The only thing the general public likely remembers about Green Hornet and his sidekick, Kato, is that Bruce Lee played Kato on a short-lived television series. Even comic geek that I am, I don’t own even one Green Hornet story.
But Green Hornet’s first appearance goes back to a radio program in 1936 and he first starred in a comic book in 1940. The masked avenger and Kato used superior hand-to-hand skills and the advanced technology in their car, known as Black Beauty, to fight crime.
The television show brought him back to public consciousness for a while. However, his appearances in comics were erratic. Over the years, comic companies Harvey, Dell, Gold Key, and NOW Comics, published the adventures, with NOW handling them most recently from 1989 to the early 90s.
Now, the Green Hornet and Kato have just been relaunched for this century by Dynamite Comics. The company offered a special sampler for Free Comic Book Day showcasing the creative talent working on several new Hornet series. I read the sampler, was intrigued, and now have to go find some of the comics. It helps that one of the series, Green Hornet: Year One, is being written by one of my favorite writers, Matt Wagner.
The sampler contained quick looks at five different Green Hornet series: The Green Hornet, The Green Hornet Year One, The Green Hornet Strikes, Kato and Kato: Origins. They feature slightly different characters in each, taking a generational approach to the superhero identity, much like the Phantom.
The namesake series looks to be a fun crime adventure story, with the Hornet and Kato taking on a gang of thugs with, admittedly, just dart guns, planning, and an explosion. It features the son of the original Hornet and a new Kato. The Year One story is set in the 1930s and very in line with the pulp and noir roots of the character. The third series, Strikes, features the same Green Hornet as Year One, Britt Reid, and continues the tales set in the 1930s. The Kato origin story is set during World War II, while the other story takes place in the modern day, and will synch up with the modern-day Green Hornet tales. The two Kato titles and the modern-day Green Hornet are being written by Kevin Smith, best known for his directing work in movies.
The artwork on all the samples are superb–clear, crisp and flowing. Just what you’d want in an action comic.
What Kids Will Like About It:
First, you have to get them to be interested in the character. Not one of my four kids had ever heard of Green Hornet or Kato. (And, sadly, only vaguely of Bruce Lee, an oversight I need to correct with the right DVDs soon.) Once past that obstacle though, the comic has many things kids will enjoy, a fast pace, lots of action, interesting characters and a really, really cool car.
I would caution that Year One is more graphic than the modern tales and probably should be avoided for younger readers.
What Parents Will Like About It:
Well, first, if you’re a Green Hornet fan, it’s clear the new series are trying to do right by the characters and that’s a big plus. Smith’s dialogue is modern and fun and the first story arc looks carefully plotted and full of action.
But for me, the appeal is definitely the 1930s story, one of my favorite time periods for fiction. Wagner’s already explored this era in Sandman Mystery Theatre and the short sample in the free comic reminded me strongly of his work on that. (And, incidentally, I highly recommend the whole Sandman Mystery Theatre series with the warning that it’s a very adult series and definitely NC-17.)
I favor the panel from Smith’s story where our heroes confront and entire mob of thugs who refuse to surrender.
About the Creators:
Dynamite has a fantastic line-up on these series. The stand-out artist for me is Jonathan Lau also worked on the Battlestar Galactica series for Dynamite. Aaron Campbell, who has done great work on Sherlock Holmes, seems well-suited to Year One. The team on The Green Hornet Strikes is writer Brett Matthews, a former writer on Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and artist Ariel Padilla, who’s worked in comics since 1990.