Monday, December 24, 2012

Tantric Lone Ranger Rides Again!

As you may be able to tell by the sharp drop in frequency of my blog posts, this is the year that I almost gave up on westerns.  The Lone Ranger and yoga may be what redeems them, but more on that later.  

There were just so many disappointments in westerns this year.  On the comic book front, All-Star Western continues to suck the life out of the genre.  I picked up the latest issue this week and flipped through.  Dr. Jekyll made an appearance, then there was some kind of fight in a slum, and then a Chinese lady is stockings started kung fu fighting.  It is an embarrassment to call this a western.   The backup stories are still great (ironically written by the same very competent team) but I don’t want to spend $4 for a backup story.

Then Peter Brandvold, who I have written so much about in the last year, seems to have lost whatever touch made his Lou Prophet books work for so long.  I’ve tried half a dozen of his more recent novels looking for a return to that wit that made his books great and been disappointed each time (including the one where he said he’d eat the manuscript if I didn’t like it).  His new Rusty Spurr book, which has so much potential, has flat characters that are indistinguishable from one another.  The only time in the last few years that I’ve really enjoyed his books are when he writes weird westerns (Ghost Colts, Bad Wind Blowing); I found Dust of the Damned under my Christmas tree, maybe he’ll be back to form there.

What really killed my desire to write this blog is a tragedy from earlier this year that I still want to write about.  In brief, I have been playing Dungeons & Dragons weekly with the same group of friends for seven years.  Six months ago I worked out a plan with the friend running our game to introduce a gunslinging cowboy into the otherwise pure fantasy game.  It was so much fun that I planned out a five part series of posts to write about it.  That friend died soon after in a tragic accident, leaving behind a wife and two kids.  I can’t come back to the blog without thinking about it.

Oh, and after a sudden onset of gout I’ve become a teetotatling vegetarian.  Takes a lot of the fun out of reading about whiskey swilling fellers eating buffalo when you are sucking down tap water with your tofu.

With all of this disappointment I also almost gave up yoga, something that helped me get over the host of mental, emotional, and physical problems that follow massive invasive surgery.  Something in the practice just wasn’t coming together and I couldn’t figure out why.  I decided before I gave up all together I would go try Bikram, the program that was described to me when I walked in the door as “Simon Says for 90 minutes in a 105 degree room”.  I went in and found a practice that didn’t look a thing like yoga, and though I walked out disappointed I felt somehow good and kept going back.  After my second class I left the building, drove to the local supermarket, and put together a pack of food, water, and hot coffee for the homeless guy at the end of the road.  After my third class I returned to my original yoga home and signed up to learn to be a yoga instructor. 

This is because of westerns, or more specifically because of the Lone Ranger.  I’ve written about the connections between yoga and the Lone Ranger before, and as I move through life they are becoming more palpable.  The notion that one can serve the betterment of humanity, seek to protect life, and do it without the notion of reward (hence the mask) is really entrancing.  Also, he has two Colts and a cool cowboy hat.  It helps that, like the Lone Ranger, I have my own silver mine to support me (in the guise of a great job with a Fortune 100 company).  So the Lone Ranger is my guru, a comic book battle cry is my meditative mantra, and I dream of wearing a mask as I move through the postures of my yoga practice.

Having said that, this movie looks terrible.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

The New Lone Ranger

I honestly don’t know what to think of this new Lone Ranger, but I can’t wait to find out.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Jubal Sacket’s Multishot Flintlock

As I have said in an earlier post, I wasn’t a fan of Louis L’Amour until I got around to checking out Jubal Sacket, the story of the mystic wanderer of the far traveling Sacket clan.  One of the side items in that fascinating book that postulated a number of crazy ideas (like a much larger European influence on 16th & 17th century America than previously known and the continued existence of mastodons into that time) was the occasional availability to multi-shot flintlocks and wheel locks, forerunners of the iconic wild west sixgun.  Today I found a neat YouTube video that shows a similar piece, the Lorenzoni repeating flintlock.  Watch, enjoy, and dream of running the wilderness with Jubal, the “Ghost in the Woods”.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lone Ranger Lost in the Wilderness

Somewhere along the line the Lone Ranger comic from Dynamite has gotten way off track.  The original 25 issue series by Brett Matthews was perhaps my favorite comic book of the last decade.  True to the source material yet totally modern in feel, it set a new standard for telling decompressed western comics. The series wrapped up and moved to a brief but fun Zorro / Lone Ranger crossover before restarting under the writing of Ande Parks.

I am not familiar with Parks, who seems to have spent most of his time in comics as an inker (contrary to popular belief, an important job that is not just tracing).  Writing, I have to say, may not be his strong suit.  The plots of the two story arcs so far are fair, but there is a real lack of connection to the original Lone Ranger material that keeps creeping in and annoying me.  For example, about five minutes of research on-line will turn up the writers’ bible for the original Lone Ranger radio program.  Among the points the producers held to was that, to maintain credibility in the story that the Lone Ranger’s identity remains a secret, he should never be captured and held long enough for someone to unmask him.  It is unrealistic that a villain would knock out a masked gunman and NOT take off his mask.  Yet there it is, in the first story line, the Lone Ranger captured, held in a cell, finally strung up on a gallows awaiting a dramatic rescue, with no one ever wondering just who is that masked man.  A seemingly minor point, but it makes the writing feel sloppy.

The second story arc in the series kicks off with Tonto getting shot and the Lone Ranger taking him back to his tribe to be healed.  Right, because western medicine is totally incapable, right?  Anyway, most of the story is then a long series of flashbacks to when evil white men killed Tonto’s family.  America is evil, white-eyes destroyed an idyllic paradise on earth, my country is forever tainted in blood, yes, yes, I’ve seen that before (but see my review of Copper for my thoughts on the alternative we pale faces were left with in Europe).  As the flashback continues we eventually see in issue #9 Tonto stalking, torturing, and killing the soldiers responsible.  Again, a quick look at the old Lone Ranger’s writers bible shows that the best plots don’t distinguish villains and heroes by race, and that the partnership of the Lone Ranger and Tonto sets an example that American of any creed or color can work together for the common good. 

I get the drive to make a darker and edgier comic- I did most of my comics reading in the 1990’s, when darker and edgier was all the rage.  But as the first Dynamite series shows (plus practically any Captain America comic in the last decade) you can still make a dark and edgy comic book with noble and heroic leads.  Let’s hope the editors at Dynamite figure that out soon.

Having said all that, Chuck Dixon’s concurrently published Lone Ranger: Snake of Iron series rocks.

UPDATE: That list of rules from the old radio program's writers' bible?  It's right on the Dynamite Comics web site.  Enjoy.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Copper; or On US Maps Manhattan is in the West

So there’s a new show on BBC America called Copper that is getting a lot of attention on the Western blogs and web sites.  Interesting that, in that it takes place entirely in New York City.  It does take place in the 1860’s, and being set in the 19th century seems to be enough to make something a western to most people (I’m looking at you, All-Star Western).   Having a lawman carrying a sixgun doesn’t make you a western, though.  Without even the idea that there is freedom over the horizon, where is the draw to move on, grow, expand?  

I’m watching the show now and looking at the fetid squalor of the immigrant tenements, lingering in the shadows of privilege.  A good part of my family ended up in the Philadelphia versions of places like that in the 19th century, many others ended up working in coal mines not too far away.  I’m not sure which would be preferable.  They are still better than poverty, pograms, and political oppression in the homelands, but not much.

So how is the show?  Not bad.  Ain’t no western, that’s for sure. The acting is good, though, the plot is interesting, and the anachronisms not too bad.  It manages to have an Irish character without Irish nostalgia, a rare feat indeed.  If anything, an hour of watching the vile corruption in a place where the taint of aristocracy won’t die and capitalism stomps the downtrodden unchecked sure makes you respect the purity of a Utah canyonland.