Why is the first issue of El Zorro’s comic book series numbered 882?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Dell Four-Color Comics #882/Zorro #1 awaits!


DELL FOUR-COLOR COMICS #882/ZORRO #1

Writer: Uncredited
Penciler: Alex Toth
Inker: Alex Toth
Editor: Alice Nielson Cobb
Publisher: Dell Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $300.00

Previously in Zorro: Out of the night, When the full moon is bright, Comes the horseman known as Zorro…”  Debuting in 1919, Zorro was already a household name (in the right households, anyway) by 1957.  In fact, the character had made a half a dozen appearances adapted from the pulp source material in the pages of Four Color Comics (Dell Comics’ ongoing anthology series, which got around mailing laws by presenting the comics not as a series of one-shots, but under the umbrella title.)  This issue, however, is the first to adapt the Disney/ABC television series starring Guy Williams, a show that was very popular among the younger set and may or may not have led to a spate of Z-graffiti on school desks across the country, which is why the inside front cover provides this helpful legend as to what has gone before…

That’s Guy Williams in the inset photo, though folks my age remember him better as the dad from ‘Lost In Space.’  As for our story proper, it begins in 1820, as Don Diego de la Vega returns home to California after an extended period spent matriculating in Spain…

As happened in the television show, Diego quickly discovers that his father’s summons was about much more than just missing his wayward son, as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles sobre El Rio Porciuncula (commonly shortened to ‘Los Angeles’) has fallen under the cruel reign of a dictatorial commandante called Monastario.  Realizing that he has to act outside the law, Diego decides to pose as a feckless playboy, and his faithful companion Bernardo as a deaf/mute, so that he won’t be a suspect when he decides to take action.  It’s a smart play, as Monastario isn’t just an authoritarian, but a paranoid authoritarian who regards Diego’s return with suspicion…

Remembering the old adage, “When you cannot clothe yourself in the lion’s skin, put on that of the fox,” Diego plays the part of a meek young milquetoast, even to his father…

…all the while, he is plotting, planning and assembling the pieces he needs to return justice to Los Angeles!

Soon enough, the night is witness to the first appearance of the caped vaquero known as Zorro!

And, oh my, what an appearance it is…  Alex Toth is one of those artists that I cannot proselytize enough about, a brilliant draftsman with a command of blacks and inks that is frankly incredible.  Every Toth panel is a storytelling surprise, and this issue is remarkable among other Dell books of the same period for its artwork.  Having seen one of his friends taken into custody by the corrupt constabulary for no reason other than speaking against injustice, Zorro aims both to free him and send a message…

This issue is more or less adapted from the first episodes of the Disney TV series, though Toth made adjustments and changes to fit the comic form (which, reputedly, put him in hot water with the Dell editor), but you can’t argue with success.  This sixty-year-old comic has remarkably modern and cinematic storytelling on each page, and that third panel, featuring Zorro’s mischievous smirk, is a marvel.  Zorro arrives just in time to save his friend Torres from dying in a fake escape plot, and engages Commandante Monastario himself in a battle of blades…

Their duel is short, as Zorro quickly out-fences him, throwing the Commandante in his own jail cells and making his own escape…

Sharp-eyed readers may recognize this as adapting the scene from inside the front cover, albeit in a much more dynamic fashion.  Zorro’s saddle sabotage successfully keeps the constabulary from pursuing, allowing Torres to get away and marking Diego’s alter-ego as public enemy numero uno.

Diego even creates his own bat-cave underground lair beneath the family manor, allowing him to come and go with impunity.  His mild-mannered disguise is so successful that, when Monastario comes calling, he doesn’t even consider that Don Diego de la Vega is a candidate for man behind the mask…

Monstario draws his sword and Diego intentionally lets himself be disarmed, leaving the arrogant Commandante certain that he could not be Zorro, instead capturing Benito Avila and accusing him of being the vigilante…

But the real Zorro is on the case, engaging the Commandante’s men to prove Benito innocence, then fleeing into the night, with a little help from his steed Tornado…

Diego even makes it home into time to be questioned about Zorro’s whereabouts, making for a secret identity win all around.  The back cover of the issue even gives us a little bit of history and culture about the time period…

These sorts of educational bits are common in Dell Comics, as the company prided itself on being more than just ‘funny books’.  Four Color Comics was home to six more Zorro stories before he was spun off into his own solo series; in keeping with Dell’s idiosyncratic numbering system, that book began with #8.  (This is only one of the reasons that grading/dating/identifying the Dell/Gold Key/Western books is one cipher short of being a Dan Brown novel.)  Dell Four Color Comics #882/Zorro #1 is a remarkably well-drawn book, thanks to Toth, and the adaptation of the TV show is excellent, making for an entertaining reading experience that doesn’t fall into the trap of over-explaining or walls of text to make up for the loss of moving video, earning a well-deserved 4 out of 5 stars overall.  Though I was a bit too young to have seen the show in its original run, the Dell Zorro comics made me a fan of it when it appeared in reruns in the 80s, which is an achievement in itself…

[taq_review]

At Major Spoilers, we strive to create original content that you find interesting and entertaining. If you would like to support our efforts, please become a patron today.
Share.

About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.