What is the true nature of a hero? And what will one man do to avenge the loss of an icon?
Dynamite will answer that question this March, as they pull the trigger on a pulp legend in The Death of Zorro. In this series, the original Man in Black will face his final adversary... only to be avenged by that other enduring figure of the west, the Lone Ranger.
We spoke with series writer Ande Parks to compare and contrast the two iconic heroes, to discuss what it was like to finally end Zorro's crusade, and what John Reid has in store as he tries to set things right.
Newsarama: Ande, just to start off -- the Death of Zorro! How did you wind up on this project? Was the original caped crusader already on death row when you signed up for this project, or did you happen to pull the trigger in idea as well as in execution?
Ande Parks: Nick at Dynamite came to me with the idea, asking if I'd like to take a shot at it. Not a tough decision to make! Nick had the setup in mind: Zorro is an older man, retired and relatively happy. He is drawn back into action by extreme circumstances, and gets in too deep. His need to act when he sees an egregious wrong proves to be his undoing.
Nrama: For you, what's the appeal of a character like Zorro, and how do you think he complements a character like the Lone Ranger?
Parks: What draws me to both Zorro and the Lone Ranger is what draws me to all of my favorite characters: idealism. Both men are driven to act when they see wrongs perpetrated against innocents. In our story, when Zorro knows that an entire Native American tribe is being brutalized, her has to act. It doesn't matter to him that he's in his sixties and hopelessly out-manned. If he doesn't act immediately, more innocent people will die.
Same with Lone Ranger. Once Zorro is dead, the circumstances that drove Don Diego to action still exist. The Ranger has dual motivations: he feels compelled to avenge a fallen hero, and he also feel the same need to save innocent lives that drove Zorro.
Nrama: Just to get a sense of the Lone Ranger's role in all this, where does he stand vis-a-vis the ongoing Lone Ranger series from Brett Matthews and Sergio Carello? What's going on in John Reid's head?
Parks: Our story takes place after The Ranger's initial origin story. As our story begins, we hint at the fact that Reid may still be tracking someone connected to the Cavendish gang.
The first thing I had to tackle when Nick approaches this opportunity was the connection between these two heroes. The timeline doesn't really allow for a direct connection during each man's heyday, so I went for a less straight-forward tie between them. I think we should save the exact nature of the tie for the book. I'll just say that John Reid has a unique and fundamental reason to care that Zorro has been murdered by men without honor.
Nrama: For you, how difficult was it in terms of really pulling the trigger on Zorro? Will we be seeing his last hurrah, or will that have already happened by the time the book begins?
Parks: Zorro's death takes place in our first issue. Readers will be able to see what leads up to his decision to don the mask again. The intrigue comes from the aftermath: will the men who killed Zorro pay for their crime, and who will mete out that justice?
As for writing the scene that ends a hero's life – yeah, that is an interesting moment. In some ways, you almost can't write it big enough, you know? My hands definitely hovered over the keyboard several times that day. In the end, you just have to go with your instincts. I think we have crafted a story that allows Don Diego's choices play out naturally. What happens after his initial choices will be very interesting.
Nrama: Obviously a hero is only as good as his villain -- and considering someone's killed Zorro, there's got to be some real foul characters here. Can you tell us a little bit about the kind of villains the Lone Ranger will be fighting?
Parks: The villain is the leader of a troop of Confederate Bushwhackers from Missouri. These are men who committed some pretty heinous acts as the Civil War came to a close, as happened on both sides of the conflict. They've been on the run since the war ended. They are men who feel they deserve a place to just live their lives in peace and comfort. They don't really care who has to suffer to make that happen.
My hero Orson Welles once said that he always played villains with the knowledge that they had their reasons. That doesn't mean any kind of “Mommy didn't love me” nonsense. It just means that every villain can justify their actions. Our guys are no exception. They have their reasons, as warped as they may be to anyone else.
Nrama: Let's talk cover artists for a second -- you've got a lot of people on board, ranging from Alex Ross to Francisco Francavilla to Jerry Lawler and Tom Yeates. What's your thoughts on the work that they're bringing to the table?
Parks: It's unbelievable! Really, I have to step back every now and then and really let it sink in that I am writing these two characters and that some of the most talented guys in this field that I love are part of the team. It's thrilling. And, hopefully, it will attract readers to the book. I think we've got a hell of a story to tell. I want as many butts in the seats as possible when the curtain goes up.
Nrama: Now, has your interior artist been announced yet? Any word about who might be doing interiors for this book?
Parks: Esteve Pols is drawing the book, and I'm thrilled with him. I'm a big believer in authenticity. I've written historical fiction graphic novels. I love research. I love tying these tales of great fictional heroes to the real world. Esteve makes that a lot easier because he draws the settings so well and so authentically. The heroes are heroic in his work, but the real world setting around them is also very credible. That's invaluable. His work reminds me a bit oh John Severin. In my book, that's great praise for anyone tackling a book with a Western setting.
Nrama: Finally, for those who still aren't certain about this book, what would you say to get them on board? Why should viewers tune in for the Death of Zorro?
Parks: Our book is a big heroic tale that deals with the very nature of heroism: the idea that good men cannot simply do nothing when they see injustice. It also deals with the nature of a legend: how a great man's legacy stretches out and impacts others, even after his death. Finally, we've grounded our story in the real world backdrop of what Native Americans went through in Southern California. There's a lot to sink your teeth into. And hey, even if you don't dig the big themes of heroism, legacy and oppression, you can just sit back and enjoy Esteve's fantastic drawings of men doing cool stuff on horseback.