Dynamite Loves its Masked Men

Wed, May 23rd, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

"The Lone Ranger" #5

With the superheroes of DC and Marvel dealing with the fallout from each of their respective universe-wide crossovers, Dynamite Entertainment is reinventing what it means to be a masked crimefighter in today's marketplace without the use of x-ray vision or spidey-senses.  Fresh off not one but two Eisner nominations for Best New Series and Best Cover Artist, Dynamite's "Lone Ranger" is propelling a pulp fiction era icon back in the saddle again. And thanks to its critical and commercial success, one of John Reid's fictional forefathers is coming along for the ride.

Rossini, cue the William Tell Overture about two and half minutes in.

The first editions of "Lone Ranger" #1 and #2 were complete sell-outs for the two-year old publisher and with #6 – the conclusion of the origin arc – due at the beginning of June, CBR News checked in with Dynamite to seek out the secret of the title's success.

"The Lone Ranger" #5, pages 10 and 11
"I think we found a perfect storm of talent and a perfect place in time to tell this story," Dynamite's Director of Marketing Joseph Rybandt told CBR News. "The themes are universal and the time is ripe to explore those themes."

The talent of which Rybandt speaks is writer Brett Matthews, artist Sergio Cariello ("Punisher: War Journal") and art director/cover artist John Cassaday ("Astonishing X-Men")."Our entire line is currently non-superhero and I think that's part of the success," continued Rybandt. "The book itself is an alternate to the superhero stuff on the racks, but also a thematic forbearer to the great superheroes. The Lone Ranger served as inspiration to both the creators and the creations themselves, so in almost every way the character resonates across all of pop culture."

Writer Brett Matthews, a former script writer on Joss Whedon's "Angel" and "Firefly" TV series and co-writer with Whedon on Dark Horse's forthcoming "Serenity: Better Days" title, said that John Reid is a very complex character and watching him rise from his humble beginnings is what makes writing the legend's back story such an intriguing project.  

"The Lone Ranger" #5, pages 14 and 15
"I like that he's young," Matthews told CBR News. "That was a big decision and I'm really glad to have made it. It's something we've never really seen before and I like to watch him casting about, on his way to becoming this legend, which is so not his goal. We can all relate to being that age and the pressures John faces, if not the stakes. He's a kid trying to figure out how to be a man and then beyond that, a good man. That's not an easy process for those of us that don't put on masks and I just find it really fascinating."

Matthews believes that what makes the Lone Ranger's alter ego John Reid super is that his own humanity is in fact his personal Kryptonite. "I like getting to know and display the human – which is to say flawed – side of an iconic character, especially one that didn't really have any flaws before," Matthews said. "I enjoy sending him into troubled waters and seeing how he reacts, the decisions he makes. It's rewarding to see such a great character and mythology be embraced by an audience that either didn't know he exists or wouldn't have looked twice before. It's extremely hard work, but few are the days where something cool doesn't happen because of it."

"The Lone Ranger" #6
Speaking of cool, Dynamite is so pleased with "Lone Ranger" that the company announced in April that next up for its lineup of horse-riding do-gooders is "Zorro."

Created by legendary author Johnston McCulley, Zorro made his first appearance in "The Curse of Capistrano," serialized in the pulp magazine "All-Story Weekly" in 1919. Zorro is a nobleman and master swordsman who uses his whip and wit to defend the oppressed people living in the Spanish and Mexican-era California of the early 1800s. Since his debut nearly ninety years ago, Zorro has appeared in every storytelling medium from film to television to novels and cartoons. Most recently, Zorro has been portrayed by Antonio Banderas in 1998's "The Mask of Zorro" and its 2005 sequel "The Legend of Zorro."

According to the character's fictional history, Zorro AKA Diego de la Vega was born in 1782, while the Lone Ranger John Reid arrived on the scene in 1850, making a crossover unlikely. However, that doesn't stop fans from asking, said Rybandt.  

"Launching 'Zorro' as its own title is the priority," said Rybandt. "In a recent interview, Brett was asked the same thing and it's not something he's interested in doing. And it is problematic getting them together due to the periods both characters existed, but we know the fans would like to see it, but the priority remains to each series functioning separately for now."

"The Lone Ranger" #7, covers A and B
As such, the first arc of "Zorro" is expected to be an origin story much like "The Lone Ranger" and Dynamite's top-selling book "Red Sonja," and Rybandt estimates the book will launch before the end of the year.  Unfortunately, Rybandt wasn't prepared to unmask the series' creative team. "I wish I could. We're finalizing contracts right now. People are going to be very, very surprised and very, very pleased. It's a writer who came to us and has a real passion for the character. We put the creative team together on the Ranger in a similar fashion, and you can see the end result of that perfect storm."

As for other heroes like Flash Gordon, the Green Hornet or Doc Savage finding their way from 1920s pulp to the pages of Dynamite's comics in the near future, Rybandt remarked, "We'd love to do them all, but each is its own negotiation of course. That said, we still have a few surprises to announce before the year is up.

"Personally, I'm a big fan of John Carter. I'd love to work on a series featuring him, but those rights are tied up elsewhere. The list for me could be endless, but I'm happy with what we've got and what we've got coming."

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