The Lone Ranger and Tonto may have ridden off into the sunset, but they'll soon return sure as the sunrise. Dynamite Entertainment revives "The Lone Ranger" ongoing series in January 2012 with veteran writer Ande Parks at the helm. Responsible for the recent "Lone Ranger: Death of Zorro" miniseries, Parks is no stranger to comics, having served as both an inker and a writer on numerous titles, culminating in his work on the upcoming relaunch of "The Lone Ranger."
When readers left The Lone Ranger and Tonto in the final issue of Brett Matthews' ongoing series, their origin story wrapped up with Butch Cavendish defeated and the duo riding off into the proverbial sunset. While the origin may have finished with the previous series, there's still plenty of development for the duo to go through before becoming the legends they're destined to be -- and that's precisely what Parks plans to explore.
Parks spoke with CBR News about the original dynamic duo, where the plot falls in the Lone Ranger's storied life, their new old west nemesis, exploring the seeds the previous series planted and his long-term plans.
CBR News: Ande, you'll be heading up Dynamite's new "Lone Ranger" series. How does it feel to make your mark on one of the most well-known heroes of all time?
Ande Parks: Wonderful, and intimidating as all hell. It's a really good fit for me. I have always enjoyed doing research, particularly research involving the plains area. I grew up in Kansas and have lived here almost my entire life, so writing western action stories really plays to my interests and, I think, to my strengths. Our "Lone Ranger" book isn't tied too closely to historical events, but doing some research allows me to place our heroes in a richer environment.
As you said, the heroes I get to play with are truly iconic. There's an inherent responsibility to do their legacy justice. I take that very seriously. Lone Ranger and Tonto are really appealing to me as a writer because, while they are so well known as heroes, there's still a lot of room to get to know them better as men.
Where will this series pick up in terms of continuity, especially as it relates to Dynamite's recently-concluded series written by Brett Matthews?
Our book takes place a few months after the final issue of the Matthews series. Brett set Lone Ranger and Tonto up really well, and then sent them out to do their thing in the wild west. They're looking for injustice -- for people who need their help. Our book is about two things initially: it's about how harsh that wild west is, and it's about how Lone Ranger's growing fame affects his mission.
Our Lone Ranger and Tonto are very much the characters as they were redefined by Brett, Sergio Cariello and John Cassaday. Those guys gave us an excellent template. We're not looking to reinvent the characters. We're trying to set them into a harsh world and harsh circumstances, and see how they react.
Eventually, I hope we'll get around to reconnecting with some of the themes and characters set up in the Matthews run: Tonto's tribe, the widow of Lone Ranger's brother, etc. At first, though, we're going to let our characters roam the old west and see what they run into.
Tell us about your first story, "Hard Country." What's the general premise here and how does it challenge the Lone Ranger and Tonto as a team?
The theme of "Hard Country" is that Lone Ranger and Tonto have set out to do good in a very harsh, unforgiving world -- a world where doing the right thing is not always a clear cut choice. Life was cheap on the plains. I know this from my own family history. My great-grandparents grew up in central Kansas, and they faced death routinely. I have ancestors who died of disease, farming accidents, and even violence.
So while the Matthews Lone Ranger series was very internal, focusing on Lone Ranger's formative choices, our series starts out very external. Our first issue is almost entirely seen through the eyes of a family that has suffered a horrible loss. A loss very similar to the ones that shaped John Reid. We get to see that, while Lone Ranger can't fix everything, he can make a difference. That's really what our first arc is about: showing that life in the old west was brutal, but that good men could still make a difference. Good men, willing to step up for justice, can always make a difference.
Who might stand in the way of our heroes here, and what is he doing to make the wild west even more wild?
"Hard Country" starts with a couple of single issues that lead into a bigger, three-issue story before ending with another single issue. There is a defining theme through all of the first six issues, but there's no one clear villain at first. When I pitched the book, I likened the Matthews book to a grand opera and our first arc to a concept album. Our issues will stand on their own, but there's a bigger theme that will hold things together when seen as a whole.
We do get to a grand villain in our third issue. His name is Dorsey. He's a power-mad lunatic with a god complex. Dorsey is using a symbol that Lone Ranger sees as close to sacred -- a badge -- as a tool with which to build himself a little kingdom. Dorsey is more than willing to sacrifice the lives of our heroes to protect his kingdom.
One of the most interesting aspects the first ongoing series explored was the relationship between the Lone Ranger and Tonto. How do you plan to continue developing this relationship during your run?
They're fun to write because they have a shared vision but come from such diverse backgrounds. They've both faced tragedy, but at very different points in their lives.
I'm having fun playing with these different perspectives. Jon Reid was Harvard educated before becoming a Texas Ranger, and then the Lone Ranger. This is a man who went off to Cambridge and became accustomed to city living. That doesn't mean that he's uncomfortable on the trail, but John Reid is not above enjoying a soft bed and a roof over his head. He enjoys civilization. Tonto comes from a very different place and sees the world very differently. I don't think a Native American in 1870 would see "civilization" as a source of comfort and enlightenment.
We're going to get to what binds these two heroes. There is a strong, complex dependency there. Why? Lone Ranger owes Tonto everything -- his very life would have ended without Tonto's help. How does it work the other way 'round? I think Brett Matthews and company offered some insight, but we'll explore that more.
Looking forward, what's your long term plan for the Lone Ranger? Where would you like to take him and how do you hope to further develop him in this universe?
I love idealistic characters who see things in black and white. I also love shoving those characters into grey situations. We're going to be doing a lot of that. I wouldn't call Lone Ranger naïve, by any stretch, but he's a man with very clearly-defined values. Tonto... less so.
I'm also very interested in placing Lone Ranger in a real historical setting in a way that makes him more resonant to modern audiences. I'm not talking about "Lone Ranger taking down the James Gang." We're not going to mix fiction and nonfiction that much. I do think, though, that dropping hints about real places and real people makes the book richer.
Oh, and -- Lone Ranger will be heading east in the next arc. East, towards big cities and big power. Power that Lone Ranger is really annoyed with. That's going to be interesting. Wonder if we can get Tonto into a suit. Sorry -- dumb question.
One of the more recent projects you've written is Dynamite's "Death of Zorro" series that heavily features the Lone Ranger. First, how did your work on that book help inform your writing of the character in the upcoming series and second, how will that book connect with your upcoming run?
To be honest, my knowledge of "Lone Ranger" was pretty limited when I got that job. I had to feel my way through the first few issues. I started to click with Lone Ranger pretty well by the end of that book, but Tonto was harder for me to nail. Brett created such a cool voice for him, and it eluded me for awhile. Something my editor, Joe Rybandt, said to me about him really made Tonto click. Joe offered, "He's almost always the smartest guy in the room. He just doesn't talk about it much." Wise man, that Rybandt.
We snuck the "Death of Zorro" series in somewhere around the same time our new Lone Ranger book starts. I don't know if the two are going to relate to each other or not. I have not written anything that connects them thus far. I did drop a hint in "Death of Zorro" that, at the beginning of that story, Lone Ranger was still on the trail of someone connected to the Cavendish gang. We may have to revisit that point.
You also did a couple of tie-in series for Dynamite's "Green Hornet" ongoing including "Blood Ties," which featured the original Green Hornet. How did your work on that book help prepare you for writing the Lone Ranger, a hero very much in the same vein as the Green Hornet?
I'm so early into my writing career that every job informs the next. I've written several graphic novels, but those are much more grounded in the real world. I've always loved superheroes (Lone Ranger qualifies in a way), but I haven't written them much until I switched from a career as an inker to full-time writing about two years ago.
Writing "Green Hornet" and "Kato" was helpful for working on Zorro and Lone Ranger in that they're all big, heroic characters who are very much flesh and blood. They're also very grounded in the real world. You can't pit any of them against a mutant villain with pouches full of super-weapons. You have to find real world threats that are believable but challenging. In the case of Lone Ranger, I'm pitting him even more against real world challenges and tragedies.
There are obviously a lot of similarities between the two. Ol' Fran Striker (creator of both) knew a good template when he saw it.
Why do you think pulp heroes, but particularly the Lone Ranger, lend themselves well to the format of comic books and graphic novels?
Lone Ranger can work in any media, obviously. I think he works well in comics because of his values -- his clear vision of right and wrong. It's appealing. Comics can offer great escapism in a unique way. When you dig into a comic, even one that portrays real world themes and consequences, it's comforting to have that pillar of virtue at the center. I write Lone Ranger -- I write any great hero, as the man I would like to be. If I do my job well, that's what the reader ends up thinking, as well.
What has been the biggest hurdles for you writing this book?
To be honest, my biggest hurdle is making the book as good as I think it can be. Period. This is a gig I wanted. Really wanted. Now that I have it, I want to do it justice. I drive myself crazy trying to make it great. I want to write a book that lives up to the potential I saw when I was first offered the opportunity to contribute to this great character's legacy. I probably won't ever get there, but I am trying like hell.
"The Long Ranger" rides again in January.