Zorro’s Centennial with Johnston McCulley Biographer D. Kepler

Aug 10, 2019 by

D. Kepler is a historian, journalist, writer and Zorro expert. After doing research in Europe for a book, he bought an 18th century hacienda in Portugal and lives a reclusive life in the sun. This year he published the first biography of Johnston McCulley, the creator of Zorro. An excerpt of the book is in THE PULPSTER this year. For PulpFest fans, Mr. Kepler offered a short interview in which he talks about Johnston McCulley and “100 Years of Zorro.”

Why did you wrote this biography in the first place?

I think it’s important to keep the legacy of pulp writers alive. Nowadays everybody knows Batman, Zorro and Doc Savage or the names of actors who played their part in the movies. Hardly anybody knows who actually created these characters and the stories back in the days. In general, producers and the people who own the rights to the characters are only interested in making money. The Gertz family, who own the rights to Zorro, are making millions with McCulley’s brainchild, but they hardly mention his name on their website, social media and so on. They should be ashamed. Interestingly enough, when I did the research for the biography in dusty newspaper archives and talked to relatives, I discovered that the life of McCulley was almost like a thrilling pulp adventure. It was fun to do!

In your biography and especially in the second part of the book 100 YEARS OF ZORRO, you have serious doubts if the Gertz family are the right people for owning the legacy of Zorro. Why?

Well, I’m not the only one, even judges nowadays are not convinced they are the rightful owners of Zorro. For example, a while ago a judge said the first Zorro story is in public domain and people could use the story without paying the Gertz family. John Gertz and his sister (Zorro Productions Inc.) were smart and went to the trademark office in the 1970s with the name Zorro. Zorro Productions Inc. has a trademark for uncountable products, but don’t produce these products. They just want to receive money when somebody else produces a “Zorro” product. They’re not very picky with the licenses. There is even a Zorro slot machine. I think it’s rather disgraceful to exploit a great character like that. If they actually were related to McCulley, it would be a different story. Instead, they are just strangers who shamelessly take advantage of the great ideas of a dead writer. In one of the chapters of my book, I write about how Zorro ended up in porn movies. Show some respect, please!

But didn’t Johnston McCulley sell the rights to Zorro to their father, Mitchell Gertz, in the 1940s?

That’s what they want us to believe. After doing extensive research, I have come to the conclusion that McCulley somehow might have been forced by Mitchell Gertz to sell him the rights. Who knows what happened? It doesn’t make any sense why McCulley sold the rights. Gertz was a former wrestler and Hollywood agent with a bad reputation. There isn’t even proof Gertz was actually McCulley’s agent and McCulley didn’t need the money. He was a wealthy man. After a few years, Gertz sold the rights to Disney. Years later, Disney sold the rights back to the children of Gertz. In fact, the stepdaughter of McCulley sued Gertz and Disney for conspiring to defraud. After years, the case was settled. Gertz was already dead by then, but Disney did settle for a reason with McCulley’s stepdaughter.

So in 2019, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Zorro. Reading your book we’ve noticed you are more a fan of the old Zorro adaptions and not really a huge fan of the modern Zorro.

I’m a fan of the Zorro created by Johnston McCulley. For decades, Hollywood producers and comic book writers made up a completely different version of the original character. For example Don Diego was originally a dandy who knew he was a caballero by blood (upper class), a great character. In the fifties, Disney changed Don Diego into a more popular, manly, masculine type of guy for TV. Interesting character, but not the same. Furthermore, McCulley wrote for adults with romance and adult humor. Disney turned Zorro into a show for children. Slapstick humor and all that. That was where the money was. And still is. The Zorro movies with Banderas were still pretty childish for the same reason. They were still entertaining, but I would rather watch a rerun of the wonderful 1940 MARK OF ZORRO.

While doing your research, did you find anything that you would have preferred not to find?

I’m a writer, but also a historian and journalist. Therefore, I want to sell books, but also establish the truth. The problem with Zorro (or any other character with a fanbase) is, the fans don’t want to read bad things about their idol. So if you want to sell a lot of books, you might want to make a book for the fans and stick with the cheering. I didn’t. I write about the good Zorro stuff and the bad stuff. The latter is sometimes more entertaining by the way. I was afraid the biography could turn out boring but it didn’t. Not at all! The biography has some juicy stories and, it has to be said, some disturbing details. McCulley wasn’t exactly a saint. For example he ended up in court for molesting a 15 year old girl. Quite shocking stuff to write about, but like I said, it’s a biography and not a fan book.

At the end of the book you have added a bonus story by Johnston McCulley. Why that particular story?

It is actually the first story he wrote that got published in a magazine in 1906. It’s an interesting little story that has never before been republished. It’s unbelievable. It was written 13 years before his first Zorro story and when you read it, you immediately notice the man had talent!

Last question: PulpFest is coming up. Are you a fan of conventions?

First of all, I want to thank you guys for publishing an excerpt of the book in your program book. It’s great to be part of PulpFest 2019, especially with the 100th anniversary of Zorro. I think conventions like PulpFest are a great way to honor the godfathers of story writing. Next to that, it’s fun to meet writers, dealers, pulp collectors, and fans in person. Nowadays, everybody is chatting with each other and buying stuff on the internet. Nothing wrong with that, but conventions are more old school. You gotta love that! See you all at PulpFest!

The book JOHNSTON MCCULLEY, CREATOR OF ZORRO: THE BIOGRAPHY is available for Kindle via Amazon.

(Published in November 2018, D. Kepler’s biography of Johnston McCulley is subtitled: “100 Years Of Zorro The Exploitation Of A Cultural Icon.”

Our featured image of Johnston McCulley comes from the article, “Chillicothe’s Master Storyteller,” published in May 2013 by PEORIA MAGAZINE.)

100 Years of “The Curse of Capistrano”

Aug 9, 2019 by

In the early 1800s, California was still under Spanish rule. The peaceful indigenous people were victimized by the corrupt military commanders. One man rose to stand against injustice and the abuse of power. One man stirred the hearts of Californians and gave them the spirit to resist tyranny. That man was the masked avenger known as Zorro!

Zorro was introduced in Johnston McCulley’s novel, “The Curse of Capistrano,” when it was serialized in the pages of ALL-STORY WEEKLY in 1919. The first segment of the five-part serial part serial was dated August 9, one-hundred years ago to this very day.

The success of the serial’s 1920 film adaptation as THE MARK OF ZORRO — starring Douglas Fairbanks — convinced the character’s creator to author further adventures. Over the next forty years, McCulley penned a total of five Zorro novels and nearly 60 short stories featuring the masked avenger. The stories appeared in ARGOSYWEST, and other magazines. In book form, “The Curse of Capistrano” was retitled THE MARK OF ZORRO and sold more than 50 million copies. McCulley’s numerous follow-ups never achieved the same level of success. Most were never collected in book form until the definitive editions published by Bold Venture Press.

In addition to the Johnston McCulley’s stories, Zorro has appeared in over forty film and television adaptations, including Walt Disney’s 1950s TV series starring Guy Williams. The character has also appeared in numerous literary pastiches as well as radio, comic books, newspaper strips, and stage plays.

Being one of the earliest examples of a fictional masked avenger with a double identity, Zorro inspired the creation of several similar characters in pulp magazines and other media. McCulley’s hero is a precursor of the superheroes of American comic books, with Batman drawing particularly close parallels to the character. As such, today’s superheroes are very much “Children of the Pulps.” Join publisher/author and 2019 Munsey Award nominee Rich Harvey of Bold Venture Press on the opening night of PulpFest for a celebration of “A Century of Zorro.”

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh in Mars, PA. We’ll be celebrating “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” — focusing on the pulp influences in popular culture — at this year’s gathering.

Click our Programming button below our homepage banner to get a preview of all the great presentations at this year’s event.

To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. And don’t forget to book a room at the DoubleTree. You can reserve a room by calling 1-800-222-8733. Please be sure to mention PulpFest when placing your reservation in order to receive any convention special deals that may still be available. There is ample free parking surrounding the hotel.

(Created by the prolific pulp writer Johnston McCulley, Zorro debuted in “The Curse of Capistrano,” a five-part serial that ran in the pages of the Munsey magazine, ALL-STORY WEEKLY during the month of August 1919. It will be the centennial of the first Zorro story during this year’s PulpFest.

The cover art featured on the August 9, 1919 issue was painted by P. J. Monahan. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Monahan moved to Brooklyn in 1907. He became one of New York’s most prolific artists for the first three decades of the twentieth century, creating advertisements, movie posters, commissioned art, and, most of all, pulp magazine illustrations and covers.)

Children of the Pulps — Part One

Jul 17, 2019 by

Pulp magazines have had a profound effect on popular culture across the globe. Their stories and art have reverberated through a wide variety of media — comic books, movies, paperbacks, genre fiction, television, men’s adventure magazines, radio drama, video, anime, manga, and role-playing games.

Continuing characters have always been with us. Homer told of Odysseus, prevented by the gods from returning to his home for ten years. Then there’s Alexandre Dumas’ d’Artagnan, introduced in THE THREE MUSKETEERS and its sequels. One of the most famous continuing characters is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The private detective is the protagonist of sixty-two stories, originally published between 1887 and 1927. And don’t forget about such dime novel heroes as Buffalo Bill, Frank Merriwell, and Nick Carter. The latter debuted in 1886 and continued in varying formats for about a century. Many of his stories were published by Street & Smith, the company that would introduce the first single character pulp.

On March 6, 1931, THE SHADOW: A DETECTIVE MAGAZINE debuted on American newsstands. The first single character or hero pulp, it revived a fiction format that had disappeared with the demise of the dime novels and story papers. Author Walter B. Gibson refashioned The Shadow — the sinister narrator of CBS Radio’s THE DETECTIVE STORY HOUR — into the first pulp hero. Gibson’s character was a dark and mysterious crime-busting super-sleuth who embodied the iconic power of classic villains like Dracula. The Shadow served as the template for other hero pulps and, later, scores of comic book superheroes. Gibson and his occasional fill-in, Theodore Tinsley, also introduced the concept of super-crooks and super-crime.

Lasting 325 issues and spanning eighteen years, THE SHADOW pulp was cancelled in 1949. However, Gibson’s and Tinsley’s character had left his mark on popular culture. The Shadow would travel full circle to his beginnings and become a long-running radio program. The series premiered in late September 1937 over the Mutual Broadcasting System, featuring Orson Welles as the mystery man. Other actors would follow the famed actor and director in the role.

One month after The Shadow debuted on radio, the first of two movie serials appeared. THE SHADOW STRIKES starred Rod La Rocque and was based on a pulp novel by Walter Gibson. In 1946, Monogram Pictures released three Shadow movies starring Kane Richmond. 1958 would see Republic Pictures release INVISIBLE AVENGER, a theatrical film culled from two episodes of a pilot for a Shadow television series. Universal Pictures would release another Shadow film in 1994 starring Alec Baldwin as the title character.

Concurrent to the original pulp series, The Shadow also began appearing in books. Street & Smith got the ball rolling with three hardcovers in their “Ideal Library.” First came THE LIVING SHADOW in 1932, reprinting the initial entry of the pulp series. Whitman Publishing followed with three “Better Little Books” featuring the character.

In 1941, LA Bantam published THE SHADOW AND THE VOICE OF MURDER, the first Shadow paperback. It was a reprint of a Walter B. Gibson pulp novel. Belmont Books began publishing brand new Shadow novels in 1963. Their first book — THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW — was written by Gibson. Over the next twenty years, other book publishers — Grosset & Dunlap, Bantam Books, Dover Books, the Doubleday Crime Club, and The Mysterious Press — would reprint the Shadow’s pulp adventures in various formats. The most successful was Pyramid Books (later Jove Books). From 1974 to 1978, the company reprinted twenty-three Shadow pulp novels, largely featuring cover art by James Steranko. The artist — a pulp collector himself — returned to the original pulps for his inspiration.

During the summer of 2006, Sanctum Books — originally in association with Nostalgia Ventures — began to reprint The Shadow’s pulp adventures as trade paperbacks. Their first volume featured Lester Dent’s “The Golden Vulture,” the author’s sole contribution to The Shadow series. To date, Sanctum Books has published nearly 300 of The Shadow’s original novels. Sanctum will be exhibiting at PulpFest 2019.

In addition to books, radio, and film, the Shadow has also made an indelible mark in the graphic format. While the Columbia Pictures movie serial of 1940 was still playing in theaters, Street & Smith premiered SHADOW COMICS. Doc Savage — another Street & Smith pulp hero — was also featured in the comic book’s early issues. SHADOW COMICS lasted until August 1949, running for a total of 101 issues. From 1940 – 1942, the character also appeared in a newspaper strip written by Walter Gibson and illustrated by Vernon Greene.

In 1964, Archie Comics premiered a new comic book series featuring the Street & Smith pulp hero. Although The Shadow wears his familiar cloak and slouch hat on the cover to the first issue, later numbers feature him in superhero garb. Interestingly, Jerry Siegel, one of the creators of Superman, wrote the final five numbers of the eight-issue series.

In the fall of 1973, DC Comics introduced perhaps the most highly regarded of all comic books featuring The Shadow. Created by Dennis O’Neil, the comic introduced artist Mike Kaluta’s version of The Dark Knight. Unfortunately, the DC comic book lasted a mere twelve issues. The company would try again in 1986 with Howard Chaykin updating the character to modern times. DC would give the character another go-round with THE SHADOW STRIKES, created by writer Gerard Jones and artist Eduardo Barreto. The series returned the character to the 1930s and ran for thirty-one issues.

In 2012, Dynamite Entertainment began publishing a new Shadow comic book. Written by Garth Ennis, Chris Roberson, and others, the series was set in the 1930s. Alex Ross contributed many covers to the series, including this classic depiction of the character on the magazine’s first issue. The series ran until 2014, with a special issue published in 2015.

Dynamite also published a ten-issue miniseries in 2013-14. Written by Matt Wagner, it’s one of the best comic book versions of Walter Gibson’s creation. Wagner also wrote two other series featuring The Dark Knight, including THE DEATH OF MARGO LANE, published in 2016.

Although The Shadow has a lengthy history in the four-color medium, the character’s importance to the world of comic books is better reflected by its influence on the medium’s writers and artists. Many early creators of superhero comics were devoted readers of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE. These included Jerry Siegel, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Bill Finger, and Bob Kane.

In the first volume of THE STERANKO HISTORY OF COMICS, Batman co-creator Bill Finger admitted, “My first (Batman) script was a take-off on a Shadow story . . . . I patterned my style of writing Batman after the Shadow . . . . It was completely pulp style.” Pulp historians Will Murray and Anthony Tollin have surmised that Finger was talking about the Theodore Tinsley Shadow novel, “Partners in Peril.” It originally ran in the November 1, 1936 issue of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE.

While artist Bob Kane cited Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy as one of his inspirations — particularly for his villains — Bill Finger, Batman’s writer, suggested, “The villains were patterned after those in the pulps, kind of bizarre and wild.” Doctor Death, the first of Batman’s master criminals, was introduced in DETECTIVE COMICS 29, dated July 1939. An earlier Doctor Death — a mad scientist who desired to remake the world after his own desires — was featured in a short-lived pulp magazine published by Dell. There is likewise evidence that Batman villains The Joker and Two-Face, as well as Police Commissioner James Gordon, may very well have had their origins in the pages of Street & Smith’s hero pulps.

Although The Shadow certainly played the most influential role in the creation of the Batman saga, other pulp characters also inspired Bill Finger and Bob Kane.

Johnston McCulley’s Zorro  — who debuted in a five-part serial beginning in the August 9, 1919 issue of ALL-STORY WEEKLY — wore a mask and black cape, had a hidden lair that he entered through a grandfather clock, and marked his adversaries. Dawson Clade, another McCulley character, was accused of a murder he did not commit. He dons a hood to get revenge against those who had framed him. In his origin story, a bat flies through a window and Clade comes up with his alter ego. He will become “The Bat.” Sound familiar?

Created by D. L. Champion and published by Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines, THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE ran until 1953, totaling 170 issues. Like Bruce Wayne, Richard Curtis Van Loan was a wealthy playboy who trained himself to be “the world’s greatest detective.” When The Phantom was needed, a red beacon on top of the local newspaper building was lit. DC editors Jack Schiff and Mort Weisinger later turned this into the Bat-Signal.

Another Standard character, The Black Bat, debuted in 1939, around the same time as The Batman. Notice the batlike wings on the cover to the Spring 1945 issue of BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE. It bears a marked resemblance to the cape of the early Batman. Although not depicted here, the Black Bat also sported spiked fins on the gloves he wore. Batman co-creator Bill Finger liked the look and suggested that Bob Kane add them to The Batman’s costume.

Considered the world’s first superhero, Doc Savage debuted a month after The Phantom Detective. Published by Street & Smith, the first issue of DOC SAVAGE MAGAZINE was dated March 1933. An adventurer possessing untold wealth, Clark Savage, Jr. was, like Batman, a master detective. Doc was never without his utility vest, a specially designed garment filled with all kinds of gadgets that he had invented. It served as the model for The Batman’s “utility belt.”

As you’ve seen, The Shadow has been inspiring all sorts of creators for nearly ninety years. However, Walter B. Gibson’s character is just one of many pulp characters that have inspired pop culture creators over the decades. PulpFest 2019 will focus on the many ways pulp fiction and pulp art have inspired and continue to inspire creators. We’re calling this year’s theme “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories,” an examination of the pervasive influence of pulp magazines on contemporary pop culture. We hope you’ll join us from August 15 – 18 at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania.

(The first of our Shadow images is just shy of one-hundred years old. Painted by Modest Stein, the cover art for the April 1931 issue of THE SHADOW originally appeared on the October 1, 1919 issue of THE THRILL BOOK.

Unfortunately, the artist who painted THE INVISIBLE AVENGER movie poster is not known to us. However, George Rozen created the painting used as the cover for THE SHADOW #141, published by Sanctum Books in April 2019. The artwork was originally used on THE SHADOW DETECTIVE MONTHLY for June 1932, published by Street & Smith.

As mentioned above, Alex Ross painted the cover art for THE SHADOW #1, published by Dynamite Entertainment and dated April 2012.

Bob Kane’s Batman — as depicted on DETECTIVE COMICS #31, dated September 1939 — is remindful of the looming headshots found on Standard Magazine’s THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE. The Batarang and the Batgyro made their first appearances in this issue, featuring a villain known as The Monk.

The Black Bat was painted by Rafael de Soto for the Spring 1945 issue of BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE.

To learn more about the influence of The Shadow and other pulp heroes, please visit the PulpFest Instagram page.)

Hollywood Pulp — From Pulp Page to the Silver Screen

Jun 7, 2019 by

Join PulpFest 2019 on Thursday, August 15, as we welcome pulp and film expert Ed Hulse for “Hollywood Pulp — From Pulp Page to the Silver Screen.” Ed will be debuting a book of the same title at our convention. Having spent decades researching the pulp-film nexus, Ed has shared his findings in a comprehensive encyclopedia that covers many hundreds of movies adapted from rough-paper fiction.

The motion-picture industry was still in its infancy when producers began licensing stories from pulp magazines for adaptation to celluloid. As early as 1912 — when movies were still novelties, screened primarily in store-front nickelodeons — recurring characters from the pulps were featured in short-subject series. That year the Edison Company enjoyed great success with THE CHRONICLES OF CLEEK. These monthly one-reel installments starred Ben Wilson as Thomas A. Hanshew’s “Man of Forty Faces,” a character then appearing regularly in the pulp SHORT STORIES.

Edison’s Cleek series was typical film fare of the day. During the silent movie era, a one-reel short yielded 12 to 15 minutes of screen time — just enough to tell a perfunctory story that might consume 5,000 to 10,000 words in prose. Nickelodeons ran “programs” that grouped four or five such films together. They changed their programs three to five times per week.

With filmmakers under constant pressure to satisfy thrill-hungry viewers, there was a huge market for adaptable yarns. Producers obtained stories from pulps and slicks alike. The two magazines most frequently tapped for material during the pre-1920 period were THE SATURDAY EVENING POST and THE ALL-STORY or ALL-STORY WEEKLY. During this period, many top pulp writers saw their rough-paper fiction immortalized on celluloid. This august group included Max Brand, Edgar Rice Burroughs, George Allan England, Zane Grey, James B. Hendryx, Johnston McCulley, Frank L. Packard, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Perley Poore Sheehan, among others.

By 1920, the motion-picture industry had mushroomed. Lavish downtown “picture palaces” replaced the seedy nickelodeons, and practically every small town in the country boasted its own movie theater. Production, initially based on the East Coast, gravitated to Hollywood. Wall Street began investing in the most profitable studios. Weekly attendance soared to 40 million people and would continue to grow throughout the Roaring Twenties. Melodramas were second only to comedies as the most popular and profitable screen subjects. This meant that westerns, thrillers, and detective stories were in constant demand. Writers specializing in these genres could usually find a producer to license their pulp yarns if they looked hard (or had aggressive literary agents).

The demand for pulp fiction lessened somewhat as “talking pictures” took over the movie business in the late twenties. As the Great Depression began to affect American consumers, Hollywood was hard hit. In order to compete for the dimes and quarters that bought tickets, the studios increasingly adapted famous stage plays and mainstream novels. Such stories were carried by dialogue, rather than the melodramatic action of the sort found in rough-paper magazines. The Thirties still saw a significant number of pulp-based films, but they were increasingly low-budget “B” pictures and serials emanating from the Poverty Row studios.

Prominent pulp characters brought to the silver screen were Tarzan, Zorro, Buck Rogers, Sam Spade, The Shadow, The Spider, Doc Savage, Conan the Barbarian, and John Carter of Mars, to name just a few. But there were many others not easily recognizable to today’s aficionados. Ed will identify many of these in his presentation, which will be accompanied by a selection of rare stills and posters from the films.

A journalist for nearly forty years, Ed Hulse has written or edited many books about vintage motion pictures and their stars, as well as numerous books about pulp fiction. He was the editor and publisher of BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER, the award-winning journal devoted to the study of adventure, mystery, and melodrama of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh. We’ll be celebrating “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” at this year’s convention. Please click our Programming button below our homepage banner to get a preview of all the great presentations at this year’s event.

To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

(THE MARK OF ZORRO — a 1920 silent — is the first of three adaptations of Johnston McCulley’s novel, “The Curse of Capistrano.” It was serialized in five parts in ALL-STORY WEEKLY, beginning with the August 9, 1919 issue. Starring Douglas Fairbanks as the title character and his alter ego, THE MARK OF ZORRO was the first film to be released by United Artists, the company formed by Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith. The film’s advertising prominently mentioned ALL-STORY WEEKLY, its pulp source. Our presentation, “Hollywood Pulp — From Pulp Page to the Silver Screen,” will include behind-the-scenes information on the making of this historic film.)  

A Century of Zorro

Jun 5, 2019 by

In the early 1800s, California was still under Spanish rule. The peaceful indigenous people were victimized by the corrupt military commanders. One man rose to stand against injustice and the abuse of power. One man stirred the hearts of Californians and gave them the spirit to resist tyranny. That man was the masked avenger known as Zorro!

Thursday night, August 15, at PulpFest, publisher/author and 2019 Munsey Award nominee Rich Harvey of Bold Venture Press presents “A Century of Zorro,” marking not only the centennial of the legendary pulp character, but also the publication of the first matched set of every original Zorro novel and short story in six attractive volumes from Bold Venture Press.

Zorro was created by pulp writer Johnston McCulley. In the original stories, Zorro has a price on his head, but is too skilled and cunning for the authorities to capture him. Zorro is the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega, the only son of Don Alejandro de la Vega, a wealthy landowner. He adopted his secret identity after learning California had fallen under the thrall of a ruthless dictator. Diego conceals his identity by posing as a cowardly fop.

Zorro was introduced in McCulley’s novel, “The Curse of Capistrano,” when it was serialized in the pages of ALL-STORY WEEKLY in 1919. The success of its 1920 film adaptation as THE MARK OF ZORRO, starring Douglas Fairbanks, convinced his creator to author further adventures. Over the next forty years, McCulley penned a total of five Zorro novels and nearly 60 short stories featuring the masked avenger. The stories appeared in ARGOSY, WEST, and other magazines. In book form, “The Curse of Capistrano” was retitled THE MARK OF ZORRO and sold more than 50 million copies. McCulley’s numerous follow-ups never achieved the same level of success. Most were never collected in book form until Bold Venture Press’ definitive editions.

Zorro appeared in over 40 film and television adaptations, including Walt Disney’s 1950s TV series starring Guy Williams. The character has appeared in numerous literary pastiches as well as radio, comic books, newspaper strips, and stage plays.

Being one of the earliest examples of a fictional masked avenger with a double identity, Zorro inspired the creation of several similar characters in pulp magazines and other media. McCulley’s hero is a precursor of the superheroes of American comic books, with Batman drawing particularly close parallels to the character. As such, today’s superheroes are very much “Children of the Pulps.” Join Bold Venture Press founder Rich Harvey on the opening night of PulpFest for a celebration of “A Century of Zorro.”

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh in Mars, PA. We’ll be celebrating “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” — focusing on the pulp influences in popular culture — at this year’s gathering.

Click our Programming button below our homepage banner to get a preview of all the great presentations at this year’s event.

To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

(Created by the prolific pulp writer Johnston McCulley, Zorro debuted in “The Curse of Capistrano,” a five-part serial that ran in the pages of the Munsey magazine, ALL-STORY WEEKLY during the month of August 1919. It will be the centennial of the first Zorro story during this year’s PulpFest.

The cover art featured on the August 9, 1919 issue was painted by P. J. Monahan. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Monahan moved to Brooklyn in 1907. He became one of New York’s most prolific artists for the first three decades of the twentieth century, creating advertisements, movie posters, commissioned art, and, most of all, pulp magazine illustrations and covers.

Along with Bob Fujitani, Bob Correa and Alberto Giolitti, the late pulp artist Everett Raymond Kinstler created the interior pencils and inks for the Zorro stories featured in Dell’s FOUR COLOR COMICS series. Kinstler drew issue numbers 497 — featuring “The Sword of Zorro,” with the cover painted by an unknown artist — 538, and 574. Born in 1942, Kinstler was a freelance artist for the pulp, slick, comic book, and paperback industry before turning to portraiture during the 1950s.)