Matthews Saddles Up For "Lone Ranger" At Dynamite

Mon, July 24th, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

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You know the mask. You know the cool toys. You know the sidekick. And you better know that we're not talking about Batman. One of the first masked avengers, the Lone Ranger, returns with Silver and Tonto in Dynamite Entertainment's "The Lone Ranger" in September. We brought you an interview with the book's artists earlier this month and now we've got an interview with writer Brett Matthews. If you're a younger reader, or just weren't into the Ranger as a child, don't worry: this series is still for you.

"This book really works for those that don't know much about The Lone Ranger, because that's exactly what it's about," explained Matthews to CBR News. "Who he is. Where he and the people that become his family -- blood and not -- come from, as well as his enemies. What the iconic elements of the character are and how they come to be. It is very much an origin story."

So, if you're a long time reader, you may already know who the main cast of characters is, but those new to the Lone Ranger may want some more information, which Matthews was happy to provide the basics. "There's John (and yes, I know there are those that dispute that name) Reid, the boy that will become the man that will become The Lone Ranger. His father and brother, blood family, and both extremely influential figures in his life. Tonto, an older and world-weary drifter with a dark past that sees something in John that he doesn't himself, and who just might become his mentor and friend. A fiery horse named Silver. Another, more nimble paint horse named Scout. And...

"I think I'll stop there."

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When asked why he's going with the John Reid moniker the scribe says, "It's because the character needs a first name and because the last thing I'm going to do is create another and muddy the waters even further. Besides, John Reid is a solid name and suits the character. I don't have a problem with it. I think the issue people have is with how the name came to be more than the name itself."

It's been some time since the Lone Ranger has been in the spotlight, in comics or other media, and there's a question of how much this cowboy is still relevant, and Matthews says, "I don't know that such an iconic figure is ever not relevant, but it does seem we look to them a little more in uncertain and trying times. Which, I think it's fair to say, is a pretty accurate description of a lot of the world today. With so much emphasis in our society on moving forward at all costs and with the line between good and evil so fine and occasionally blurred, there's something refreshing and maybe a little comforting about a character that is so fundamentally good.

"Now, we're not going to make it easy for John Reid to express those qualities and get to that place, and maybe that's the influence of our times right there, but I would never doubt that he will. He has to. He's The Lone Ranger."

There's few interracial duos in comics, and the bond between John and Tonto is especially unique. Tonto's Native American status and the book's setting, the wild west, make "Lone Ranger" ripe for exploring race relations in America, as well as the male condition. "Race will definitely be at issue.," admits Matthews. "And being a man and what exactly that means is really a part of any Western... and Fight Club. But we're totally not supposed to talk about Fight Club [laughs]

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"The book will have things on its mind, but it won't get lost in them. People will shoot people and punch each other in the nose. But to say straight up action/advententure would probably be misleading. If it's not, we've missed our mark. The character has always stood for something, and I wouldn't change that."

The burning question on the mind of many Lone Ranger fans is that of continuity. Does this new series fit in the timeline of any of the films or other comic book series? Is it a reboot? As much as Matthews hates that word, he does explain, "I guess you could argue it is and I probably wouldn't be able to convince you otherwise, but it almost implies a lack of reverence or respect for the original material and I cannot stress enough that that's not the case. We really want to do the character and his mythology justice, which is sometimes just shedding light on a dark corner of the mythos a lot of people have never heard. I can see getting flamed for some new contribution, only it's not a new contribution, but some lesser known bit of the character's history. I mean, do you know where the eyeholes in The Ranger's mask come from...?

"That said, we're not playing it safe. We aren't going to tell the same stories all over again. Those thrilling tales of yesteryear were told, and told wonderfully. This will be its own thing. With an eye on and an affinity for the past, we are definitely moving forward."

One of the reasons that Batman and the Lone Ranger are so often compared is the sheer level of tragedy permeating their lives. In John's case, the death of his brother causes him to go down a different path, one that really is darker than most seem to portray it. Matthews is cognizant of this and says, "There is a lot of tragedy, there --The Lone Ranger and Batman more or less share the same origin -- and the book's tone will be appropriate to that. I don't keep a running tally or go out of my way to balance it. It is what it is, what feels real. That said, you can't see the darkness but in relation to light; one is pretty meaningless without the other."

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Many comic book readers may not realize that there's a very strong Lone Ranger fanbase out there, just as dedicated and diverse as those fanbases of the most popular superheroes. When asked if he's taking steps to appease those fans, he says, "I don't think you can work that way. You just do something that feels honest and earnest, and hope that your love of the character reflects theirs in some way, or failing that allows them to see what draws you to and fascinates you about the legend, even if it's not the same things that do them.

"That said, we're not pretending the past doesn't exist. There will be many references and bits of mythology throughout that we're trying to pay the proper respect to while making it of our world that will reward those more familiar with the character for the time they've spent with him. Some of these will be seen in a different light, others will be fairly canonical, but the faithful will know and hopefully appreciate where they come from. As they know, the character has a lot of history, some of it conflicting. So, you have to make choices, but we want to unify and express as much of it as we can."

Part of that expression is courtesy of the book's stellar art team, who Matthews couldn't be more thankful for, saying, "What book wouldn't John Cassaday be perfect for? Get back to me when you figure that out. And not just from a cover or design or graphic standpoint, but as a guy who understands completely the characters he's working on and helping bring to life. John can sum up what this series is all about with a single image -- look at the cover to the second issue and as far as I'm concerned, you understand the book. Our vision for The Lone Ranger is very much a shared one.

"Sergio Cariello is a consummate pro and really a joy to work with. He understands what we're doing and brings a style that is at once all his own yet evocative of the period and its rich history. I love his lines and the rough beauty of his work -- he can do pretty or ugly or make ugly pretty, which is a necessity on this book. I've been very impressed with his work and his work ethic.

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"Dean White is just so good at what he does. He reads the scripts so carefully and bases his color decisions on plot and character, which is amazing to me as a writer. He's not at all what you'd call a supporting player -- he's way too important this book. You need only pick up an issue to see that."

If you still haven't pre-ordered that copy of "Lone Ranger" #1, Matthews says that the book isn't just your average action/adventure series. "It means something to the people that created it, and we hope to its readers. And failing that... silver bullets, dude."

 
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