Ande Parks writes for Bleeding Cool;
Lone Ranger#4 Commentary
The end of issue three left Tonto for dead and, a few days later, the Lone Ranger about to be hung. Despite those cliffhangers, we open issue four with Agent Marle. I wanted to provide a little background on how the Ranger and Tonto ended up in their respective predicaments. I also like making the reader wait just a bit more for the resolution we hope they're anxious about.
Agent Marle (created by Matthews and company in the previous LR series) is a fascinating character. We're portraying him as a conflicted man who tries to serve his country with honor. Unfortunately, the men who run the country don't always have the purest motives. An honorable man trying to do his best in the service of a corrupt system is one of my favorite themes: one I can rarely resist revisiting.
I confess to being quite proud of the Senator's "undignified" line in panel four.
This Hanging part of the Hard Country arc has a big villain: Marshal Gabriel Dorsey. I really didn't want to get into Dorsey's past much. I often like to dig into what motivates bad guys… look at the source for why they do horrible things. In this case, I wanted to keep Dorsey simple. He's a maniac with delusions of biblical grandeur. Still, we do need to establish why the Lone Ranger has been sent after Dorsey. We need to see who's pulling the strings. The Senator is motivated by his own pursuit of power. There's a nice symmetry there.
The storytelling by Esteve in this scene is fantastic. He keeps things from getting boring in a talky scene without resorting to distracting techniques.
I love the idea or Dorsey being a sanctimonious little bastard, even as a seven year old.
Here we get to the scope of the Senator's ambitions. He's using Marle to use the Lone Ranger and Tonto to get rid of his cousin, Marshal Dorsey. Marle doesn't like it. He's certainly not going to socialize with the Senator. The trail is dirty, but it's got nothing on politicians.
I did a little research into the second term of Ulysses S. Grant. He would end up winning a second term, but I think his chances were widely viewed as dim in 1870. His administration was plagued by several scandals, including the Black Friday gold market scandal of 1869.
I love the juxtaposition of Marle and the dirty cowboy in the final panel. This is purely Esteve's doing. My panel description read: "Tight on Marle as he walks out of the hotel. He pulls his hat on with a bitter expression." As always, Esteve gave me more than I asked for.
We do a lot of time jumping in this three part, story-within-a-story. I guess it all stems from me wanting to establish Lone Ranger with a noose around his neck right off the bat. That image was the first thing that hit me about this story, and I wanted it to hit the reader right away, too. So, we ended up having to jump back in time to see how our hero got in such a jam. Add to that the fact that I had to jump back even further in our first scene this issue to show why Marle went out in search of the Lone Ranger in the first place… and I suppose it gets kind of complex. I don't think it's too complex for our readers, but it did give me pause. In the end, I couldn't think of a better way.
When last we saw Tonto, Dorsey and his men were leaving him for dead. They clearly didn't know how tough Tonto is. You can chalk it up in part to their inherent racism towards Tonto. They don't see him as their equal in any way, least of all toughness.
Clearly, Tonto is alive, but far from well. This wolf has caught the scent of Tonto's blood and is in search of a late night snack. Lovely textures and coloring by Esteve and Marcelo. I really love this moment of Tonto standing despite his pain and making himself fierce for the wolf. That roar says, "You want this meal, you're gonna have to earn it."
The wolf decides to seek easier prey. He can read Tonto far better than Dorsey and company did. With the wolf defeated, Tonto only has to worry about his wound and the desert cold. Gonna be a long night. Esteve does a great job setting the scene here with the composition of the last two panels. I also love the photo-texture on the moon.
Pages Seven to Twelve
Another time jump. When this new Lone Ranger series started, we decided to include a flashback segment in each issue. This is the last issue in the Hard Country arc in which we do so. I felt very strongly about this one. I wanted to say something about Tonto's childhood, and about how he views himself.
I am avoiding naming Tonto's tribe specifically in our series. At first I did so because nailing it down meant getting particular with some long-established inconsistencies that are hard to reconcile. If Tonto is a Potawatomi his people are from the Great Lakes area. While it is true that a lot of Native American tribes were forcibly moved west, I thought that was a long way for them to travel, assuming their eventual destination of the southwestern desert area.
Then, I had to think about what naming Tonto as one specific type of Indian would mean for our stories. I wanted to make Tonto's experience more of a universal Native American experience. Making him part of one tribe would add a certain degree of realism, and it would fit with the historical tidbits we're dropping into our stories. In the end, though, I didn't want to limit Tonto's thematic possibilities. If his background remains less specific, we can tell more types of stories about how his life mirrors the lives of millions of Native Americans.
The vision quest ritual was a practice shared by most Native American tribes. Revisiting Tonto's vision quest gives us a chance to look at Tonto's spirituality, which will be a major part of our next arc (titled Native Ground). I won't say much more now, in part because I think our scene speaks for itself, and in part because we're going to cover this aspect of Tonto's life in upcoming issues. I will say that I love how Esteve and Marcelo have visualized Tonto's spirit guide. It's just fantastic. Imagine growing up thinking of that image as your destiny in life.
The next morning. Tonto has survived the night. He's badly injured and has no food or water. He bandages his would and heads out. He can see in what direction Dorsey's men headed out. The Lone Ranger is probably still with those men, and he may need Tonto's help. That's all Tonto needs to know. Time to start walking.
Pages Fourteen and Fifteen
It's interesting that I didn't mark the passage of time or the location with a caption box here. I guess I was tired of them. I think all will be clear as you read this scene. It's a juggling act, figuring out when to let the reader find their way as a scene develops as opposed to just spelling it out. I think I used to often err on the side of cleverness. Now I try to err on the side of clarity.
We meet a very important supporting character here: Marshal Dorsey's wife. She is the character who surprised me the most as I wrote this story. I had some interesting notions hit me as I wrote, and I just went with them. I think they add a very interesting dynamic to the story. She wasn't mentioned much if at all in my outline. I like that I feel more free to roll with surprising characters and story twists than I used to. Maybe I'm growing into this writing thing.
I wonder if leaving a single hand behind on the ranch with the Marshal's wife would have been considered appropriate at the time. I needed it to happen, so I didn't give it much thought. Would it have been scandalous?
I'm proud of the idea that Tonto's horse has basically already kicked this hand's ass before our scene started. It's about to become a trend for this sorry bastard.
Esteve is so good at this stuff. Here's Tonto, looking completely realistic, completely heroic and completely badass. The line is kind of a cool throwaway, but it does reflect the Native American reverence for nature and its creatures. Well, the Lone Ranger feels the same way about Silver, I'm sure…
Pages Seventeen and Eighteen
Tonto is gravely wounded and has just walked miles through the desert. He can still take this dude. I wanted this to read like Scout is trying to escape from his bonds to assist Tonto. Man, that last panel of page seventeen is brutal. Punched right in his fresh gunshot wound.
Dorsey's wife appears again. I wanted to play her as mysterious as possible here. Her husband's hired hand lies unconscious, as does her husband's enemy. She has a lot of options here. I think/hope she's going to choose one you'd never see coming.
Page Twenty to Twenty-Two
I have to confess that keeping the Lone Ranger on the gallows over the span of three issues runs the risk of being tiresome. He's not there much in the climax of the story, as you'll see in the next issue.
This scene is vital to our story. Dorsey hasn't been killing and robbing people alone. The whole town of Utopia is complicit. They're willing to stand there and do nothing as a good man is hung. Does Dorsey have that much power over them, or are they just as rotten as he is? Much more on that in our sixth issue.
Lone Ranger #5 Commentary
At the end of issue #4, we left Tonto and a hand from the Dorsey ranch lying unconscious, seemingly at the mercy of our villainous Marshal's wife. Well, it appears the good lady has cared to Tonto. We'll get to what's become of the other guy pretty soon.
We're going to learn a lot about Claudia Dorsey over the course of this and our next issue. As I wrote these scripts, Claudia evolved a bunch. She became a real character as I went. It was a new experience for me, and I found it really exciting. I've always been a pretty thorough planner, nailing down my stories in pretty tight outline form. Writing Claudia has me thinking it might be time to loosen up and let things happen more on the fly. We'll see…
Esteve does a great job with the setting here. He creates just enough detail to make the Dorsey home believable. The wedding portrait is very accurate for the era. I have a similar portrait that was taken of my great-grandparents when they got married.
Claudia's request in the final panel of this page is a moment I'm really proud of. When this moment for Claudia hit me, I was surprised, but it made perfect sense. Again, bear with us. Claudia's motivations will become clear in our next issue.
The last of our time jumps in this arc, as we get back to our story's present for the duration. We get more hints at Dorsey's grand scheme. Frankly, I didn't think it was important to explain his whole plan. It involves the end times and a lot of killing. I had it figured out, but we're only going to mention it in passing. Our villain's scheme isn't as important as how it affects our heroes and the citizens of Utopia.
This page also shows off what killer work the whole team is doing on this book. The compositions, setting and characters are just nailed by Esteve. The coloring by Marcelo is rich, realistic and full of texture, but never overwhelms the line art. The lettering by Simon is the same: full of character but never showy. This is the job: telling the story efficiently, cleanly, and with style.
To be honest, I had planned on making this a two-page spread, but couldn't get the page numbers to work out. I always start my two-page splashes on an even numbered page. Since I don't know what ads may be placed in the books, it's a good way to ensure that the spread will not cause headaches for the editor. Obviously, you can't start a two-pager on page one or any other page the reader will have to turn.
God, this stampede came out great. Amazing work by Esteve and Marcelo. The clouds of dust are wonderful. I also love the image of Scout and Silver galloping next to each other, with Tonto urging them on.
I hope this dumb deputy in panel one isn't too much. His question hit me as I was writing, and it was too good to pass up. Dorsey, of course, knows exactly what's going on as soon as he sees the approaching herd. He probably can't see Tonto clearly from this distance, but he knows.
The Lone Ranger is so fun to write because he always does the right thing. I get to channel all of my own best instincts, and just shut out the poor ones. Even as he's about to be hung by Dorsey, and even as the townspeople were willing to just watch it happen, the Ranger is offering to help. He's not doing so because it saves his own neck (although living to help more people is a nice bonus). He's doing it because it's the right thing to do. Dorsey could care less, of course.
… go straight to hell.
SOUND EFFECT (lever)
Big panel. ¾ splash. From below the gallows platform as the trap door swings down and Lone Ranger drops. Big, dramatic shot as Lone Ranger falls through the square wooden hole, and from light to darkness. Lone Ranger's body should fill this panel as much as possible. We should think this drop is probably going to kill our hero, even if we know that's not really possible.
SOUND EFFECT (trap door)
HARD COUNTRY, Part Five of Six
HANGING, Part Three
I called for a two panel page, with the Lone Ranger's drop being a big, splashy image. It never occurred to me to split the page vertically, but that's really the only way to make it work. If you shorten the second panel to a ¾ shot, you diminish the effect of the Ranger's drop. Esteve probably knew as much right away, God bless him. As drawn, I think the page reads perfectly, and I get part of the credit. Unless I tell the world otherwise in a commentary track…
This is not the first time I've had to research the subject of death by hanging. I wrote an historical fiction graphic novel called Capote In Kansas several years ago, in which two convicted killers are sentenced to death by hanging. What I've learned is that most people don't die when they reach the bottom of the drop. The neck snaps only in cases where the person is overweight or the drop is farther than the average gallows. Usually, the arteries in the neck get compressed and the blood can't get to the brain. Sometimes asphyxia is the culprit. Anyway, death is rarely instantaneous in hangings. I figured it wasn't a stretch that a young, fit man like the Lone Ranger could survive the drop. And, the chaos of the stampede means that no one is carefully monitoring his status once he's fallen. What I'm saying is: the Ranger's survival here is not preposterous.
God, I love that rope wiggling around in the foreground of panel four! Oh, these poor bastard who work for Dorsey. I kind of feel for them in panel six.
I know I say this a lot, and I don't want to get tiresome, but this page features fantastic storytelling by Esteve. The three shots of Dorsey on top are varied, ending with a shot down from the heavens, which fits the story perfectly. The big final image is just stunning to me. Epic, but still personal. And that rope still wiggles there, unseen by Dorsey but reminding us that the Lone Ranger isn't down for the count yet.
I always love the bad guy, who oppresses and kills anyone in his path, seeing himself as a victim.
Our hero being a freaking hero. 'Nuff said.
Pages Eleven and Twelve
This story features a villain who distorts the message of the bible to serve his own selfish needs. I think that can lead to some readers deciding that the author or the story is trying to mock Christianity or faith as a whole. That is far from the case. My own, personal religious beliefs are just that: personal. It's my job to tell the stories of these characters. It's their faith that matters. The Lone Ranger is a man of faith. I think he read the bible with his mother as a small child, and I think he knows the good book very well. He believes his mother and father are waiting for him in heaven. While he doesn't spend much time in church, he is a devout man in his own way. For that reason, Dorsey twisting Christian values to his own, deadly ends particularly offends our hero.
Meanwhile, as the Ranger and Dorsey begin their face to face battle, Tonto rides by, perhaps already unconscious.
Pages Thirteen to Sixteen
The big fight. I felt right for Dorsey to go down swinging, fighting dirty and quoting scripture. I caught a little flak for the bible quotes here. To write Dorsey's rant here, I did some research on bible verses relevant to his twisted views of the end times, picked a few choice verses and then tweaked slightly to fit the needs of the character. I think that's entirely proper, since these words are coming from a character. If I had been using these bible verses as narrative, I would have stuck to the scripture (one version of it, anyway) and cited the quotes. As is, these are the words of a madman, and he may be skewing them to fit his needs. The fact that the Lone Ranger recognizes and can finish the final section doesn't mean our hero knew everything Dorsey was saying during their battle.
I loved the idea of these two characters fighting hand to hand, with no room for error as the herd storms by. To be honest, it also gave us a way to eliminate Dorsey for good, without the Lone Ranger breaking his code against killing in a direct way.
Such a lovely page. Here's the art direction from my script for panel one:
Wide as Lone Ranger looks out at the remains of the stampede as the remains of the herd clear the gallows. Lone Ranger (and we) look out at the bulk of the herd, in the direction Tonto and the horses rode.
Esteve does all I asked for, and makes it really poignant and epic. Outstanding.
I wondered about having Lone Ranger smile at the sight of Silver in the final panel. Overall things, are still looking so grim. I thought it would read okay, given the special bond between the Ranger and his horse. Esteve drew the smile just right, and I think it reads fine.
Pages Eighteen and Nineteen
The Lone Ranger would probably have not made the bargain Tonto has made. The Ranger would not have traded his own life for Tonto's or for any citizens of the town who may have been injured or killed in the stampede. Now, the Ranger is safe, but at what cost. We'll find out in the next issue.
Pages Twenty to Twenty-Two
Remember that ranch hand Tonto beat up in the previous issue? What become of that guy? Here you go. I don't want to say too much about this scene, because I want Claudia's story to play out for those of you who haven't read issue #6 yet. I'll just say that she has her reasons. Her actions will create a very sticky moral dilemma for the Lone Ranger.
I described Claudia as watching the fire with the same, unreadable expression she always seems to have. Esteve nailed it.