LONE RANGER #1 Writer's Commentary with Half the Book!
With Dynamite's latest volume of The Lone Ranger now three issues in, series writer Ande Parks has provided Newsarama with page-by-page commentary on each installment of the series thus far. Parks' commentary for issue #1 — and half of the pages from that book — follow. Check back with us later this week for his thoughts on issues #2 and #3. — Newsarama PAGE ONE
First, I have to get something off my chest. One snark-filled review of this first issue pointed out that there was no such thing as the "Oklahoma Territory" until 1890. As a writer who prides himself on research and adding historical touches to my fiction, this hurt! I concede the point, and was aware of that inaccuracy when I wrote this first caption box. While I do place importance on research and accuracy, I also think we are here to tell a story. An engaging story about heroic fictional characters. I made the conscious decision that cheating the facts a bit was good for the story. "Oklahoma Territory, 1870" reads better and is less distracting than "The unorganized territory that would eventually become Oklahoma, 1870." That chip lifted from my shoulder... let's proceed.
It took me a long time to find a narrative device I liked for the opening of this book. I wanted to do something that got right to our narrative, but that also let the reader in on our theme: that the old west was a brutal landscape in which life was often cheap (but that a few good men could make a real difference). Once the idea of a newspaper editorial came to me, I wasted a few hours searching for an actual clipping. With the time gone forever, I made up an editorial.
As an aside, I shared my fake editorial with my pal and soon-to-be best-selling author, Alex Grecian, just to see if he thought I had captured the style of the era. Alex kindly offered a few suggestions.
Great coloring here by Marcelo Pinto. I love the torchlight against the dark blue night.
PAGE TWO In reaching out for a name that seemed authentic for a settler from the East, I settled on the surname of my friend Dan Jurgens. Dan actually noticed and teased me about it when the book came out. I apologized for what I did to his fictional wife. We're cool now. No more name-dropping.
I wanted the death of Martha Jurgens to play very fast and chaotic... like these horrible circumstances almost couldn't be avoided. These bad guys haven't come here with murder in mind, necessarily. It just happened. That's the nature of life on the plains, far away from the nearest legal authority.
I must confess that I love that "harshly earned" line at the end of the editorial. Lincoln, KS is a real town in central Kansas. The town had pretty well-respected newspaper by 1882.
PAGE THREE Intentionally asked [series artist Esteve Polls] to pay homage to the final shot of "The Great Train Robbery". He did so very well. The John Ford quote came from our fantastic editor, Joe Rybandt. I asked if he had a good quote relating to vengeance/justice. I know we're relying on a lot of narrative tricks here, between the fake editorial, the Ford quote and the upcoming letter overlay. Maybe I laid it on a bit thick. I will confess to a little "pulling out all the tricks for the first issue" syndrome.
I wanted to show Lone Ranger doing some target practice, in part to point out how hard it is for him to take down bad guys without killing them.
PAGE FOURI decided on this "letter as narration" device early on. It's something I've done before. I think it's a very effective tool in the modern era of comics, in which an omniscient author's voice is frowned upon stylistically. In this case it's a virtual letter... the letter Jurgens never writes down, but has composed in his head.
I didn't realize it until after this issue was complete, but our story here became a weapon in my ongoing war against what I think has become the easy but unrewarding crutch of too many comic book scripts: cleverness. I read a lot of comics that leave me feeling nothing but, "Well, that was... clever." These comics don't deliver what I value most in any art form: they don't move me. Without intending to make a statement on this trend, I constructed a first issue for Lone Ranger that put the emphasis on emotion over clever. There is no twist ending here. There is just, as best as I could deliver it, a story of loss and hope, with our hero as the instrument of change between the two.
PAGE FIVEI asked a lot of Esteve on these quiet pages of desperation. I didn't hesitate, because I know what he's capable of. He draws real people in real environments so well. He draws them with a sense of staging and composition that few have. These quiet pages tell their quiet story without being dull. He's fantastic. I also know that I can call for settings like this crude home without going crazy with detail. Esteve fills in enough texture and detail to make the scene real.
I am proud of Jurgens' voice in the letter narration. It was a tough call, juggling how I thought he would speak with how he might write if he actually composed this letter.
PAGE SIXI named Jurgens' daughter after my grandmother, who grew up in Kansas some 35 years after our story. She lived with death in a way I can only imagine. I gave young Kathryn a doll based on a detail my mother provided about her own childhood. These children would have clung desperately to the few possessions they could call their own.
Amazing coloring of the flames here by Marcelo. The reflection of the flame against the rocks in the final panel is also quite nice.
PAGE SEVEN I wanted to convey that these children have been brought up with so much hardship that they almost don't have time to grieve for their mother. They have noticed the loss, but going to pieces about it just isn't realistic. Or, they might just be in shock. I won't complain either way your want to see it.
It's subtle, but this last panel should raise the possibility that Jurgens is considering an easy way out for himself and his children. Earlier versions of the script had Jurgens mention that they could rejoin Martha in a better place. I thought that was too spot on, so I dropped it.
By the way, our wonderful letterer Simon Bowland did a great job with the font on Jurgens' narrative.
PAGE EIGHT I love this page. The hint of something happening in the first panel, without a sound effect to tip the action. Esteve's fantastic reveal of Lone Ranger. The Ranger holding Silver's reins in his teeth. The incredible coloring. Enough. I like it.
PAGE NINE Our first panel shows what will be a recurring theme in our book: Lone Ranger tries to disarm bad guys by shooting their guns out of their hands, but it's impossible to do so cleanly every time. Sometimes a serious wound is left behind. Sometimes that wound has serious consequences.
I love the guy in the last panel already raising his hands in surrender. Didn't take long for him to realize he's had enough. I also like the overall pacing here. Lone Ranger has done this before. He acts without hesitation.
I fully realize we didn't address how Lone Ranger might have known that he would be needed here at this time. I considered adding some stuff about him getting word of a shooting the night before, and then checking out the farm, hence being in the right place at the right time. In the end, though, I decided to leave it mysterious. Since we're seeing this through Jurgens' eyes, I think the mystery works.
PAGE TEN I know Tonto gets a short shrift here. I wanted to focus on the singular vision of Lone Ranger, appearing to the Jurgens family as a savior on a white horse. I thought having Tonto on the perimeter of the action, watching for fleeing bad guys, made some strategic sense. Rest assured, none of this signals that we intend to downplay Tonto in this series.
PAGE ELEVEN This page is about the random, cruel nature of Jurgens' loss. His wife has died over an eight dollar dispute. This was inspired by the Clutter murders, which Truman Capote documented in his masterpiece, "In Cold Blood". Having written a graphic novel about Truman's struggle to write that book, it's a subject I'm very familiar with. The Clutter's murderers left behind four bodies. The robbery that started the crime netted the killers about twenty dollars.
PAGE TWELVE Lone Ranger would never have allowed Jurgens to pull that trigger. Still, he wants Jurgens not pulling it to feel like a choice.
You could say this is the second sucker punch for Tonto in this issue. I think he's just being humane.
PAGE THIRTEENI doubt Tonto is thrilled about tending to these men's wounds. Such is a partnership!
More gorgeous coloring. I need to write more scenes with flames!
Here's the crux of the whole issue. Lone Ranger has already made a difference by saving the lives of Jurgens and his family. That's meaningless, though, if Jurgens isn't strong enough to go on from here.
PAGE FOURTEENIn my original pitch, each issue of our series featured a flashback sequence. We will eventually drop this premise, but I think this one works very well. We get to revisit Lone Ranger's origins without a whole issue's recap.
This issue was built around the premise of a tragedy that mirrors the loss Lone Ranger has faced... the loss that shaped him. Now we get to dive into the parallels.
I don't know if the dialogue of Lone Ranger's dying mother works entirely. I wanted her to be delusional in her fever...
PAGE FIFTEEN… until her final moments alone with here sons, where she snaps back to herself for just an instant. Her dying moments are of concern for the men she loves.
I'm also very fond of James Reid's stoic nature here. As re-imagined in just a few issues by Brett Matthews and company, he's a fantastic character.
PAGE SIXTEENI confess that this leisurely pacing flies against what I generally want to do. I think it's worth it for that splash of tiny John Reid against that huge full moon. Another intended homage here: this time it's the doorway at the end of John Ford's "The Searchers". You haven't seen it? Go... please. This column will still be here when you get back.
PAGE SEVENTEENMaybe James Reid wiping a tear at his wife's grave is a bit much? Given the chance, I might tweak that fourth panel.
I love the way Esteve framed the two Reids against the full moon in the middle of the page. The composition of the final panel is also very nice.
PAGE EIGHTEEN I wanted James Reid's last word, "Always..." to hover over the image of him being shot in this first panel. Lone Ranger's origin story in four panels. That's a strong origin. Thanks, Fran Striker.
There's an old writer's cliché that says you should dump lines you're especially proud of. Well, I'll admit that I'm quite proud of Lone Ranger's speech about what we owe the dead that starts on this page. Glad I kept it.
PAGE NINETEEN I just wanted to reflect on Lone Ranger's allegiance to his father's legacy here. Plus, I knew Esteve would kill on the splashy image at the gravesite. He did. Add more killer coloring and it ends up being a pretty striking page.
PAGE TWENTYThis is what makes Lone Ranger a hero. It's not how well he rides or shoots or punches. It's about his example. He is an upright man who strives not to compromise his principles in a world that assaults them daily. That man can make a difference. It's true now and it was true in 1870.
PAGE TWENTY-ONEWith the bad guys apprehended, I had to decide what the heck Lone Ranger and Tonto would do with them. There's no local jail to throw them into. So, a journey to real justice, which is a hard ride away. This leads directly into our next issue.
We make it clear here that Lone Ranger is moving on, but that he's no abandoning the Jurgens family. How thorough will his follow-up be? Give us enough time and we may well get to that.
I confess to grinning like an idiot as I typed "Hi-yo, Silver!" Hell, I'm grinning writing about writing it.
PAGE TWENTY-TWO I wasn't sure about doing this final page as a splash. There's no action... just a family looking off toward an uncertain future. Still, I wanted this moment to stand out. It is what we're here to say: Lone Ranger has given this family hope. I think it has the impact I was hoping for. Visually, I needn't have worried. Esteve and Marcelo knocked this out of the park, and Simon's title lettering is perfect.
Is ending Nathan's narration with the arc's title too on the nose? I hemmed and hawed about it, but I'm glad I left it in there.
These stand-alone issues are tougher to write, just because you have to think of that many more ideas. I felt strongly that our first issue should be one-and-done. Our second issue will continue that trend. Starting with number three, we get into broader arcs. I hope to continue this kind of balance as we move forward.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!