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Posted 5/2/2005 10:17 PM
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New stories unmask Zorro's abiding allure
Zorro, the fictional 19th-century masked bandit famous for fighting social injustice and for slashing a "Z" with his sword, is still making his mark on popular culture.

Out this week is Zorro (HarperCollins, $25.95) by acclaimed author Isabel Allende. More books, a movie, toys, games, comics and even a musical also are planned.

John Gertz, president of Zorro Productions, which owns the rights to the character, says he's not surprised by the latest surge in popularity.

"Zorro is a superhero, in a way, but he's extremely human," Gertz says. "He has no super powers. He is Everyman made larger without having been bitten by a spider."

Allende, whose novel imagines the childhood of Don Diego de la Vega and how he became Zorro, is a huge fan. "I am totally in love with Zorro," she says. "I would like to be him. He's romantic, he's athletic, he fights for justice."

Zorro, which is the Spanish word for fox, was created in 1919 by pulp-fiction writer Johnston McCulley, who went on to write 75 novels and short stories about the black-caped hero. On screen, Zorro has been portrayed by the likes of Douglas Fairbanks (in a 1920 silent film), Tyrone Power, Alain Delon and, most recently, Antonio Banderas.

But Zorro gained perhaps his greatest popularity in a 1950s TV series produced by Walt Disney and starring Guy Williams. "Out of the night, when the full moon is bright, comes the horseman known as Zorro" began the then-famous theme song.

On the way:

• A three-part Zorro comics series, Scars, from Papercutz, will come out in May, June and July; a graphic novel version is scheduled for release in October.

The Mark of Zorro, a novel by McCulley, will be reissued by Penguin in August.

The Zorro Television Companion: A Critical Appreciation, by Gerry Dooley, tentatively is set for August publication by McFarland and Co.

• Play sets and action figures, including Zorro and his horse, Tornado, will be in stores in September.

The Legend of Zorro, the film sequel to The Mask of Zorro, starring Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, is due in October.

• Sony Pictures Digital, which has brought other film titles to the mobile gaming market, including Spider-Man and Charlie's Angels, will offer games, wallpaper and ring tones in the fall.

Young Zorro, a children's novel by Jan Adkins, is due from HarperCollins in January.

Zorro, the Musical tentatively is scheduled to premiere in London's West End in February 2006. It will feature original music by the Gypsy Kings.

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