Cats become Internet sensations on a regular basis. The latest to do so would be Boy, a Persian kitten that is white for the most part but has a black patch that surrounds both of his eyes. Unsurprisingly, this means that the Internet has embraced him as the Zorro cat, as shown by the hundreds of thousands of people who have subscribed to his owner’s TikTok channel. Some of the jokes are hilarious. Others are less so. Still, there can be no doubt about the fact that Boy is one of the latest cats to become an Internet sensation.
Who Is Zorro Anyway?
Of course, Zorro would be the fictional hero created by Johnston McCulley in 1919. He isn’t McCulley’s only creation, as shown by the existence of others such as the Spider, the Black Star, and the Crimson Clown. However, it seems safe to say that Zorro is the most famous of the lot, seeing as how he remains well-known enough for the general population to make jokes based on him. For those who could use a refresher, Zorro is a nom de guerre, which should come as no surprise to those who recognize it as the Spanish for “fox.” The character’s real name is either Don Diego Vega or Don Diego de la Vega because consistency with established canon doesn’t seem to have been particularly high on McCulley’s list of priorities as a writer. Background-wise, Zorro is the son of the single richest landowner in what was still Spanish-controlled California. Someone who has been called home from Spain to find that his father has been replaced as the alcalde by a much more unpleasant individual. As a result, Zorro pretends to be a useless fop in public but chooses to champion the oppressed as a masked vigilante. Amusingly, he even lives in his father’s hacienda, which sits over a huge system of secret tunnels as well as other passageways.
By this point, chances are good that some people will be thinking that Zorro sounds like a superhero. To name an example, Batman is the son of rich parents who chooses to become a masked vigilante when he himself suffers from the wickedness of others. Publicly, he pretends to be a useless fop. However, this is nothing but a cover for his true self as a masked vigilante. On top of this, Batman even operates out of the Batcave, which is situated beneath his family’s mansion. This resemblance is no coincidence for a couple of reasons. First, the superheroes that we are most familiar with came into existence in the 1930s. However, it isn’t particularly controversial to say that they took inspiration from the heroes before them. There are those who would reach back into myth, legend, and folklore, which isn’t wholly unreasonable. Still, it is more common for people to point to fictional heroes created in the early 20th century, which provided the foundation for superheroes. To name an example, The Scarlet Pimpernel popularized the idea of a masked hero with a secret double-life. Similarly, the pulp fiction of the time featured many masked and otherwise costumed heroes of extraordinary ability, with Zorro being one of them. Second, it is worth mentioning that the creators of Batman Bill Finger and Bob Kane were specifically influenced by Zorro. Something that was acknowledged by how the Waynes were on their way home from seeing 1920’s The Mark of Zorro when they were mugged at gunpoint.
Who Is Zorro Based On Anyway?
Curiously, Zorro himself is said to have been based on a historical or semi-historical individual, which makes sense because heroic outlaws aren’t exactly a new thing when it comes to storytelling. One candidate that gets mentioned from time to time is an Irishman named William Lamport, who is sometimes called the Irish Zorro for that reason. Said individual eventually winded up in Mexico where he ran afoul of the Mexican Inquisition. As a result, Lamport was imprisoned, escaped for a time, reimprisoned, and then executed in 1659. It wasn’t until the Mexican writer Vicente Riva Palacio wrote a much sensationalized novel about the man that he took on the shape of an action hero.
Having said that, the stronger candidates seem to be individuals who were active in California in the 19th century. One particularly likely example would be Salomon Pico, an individual of prestigious background who would have been an adult at around the time that the area was annexed by the United States. It isn’t clear why he turned to crime, though it has been speculated that it was motivated by the loss of his property. Whatever the case, Pico doesn’t seem to have been very fond of the Americans who came into California, as shown by his boast that he had killed 39 Americans while he was in Baja California. For that matter, he was eventually forced to go on the run in Baja California when he killed an Englishman under the mistaken impression that said individual was an American. In the end, Pico and other outlaws were executed via firing squad in 1860. After which, it wasn’t too long before he became a figure of folklore. Someone who was willing to take action against those who had wronged him as well as those like him.
In any case, if Zorro was indeed based on said individual, it isn’t hard to see why McCulley made changes to the character. After all, he was aiming at an American audience, meaning that it would have been a uphill struggle for him to present someone like Pico as a hero. Furthermore, the recently annexed California with its tensions between the Californios and the Americans would’ve made for a rather awkward choice of setting as well, which is presumably why it was changed to the much older Spanish-controlled California. Granted, that region had plenty of its own issues. However, the sheer distance in time meant that it was that much easier to present it in an idyllic light.
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