Abuzz with the twitter of a throng of Dynamite fans, the day started off with a bang at the Dynamite panel with “Zorro” writer Matt Wagner and Dynamite Editor Joe Rybandt during Baltimore Comic-Con 2009! Kicking off the panel was Rybandt’s commentary on the origin and development of two of Dynamite’s most popular titles, Wagner’s “Zorro” and “The Lone Ranger.”
“When we got the Zorro license, we had no creative direction. We had a plan to do to Zorro with what we did to the Lone Ranger, but bring it forward,” said Rybandt. “We had no desire to do something that had been done before and we had no desire to ruin the character.”
“I liked the approach they took on the Lone Ranger,” said Wagner about coming onto the project. “It imbued it with a new life and vitality. I love Zorro. Hell, who doesn’t love Zorro? It’s the precursor of every modern superhero! Zorro isn’t really driven by the same grief and vengeance as Batman is. Zorro isn’t taking on criminals, he’s taking on the status quo.”
Many fans have continually asked about Dynamite’s initiative into The Green Hornet, and it looks like their prayers are about to be answered. “Our next effort is the Green Hornet,” said Rybandt. “The name that immediately comes to mind with the Green Hornet, besides Seth Rogen, is Kevin Smith.” In addition to the previously announced Green Hornet series that Smith will be penning, Dynamite plans to release two other Green Hornet series. “We’re doing a Golden-Age Green Hornet and then we’re doing a near-future Green Hornet that’s going to be written by Brett Matthews, who writes ‘The Lone Ranger.'”
Rybandt then announced that the Golden-Age Green Hornet series, titled “Green Hornet: Year One” will be written by Wagner. “The new Green Hornet project continues a long line of similar characters that I’ve dealt with,” said Wagner after the panel. “These are the sort of characters I love, this is the sort of time period I love. I’m hoping to be bringing a unique and all-new approach to both the Green Hornet and Kato and to exploring a lot of the backstory that has been hinted at, but unexplained in pre-existing versions of the character.”
“The time period always really excites me,” he said. “As I’ve mentioned, I’ve dealt with these sorts of characters and each of them has their own unique spin. The Green Hornet is not Zorro, is not Batman, is not Golden-Age Sandman. The fun part is to dig down beneath the masks and the trenchcoats and the fedoras and find out what makes that character tick. I think I’ve got a good unique spin on it.”
Wagner, who has dealt with this time period in the past with his work on Golden-Age Sandman, mentioned his affinity for the period comes from his childhood. “I have an inherited nostalgia for this time period from my parents,” he said. “My dad bought ‘Action Comics #1’ straight off the stands. I used to love The Shadow. I would get the old vinyl discs and listen to those shows. That led to Green Hornet and Lone Ranger.”
After speaking to the mythology and the connection between the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet (who is the Lone Ranger’s Great-Nephew) present in the existing versions of the characters, Rybandt mentioned that these connections are something that they hope to explore in both series. “While we haven’t specifically drawn those parallels, Brett Matthews has had fun with the character in [‘The Lone Ranger’]. Whether or not we do something explicit with the characters together remains to be seen.”
“Lone Ranger” cover artist and “Astonishing X-Men” artist John Cassaday will be providing covers across all three Green Hornet titles while Alex Ross provides covers specifically for the Kevin Smith title. Dynamite’s “Sherlock Holmes” artist, Aaron Campbell, will be taking on interior art duties for “Green Hornet: Year One.” “Aaron gets into the period, he’s going to make the ’30s live and breathe like comics haven’t seen for a long time,” said Rybandt.
The panel then transitioned into Wagner’s work on Zorro. “One of my goals with Zorro was to redefine him in a certain way. I wanted to get back to comics that just continued month after month, and you just got a great story every month,” said Wagner. “I loved when you could get a comic and enjoy it. To that end I decided on the cover of Zorro, we don’t have creative credits. I wanted the simplicity of the art and this bold title.”
Wagner then spoke about the evolution of the series, citing the inclusion of romance into the storyline and the difference in narrative structure from issue to issue. “We pulled back more and introduced romance into the storyline and had something that almost felt like a movie adventure. We’re also changing the narrative tone every time,” he said. “The first arc was narrated by Zorro’s companion Bernardo. The next one had no internal narration, it only had dialog, so it felt a lot more like a movie.”
The next Zorro arc is called “Tales of the Fox” and introduces General Raphael Mercado as the main antagonist. As word finally reaches the north of Zorro’s escapades, General Mercado begins to gather intelligence on the famous vigilante. “Like any good general, he doesn’t rush into battle, he gets many different viewpoints,” says Wagner. “It’s six issues where we just get different stories about Zorro. We advance his personal life a bit and we’ll see some dramatic changes in his life and situation.”
As for the continuing adventures of Zorro, Wagner realizes the merit of making sure the story doesn’t end anytime soon. “Zorro has to achieve little victories little by little and that shows that he’s one man against many,” he says. “He does not manage to upend the California government in one storyline. That’ll happen in slow increments.”
The panel continued with Rybandt questioning Wagner on his work on “Grendel” and “Mage”. “When I first pictured ‘Grendel’, I thought of it as a finite story,” he said.
“I came up with the legacy idea of the personal moving from character to character. The only way at that point at my career at making a monthly interesting to myself was to continuously reinventing it. A series of stories that began and ended and then continued.”
Wagner then explained to the gathered crowd that with the evolution of the story of Grendel came his idea to open up the title for other artists. “Let’s open up Grendel to other artists. Let me see if I can write for other people,” he said. Wagner continued on, saying that the collaborative process allowed him to see how others viewed the character and that he was always excited to see others draw Grendel, but was locked down when it came to his other creator owned property, “Mage”. “I love seeing other people draw Grendel. Anytime somebody draws Kevin Matchstick, I think it’s wrong.”
Rybandt and Wagner then opened it up for questions from the audience. Wagner was asked about the thread of mythology running through his work and how it affected his other projects. “That’s what appeals to me,” he said. “I was raised in a protestant household. I value the power of myth. I’m a big fan of joseph Campbell. It’s natural for me to imbue stories with that. … It’s in my characters, my stories because it’s in me and I think it’s something that’s in all of us.”
Wagner was then asked about whether or not there would be more “Mage” coming down the line. The answer? “Eventually. ‘Mage’ is a weird beast for me. It all of a sudden creeps up on me and taps me on the shoulder. I’m working on a movie deal for ‘Mage’ right now. It’s not ready to announce yet. This turnaround is the one that’s been the most hopeful. I’m not quitting my day job though.”
Finally, Rybandt was asked about one of Dynamite’s flagship titles, “Project Superpowers”. “We’re currently in our Chapter Two series,” said Rybandt. “We’ve expanded out the Black Terror to be an ongoing series, so Phil Hester is writing that. We’re wrapping up the ‘Meet the Bad Guys’ series with Joe Casey. The first issue of ‘Black Terror’ will release next month. We’re also doing a series on ‘The Ghost.’ We’re picking and choosing characters to give their own spotlight to, and we’re continuing the ongoing series as well.”
Wrapping up the Panel, Rybandt closed with details on Dynamite’s Sherlock Holmes series. “We will be doing another Holmes series of some sort, we hope to do it with Leah Moore and John Reppion. They’ve become our go-to classic adaptation people – Leah has a wonderful pedigree, she’s Alan Moore’s daughter. They’re also doing ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with us.”
“There will be hardcover collection of The Trial of Sherlock Holmes for the Holiday buying season. It went to press last week. Dracula hit some scheduling difficulties. The Holmes Hardcover will be in stores mid-November.”
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