We often take the comic book process for granted. We visit the stores each week and pick up the new comics. We know that someone is doing the writing and art. How that process comes about isn't always the first thing that comes to mind. From time to time, we may see a script or writer's notes but it's the commentary where we get the real insight.
THE LONE RANGER #7 marked the beginning of the "Native Ground" six part arc. This will reveal the secret past of Tonto. If you've never read a Lone Ranger comic, you might want to track down these issues. Here are writer Ande Parks' thoughts on the issues and check back tomorrow for commentary on issue #8.
THE LONE RANGER #7
It's new territory and a new arc for the Lone Ranger. With Tonto gravely wounded, the Ranger seeks help from a Ute Indian Shaman. As the Ute decide whether to offer help or simply kill Lone Ranger on the spot, we begin to learn the secrets of Tonto's past. How did Tonto come to be the brave without a tribe who discovered John Reid after the Cavendish gang's ambush? All will be revealed in the Native Ground arc. Part one of six.== TEASER ==
Lone Ranger #6, the last chapter of our Hard Country arc, left Tonto near death and loaded into the back of the Lone Ranger's wagon. We're not going to see a lot of the Ranger in this arc. This is Tonto's story: the story of how he came to be the lone brave that came across John Reid after the Cavendish gang's ambush. In the previous Lone Ranger series, Brett Matthews hinted at Tonto's past. I wanted to go explore that more. I originally thought I might cover Tonto's past in an issue or two, but the events kept getting bigger. It wasn't enough to just show the events that shaped Tonto's life. We had to give them context. Hence, this six issue arc all about Tonto's other life- the life he once enjoyed as a father and husband- the life that was taken from him.
As I mentioned, we aren't going to see a lot of the Lone Ranger for the first four issues of this arc. This one page is all we get in this issue. Just enough to remind you where Hard Country left off, and to establish that most of this arc takes place in Tonto's fevered brain.
I really wanted to open these looks back into Tonto's past with a bison hunt. It's so iconic that you might call it cliche, but it really was a crucial part of the lives of Native Americans on the plains. Look how smart I was to give Esteve and Marcelo a double splash to show off here. God, they're good. God, it's so easy to type “two-page spread of a huge herd of bison charging right at us.”
We meet Kahnaka here. He'll be a key figure in these first few issues of Native Ground. He's our entry point into Tonto's tribe, in a way. He's trying to establish himself as a man in the tribe... trying to prove himself in this hunt. That doesn't go especially well. His arrow only annoys the bison enough to knock Kahnaka's horse over.
Tonto to the rescue! Tonto is the only brave in the tribe with a rifle. He uses it well. Maybe someday I'll have time to tell the story of how he acquired it. By the end of this arc, we'll end up with a lot of similar possibilities.
Kahnaka is still young. Naive. He wants to help the horse he's grown close to. Tonto knows the horse's life is over. All that's left is to end the suffering of another creature of the gods. Tonto doesn't really pass judgment on Kahnaka here, but he does let the kid know he screwed up.
We meet Beshkno here, who was established in the Matthews run. Again, Brett and company hinted at his past relationship with Tonto. We're filling in the details. Eating the fresh liver of the bison was a honor bestowed on successful hunters of some tribes. I love the last three panels of this page. Beshkno has this last word defiance that tickles me. I can hear my grandpa saying something like this. Defensive, and not willing to back down even in retreat.
Time for the big introductions: Tonto's wife and son. Now we know Tonto once had a relatively happy life. We know he has to lose all this to come together with John Reid. Tragedy looms, but I think we do a good job of letting you enjoy what Tonto has here: real love, and some measure of contentment. The last two panels of page eight just delight me. God, Esteve is so good. I like the idea of Tacome having a new toy that he loves. We can all relate. Esteve and Marcelo to a marvelous job with the setting here. The teepees are realistic. The clothes, the implements... it all feels right.
I don't know that my research (I always do at least a little on stories like this) led me to a familial arrangement in the teepees. It just made sense to me that Tonto, his wife and their child would live with some extended family. Tonto's wife establishes that Tonto has an affection for lost souls that he know he will never manage to shake. Yeah... we're getting a little sexy with Tonto and his Missus. Sadly, only a little.
Beshkno tells us in the first panel of page twelve that the braves approaching the camp are well-known. They are a small group of braves who no longer have a tribe. They have sworn amongst themselves to do only one thing with the rest of their lives: inflict pain on those who took their tribe away from them. This divide between men who have lost everything and want only war and those who have loved ones to protect and crave peace is a universal theme. Tonto's tribe has seen some of the hardship the white can inflict. They have not seen the same suffering the rogue braves have endured. Not yet. The rogue braves are not based on any actual set of Native American braves. They just fit the purposes of our story, so I made 'em up. Another thread we could come back to someday, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The leader of the rogue braves is a proud, stubborn bastard. No wonder Beshkno likes him. If he can't have the supplies he's asked for, he'll take nothing, thank you very much. I like the Chief offering what amounts to prayer, and the rogue brave rejecting it. These braves no longer believe in the gods. They believe in nothing but blood. I may be taking Beshkno a bit far here, having him willing to ride off and make war with the rogue braves. It felt right. He may not really mean it anyway. His blood's just up at the moment.
Now we get Tonto's side of this argument. He has seen enough suffering. He's made it through the white man's relocation, and has made a life for his family in these new lands. Now he wants to protect that life. Somewhere, deep inside, he may know that it won't last... that is can't last. Still, he will cling to it for as long as he can. What a beautiful last panel. Great work by Esteve and Marcelo.
The handiwork of the rogue braves. I really don't want to comment more here. This is leading to a payoff that I don't want to give away here. You may have read these issues already, but I don't want to risk it. These soldiers are like the bushwhackers I wrote in the Death of Zorro series. They have their reasons. The rogue braves have seen to that.
We're going to use Native American folk tales as backdrops in the first several issues of this arc. It's a device I'm very fond of. It gives us depth, foreshadowing, and grounds the characters in a real place and time, I think. A time when these stories would be told by the tribe's shaman around the fire. It's worth noting that Simon Bowland always does an excellent job with these overlays. The font is effective, and the placements are spot on. Esteve and Marcelo do a fabulous job on this sequence. God, that last page is gorgeous. This folk tale, like the others I'll use in this arc, is based on a real story I found while researching. That doesn't mean I haven't tweaked it to fit our needs. I write with theme foremost in my mind. I make sure, as I fit these tales to our stories, that they serve our themes. The theme of Native Ground is that we cannot truly run from our nature. I hope you stay with us and see how that plays out in Tonto's past.
Look for the commentary on issue #8 tomorrow.