… what character do I really love? There are so many great ones… then it hit me like a rapier in my rump. El Zorro.

The character Zorro has a very rich and deep history, so much so that he actually seems real to me. As a matter of fact, for most of my childhood I thought that he was an actual historical figure that had spawned so many different legends. As I grew older, I realized that, sadly, he was a fictionalized character and that his persona was always going to be up for interpretation. If you didn’t read Conor’s article, go do that now, I’ll wait.

Of course as after realizing that Zorro was purely fictional, I also began to realize that maybe an ever-evolving character is not a bad thing. Especially when you tap into a character like el Zorro, the possibilities are seemingly endless.

I’m going to do my best at a very brief and abridged history of el Zorro, or at least what I think is important – and where the character is now. I strongly suggest that you read the book Zorro Unmasked: The Official History by Sandra Curtis if you want more information (hint: I’m using it for my material right now).

The character of Zorro was first introduced in a pulp magazine called All-Story Weekly in a story called The Curse of Capistrano written by Johnston McCulley. The complete story took five issues and McCulley figured that would be the end of the character. As a matter of fact, he even had Zorro’s true identity revealed and has the character exclaim, “Senor Zorro shall ride no more…”

And since that day in 1919 Zorro has been seen in dozens of books, movies, television shows, video games, toys and paraphernalia, and of course, in comics. So, clearly, he rode again and will continue to ride into the future. As a matter of fact, Bob Kane readily admits to using Zorro in the creation of Bruce Wayne from Batman.

Zorro had a major influence on me on the creation of Batman in 1939. When I was thirteen years old, I saw the Mark of Zorro with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. He was the most swashbuckling, derring-do, super hero I’ve ever seen in my life, and he left a lasting impression on me. And of course later, when I created the Batman, it gave me the dual identity, ‘cause Zorro had the dual identity. During the day, he played a foppish count, Don Diego…a bored playboy, and at night he became Zorro. He wore a mask and he strapped his trusty sword around his waist. He came out of a cave…which I made into a bat cave, and he rode a black horse called Tornado, and later on I had the Batmobile. So Zorro was a major influence on my creation of Batman.

And it’s not just Batman. Don Diego (de la) Vega and his alter-do gooder-ego, Zorro, are the inspiration for many superheroes with dual identities – the Phantom, the Lone Ranger, and the Green Hornet to name a few.

As I mentioned earlier, Zorro has been the subject of all types of media. Douglas Fairbanks launched his film company United Artists with his Zorro movie, The Mark of Zorro. Disney had a very popular series aptly called Zorro that starred Guy Williams. George Hamilton recreated the roll… sort of… in a fantastic movie called Zorro the Gay Blade. It’s amazingly funny. Most recently Antonio Banderas has brought the character back to the silver screen with the help of costar Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Earlier this year Dynamite started their run of a new Zorro comic. If you haven’t yet picked it up I am going to strongly suggest that you do that. Issue #2 just came out a few weeks ago, so you’re not behind yet.

This latest incarnation is a fantastic take on the character, or at least it is so far. As some of you may recall, this book was the POW during WonderPlague. In the first issue we flashback between Diego as a boy and a little bit of him as a man… as Zorro. It is a wonderfully rich and deep back-story.

The second issue is more of the same….though not in an annoying/redundant/no new material way. We continue to see Diego being shaped and molded juxtaposed with descriptions of a man in a cape and mask terrorizing the rich.

The story is intriguing, the art is eye-catching… it’s just enjoyable all around. Matt Wagner as writer and artist has done a phenomenal job of capturing the spirit of Zorro. Everything that Zorro does is deliberate, with a purpose and most importantly, a smile.

I hadn’t thought about it until I was rereading Zorro Unmasked, but Zorro has a sense of humor. His smile is part of what makes him an alluring character as opposed to a crazy, bat obsessed psychopath. Not that I have problems with Batman, but if as a child I were going to snuggle up to a hero, I’d probably take the man with the smile…

Lest you think I’m done – these new books are not the only Zorro comics out there. Back in the 50’s Alex Toth was doing Zorro for Dell Comics and these have recently (1998) been reprinted by Image. Marvel also had a run with Zorro in 1990. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is all sorts of stuff out there.

For me, Zorro is just one of those characters of which I cannot get enough. I like the good and the bad. I’ve seen most of the movies, I continue to read the books and I am so excited that there is a new comic about him. It makes me like Wednesday just that much more.


  1. wasn’t the movie the Wayne’s were seeing when they got killed (thus creating batman) a Zorro movie?

     great article, as always, Gordon 

  2. That’s right deezer. I’ve always had a soft spot for this character, I should really check out what Matt Wagner is doing right now, he’s always money.

  3. Gordon, you should read Isabel Allende’s novel "Zorro: Comienza La Leyenda" it’s quite entertaining, it’s about Zorro’s Origin, the author is from Chile, she has written other books like "House of Spirits", "Paula" and "Of Love and Shadows", as you can imagine the tone of the book is different than other action or hero books because is an action hero written by a woman.

    I don’t know if it has been translated/edited in the US, but it will be a good exercise for your spanish skills.

  4. @baggo – It has definitely been translated into English, I’ve got it on my nightstand right now.

  5. First off nice post  Gordon. Seond off i really don’t know much adout Zorro but for the AB and CZJ movies. It’s alway a chater wanted to get into couse it reminds me of batman and robin hood. Maybe i’ll check out zorro unmasked sometime. Any ways thanks for the great post. 

  6. Thanks for this article, it’s quite an education in a character I had never given much thought to.

    Am I crazy, or was there a Lone Ranger/Zorro anthology-type cartoon series on the air in the late 70s/ early 80s?  I feel like I watched this (maybe Tarzan, too?)  which would explain how I acquired some familiarity with the character, though I’ve never seen any of the movies/comics as an adult.

  7. @baggo – it is on my list to read.  I read "House of Spirits" in Spanish when I was in school…I’m eager to see her take on it.

    @Quentin – yeah – I didn’t put that in the article because  figured that people would think I was joking.  I am glad it was brought up.  I actually have yet to read it…

  8. The timing of this article was strange to me because Netflix had just delivered "The Mask of Zorro" with Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones.  I just got done watching it and loved it just as much as I did when I saw in 1998.  What a fun romp, and it got me thinking about the comic, and just how much fun you can have with this character. 

    Gordon, you make a great point about the smile.  Throughout the movie, I felt that Banderas always had a smirk on his face, which made it look like he was having fun.  I think that this is a great old pulp character.  I love me el Zorro!