Death of Zorro writer Ande Parks is returning to the Lone Ranger and Tonto with a new The Lone Ranger ongoing series starting in January 2012. Newsarama talked to Parks — whose various credits also include inking Phil Hester on comics including Green Arrow and writing Kato from Dynamite Entertainment — about the new book, the second Lone Ranger published by Dynamite since the Brett Matthews-written series which wrapped earlier this year.
Newsarama: Ande, you're coming on to The Lone Ranger following writing the character in Death of Zorro, which you also worked on with artist Esteve Polls. You've remarked that this series doesn't necessarily connect with Death of Zorro in an explicit storyline way, but is your approach to the character about the same here?
Ande Parks: Oh, yeah. The values of the character don't change. Lone Ranger is appealing, in large part, because of his noble, set-in-stone set of values. In the Death of Zorro series, he was compelled by those values to seek justice, for the hero who we revealed greatly influenced John Reid's life, and for a tribe of Chumash Indians.
Lone Ranger's goal in our new series is less specific, but he is still driven by his passion to see justice done, and to help the oppressed. We're just placing Lone Ranger and Tonto in a much broader landscape in which to accomplish that mission: the landscape of the entire old west.
That's what our first arc, "Hard Country," is about. Watching this good man trying to see justice done in a brutal setting. It's about his black and white values running into a landscape that doesn't always offer easy solutions.
Nrama: You've noted that you didn't necessarily know a lot about Lone Ranger or Tonto when first writing the characters in Death of Zorro. What have you grown to like about the characters?
Parks: I have to admit that my Lone Ranger knowledge when I was first approached about that job was pretty limited. I had watched the show as a kid — had been aware of the mask controversy, and not much more. Of course, I immediately read the excellent series by Brett Matthews, Sergio Cariello and John Cassaday. I was already attracted to Lone Ranger as an iconic hero. Reading that series made me really interested in him as a fully developed character.
I love the sheer stature of Lone Ranger; the upright goodness. He's interesting in that he's a hero created out of tragedy who has embraced a positive image. Horrible violence led John Reid down this path to becoming the Lone Ranger, but as a hero, he still comes from a place of light and relative innocence. Why? In my opinion, because Tonto saved John Reid's life for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. Lone Ranger was born from horror and violence, but nurtured to maturity by the completely selfless actions of another good man.
Nrama: What can you say about the journey the Lone Ranger and Tonto are on at the outset of the series? What are you looking to explore with the characters?
Parks: I'm going to work backwards on this one, because it dovetails so well with my previous answer. I'm having a lot of fun with the dynamic of the Lone Ranger and Tonto relationship. There's a healthy co-dependency there that's fascinating. They share the same goals, but they come from two such diverse backgrounds. We're dealing with that a lot in our book, and will continue to look at those differences in their backgrounds even more in our second arc, when Lone Ranger and Tonto have cause to travel to a big city for a while. John Reid is Harvard-educated. He enjoys many aspects of "civilization." Tonto feels very differently.
Our "Hard Country" arc picks up a matter of months after the end of the Matthews series. Lone Ranger and Tonto have been on the trail for a while, seeking out and fighting injustice where they find it. They're starting to develop a public image. Our first arc finds our heroes running into some injustices that can't easily be put right.
Nrama: The series takes place in the Old West, and though it's clearly fictional, you've indicated that there are some nods to the actual events and circumstances of the time. Are you a pretty big history buff? Does that stuff come pretty natural to you?
Parks: I love doing research. I've always read more nonfiction and biographies than fiction. I love historical fiction. My two first original graphic novels were historical fiction, and were very research-heavy. I am fascinated by history. Always have been.
So, while I don't want to tie down our Lone Ranger stories with actual events (I think it would erode the heroic credibility of the character to have him take down the James gang, for example), I do want to bring a real world backdrop to our stories.
Our second issue takes place in Abilene. While I reserve the right to cheat on the amount of time it might have taken Lone Ranger and Tonto to ride from where our first issue happened to the real town of Abilene, I want the town itself to have some historical ties. We mention the man who was the real Marshal of the town. We refer to the town's real ban on handguns. We introduce a character who fits into an historical context. I think those touches make the world our heroes operate in a little richer… a little more resonant with a modern audience. That richness, in turn, makes the deeds of our heroes even more impressive.
Nrama: As stated, you're back with Esteve Polls on the series. What's it like working with him again on the Lone Ranger?
Parks: It feels very comfortable, in the best possible sense of the word. Esteve shares my values. He places clear storytelling above all else. I write complex scenes: multiple characters in a real environment, and he stages the stuff so effortlessly. Well, easy for me to say. It seems effortless on the page. Esteve is probably busting his ass to make it that way.
He's so well suited to this book. He draws real people in real settings, but he can also make the stuff bigger than life when he has to. And, on top of the storytelling chops, he draws so well. The inking is fantastic. Esteve might cringe at this comparison, but his rendering reminds me of John Severin.
In short, the book looks amazing, and I feel lucky as hell to be teamed with Esteve again.
Nrama: Finally, it looks like this book is targeted as an ongoing — how far in advance do you have stories planned out for the series?
Parks: The first six issues are very tightly plotted. The next arc is loosely formed in my head, but not approved yet. After that, I'm still gathering notes and thinking about possibilities. So, please… buy the book so I get to start turning those notes into stories! The old west was a big place, and these are big characters. There are a lot of Lone Ranger stories to be told. I want the chance to tell them.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!