'Z' Marks the Spot

'Z' Marks the Spot

Uncle of Batman, Cousin to Spider-Man

Without Zorro, Batman may never have existed. Late Batman creator Bob Kane said he loved watching Fairbanks' "The Mark of Zorro." He paid tribute to both the actor and his screen persona in the story of Batman's origin, as "The Mark of Zorro" was on the marquee of the movie theater young Bruce Wayne's parents left before they were killed. It's no coincidence that Batman -- often referred to as "The Dark Knight" -- wears a dark costume and also lacks superpowers.

Other superheroes also have been influenced by Zorro. Marvel Comics' Spider-Man often trash-talks and makes wisecracks when battling his enemies. And sometimes he leaves his own "Z" on his fallen foes by either spider-webbing their mouths shut or leaving them snared in a web with a note that says, "Compliments of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man."

In some ways, Zorro has been overshadowed by the superheroes who came after him. But he was the first to make it to the Big Screen.

"'The Mark of Zorro' ... really influenced the action genre in movies today," said Gertz. "Zorro was really the first superhero, but he didn't have any superpowers. Since he fought with a sword, he often found himself at a disadvantage when battling some enemies who had guns and cannons. He had to rely on outsmarting his opponents to achieve victory."

Will Zorro Make His Mark on Broadway?

New movie aside, the Zorro franchise is alive and well.

This summer, Papercutz, a division of NBM, began producing Japanese manga animation-style Zorro graphic novels directed toward children ages 8 to 14. NBM's Nantier said that Zorro is so well-known and wholesome that the company felt comfortable presenting him to a younger audience. In these stories, he said, Zorro is put in atypical situations and settings.

"Zorro really appeals to all ages," Nantier said. "There's nothing too racy about him. He's admirable with the boys and we're keeping some of the romantic elements for the girls."

In addition, a musical about Zorro, with a score written by the Gypsy Kings, is being developed in London. And a new novel by acclaimed author Isabel Allende, "Zorro," tells the complete story of Zorro's origin. Gertz says Zorro Productions is working on developing Allende's novel into the next Zorro movie.

Despite being an elder statesman, it looks like Zorro will continue to make his mark for years to come.

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