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Johnston McCulley (right) with Zorro's television portrayer, Guy Williams, c. 1958
|Born||February 2, 1883|
Ottawa, Illinois, United States
|Died||November 23, 1958 75) (aged|
Los Angeles, California, United States
John Mack Stone
Johnston McCulley (February 2, 1883 – November 23, 1958) was an American writer, the author of hundreds of stories, fifty novels, numerous screenplays for film and television, and the creator of the character Zorro.
Born in Ottawa, Illinois, and raised in Chillicothe, Illinois, McCulley started as a police reporter for The Police Gazette . He served as an Army public affairs officer during World War I. An amateur history buff, he went on to a career in pulp magazines and screenplays, often using a Southern California backdrop for his stories.
Many of his novels and stories were written under the pseudonyms Harrington Strong, Raley Brien, George Drayne, Monica Morton, Rowena Raley, Frederic Phelps, Walter Pierson, and John Mack Stone, among others.
Aside from Zorro, McCulley created many other pulp characters, including Black Star, The Spider, The Mongoose, and Thubway Tham. Many of McCulley's characters—The Green Ghost, The Thunderbolt, and The Crimson Clown—were inspirations for the masked heroes that have appeared in popular culture from McCulley's time to the present day.
McCulley's Zorro character, reminiscent of Baroness Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel, was first serialized in the story The Curse of Capistrano in 1919 in the pulp magazine All-Story Weekly.
Zorro became his most enduring character. The appearance of the 1920 Douglas Fairbanks silent movie The Mark of Zorro , based on the first novel, was the direct cause for McCulley's reviving what had originally been a one-time hero plot.
The popularity of the character led to three novellas appearing in Argosy : The Further Adventures of Zorro (1922), Zorro Rides Again (1931), and The Sign of Zorro (1941).In between, he wrote many other novels and stories set in early Spanish California which did not have Zorro as the lead character. Republic optioned the character for a serial, Zorro's Fighting Legion, which was released in 1939 and was well received. Over the coming decade Republic released three other serials connected in some way with the Zorro character. In 1940, 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 1944 and the last one appeared in July 1951, the final issue of the publication. Fifty-three adventures in all were published in West. An additional story (possibly a story originally written for West which went unpublished when West folded) appeared in Max Brand's Western Magazine in the May 1954 issue. The final Zorro story appeared in Short Story Magazine in April 1959, after McCulley's death and after Walt Disney's Zorro television program starring Guy Williams had become nationally popular.
Probably his second most popular character from the pulps was "The Black Star", a criminal mastermind who is pursued by Roger Verbeck-Flagellum and Muggs, a millionaire bachelor and his ex-thug partner. Black Star first appeared in the Street & Smith pulp Detective Story Magazine on 5 March 1916.
Black Star was what was once termed a "gentleman criminal", in that he does not commit murder, nor does he permit any of his gang to kill anyone, not even the police or his arch enemy Roger Verbeck. He does not threaten women, always keeps his word, and is invariably courteous, nor does he deal with narcotics in any of his stories. He is always seen in a black cloak and a black hood on which is embossed a jet black star. The Black Star and his gang used "vapor bombs" and "vapor guns" which rendered their victims instantly unconscious, a technique which pre-dated the Green Hornet's gas gun by several decades.
These stories were very popular with the readership of Detective Story Magazine and some of them were reprinted by Chelsea House, a division of Street & Smith, in a series of inexpensive hardback books. The character lasted through the end of 1930.
The Spider was another long-running villain character, considered by some a significant pulp supervillain. The Spider appeared in 11 short stories and three short-story collections between 1918 and 1930. He was injured as a young man and used a wheelchair, but he used his mental abilities to run an international crime ring from his office, "The Spider's Den".
The Crimson Clown appeared in Detective Story Magazine beginning in 1926 and immediately attracted reader interest, so much so that Street & Smith published two hardback collections of his adventures. The Crimson Clown (1927) was rushed to press just as soon as there was enough material available to fill a hardback volume. This was followed by The Crimson Clown Again (1928).
The Crimson Clown is Delton Prouse, a wealthy young bachelor, able veteran of The Great War, explorer, and all-around adventurer who functions as a modern Robin Hood, stealing from the unjustly rich and returning money to helpless victims or worthy organizations. He dresses in a mostly red clown suit and uses a syringe of knockout drug (later this is replaced by a "gas gun"). Like McCulley's earlier "Man in Purple", who also stole from the unjustly rich, he frequently had to destroy his outfits to evade capture.
McCulley retired Delton Prouse at the end of 1931, but "The Crimson Clown’s Return" (Popular Detective, Oct 1944) brought him back for one final adventure. Though an original story, it lifted the title from another Clown story in the October 18, 1930 issue of Detective Story Magazine.
Many of Johnston McCulley's stories were made into films. McCulley also wrote for films. Here is a brief filmography.
Johnston McCulley died on November 23, 1958, in Los Angeles, California at age 75. The Los Angeles Times obituary gives his address in Los Angeles as 6533 Hollywood Blvd. at the time of his death, an address which is confirmed in the Marquis volume and places McCulley in the Hillview Hollywood Apartments. There is no record of when he moved there, although the Marquis article may have been originally prepared in the late 1940s/early 1950s, with additional material appended in the late 1950s. The New York Times obituary mentions that he died "after a series of operations," a phrase echoed in other newspaper obituaries from other parts of the country, most likely taken from a New York Times feed.
McCulley is entombed in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, Los Angeles, California.
Pulp magazines were inexpensive fiction magazines that were published from 1896 to the late 1950s. The term pulp derives from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. In contrast, magazines printed on higher-quality paper were called "glossies" or "slicks". The typical pulp magazine had 128 pages; it was 7 inches (18 cm) wide by 10 inches (25 cm) high, and 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) thick, with ragged, untrimmed edges.
The Shadow is the name of a collection of serialized dramas, originally in 1930s pulp novels, and then in a wide variety of media. Its title character has been featured on the radio, in a long-running pulp magazine series, in American comic books, comic strips, television, serials, video games, and at least five feature films. The radio drama included episodes voiced by Orson Welles.
Zorro is a fictional character created in 1919 by American pulp writer Johnston McCulley, and appearing in works set in the Pueblo of Los Angeles in Alta California. He is typically portrayed as a dashing masked vigilante who defends the commoners and indigenous peoples of California against corrupt and tyrannical officials and other villains. His signature all-black costume includes a cape, a hat known as a sombrero cordobés, and a mask covering the upper half of his face.
Argosy, later titled The Argosy, Argosy All-Story Weekly and The New Golden Argosy, was an American pulp magazine from 1882 through 1978, published by Frank Munsey until its sale to Popular Publications in 1942. It is the first American pulp magazine. The magazine began as a children's weekly story–paper entitled The Golden Argosy. In the era before the Second World War, Argosy was regarded as one of the "Big Four" pulp magazines, - the most prestigious publications in the pulp market, that many pulp magazine writers aspired to publish in. John Clute, discussing the American pulp magazines in the first two decades of the twentieth century, has described The Argosy and its companion The All-Story as "the most important pulps of their era."
The Avenger is a fictional character whose original adventures appeared between September 1939 and September 1942 in the pulp magazine The Avenger, published by Street & Smith. Five additional short stories were published in Clues Detective magazine (1942–1943), and a sixth novelette in The Shadow magazine in 1943. Decades later, newly written adventures were commissioned and published by Warner Brothers' Paperback Library from 1973 to 1974.
The Mark of Zorro is a 1940 American black-and-white swashbuckling Spanish Western adventure film from 20th Century Fox, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, that stars Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, and Basil Rathbone.
The Mark of Zorro is a 1920 silent adventure romance film starring Douglas Fairbanks and Noah Beery Sr.. This genre-defining swashbuckler adventure was the first movie version of The Mark of Zorro. Based on the 1919 story The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley, which introduced the masked hero, Zorro, the screenplay was adapted by Fairbanks and Eugene Miller.
Donald Francis McGregor is an American comic book writer best known for his work for Marvel Comics, and the author of one of the first graphic novels.
Zorro is an American Spanish action-adventure western series produced by Walt Disney Productions and starring Guy Williams. Based on the Zorro character created by Johnston McCulley, the series premiered on October 10, 1957 on ABC. The final network broadcast was July 2, 1959. Seventy-eight episodes were produced, and four hour-long specials were aired on the Walt Disney anthology series between October 30, 1960, and April 2, 1961.
Popular Publications was one of the largest publishers of pulp magazines during its existence, at one point publishing 42 different titles per month. Company titles included detective, adventure, romance, and Western fiction. They were also known for the several 'weird menace' titles. They also published several pulp hero or character pulps.
The Curse of Capistrano is a 1919 novel by Johnston McCulley and the first work to feature the Californio character Diego Vega, the masked hero also called Zorro. It first appeared as a five-part magazine serial. The story was adapted into the silent film The Mark of Zorro in 1920. It appeared in book form in 1924, also using the title The Mark of Zorro.
William Murray is an American novelist, journalist, and short-story and comic-book writer. Much of his fiction has been published under pseudonyms. With artist Steve Ditko he co-created the superhero Squirrel Girl.
Zorro is a fictional character, created by Johnston McCulley.
Doctor Death was the title of a short-lived pulp science fiction magazine published by Dell Magazines in 1935, as well as the name of the main character featured in that magazine. Doctor Death was an archcriminal who wanted to return the world to a primitive condition and used supernatural tools such as zombies and magic in his plots against humanity. The stories were written by Harold Ward under the pseudonym of "Zorro". Dell may have intended Doctor Death to be a continuation of a character of the same name in All Detective Magazine, also published by Dell.
Detective Story Magazine was an American magazine published by Street & Smith from October 15, 1915 to Summer, 1949. It was one of the first pulp magazines devoted to detective fiction and consisted of short stories and serials. While the publication was the publishing house's first detective-fiction pulp magazine in a format resembling a modern paperback, Street & Smith had only recently ceased publication of the dime-novel series Nick Carter Weekly, which concerned the adventures of a young detective.
The Green Lama is a fictional pulp magazine hero of the 1940s. He is commonly portrayed as a powerful Buddhist Lama, dressing in green robes with a red scarf and using his powerful skill set to fight crime. Slightly different versions of the same character also appeared in comic books and on the radio. Unlike many contemporary characters from smaller publishers, The Green Lama character is not in the public domain, as the author "wisely retained all rights to his creation."
A Masked Mystery Villain is a stock character in genre fiction. The Masked Mystery Villain was frequently used in the adventure stories of Pulp magazines and Movie Serials in the early twentieth century. They can also appear in Crime fiction to add to the atmosphere of suspense and suspicion. The "Mask" need not be literal, referring more to the subterfuge involved.
The following is a list of works by Johnston McCulley (1883–1958). Stories featuring his more popular pulp fiction characters, including Zorro, have been allotted independent lists. These lists are presented chronologically. The list of his other works is presented alphabetically.
Tales of Zorro is a 2008 anthology of Zorro stories and is the first collection of original short fiction featuring pulp hero Zorro, edited by Richard Dean Starr and published by Moonstone Books in 2008. A second anthology, More Tales of Zorro, was published in 2011.
The Moon Man is a fictional pulp magazine character who appeared in Ten Detective Aces magazine, published by A.A. Wyn's Ace Magazines. He was a pulp hero in the Robin Hood mold. Frederick C. Davis (1902–1977) created the character and wrote all the original stories under his own name. Davis, who after his time as pulp writer had a long career as a mystery novelist, generally wrote under various pen names.