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Brett Matthews

Brett Matthews - "Lone Ranger" Comics - From Firefly to Silver

Thursday 5 January 2006, by Webmaster

Trading the present for the past, Dynamite’s Lone Ranger series, due for a mid-2006 launch, is gunning to redefine the character by reacquainting people with his origin.

For writer Brett (Firefly) Matthews, it all dates back to a childhood love.

“The Lone Ranger is like the one thing my father always loved that isn’t baseball,” Matthews said. “So, growing up I was probably more familiar with the character from mere proximity than most my age. He was a big deal, if not always to me. Really loving and understanding the character was something I had to define for myself, and continue to do as I write the series.”

In regards to defining the character for himself, Matthews has previously said that he’s interested in showing the origin and the introduction of the classic “Lone Ranger” elements - the mask, the bullets, the white horse, and explaining where they came from. So, while you may know some of the story, don’t expect the pure and traditional retelling of the Lone Ranger’s origin that you might have heard about.

“I’m going to incorporate a great deal of the character’s mythology, but the unique thing about The Lone Ranger is that despite how popular and recognizable a figure he is, a lot of people don’t know what exactly that mythology is. Significant ideas and events that make the character really important have dipped below the radar or fallen out of the common telling of the legend — for instance, the mask the Ranger wears is made from the cloth of his slain brother’s vest, and its eyeholes were made by the bullet holes that took his life.

“That’s a canonical element of the original origin story I find insanely cool, but many casual fans don’t know. There’s stuff that’s darker and more challenging than the powder blue suited image that has become iconic, but which is no less ‘correct’ for lack of a better word.

“In short, you will see most of the classic elements —including some you may not be aware are — as many of them as I can work in without forcing them there. My goal is to have these make sense and mean something within the bounds of the tale being told and the world it unfolds in. It will very much be an origin story.

“There will be a bit of flashback, but the heart of the story unfolds as it happens, present day. To ground you very specifically, the first page shows six Rangers riding into a canyon. We’re with John Reid there and from that point on. It’s his story as much if not more than that of the legend he will become, in as much as you can separate the two.”

That said, Matthews explained that he’s looking to pull equally from specific areas to create his version of the Lone Ranger:

“The mythos itself: those elements of it I think provide a logical and relatable motivation for the character, the things that make the reader understand what would transform a young man like John Reid into The Lone Ranger.

“Historical context: I see The Lone Ranger as very much a product of the volatile time in which he ‘lived’. It was a strange, transitional time in American history, and the Rangers themselves have a very colorful and controversial past that’s not often explored.

“The Western genre: It’s one of the finest, and I am committed to making this an earnest Western. This means that the story will deal with those three pillars of the genre — Murder, Death, and Revenge. Which, when you think about the Ranger’s origin, is a very natural direction for the story to take. That, to me, is why it’s a Western.”

And yeah, for Matthews, this thing with him and Westerns is serious. Best known in comics for his most recent work, collaborating with Joss Whedon on Dark Horse’s Serenity miniseries, the writer freely admitted to being hooked on the genre.

“Westerns translate wonderfully to different settings, though the setting itself, the physical space and landscape, must carry a weight that it doesn’t have to in many other genres. Firefly is very much a Western to me and I know it is to Joss. He expanded and explored the genre in the show and probably even more so in the film Serenity, but always remained true to that origin in my opinion.

“The show and movie and now hopefully the comic are genre stories in the very best sense of the term, because they make use of and play with and ultimately capitalize on the rules of the form.

“It’s a dirty word to some but I love genre. It allows you to get to the emotion of a thing in way you often can’t in more confined or restrictive settings. And the emotion must always be the thing.”

As such, Matthews admitted he was surprised to hear that Westerns are enjoying a resurgence of sorts in comics. “I wasn’t so much aware of what was going on with the Westerns in comics, to be honest. I’m primarily a screenwriter, and the genre remains pretty dead to the studios out here, though it will never die because it’s simply too damn good to do so.

“If we’re seeing a resurgence, I think that’s why — Westerns are just good. The cloth they’re cut from allows us to tell and see really raw and earnest stories. Characters do things as part of their day-to-day that you could never get away in other genres. They spark our imagination. They’re the stuff of great drama, and a breath of fresh air in a rapidly shrinking world that sorely lacks a frontier that isn’t beyond our planet or inside our own bodies or found under an electron microscope.

“In a world in which we know so much - or at least think we do - what lies over the next rise on the horizon will always be more interesting than where we’re at. It’s human nature, and I think one of the really great aspects of it. I hope it never goes away, and so long as it doesn’t there will always be Westerns.”

Getting back to the Lone Ranger, despite his 70+ years of saddling up, Matthews feels that the character still stands apart in a field of both real and fictional Western heroes.

“You don’t look at The Lone Ranger and for a second confuse him with anyone else. Purely on that level, he’s iconic in the way so many great and lasting characters are. If you could go beyond that and lay your finger on why exactly that is or what specifically makes him that way, well, you’d really be onto something. Then again, he wouldn’t be a legend if you could.”