HI-HO SILVER, AWAY!
By Ed Sanchez
"A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty Hi-Yo, Silver! Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!"
With that familiar intro and the William Tell overture blaring in the background, WXYZ "The Last Word in Radio!" ushered in an era of some of the most thrilling Western adventures ever. In early 1933, movie distributor George Washington Trendle launched The Lone Ranger on this small Detroit radio station. Trendle had asked his ace writer, Fran Striker, for a Western character that would appeal to all ages, and a hero was born.
The Lone Ranger's history in comics began in 1939. The first comic dedicated to The Lone Ranger was Large Feature Comic #3, written and illustrated by Robert Weisman. The Lone Ranger would go on to appear in more Large Feature Comics, a half-dozen Four Color Comics and in issues of many titles including Ace Comics, Aurora Comics (1974 Model Kit with Gil Kane art), Dell Giants, Future Comics, King Comics, Magic Comics, March of Comics and Golden Comics Digest.
In 1955, the Dairy Association offered a giveaway in small quantitites featuring The Lone Ranger in a story titled "Milk for Big Mike", which became a very rare prized collectible for Lone Ranger fans. In 1948, largely due to the success of The Lone Ranger in Republic Serials and on the radio, Dell gave The Ranger and his sidekick, Tonto, their own series (which ran for 145 issues). The Ranger's faithful friend would also get his own series at Dell, as would The Lone Ranger's trusty horse, Silver. In the 1960s, Gold Key picked up the license and put out 28 issues of their own series, and as recently as 1994, Topps comics published a 4 issue series based on the adventures of the classic Western hero.
Although many facts have changed or have been adjusted over the years, the generally accepted origin of The Lone Ranger is that he was a former Texas Ranger named John Reid. Along with his older brother, Dan (also a Ranger), Reid was ambushed by the Butch Cavendish Gang in the year 1850. The only survivor of the ambush, Reid was nursed back to health by Tonto, a Native American he had once rescued as a younger man. They grew to become blood brothers, and along with their trusty horses, Silver and Scout, rode on to countless adventures: righting wrongs and capturing the imagination of fans across the world.
The Lone Ranger's mask was made from a strip of his brother's black vest. This was the same vest Dan Reid wore when he and the other Rangers were massacred by the outlaw Cavendish gang. The Lone Ranger and his brother owned a silver mine which they planned to use for their retirement, but when his adventures with Tonto began, he enlisted the aid of a retired Texas Ranger (who knew The Ranger's secret) to make silver bullets for him. From time to time, the Lone Ranger and Tonto would visit the old Ranger and stock up on bullets and silver to buy supplies. Silver bullets were used to remind the Ranger the high cost of human life and the price of firing his pistol.
Originally, Tonto rode double with the Lone Ranger on Silver, but a publicity photo of the two pals on the same horse made it necessary for WXYZ to give Tonto his own horse. In early Lone Ranger novels, Tonto's horse Scout was called "White Feller", changed later to Scout, a spotted Pinto. Tonto, which means "Wild One" in the language of the Potowatomie people indigenous to Michigan (WXYZ was based in Detroit around the Great Lakes region), remained the Lone Ranger's faithful friend throughout their adventures. Tonto's catch phrase "Kemosabe" (spelling debatable) means "faithful friend" or "trusty scout" in Potowatomie and, as the story goes, a producer on the radio show had a father-in-law who ran a boy's camp called "Camp Kee-mo-sah-bee" (hence the phrase).
It is interesting to note that the Green Hornet, who was born Britt Reid in the legend, is the Lone Ranger's nephew's grandson (or son, if referring to the radio Green Hornet). The silver mine the Lone Ranger used for his bullets was the foundation of the fortune that built the Reid publishing empire in the Green Hornet story.
George Seaton, who portrayed the first Lone Ranger on the radio show, went on to much greater fame by writing and directing the Christmas classic "Miracle on 34th Street." Clayton Moore, who is the most famous of all the men who portrayed The Lone Ranger, lived to the very old age of 85. Let's all give a "Hi-Yo Silver!" to the first and the best Lone Rangers!
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