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Publication information
PublisherZorro Productions, Inc.
First appearanceAll-Story Weekly #2 (August 1919)
Created byJohnston McCulley
In-story information
Alter egoDon Diego de la Vega (original)
Different successors in different versions
  • Cunning
  • Superb athlete, acrobat, tactician, horseman, swordsman, marksman, and unarmed combatant
  • Well-educated, wealthy, and cultured nobleman
  • Master of stealth
  • Extensive scientific knowledge and advanced gadgets (depending on the version)
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For other uses, see Zorro (disambiguation).
Publication information
PublisherZorro Productions, Inc.
First appearanceAll-Story Weekly #2 (August 1919)
Created byJohnston McCulley
In-story information
Alter egoDon Diego de la Vega (original)
Different successors in different versions
  • Cunning
  • Superb athlete, acrobat, tactician, horseman, swordsman, marksman, and unarmed combatant
  • Well-educated, wealthy, and cultured nobleman
  • Master of stealth
  • Extensive scientific knowledge and advanced gadgets (depending on the version)

Zorro (/ˈzɔːr/; Spanish: [ˈθoro], American Spanish: [ˈsoro]) is a character created in 1919 by New York–based pulp writer Johnston McCulley. The character has been featured in numerous books, films, television series, and other media. Zorro (Spanish for "fox") is the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega, a Californio nobleman living in Los Angeles during the era of Spanish rule.

The character has undergone changes through the years, but the typical image of him is a dashing black-clad masked outlaw who defends the people of the land against tyrannical officials and other villains. Not only is he too cunning and foxlike for the bumbling authorities to catch, but also delights in publicly humiliating them.

Publishing history[edit]

Zorro debuted in McCulley's 1919 story "The Curse of Capistrano", serialized in five parts in the pulp magazine All-Story Weekly.[1] 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 film The Mark of Zorro (1920), which was a commercial success. McCulley's story was rereleased by publisher Grosset & Dunlap under the same title, to tie in with the film.

In response to public demand fueled by the film, McCulley wrote more than sixty more Zorro stories, beginning 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 public revelation of his identity. McCulley died in 1958, just as the Disney-produced Zorro television show was becoming popular.

Fictional character biography[edit]

The Mark of Zorro, starring Douglas Fairbanks, the first Zorro film, was instrumental in the early success of the character

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 is Captain Ramon. Other characters include Sgt. Pedro Gonzales, Zorro's enemy but 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) who 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 whom 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 villain was alive, and the next entry had the double identity still secret.

Several Zorro productions have expanded on the character's exploits. Many of the continuations feature a younger character taking up the mantle of Zorro.

Although McCulley's stories were set in Los Angeles during the era of Mexican rule (between 1821 and 1846), some movie adaptations of Zorro's story have placed him during the earlier Spanish era.


In "The Curse of Capistrano", Diego is described as "unlike the other full-blooded youths of the 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. This portrayal, with minor variations, is followed in most Zorro media.

A notable exception to this portrayal is Disney's Zorro (1957–59), where Diego, despite using the original facade early in the series, instead becomes a passionate and compassionate crusader for justice and simply masquerades 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.

The Family Channel's Zorro (1990–1993) takes this concept further. While Diego pretends to be inept with a sword, the rest of his facade is actually exaggerating his real interests. Diego is actually well versed and interested in art, poetry, literature, and science. His facade is pretending to only be interested in these things and to have no interest in swordplay or action. Zorro also has a well-equipped laboratory in his hidden cave in this version of the story.

Character motifs[edit]

The character's visual motif is typically a black costume with a flowing Spanish cape, a flat-brimmed black sombrero cordobés, and a black cowl sackcloth domino mask that covers the top of the head from eye level upwards. In his first appearance, he wears a cloak instead of a cape, and a black cloth veil mask with slits for eyes covers his whole face. Other features of the costume may vary.

His favored weapon is a rapier, which he often uses to leave his distinctive mark, a Z cut with three quick strokes. He also uses a bullwhip. In his debut, he uses a pistol.

The fox is never depicted as Zorro's emblem. It is used as a metaphor for the character's wiliness, such as in the lyrics "Zorro, 'the Fox', so cunning and free ..." from the Disney television show theme.

His heroic pose consists of rearing on his horse Toronado/Tornado, sword raised high. (The logo of Zorro Productions, Inc. uses an example of this pose.)

Skills and resources[edit]

Zorro (Guy Williams) and Bernardo (Gene Sheldon) in the 1950s Zorro television series

Zorro is an 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 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 deft hand. He never uses brute strength, more his fox-like sly mind and well-practiced technique to outmatch an opponent.

In some versions, Zorro keeps a medium-sized dagger tucked in his left boot for emergencies. He has used his cape as a blind, a trip-mat and a disarming tool. Zorro's boots are also sometimes weighted, as is his hat, which he has thrown, Frisbee-style, as an efficiently substantial warning to enemies. But more often than not, he uses psychological mockery to make his opponents too angry to be coordinated in combat.

Zorro is a skilled horseman. The name of his jet-black horse has varied through the years. In "The Curse of Capistrano", it was unnamed. Later versions named the horse Toronado/Tornado or Tempest. In other versions, Zorro rides a white horse named Phantom.

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 Douglas Fairbanks' version, he also has a band of masked men helping him. In McCulley's stories, Zorro was aided by a deaf-mute named Bernardo. In Disney's Zorro television series, Bernardo is not deaf but pretends to be, and serves as Zorro's spy. He is a capable and invaluable helper for Zorro, sometimes wearing the mask to reinforce his master's charade. The Family Channel's Zorro television series replaces Bernardo with a teenager named Felipe, played by Juan Diego Botto, with a similar disability and pretense.


The historical figure most often associated with the Zorro character is Joaquin Murrieta, whose life was fictionalized in an 1854 dime novel by John Rollin Ridge. In the 1998 film The Mask of Zorro Murrieta's (fictive) brother Alejandro succeeds Diego as Zorro. As a hero with a secret identity who taunts his foes by signing his deeds, Zorro finds a direct literary predecessor in Sir Percival Blakeney, hero of the Scarlet Pimpernel pulp series by Baroness Emmuska Orczy.

The character recalls other figures, such as Robin Hood, Reynard the Fox, Salomon Pico, Manuel Rodríguez Erdoíza, and Tiburcio Vasquez. Another possible historical inspiration is William Lamport, an Irish soldier who lived in Mexico in the seventeenth century. His life was the subject of a fictive book by Vicente Riva Palacio; The Irish Zorro (2004) is a recent biography. Another is Estanislao, a Yokuts man who led a revolt against the Mission San Jose in 1827.

The 1890s penny dreadful treatment of the Spring Heeled Jack character as a masked avenger may have inspired some aspects of Zorro's heroic persona. Spring Heeled Jack was portrayed as a nobleman who created a flamboyant, masked alter ego to fight injustice, frequently demonstrated exceptional athletic and combative skills, maintained a hidden lair and was known to carve the letter "S" into walls with his rapier as a calling card.

Like Sir Percy in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Don Diego avoids suspicion by playing the role of a dandy who wears lace, writes poetry, and shuns violence. The all-black Fairbanks film costume, which with variations has remained the standard costume for the character, was likely adapted from the Arrow serial film character The Masked Rider (1919). This character was the first Mexican black-clad masked rider on a black horse to appear on the silver screen. Fairbanks's costume in The Mark of Zorro, released the following year, resembled that of the Rider with only slight differences in the mask and hat.

Appearances in media[edit]



The character has been adapted for over forty films.[2] They include:

American films[edit]

20th Century Fox is working on a reboot Zorro film called Zorro Reborn with Gael Garcia Bernal in the title role set in the future with a script by Glen Gers, Lee Shipman, and Brian McGeevy. Sony also plans another film with a script by Chris Boal based on the novel by Isabel Allende as a less traditional swashbuckler and more of a Dark Knight style unveiling of the character with a new backstory, gritty realism and emotional core with swordplay, combined with the martial arts that came from Europe and created a deadly combination of action and lethal fighting systems that combined swords, daggers, grappling and bare knuckles.[3][4][5]

Mexican films[edit]

A similar character was "The Black Wolf" set in Monterey, California in 1846.

European films[edit]

In addition to a variety of Zorro films, European producers also used a similar character called the Coyote.[6]

The Coyote of "El Coyote" was a creation of Spanish novelist José Figuerola Mallorquí writing as Carter Mulford beginning with a novel of the same name in 1943.

Film serials[edit]


Audio/Radio Dramas[edit]


Due to the popularity of the Disney TV series, in 1958, The Topps Company produced an 88 card set featuring stills from that year's movie. The cards were rare and became collectors' items. In the same year the Louis Marx company released a variety of Zorro toys such as hats, swords, toy pistols and a playset with the Lido company also making plastic figures.

A major toy line based on the classic Zorro characters, motifs and styling, was released by Italian toy giant, Giochi Preziosi, master toy licensees of the property. The toy range was developed by Pangea Corporation and released worldwide in 2005 and featured action figures in various scales, interactive playsets and roleplaying items. New original characters were also introduced, including Senor Muerte, who served as a foil to Zorro.

In 2007, Brazilian toymaker Gulliver Toys licensed the rights to Zorro: Generation Z, which was co-developed by BKN and Pangea Corporation. The toy range was designed concurrent and in association with the animated program.

In 2011, US based collectibles company Triad Toys released a 12-inch Zorro action figure.


Zorro#01, 2008, by Dynamite Entertainment

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. From 1965 to 1974, through Disney Studio Program, the Walt Disney Studio had a unit producing comic book stories exclusively for foreign consumption, to meet the demand, other countries produced Zorro comics under license from Disney: Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom.[9]

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 Zorro. 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:

In 1993 Topps Comics published a 2-issue mini-series Dracula Versus Zorro followed by a Zorro series that ran 11 issues. Topps published two miniseries of Lady Rawhide, a spin-off from the Zorro stories created by writer Don McGregor and artist Mike Mayhew.[10][11][12] McGregor subsequently scripted a miniseries adaptation of The Mask of Zorro film for Image Comics.

A newspaper daily and Sunday strip were also published in the late 1990s. This was written by McGregor and rendered by Tom Yeates. Papercutz once published a Zorro series and graphic novels as well. This version is drawn in a manga style.

Dynamite Entertainment relaunched the character in 2008 with writer Matt Wagner first adapting Isabel Allende's novel before writing his own stories. The publisher also released an earlier unpublished tale called "Matanzas" by Don McGregor and artist Mike Mayhew. Zorro also appears in the 2013 Dynamite title Masks alongside Green Hornet, Kato, The Shadow, and The Spider. Written by Chris Roberson with art by Alex Ross and Dennis Calero.[13] It was announced on June 18, 2014 that Quentin Tarantino would co-write a series with Matt Wagner teaming Zorro with Tarantino's character Django Freeman from the movie Django Unchained.[14]

The character also appeared in European comics and is universally beloved in Latin America, usually in licensed, translated reprints of American comics. In the Netherlands, Zorro was drawn by Hans G. Kresse for the weekly Pep.

Stage productions[edit]

Approximately 65 separate Zorro live productions have been produced. These have included traditional stage plays, comedies, melodramas, musicals, children’s plays, stunt shows, and ballets. Some examples include:


On the commercial release of the Zorro 1957 Disney TV series' Zorro theme, the lead vocal was by Henry Calvin, the actor who played Sergeant Garcia on the program. The song was written by Jimmie Dodd.

The Chordettes sang the single version of the song, complete with the "Sounds of the Z" and the clip clopping of Zorro's horse. The song hit Number 17 in 1958 according to the Billboard Charts.

In 1964, Henri Salvador sang "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.

Computer and video games[edit]

Copyright and trademark disputes[edit]

Tessie Santiago as the Queen of Swords
The Mark of Zorro, starring Douglas Fairbanks, is out of copyright

The copyright and trademark status of the Zorro character and stories are disputed. Zorro Productions, Inc., asserts that it "controls the worldwide trademarks and copyrights in the name, visual likeness and the character of Zorro."[29] It further states that "The unauthorized, unlicensed use of the name, character and/or likeness of 'Zorro' is an infringement and a violation of state and federal laws."[30]

In 1999, TriStar Pictures Inc. sued Del Taco, Inc., due to a fast-food restaurant advertising campaign that allegedly infringed Zorro Productions’ claims to a trademark on the character of Zorro. In an August 1999 order, the court ruled that it would not invalidate Zorro Productions’ trademarks as a result of the defendant's arguments that certain copyrights in Zorro being in the public domain or owned by third parties. [31]

A dispute took place in the 2001 case of Sony Pictures Entertainment v. Fireworks Ent. Group.[32] On January 24, 2001, Sony Pictures, TriStar Pictures and Zorro Productions, Inc. sued Fireworks Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, and Mercury Entertainment, claiming that the Queen of Swords television series infringed upon the copyrights and trademarks of Zorro and associated characters. Sony and TriStar had paid licensing fees to Zorro Productions, Inc., related to the 1998 film The Mask of Zorro. Queen of Swords was a 2000–2001 television series set in Spanish California during the early 19th century and featuring a hero who wore a black costume with a red sash and demonstrated similarities to the character of Zorro,r including the sword-fighting skills, use of a whip and bolas, and horse riding skills.

Zorro Productions, Inc., argued that it owned the copyright to the original character because Johnston McCulley assigned his Zorro rights to Mitchell Gertz in 1949. Gertz died in 1961, and his estate transferred to his children, who created Zorro Productions, Inc. Fireworks Entertainment argued that the original rights had already been transferred to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. in 1920 and provided documents showing this was legally affirmed in 1929, and also questioned whether the copyright was still valid.

The court ruled that "since the copyrights in The Curse of Capistrano and The Mark of Zorro lapsed in 1995 or before, the character Zorro has been in the public domain".[33] Judge Collins also stated that: "Plaintiffs' argument that they have a trademark in Zorro because they licensed others to use Zorro, however, is specious. It assumes that ZPI had the right to demand licenses to use Zorro at all."

In another legal action in 2010, Zorro Productions, Inc., sued Mars, Incorporated, makers of M&M's chocolate candies, and ad agency BBDO Worldwide over a commercial featuring a Zorro-like costume.[34] The case was settled with "each party shall bear its own costs incurred in connection with this action, including its attorney’s fees and costs" on August 13, 2010.[35]

In March 2013, Robert W. Cabell, author of Z - the Musical of Zorro (1998), filed another lawsuit against Zorro Productions, Inc. The lawsuit asserts that the Zorro character is in the public domain and that the trademark registrations by Zorro Productions, Inc., are threfore fraudulent.[36]


Texas Tech's The Masked Rider is similar to Zorro

Bob Kane has credited Zorro as part of the inspiration for the Batman.[37] Like Zorro, Bruce Wayne is affluent, the heir of wealth built by his parents. His everyday persona encourages others to think of him as shallow, foolish and uncaring to throw off suspicion. Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again both include multiple Zorro references like the Batman inscribing a Z on a defeated foe. In later tellings of Batman's origins, Bruce Wayne's parents are murdered by a robber as the family leaves a showing of the 1940 film The Mark of Zorro, starring Tyrone Power.

One Hanna-Barbara Productions, Pixie and Dixie cartoon featured a Zorro-like character with a mask, cape and sword known as "Mark of the Mouse."


  1. ^ All-Story Weekly vol. 100 #2, August 9, 1919, 101:2, September 6, 1919
  2. ^ Zorro Productions, Inc.
  3. ^ Sony Hires Matthew Federman & Stephen Scaia To Pen ‘Zorro’ Reboot| Deadline Hollywood
  4. ^ Garcia Bernal to mark Fox's 'Zorro Reborn'| Variety
  5. ^ Mike Fleming Jr (March 7, 2014). "Chris Boal Signs On To Script Sony’s ‘Zorro’ Reboot". Deadline. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  6. ^ http://rateyourmusic.com/list/Sheb/european_zorro_movies
  7. ^ Zorro: Generation Z
  8. ^ Zorro Conquers the Philippines
  9. ^ Zorro Comics Inducks
  10. ^ Johnston, Rich (May 15, 2013). "The Return Of Lady Rawhide". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  11. ^ "Lady Rawhide". An International Catalougue of Superheroes. May 15, 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  12. ^ "Lady Rawhide". Comics Vine. May 15, 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  13. ^ "Masks". www.comicvine.com. 2013. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  14. ^ "TARANTINO, HUDLIN & WAGNER TEAM FOR "DJANGO/ZORRO" CROSSOVER". www.comicbookresources.com. 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  15. ^ http://www.kenhillsphantomoftheopera.co.uk/bio.php
  16. ^ http://beaufortcountynow.com/post/663/birmingham-children-s-theatre-troupe-brings-zorro-to-washington.html
  17. ^ http://www.houstontheatre.com/zorro.html
  18. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1999/sep/12/entertainment/ca-9499
  19. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Zorro-rides-again-Michael-Smuin-revives-in-2651990.php
  20. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jul/21/entertainment/et-culture21
  21. ^ http://www.denverpost.com/ci_7076614
  22. ^ http://www.eriknorberg.com/2008/09/urpremiar-zorro.html
  23. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/theater/reviews/the-mark-of-zorro-at-the-new-victory-theater.html?_r=0
  24. ^ http://www.redlandsdailyfacts.com/lifestyle/20090702/zorro-worthy-addition-to-lifehouse-canon
  25. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/performing-arts/zorro,1230609.html
  26. ^ http://www.eugeneweekly.com/blog/ballet-fantastiques-zorro
  27. ^ http://www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/news/latest-news/article/item104226
  28. ^ Zorro ([[Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer game])
  29. ^ "About Zorro Productions Inc." page from the company's web site
  30. ^ "Highlights of the Zorro Publishing Program" page from the company's web site.
  31. ^ "TriStar Pictures, Inc. v. Del Taco, Inc."
  32. ^ "Sony Pictures Entertainment v. Fireworks Ent. Group." at Google Scholar, retrieved Dec. 4, 2010.
  33. ^ Note 31 of Sony Pictures Entertainment v. Fireworks Ent. Group.
  34. ^ Zorro complaint
  35. ^ [1]|Zorro Productions v Mars Inc. and BBDO worldwide
  36. ^ [2]|Robert Cabell v. Zorro Productions, Inc.
  37. ^ Boichel, Bill. "Batman: Commodity as Myth." The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media. Routledge: London, 1991. ISBN 0-85170-276-7, pp. 6–7

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