Yesterday we looked at what Ande Parks was thinking when he wrote THE LONE RANGER #7. This issue was the first dealing with the backstory of Tonto. Today we are going to look his commentary for issue #8, which continues the "Native Ground" story.
THE LONE RANGER #8
In 1870, Tonto lies near death, as the Lone Ranger pleads with the Ute Indians for help from their Shaman. Three years prior, Tonto lived a relatively peaceful and happy life with his tribe. How did Tonto come to be a lone brave by the time he found John Reid near death in that desert chasm? The answer unfolds, as Tonto's happy life is shattered. Tonto fights for his life in the present, as he fights for his soul in the past. The Native Ground arc rolls toward its bloody climax in a heart-breaking tale of loss and revenge.== TEASER ==
A little more Lone Ranger, as he tries to negotiate with the Ute braves. This is all happening near what we would call the four corners area of the US. Ute tribes really did live in that area. The Ute had a lot of conflict with white settlers during this time. They clashed with one group of whites, in particular. We'll get to that soon enough. Note that the lead Ute brave does speak some English. I really don't know how realistic that is, but I have to cheat this stuff sometimes, just to move the story along. I asked Esteve to not have the Long Ranger flinch when the arrow flies right by his face at the top of page two. Esteve drew it brilliantly. Finally, the sight of another Native American in need is enough to make this brave decide the decision here is above his pay grade. These braves may also have heard of Tonto.
Back to Tonto's past. Tonto and the young brave Kahnaka are our scouting. This could be part of a daily routine for Tonto, or he could be checking on the actions of the rogue braves. Either way, Tonto's not going chasing after the rogue braves. He just wants to be sure they've moved on. It's too late to chase them, anyway. The damage has already been done. More on that front soon enough...
Throughout this arc, I try to convey that Native Americans were more sexual uninhibited than the whites of the time. They're not bound to Christian moralities. They view things in a more “natural” way. Hence, Tonto's prodding about Kahnaka's sexual escapades may be embarrassing to the young brave, but there is no real guilt associated with it.
I don't have a lot to say about this little scene. It was tough to write, for reasons that will become clear soon enough. Note that Tonto's wife, Chakwaima, discusses how nature works in terms of multiple gods and spirits. I haven't done exhaustive research on Native American religions, but this is accurate. Remember, I'm intentionally not nailing down which tribe Tonto comes from. I want him and his people to serve as universal symbols for all Native Americans.
By the way, I'm continuing to use the term Native American because I think it's easy to understand and relatively respectful. I'm aware of the current trend toward “Indigenous Peoples”. I understand the reasoning, but I'm not sure it's a better term, overall. It does not refer to the people specifically affected by European settlers. I completely understand that these “Natives” did not live in a place they called “America”. Still, we are using the term in a modern context. A context in which we know this continent as North America. Anyway, I'm sticking with Native Americans. I hope no one will take offense. For what it's worth, I used to serve on a school board with a “Native Americans”. He always seemed amused when I used that term. He always just said “Indians”. That's completely his choice and his right. I tend to think us white folks should use something more respectful.
More of the open sexual dynamics of the tribe. And, just because sex isn't seen as sinful, that doesn't mean that this girl's mother would approve. Maybe she wants to marry her daughter to another young brave.
The beginning of the stuff that was really hard to write. Poor Kahnaka. He should have been minding his post more carefully, but he's just a teenaged boy... not a mature brave. Maybe Beshkno was right about Tonto's coddling.
Throughout the rest of this issue, the soldiers kill the people of Tonto's tribe without respect for their humanity. That's crucial to me. They can slaughter these people, some of whom may or may not be savage killers, without remorse because they don't really think of them as people. Maybe I'm over-simplifying the minds of these men. Maybe it's within them to kill people they regard as fellow human beings without a second thought. I don't think so. I hope not.
Again, the Captain has his reasons, and they are not quite as simple as revenge. He has been ordered to put a stop to the violence being perpetrated on settlers by the rogue braves. He has failed thus far, and his failing has cost more people their lives. How will the Captain's superiors react to his failure? Yes, the Captain is (in his mind) righteously indignant. He is also worried about what may happen to his own career and reputation.
The assault begins. I did not ask for the red and white striped blanket on the old woman (could she be Chakwaima's mother?) by the fire. I assume that was all Marcelo's doing. I think it's brilliant.
We decided to go “silent” in this scene. I thought all the various sound effects would have been distracting and overwhelming. We'll begin another Native American folk tale soon. I want you focused on that, on what's happening to the characters, and on Esteve's fantastic art.
Tonto wakes next to his wife, hearing gunshots. He tells Chakwaima to stay where she is. The look on Chakwaima's face in that third panel is just wonderful. At the top of page 13, Tonto lifts his rifle. Remember, his is the only gun in the tribe. This could be an all-out slaughter.
I provided notes to Esteve about the numbers on each side of this battle. The script specified a group of about twenty soldiers attacking a tribe of about a hundred people. Some forty Native Americans, including women and children, will die in the assault, along with about half of the soldiers.
Our folk tale begins here. This is my favorite of the tales we used in this arc. It was a lovely story as I found it. I did change the ending a bit to fit our needs.
The assault rages on. The Native American braves try to defend themselves, despite having only crude weapons to fight back against the guns of the soldiers. Tonto is doing his best with his rifle, but he is put out of commission here. He will not regain consciousness until the battle is over.
Beshkno takes a moment here to see if his friend Tonto is dead. Note the soldier's handgun lying near Beshkno in panel two. As the Captain bears down on Beshkno, the brave produces the weapon and takes out the soldiers' leader with one clean shot. There is now hope that the tide of the battle may turn.
I'm very proud of this scene. I don't have much to say about it. It was the hardest thing I've had to write since I killed Nancy Clutter in my graphic novel, Capote In Kansas. When the notion of how Tonto's family might die hit me, I know it was horrific, but I also knew it was right. We tried to play it to be painful and effective without being overly sensational. I love the transition to to that last panel. Fantastic work by Esteve.
With the Captain dead, the battle has turned. The soldiers are falling one after another, and the second-in-command calls for a retreat. We are not done with these soldiers. Not near done with them.
The coyote is a constant source of devilment in Native American folk tales. I guess it makes sense. I'm sure coyotes were a source of devilment in the real lives of Native Americans.
We've seen Beshkno and Tonto have contentious moments in this arc. They are friends, though. As part of this tribe, they are family. Beshkno is not a man who takes feeling helpless easily. He is completely helpless here. He can only sit and wait for Tonto to emerge from the teepee.
So, now we know what tragedy helped form the character of the Tonto we know... the Tonto who nursed the Lone Ranger back to health. We don't yet know what will drive Tonto away from what is left of his tribe. That's coming. Up to this point, I made a point to write Tonto as a happier, more content man than the one we know from his adventures with the Lone Ranger. Those days are now over.
This page really speaks for itself. There was no research to indicate that Tonto should smear the blood of his loved ones on his face, as we have depicted here. It felt right to me. It is part remembrance and part warpaint. If you want Tonto to go after revenge, our next issue will not disappoint.
Tomorrow we'll have the commentary for issue #9.