In many ways, Dyanamite's critically-lauded series "The Lone Ranger" exemplifies the Catch-22 of modern serial comic books. Built upon the legacy of a long running pop culture franchise and driven by a modern story sensibility established by the creative team of writer Brett Matthews, cover artist and art director John Cassaday and interior artist Sergio Cariello, the book proved a sales hit and an award-winning attraction.
But the time it takes the creative team to assemble stories has kept the series from ever shipping on a "12-issues a year" monthly schedule, with Dynamite instead waiting for the creators to deliver a completed story before soliciting new issues. The process has drummed up the often-repeated question, "Do you want it fast or do you want it right?"
Luckily for fans of the series, worries over the book's status will subside over the rest of the summer as a brand new monthly "The Lone Ranger" arc kicks off with July 29's issue #17. "Resolve" takes the famed masked man John Reid and his Indian partner Tonto into a new phase of their crime-fighting career, and to prepare readers, Matthews took talked to CBR News about how things have changed for the legendary cowboy since this series' inception and how things have remained relatively stable for the creators through each new chapter in the Ranger's legacy.
CBR: Since the creative team of "The Lone Ranger" opted to release arcs as they're ready to go, how much have your working habits changed? These days when you talk to John Cassaday and Sergio Cariello about the book, do the three of you get into the nitty gritty of the next story top to bottom, or do things still roll along on an issue by issue basis as you accumulate pages and issues until you're ready?
Brett Matthews: It hasn't changed at all. I think we've always considered things as thoroughly as possible from our respective angles. Story's my thing, design and cover and overall sounding board is John's, and then Sergio makes what we do work on the interior in that great style of his. If anything, we need to go back and forth less than we did at the beginning, because then we were building something that was a little different and it took awhile to get everyone on board and to understand the direction of the series. John and I spent a lot of time on the phone and in bars in the early days, just figuring out how to make this vision of the character work and really defining it. Sergio had to do a lot of redrawing early on, trying to get what we were talking about on the boards. Now, we're all very clear who these characters are and what the visual language of the series is. Everyone's work is reflected in it and has made it possible.
So, there's a shorthand now for sure. Sergio pretty much knows exactly what I want when he reads the scripts now. John's designs exist and work perfectly, and have really helped define the book. The tone is established and no longer something anyone - or everyone - struggles to associate with "The Lone Ranger" anymore.
In short, people get it, and that includes us. [Colorist] Marcello [Pinto] and [letterer] Simon [Bowland] are both great at their jobs, and this doesn't get said enough.
All that said, it's never "easy." We care too much for it to be. Maybe even too much, sometimes. Everyone still puts a ton of effort into each and every issue, on every single front. Simon and I will pass five emails back and forth about a period or ellipses ending a balloon. It's the nature of the beast.
Regarding the previous arc -- obviously, we're still a ways off from the Lone Ranger assuming the personality that will become his final form, but what did putting him in direct contact with innocent townspeople amidst so much craziness do for him as a character? Do you think he's feeling more drawn towards a kind of altruistic sense of justice, or are the ghosts that have been haunting him since the start of the whole story still holding sway?
John Reid has much bigger problems. I think he's become a little softer, a little less on the edge. Enough time has passed that some scar tissue has built up. He can take some measure of happiness and comfort in the good things he sees and the people that surround him again. He's starting to think maybe, just maybe there's a better way. A way to move past it all...
He's wrong, of course. Dead wrong. So enjoy that while it lasts.
The deeper John and Tonto get involved with fighting lawlessness and tracking Cavendish, the less likely it seems that John and Linda will find any kind of routine pattern in their relationship. How do you plan on developing that story moving forward?
Right. I'm gonna tell you how that turns out. Because Darth Vader is Luke's - Put it this way. Your question will be resolved.
"The Lone Ranger" #17 starts a brand new arc. What can you say about the title of the new story and how it rolls out? Is there anything following up on "Scorched Earth" that you guys will be playing with, particularly after #16's coda with Cavendish?
Issue #17 begins "Resolve." It's a big arc in every way. It will live up to the word's multiple meanings, as a lot of the things that have been building throughout the series all come to a head. In many ways, it's the end of the story we set out to tell. A companion to the first arc, "Now & Forever."
Speaking of issue #16, how did it feel to take an issue to shift gears and focus on such an important supporting character? That seems to be the benefit of being deep into an extended run on a series. As you guys move forward, do you have any plans to do more spotlight stories like that? Maybe one of Tonto or some more villain development?
Well, I love one-shots. Always have. And really, we've done them throughout. "Ostinato" was one, "Downbeat" was another - I'd argue that was Tonto's one-shot - even though it featured a character from "Scorched Earth." "The Lone Ranger & Tonto" series, that's the whole point of it. I like to put the one-offs between the arcs in the main series just to reestablish the tone for anyone coming in, and answer the more subtle questions that arise during the longer arcs for those who have been following along. It's just a format I really, really enjoy.
With villains, we've already got some iconic bad guy work with Black Bart early in the series, and of course Cavendish at the helm with other memorable murderers thrown in. What goes into developing a Western villain for a modern audience that doesn't seem like a mustache-twirler out of "Gunsmoke" or the like? Do you try to match modern ideals to the Old West?
Good villains always have a point of view and you have to define it. They're not wrong in their own eyes, or they've made their peace with what they are. Very often, they're the heroes of their own stories, their internal narratives. Cavendish surely is, though of course he's nuts. All these horrible things that Masked Man is forcing him to do, that's pretty much how he would see it...
What's the status of "The Lone Ranger & Tonto?" Is it the kind of thing where you'll come back and do more stories here and there as the team finds time?
The third of those is fully rendered and being lettered as we speak. The fourth, we have a really neat story and are now off to script. We set out to do four because we thought it would make for an interesting trade, free of the significant continuity weight the main series brings but still in line with it. A diverse sampler. Beyond that, we'll jump off that bridge when we get there. And yes, that does look like a bridge on the horizon.
Overall, we're going to be getting a lot of Ranger action over the next few months. With all the issues for the arc ready to go, is there anything about the long term ramifications of this new story that you're excited to get into folks' hands?
Really, this arc is those long term ramifications. There are things that happen we've been building in since issue one. It's fun now paying them off.
I'm very excited for everyone that has followed the book from the beginning to see what happens. And of course, for new readers to dip their toe into this thing. If you've invested in who these characters are, some pretty big stuff is about to happen. You will see the things you've been wanting to see... or things you really never wanted to, but are the answers you weren't expecting. Little incidents and lines and huge, landmark moments within the world of our story. Things that might not yet be clear, but it's been where we've been going all along. There's no going back from here.