After what feels like more than a solid, straight decade of development, THE GREEN HORNET movie debuts today and I figure the occasion’s appropriate from me to give you Comic Vine maniacs a primer on this classic masked man. Like Conan and the Shadow, the Green Hornet is what I like to call an unofficial comics character - - a superhero who debuted in another medium but has nevertheless appeared in enough sequential art to warrant inclusion here. Actually, since his radio debut in 1936 (predating Superman by about two years!) he’s starred in pretty much every conceivable medium you can tell crime fighting stories in, from movie serials to pulp magazines to one highly-memorable TV show.So why don’t you throw on your favorite lime-colored jacket and hop into the passenger’s seat of the Black Beauty so we can go for a short little drive around the Green Hornet's block? == TEASER ==
The character’s most unique quality amongst crime-fighters is that he’s a hero who actually pretends to be a criminal, letting the resultant bad reputation get mobsters thinking he’s one of them so he can gain access to their criminal underworld. As you’d expect, that puts him at odds with the police and probably makes him one of the earliest costumed anti-heroes of the modern fictional era. As for all the usual super hero criteria? Green Hornet has no powers, but he packs a high-tech arsenal that include tranquilizer dartguns and a supped-up, tricked-out and weaponized car, the Black Beauty (a sort-of stylish Batmobile.) A number of sons and nephews have been Green Hornets in the comics over the years, but the classic one is Britt Reid, a wealthy newspaper owner whose day-job, I suppose, is somewhat between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent's.
KATO, HIS TRUSTY VALET
The Green Hornet might be one of the only heroes whose fame is arguably eclipsed by his sidekick's. Reid’s valet Kato, a martial arts and automotive expert, was immortalized by the legendary Bruce Lee on the 60s TV show (which was more-or-less a response to the campy BATMAN show with Adam West.) THE GREEN HORNET was even retitled THE KATO SHOW in Hong Kong! Initially described as a Japanese, he was alternately retconed into a Filipino, Korean or simply an Oriental on the radio show and movie serials after the onset of World War II. Interestingly, later comics reconciled all those nationalities as cover stories Reid concocted to keep Kato from getting sent to an internment camp.
WHAT ABOUT THE LONE RANGER?
The first bit of trivia that inevitability comes up about the Green Hornet is that Britt Reid is actually the grand-nephew of the Lone Ranger (both characters being creations of George W. Trendle and Fran Striker.) At it would happen, both of these masked viglitantes have classical music themes (“Flight of the Bumblee” for Green Hornet and “William Tell Overture” for the Lone Ranger) and both have decidedly non-WASPy partners-in-justice (Tonto and Kato.) Because the characters’ rights are owned sepearately, their familial connection has rarely been acknowledge beyond some sly nods. For example, a recent issue of Dynamite’s LONE RANGER comic showed the Ranger's nephew Dan (Reid’s grandfather) thwarting a villain by riling a hornet’s nest on him (an act that gave him ideas for a legacy, obviously.)
Dynamite’s running several GREEN HORNET titles, now. Some are based off of the script for Kevin Smith’s earlier, unrealized movie version, with the original crime-fighting duo handing their mantles off to their children (one of which happens to be a female Kato.) Others star the classic characters, with Kato even having his own title.
So there - - you’ve just gotten through Green Hornet 101. Now you can take this new flick in with some savy and understanding your fellow movie-goers will most surely lack!