As a boy, Joe Southern had breakfast with the Lone Ranger and Tonto every day.
"It was on first thing every morning. I'd see it before I went off to school. I'd take out my action figures and mount them on their horses, and we'd sit there and watch it and eat breakfast," he said in a phone call this week of his early television habits.
Now 47 years old, he watched "The Lone Ranger" in reruns featuring Clayton Moore (and, briefly, John Hart) and Jay Silverheels as Tonto. They aired from 1949 until 1957 and overlapped with the nearly 3,000 radio episodes that started in 1933.
"I think my parents more or less tolerated my TV watching. They weren't really big into it, but they were glad that I had heroes like the Lone Ranger and Spider-Man and things like that were more on the wholesome side because I sure could have gone a lot worse."
Mr. Southern, who grew up in the Denver area and now lives in Houston, created the modern Lone Ranger Fan Club (lonerangerfanclub.com with a forum on Facebook) in 2003. He has passed the leadership to another fan but continues to write and research the subject.
That includes the new movie opening today starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp, which Mr. Southern and three of his four children saw last week at a sneak preview.
"It's fantastic. I absolutely loved it. There were a couple of moments that I could have done without -- like having Silver [the horse] in the tree, that wouldn't have changed the movie at all -- but overall I thought the action was great, the story was great. It just kept you going. I never lost interest."
The movie, after all, runs 149 minutes.
"I was pleased to hear the cheering and the laughing, so much of that you just don't get in a movie theater anymore," he said. "I just about jumped out of my seat when the 'William Tell Overture' came on."
The music is used in rousing fashion, to be sure.
Although some moviegoers knew Mr. Hammer from "The Social Network," he was a new face to Mr. Southern, who found him to be an excellent likable choice who demonstrated a natural ability to fill the cowboy boots.
"Johnny Depp I had a little bit of reservation about, especially when I saw him with the makeup and the bird and everything, but after having seen the movie, I have a greater appreciation for it," he said of the look inspired by the Kirby Sattler painting "I Am Crow."
You could argue that Tonto is the star of "The Lone Ranger" or, at the very least, shares top billing with the masked hero.
"I was very pleased with that aspect. I had often thought long before they were talking about the movie what it would be like to write a book from Tonto's perspective," said Mr. Southern, a freelance journalist.
One change from the TV series is the amount of humor, clearly amped up for the movie. "The TV show had a little but not a whole lot. When you're trying to solve the world's problems in 30 minutes, there's only so much you can do."
Mr. Southern predicts that "Despicable Me 2" (also opening in theaters today) will attract younger moviegoers but suggests their parents and grandparents will circle back with them in tow to "The Lone Ranger."
He expects its momentum to build, which would be counter to the fate of the 1981 movie, "The Legend of the Lone Ranger" starring Klinton Spilsbury. Clayton Moore, who had been banned for a period from wearing the mask, and others boycotted it.
In a 1996 interview with a Fort Worth newspaper to promote his autobiography, Moore said, "I understand many longtime Lone Ranger fans were so outraged at my treatment that they wouldn't go see it, either. Anyway, it didn't do well, and a year later I was notified that I could wear the mask again."
When he died in 1999, his obituary quoted something he told the Los Angeles Times: "Once I got the Lone Ranger role, I didn't want any other. I like playing the good guy."
Today, Mr. Southern says of the character, "He's obviously more black and white in terms of what he feels is right and wrong and justice. I think we've gotten into so many gray areas today that sometimes you need that reminder that there are absolutes. Even the most vile people deserve their day in court."
Or, in the case of the outlaw Butch Cavendish, on screen.
If you'd like to bask in nostalgia or play catch up, a new $199.99 collector's edition limited set has 221 "Lone Ranger" episodes on 30 DVDs packaged in a box resembling a coffee-table book. Bonus content includes two full-length features from the 1950s, synopses for all episodes, an original radio broadcast and comic book and photo reprint.
Also new are three DVD singles, "The Lone Ranger: Hi-Yo Silver, Away!," "The Lone Ranger: Who Was That Masked Man?" and "The Lone Ranger: Kemo Sabe," each with a suggested price of $6.99.