Barbed Wire And Barbed Businessmen In The Lone Ranger #1 By Mark Russell And Bob Q
by Olly MacNamee
The Wild West. Or rather, the tamed West of plantations and ex-slave owners wishing for a return to the ‘good ol’ days’ where women knew their place, minorities toiled in the field and only the top 1% or so made out with any money, and hang the law if it got in the way. Sound familiar?
This is an America on the cusp of change. There is mention in this debut issue of The Lone Ranger from Mark Russell (writer), Bob Q (artist) and Dynamite, of the abolition of slavery – something that does not sit well with a selection of Texan businessmen wanting to expand their territories rapaciously and without any concern with the law, which they are hoping to have changes anyways – and the introduction of barbed wire into the mix. Something so innocuous today that we do not even give it a second thought, but back in the late 1800s (barbed wire was created in 1967, wit the first patent being issued in 1874) this was a huge technological advancement that changed the face of American landownership by effective restraining cattle without the labour required in the past.
It helped pave the way for the age of super sized mega-farms and intensive farming that has only boomed over the intervening years. It’s an interesting time to set this new edition of The Lone Ranger and, just as with The Flintstones, Russell is cleverly using the past – and a mythological past at that – to pass social commentary on the world of today. We should be learning from mistakes made in the past, yet you have a President acting just like the aforementioned businessmen with no care for the law, talk about building walls and a disregard for minorities. I dare say he’d love to get back to these bad times and drag America backwards too. He’s doing a damn fine job at the moment on that score.
You’ll gather I liked the issue. I’m a sucker for such fare and I alway enjoy a good allegorical tale set in the byline days of yesteryear. Probably why I loved The Flintstones and The Snagglepuss Chronicles so much. America has always framed its history (or rather the part when white men colonised the country a few hundred years back, ignoring everything that came before) through the genre of the Western and in more recent post-modernist Westerns, there’s usually been some awareness of the past being written incorrectly by the winners. The West portrays in The Lone Ranger #1 is one that is about to crash into the 20th century and fade into the distance. By the time Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch is set (1914) the time of mythologised cowboys and ‘Indians’ was all but up. The Lone Ranger isn’t quite there yet, set in 1887, but it’s obvious that great changes are happening, and that barded wire is but one element of the coming technological tsunami that would make the West obsolete. Even if the outdated, archaic and prejudicial believes and values are still rampant today.
Bob Q creates a very moody comic with plenty of browns and rustics to represent the sprawling countryside and the shadowy, dark and dull colours used often set the tone of this first story arc aptly. It wasn’t the kind of artwork I was excepting for a tale of true grit, but it worked and his clear, no-fuss artwork, along with his colouring, gave this a more contemporary feel, art wise, which makes it stand apart form other comics of this genre.
Overall then, The Lone Ranger is a character I’ve never really had much to do with, but with the promise of Russell on writing duties, Iw as always going to give it a go. I’m glad I have now and look forward to where this story will take us, and Tonto’s part on all of this.
For more, read our interview with Mark Russell here, where we talk about The Lone Ranger #1 as well as his other book out this month, from Ahoy Comics, Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror #1.