Western Promises: Matthews talks "The Lone Ranger"

Last year, Dynamite Entertainment launched a new "Lone Ranger" series helmed by writer Brett Matthews and artist Sergio Cariello. This August, "The Lone Ranger" book continues with issue #12, and CBR News caught up with Matthews to catch up on the series.

The first eleven issues of "The Lone Ranger" follow a young Texas Ranger named John Reid as he evolves and finds his way in the world following the murder of his father, brother, and fellow Rangers. "He's aided in this by a damaged -- but also wise and worldly and occasionally dangerous -- Native American drifter named Tonto, who is a half-breed and claims no tribal affiliation, though he may not exactly be telling the whole story," Matthews told CBR News.

The legendary Lone Ranger has been portrayed in countless incarnations in as many mediums since he was first introduced on the radio airwaves in 1933, but there are a number of things that set Matthews' vision of the Lone Ranger apart from those his predecessors. "The tone is clearly darker and the mythology more grounded in realism," Matthews said of his Dynamite series. "Tonto has been altered pretty dramatically, and necessarily, in my opinion. And the whole thing is first and foremost a character piece. 'The Lone Ranger' as we're doing it is a transitional, contemplative Western rather than an episodic serial."

That said, Matthews took pains to ensure his take stayed true to the character. Matthews' goal has been "getting to the core of who The Ranger is and trying to provide plausible means and methods and motivations -- emotional and more tangible -- for him to get there." So Dynamite's "Lone Ranger" is the classic story "filtered through a more realistic and morally complex light."

The Ranger also becomes the guardian of his late brother's wife and child, a responsibility he is decidedly unprepared for. "He wants more than anything to do right and bring the man responsible for these deaths to justice -- and not give in to his understandable desire for revenge and just kill the guy -- hopefully without losing himself and his soul in the process," Matthews said. In short, Reid is a young man in over his head, seeking out justice and becoming a legend in the process.

In 2007, "The Lone Ranger" was nominated for an Eisner for Best New Series, and John Cassady has received Best Cover Artist nods for two years running on the strength of his "Lone Ranger" work. "It's always nice when people enjoy something you work so hard on -- especially people with such good and varied taste -- and the critical response and support has been fantastic and appreciated from day one," Matthews said. "At the end of the day, anything that introduces more people to the book and the character and his history is good by me. It's good for the company, it's good for Westerns in comics, and more than the rest it's good that The Ranger is being viewed in the present tense again."

More than a few people were quick to call "The Lone Ranger" a dead franchise before Dynamite's re-launch, and Matthews was proud to prove the naysayers wrong.

Matthews said his Ranger was influenced by the many and varied incarnations of the character over the years, "from radio to prose to print to television to screen." Of course, the Western genre as a whole was a big inspiration for the series, especially transitional Westerns. Matthews asked artist Sergio Cariello to watch Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West" before starting work on the series, citing the filmmaker's "width and palette and desolation" as a strong influence on the look of his "Lone Ranger." "All that said, the whole point of doing something like this is that it's an original vision and not just a rehash of or an homage to any of these things," Matthews said. "That it has its own merit and reason for being. More than anything, that's what I'm trying to create."

Matthews said his collaboration with Cariello has evolved along with the series. "We have a great deal of back and forth every step of the way, and I think each of us knows what the other is going for very specifically now," Matthews explained. "The vision for this book now exists and is no longer being built from scratch by he and Cassaday and I, so the translation from script to page is easier." Matthews said the process of selecting a series artist had been a long one, but in the end it was time well spent. "Sergio's work has been fundamental and definitive for what we're trying to do."

August's "The Lone Ranger" #12 is the first installment of a new four-issue arc entitled "Scorched Earth." "The Ranger and Tonto have to begin to step out of their comfort zone -- and into something very familiar to fans -- if they're going to become what they're destined to be," Matthews said. "Meaning if they want to do the good they feel compelled to do, it can't always be in a vacuum. Sometimes they have to put themselves out there, literally and figuratively, and them being them they do it to help a friend." After that, Ranger villain Butch Cavendish finds God in an arc entitled "Ostinato."

Matthews didn't reveal how long he expects "The Lone Ranger" to run, but he does have a definitive ending in mind. "I knew the ending before I wrote the first page," Matthews revealed. "I can't imagine telling a story any other way."

Look for "The Lone Ranger" #12 to hit stands this August.

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