Zorro became his most enduring character. Over the coming decade Republic released three other serials connected in some way with the Zorro character. In , The Mark of Zorro remake starring Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell made the character much more widely known to the public at large, and McCulley decided to bring Zorro back with new stories. McCulley made an arrangement with the pulp West Magazine to produce a brand new Zorro short story for every issue. The first of these stories appeared in July and the last one appeared in July , the final issue of the publication. Fifty-three adventures in all were published in West.
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The character was destined to become one of the iconic adventure heroes of course, but while the novel was quite successful what really got the ball rolling was the movie adaptation. The movie changed the title to The Mark of Zorro and was a huge hit, propelling Douglas Fairbanks to superstardom. It was so successful that the original novel was published in book form under this new title in The setting is California in the early 19th century when it was still a possession of the Spanish crown it became part of Mexico in and then part of the United States in The setting of the novel is not strictly accurate historically but it does succeed rather well in conveying at least part of the particular flavour of Spanish California.
The ruling class, the caballeros, are obsessed by lineage and honour. To have the right blood is everything. And their concept of honour hearkens back to the chivalry of the early Middle Ages. These are very proud people and they are very sensitive to even the smallest points of honour. This is something of a problem for Don Diego Vega. He certainly has the blood. No-one in the pueblo of Los Angeles can boast a more exalted bloodline than Don Diego.
But while most caballeros are excessively eager to resort to their swords to defend their honour Don Diego is a languid and rather effete young man who prefers to read poetry. Respect for blood is so ingrained that no-one would dare accuse him to his face of being lacking in manliness, and the Vega family is also immensely powerful and politically influential.
No-one dislikes Don Diego but privately there is some concern about his lack of physical prowess and his abhorrence of violence. The famous outlaw Zorro has become a legend not just because of his skill with the sword but also for his concern for justice.
The governor is corrupt, taxes are crippling, and many honourable families have seen their wealth ruthlessly stripped from then by the governor and his voracious minions. The one man who is prepared to take a stand against this injustice is Zorro. Zorro is not just a friend to oppressed and financially ruined caballeros however.
He also steps in to defend the Franciscan friars who are being victimised and fleeced by the corrupt government. He is equally ready to defend the Indians whenever and wherever they are mistreated. Zorro is in essence Robin Hood in a different setting. Under pressure from his father he is rather listlessly wooing the beautiful young Lolita Pulido. Her family has blood almost equal to that of the Vega family but her father Don Carlos has fallen out of favour with the political leadership and has lost most of his land and most of his wealth.
Don Carlos is desperately anxious for a marriage alliance with the Vegas. Unfortunately Lolita is not impressed by Don Diego. She wants a real man. She also wants a lover who is romantic and passionate, and Don Diego seems uninterested in either romance or passion. When Lolita encounters Zorro it is a different story. This is a man whom she could love. And Zorro is obviously interested. While Don Diego is listlessly wooing Lolita a rival has appeared on the scene in the form of Captain Ramon.
This is something that Zorro will not tolerate. And while all this happening the Pulido family is facing not just complete ruin but the accusation of treason. He will also have to protect his old friend, the friar Felipe. Don Diego has formed an unlikely friendship with the boastful and violent Sergeant Gonzales. Gonzales is flattered to have a friend of such high rank, and the friendship is useful to Don Diego.
The true identity of Zorro is not revealed until the end of the book but anyone who has ever seen any Zorro movie, comic book or TV episode already knows who he is and it really is blindingly obvious. By the time The Mark of Zorro appeared in book form in the secret would have been known to everyone who had seen the enormously popular movie.
Beginning of spoilers You have been warned. He is in fact the notorious outlaw hero Zorro.
La Marca del Zorro