Z is for — Zorro, from Johnston McCulley’s classic adventure, The Mark of Zorro
Swish, swish, swish. Three flicks of the blade carve the infamous Z as Zorro leaves his mark on another adversary. Dressed all in black, his face hidden behind a black mask, the legendary hero of 1820s Spanish California rides to the rescue of the poor and oppressed, fighting injustice like a Robin Hood of the old west. Don Diego de la Vega, nobleman and wealthy landowner, plays the vapid fop in public while hiding his secret identity as the masked highwayman.
Zorro (Spanish for fox) was originally created by McCulley in 1919 as a five-part serialized story entitled The Curse of Capistrano — the nickname given Zorro by the corrupt politicians and soldiers for his constant bedeviling. The 1920 silent film with Douglas Fairbanks further popularized the tale. McCulley penned over 60 stories of the adventures of Zorro, and the character has since been immortalized in many other film and novel and television adaptations.
I always liked the Disney TV series with Guy Williams that originally ran from 1957 to 1959. I remember watching the reruns as I was growing up. I’ve also seen the 1920 Fairbanks movie and both movies with Antonio Banderas, from 1998 and 2005. On my to-be-watched list are the 1940 film with Tyrone Power, the 1990s series with Duncan Regehr, and some of the animated versions.
Best of all, though, I liked the Queen of Swords — Zorro with a twist: a female swordswoman in a black mask, fighting injustice in early 19th century Spanish California. The TV series with Tessie Santiago ran for one season from 2000 to 2001. Given the scarcity of female sword-wielding action heroes, I so wish it had run longer.