As The Lone Ranger series from Dynamite hits issue #24, it seemed like a good time for Byron Brewer to check in with series writer Ande Parks to see what he has in store for the Masked Man and his companion Tonto.
BYRON BREWER: So Ande, was this your attempt to put into comic book form the 1994 runaway bus film Speed, except this is on a train? (lol)
ANDE PARKS: I actually didn't think of Speed, but it is a good analogy. The train's speed is out of our heroes' control. It creates, I hope, a tension throughout the entire issue.
This issue came from me wanting to do something very high energy and action-packed. The confined spaces of a train seemed like a good setting. Plus, I will confess that the big action sequence at the end of the Lone Ranger movie stuck with me. It featured a train, so that was probably a factor.
BB: It is taking me sometime to realize the Ranger left Silver behind on this one!
AP: I had to do some real thinking to work out what to do with the horses! I knew I wanted to have Lone Ranger leap from his horse to the train, but then what? I have Lone Ranger mention that the horses will be along soon on the last page, the idea being that they've been running along the rails throughout the issue, playing catch-up. Poor horses. I guess they're used to working long hours with little reward. They're good like that.
BB: Esteve Polls' renderings of a runaway Iron Horse in Lone Ranger #24 are just breath-taking! The pacing and the sense of urgency in the characters enhance your script greatly. Your thoughts?
AP: I've been really lucky to have had Esteve interpret so many of my scripts. He's a wonderful storyteller, and he's perfect for these Western stories. He gives everyone in the stories, good and bad, a unique personality that really comes through. He draws the quiet moments well and, as you noted, he really delivers with the action, as well. I knew he'd make the most out of this train issue.
BB: Is it hard to find comic book artists that can portray the Lone Ranger's time period with the rugged Western realism needed for these stories?
AP: Somewhat, yeah? Like I said, we've been so lucky to have Esteve, and the same goes for our whole team, including letterer Simon Bowland and colorist Marc Rueda.
Esteve sets the tone by getting the settings right. He really creates a credible world for our people to move around in, and I think that adds something to our stories. He always nails the saddles, the guns, the clothes… all that stuff. In my opinion, the realistic world Esteve creates around our characters makes their heroic deeds that much more powerful.
BB: With all the innocents involved in such a closed environment, the pacing on this tale is certainly different than some Lone Ranger fare. Was it hard to pull off?
AP: Actually, it was a little easier than an average issue. I had a certain number of action sequences I wanted to include. When I plotted out the issue page-by-page, those action moments pretty much dictated the pace for the whole thing. There wasn't much room left to worry about!
The challenge was trying to make sure that the villains were more than just cardboard bad guys. Yeah… we wanted to keep thing moving, but you still have to get to know the villains and understand their agendas. Without that, the whole thing in meaningless.
BB: Can you tell us anything about our "unkillable" foe?
AP: The villain for this issue was born when I re-watched Ken Burns' Civil War documentary with my kids awhile back. It got me thinking about John Brown. He was an interesting figure… a man who did some horrible things (and died himself) in service to a noble goal; to end slavery. I started to think about a character with the same zeal, but with a different goal; the emancipation of oppressed Native Americans.
So, I had an idea for a villain who might have good intentions, but I wanted to make him more interesting. In the solicitation copy for this issue, I wrote something about the heroes fighting an "unkillable" foe. I didn't really know what that meant when I wrote it. When it came time to tell the story, I just had to figure it out. I came up with a solution that, I hope, is unique but makes sense for the character.
BB: What makes Lone Ranger and Tonto characters you continue to enjoy writing about, and ones fans never seem to tire of reading about?
AP: I realized after writing more than a dozen scripts (including our Death of Zorro book) with these characters when I realized that every one of them was, in a way, about the same thing; why these two men have decided to do this together. What binds them so closely? Their friendship is the core of the book, I think.
I also find The Ranger's values appealing. He has been through tragedy, but he refuses to let the hardship darken his world view. He remains idealistic. Tonto is less so, and that makes the partnership more interesting.
BB: Is it hard to come up with new threats for the Ranger, locked in a period genre as it were? You certainly throw a ton of action his way in #24.
AP: It can be challenging, especially when telling single-issue stories as we have been recently. I just try to find something new for our characters to face. I start with a real world threat/theme that I find interesting, and try to add a little comic book jazz where I can.
I love the setting, and I try to mix in a little history whenever possible. It can't be a history lesson, though. Yeah… we're telling fairly realistic stories, but it's still a comic book with good guys punching bad guys.
BB: Ande, any projects current or future you'd care to discuss?
AP: I'm writing a new thing for Dynamite. I don't know how much they want to discuss that right now. I think I can say that crimes are committed. Lots of 'em. So… keep an eye out for that. Thanks!