With modern media full of colourful heroes and villains one name remains forgotten, hidden under the piles of work he inspired. Johnston McCulley was the writer who opened the door for what was to come, and one of his creations Zorro would not only inspire a character who would become a legend in his own right but would also remain a popular charter for over a century!
McCulley was born in Ottawa, Illinois on February 2nd 1883. He graduated from Chillicothe Township High School in 1901 after which he began his career as a police reporter for The Police Gazette. He would go on to serve as an Army public affairs officer during World War I. McCulley had a keen interest in history and soon progressed to a a career in pulp magazines and screenplays, often using a Southern California backdrop for his stories.
Throughout his career McCulley would use several pseudonyms such as Harrington Strong, Raley Brien, George Drayne, Monica Morton, Rowena Raley, Frederic Phelps, Walter Pierson, and John Mack Stone.
McCulley would create several pulp heroes who in turn would go onto to inspire the comic book heroes that would emerge in the years that followed. These include Black Star – a criminal mastermind who is pursued by Roger Verbeck-Flagellum and Muggs, a millionaire bachelor and his ex-thug partner, The Spider – an injured wheel chair bound man who used his mental abilities to run an international crime ring from his office, The Mongoose, Thubway Tham, The Green Ghost, The Thunderbolt, The Crimson Clown – a wealthy young bachelor, able veteran of The Great War, explorer, a modern Robin Hood, and his most famous creation of all Zorro!
McCulley’s Zorro character, was first serialized in the story “The Curse of Capistrano” in 1919 in the pulp magazine “All-Story Weekly” and since gone onto a life in books, comics, films, tv, and cinema. Zorro would inspire a certain Dark Knight and remains popular today.
Sadly, Johnston McCulley passed away on November 23rd 1958, in Los Angeles, California at age of 75 years old after “after a series of operations,” his work though remains relevant and popular over a 100 years later!
Johnston McCulley appears at the 17 minute mark.