Although you might think of them as being in the same vein of hero, the Lone Ranger and Zorro certainly have their differences - first among them that they're from very different time periods in history. However, that's not stopping the two from having a very unusual team-up through time, but not in the conventional comic book sense of the word.
In Dynamite Entertainment's "The Lone Ranger/Zorro: The Death of Zorro," series writer Ande Parks has planned a story that spans two lifetimes: the twilight of Don Diego de la Vega as he straps on the sword for one more run at injustice, and the prime of life for the Lone Ranger and his companion Tonto. While Zorro's life in the series may be short-lived, Parks hopes to explore the ramifications of Zorro's good deeds on the world at large... and if they even made a difference in the end.
CBR News had a chance to speak with Parks about his plans for the March-debuting crossover, the nature of the team-up, the challenges of bringing the two heroes together without the use of time travel, the dastardly villain of the series, the dynamic between the Lone Ranger and Tonto and what's happened to Zorro since we've seen him last.
CBR News: Ande, what's the story behind "Lone Ranger/Zorro: The Death of Zorro?"
Ande Parks: Zorro is in his sixties. He's living a quiet, good life on a horse ranch in Southern California. Don Diego's life is very connected with local Native Americans, the Chumash tribe. When a horrible wrong is perpetrated on the Chumash, Don Diego finds that, as always, he cannot simply do nothing. Against his wife's wishes, he straps on the sword again. Unfortunately, he's an old, out-of-fighting-shape man now. His comeback is short-lived.
How do you see this title? Is it more akin to a Golden Age team-up or a modern crossover?
It's a modern crossover with a twist. Our two heroes interact with each other thematically, but they do not meet face to face.
When Nick [Barrucci] at Dynamite came to me with the basic premise, I knew right away how I would approach it. Given that Zorro was to die early in the series, I wanted to say something about the nature of a hero's legacy. While our book does contain a good deal of vintage Zorro action, the heart of this story is what happens after a great man dies. What kind of legacy does he leave behind? How do his good deeds stretch out past his own life, or do they at all?
Since the Lone Ranger and Zorro are from different time periods, how do you plan on reconciling this temporal difference?
There is a vital connection between the two men: one that we reveal in our second issue. It's true that they do not exist, in their primes, at the same time.
In other words, there is no timeline trickery going on here. I'm not cheating so much that we have a young and vibrant Lone Ranger running around with an equally young and vibrant Zorro. Still, Lone Ranger's actions in our series are directly driven by Zorro's actions, and by Zorro's life's work. We reveal that Lone Ranger might not exist without the heroic deeds of Zorro.
Tell us a bit about the villain of the series.
The villain is Colonel Augustus Barton. He is the leader of a battalion of Civil War Confederate Bushwhackers. These were guerrilla fighters during the war: sanctioned by the Confederacy, but not part of the regular army. Bushwhackers on both sides of the conflict committed horrific authorities. Barton and his men did their share, and then some.
At the end of the war, Barton knew that he and his men would not be taken as prisoners. They would be hunted down and killed by the victorious North. So, they ran. Our story takes place some four years later. Barton and his men have been running that whole time. They have now run right into the lives of the Chumash Indians, and Don Diego.
I'm a firm believer in bad guys being really bad, but also in making it clear that they have their reasons. Barton is capable of despicable brutality, but he has his reasons. We spend some time making those reasons clear. Not that you're going to agree with his decisions, but I think it's important that there is a rationale there that makes sense. I'm not interested in villains who just are, as if they sprung from the womb wanting to hurt their fellow men.
How will the two heroes act around one another? Do they have different opinions on right, wrong and the concept of justice?
Well, as I said above, they do not meet face to face. Lone Ranger and Tonto, though, interact with the remnants of the life Zorro built for himself.
I think Zorro and Lone Ranger are very much from the same mold. Both men, for their own reasons, are sworn to protect innocent, vulnerable people. There is a darker edge to Lone Ranger, especially the way he has been re-envisioned in the Dynamite universe. I'm a big fan of the way Dynamite creators have handled both of these classic characters. I just want to explore the way these men react when faced with impossible odds and dire consequences.
How do you think your experiences doing other books on classic heroes has prepared you to do this crossover?
To be honest, nothing I have done in my writing career really prepared me for handling two such classic characters. It was daunting until I found an angle on it. That angle was relying on my strengths as a historical fiction writer. I like research, and I firmly believe that it makes stories richer and more meaningful. In this case, I dug into the tail end of a thriving culture, the Chumash Indian culture.
Now, I don't want that to sound like this is a ponderous historical epic. It's not. There is a lot of action here. A lot of people making heroic choices when faced with awful decisions. It's all just set against the historically accurate backdrop. I think that backdrop makes the story more meaningful and, eventually, more interesting.
With this story, you're essentially pulling Zorro out of retirement - what has happened in his life since we last saw him?
To be honest, we only have room to hint at his life between the career as a crime-fighter that we know about and the content, retired life we see when our story opens. He's married to a lovely woman - a woman we don't know in the regular Zorro continuity. We also see that he hasn't stopped being a great man. He's a man of ideals. Always has been. While he hasn't been strapping on sword and mask in his later years, he has still been making a difference in people's lives. It's not in his makeup to just sit back and live selfishly.
Why do you think that the Lone Ranger and Zorro lend themselves well to a team-up?
The idealism that defines both men. That's what makes them such defining figures in American fiction. They stand up for right even, as we see in our story, if it's not necessarily the most prudent course of action.
What has been most enjoyable for you while exploring the relationship between these two characters?
The most enjoyable part of writing this series has been, and this surprised me a bit, the dynamic between Lone Ranger and Tonto. There's a very dry, subtle humor between the two that I love writing.
What do you find most challenging while crafting a dynamic between these two heroes?
Ha... as I mentioned above, the biggest challenge is that one of them dies before the other shows up!
Seriously, though, the two interact through their ideals and their actions. The challenge has been to define the scope of Zorro's legacy within an action story that deal with the events after his death. It's tempting to kill Don Diego and then just launch into a flashback about how great he was, have Lone Ranger show up and kill the bad guy and... scene. I wanted to do something more complicated - more realistic. I don't want to beat you over the head with Zorro's good deeds. I think we know what Zorro stands for. His actions hang over the people around him, even after his passing. That's what our story is about.
It sounds heavy, and it is a weighty story, but there is action and adventure aplenty. Plus, it's drawn by the amazing Esteve Pols, who will knock your socks off. The heroes are awesome, but he brings more than that to the party. The setting and trappings of the western genre are so real when he draws them. I've said this before... he reminds me a bit of the legendary John Severin. That's about as good as it gets when you're talking Western.