“Who is the Green Hornet? The Green Hornet is not a man. The Green Hornet is a legend.”
Those lines open and close Dynamite Entertainment’s Green Hornet – Volume Two series, which began in the Spring of 2018 (and which I’m just getting around to now). Written by Amy Chu and drawn by German Erramouspe, with covers and alternates by different artists, the new series took the nearly ninety year old character into an entirely new and intriguing direction.
The Green Hornet began on local Detroit radio in 1936, created by George Trendle, James Jewell and Francis Striker, Striker writing the show’s scripts as well. This is the same team that created Sergeant Preston of The Yukon, and more famously, the iconic The Lone Ranger, just four years earlier. In fact, Britt Reid, wealthy young publisher of Century City’s Daily Sentinel newspaper and secretly The Green Hornet, is actually the grandson of the original Lone Ranger’s nephew, Dan Reid. Not unlike The Shadow, The Spider, The Phantom Detective and a number of other pre-Batman costumed crime fighters, The Green Hornet battled crooks in a dark overcoat, gloves, fedora and mask instead of just a pair of tights. Considered a criminal by Century City’s underworld and law enforcement alike (except for the D.A., who’s in on Reid’s secret), The Green Hornet is joined by his faithful servant (and partner in modern executions) Kato, a martial arts expert and usually the wheel man in the supercharged ‘Black Beauty’, the Green Hornet’s streamlined supercar.
The local radio show was an immediate hit and went national in 1938, running on various networks and with changing sponsors through 1952. Meanwhile, The Green Hornet was adapted to two movie serials by Republic Pictures, and then two more by Universal Studios in 1940 and 1941. There were Green Hornet comics, radio show tie-in books, toys and more, but by the early 1950’s, the character had been supplanted by costumed superheroes and of course, the swift decline of radio dramas. Briefly resurrected for television in the mid-sixties to capitalize on the sudden popularity of ABC’s Batman series with Adam West and Burt Ward, The Green Hornet TV show starring Van Williams and a young Bruce Lee only lasted one season, but was a slightly more serious and less campy affair than the colorful tongue-in-cheek hijinks going on across the lot on the Batman sets. After that, The Green Hornet more or less vanished once again till the 2011 big screen version with Seth Rogan and Jay Chou. I’m not a fan, considering that flick a missed opportunity. Handled straight and in some sort of vaguely 1930’s-40’s setting, it could’ve been a Diesel-Punk delight ala the Alec Baldwin and Penelope Ann Miller The Shadow from 1994.
Now Comics launched a Green Hornet series, even snagging Jim Steranko for a still- famous cover painting. Currently the character is licensed to Dynamite Entertainment, who’ve done various Green Hornet and Kato series so far. Dynamite has quite a track record with licensing moderately famous properties (for good or bad, some may say), including The Shadow, The Spider, Miss Fury, Bettie Page, Vampirella, Elvira-Mistress of The Dark, Red Sonja, Nancy Drew, Charlie’s Angels and others.
In the Dynamite Entertainment reboot, Britt Reid’s son took over Century City’s Daily Sentinel as well as The Green Hornet mantle under Kato’s skillful guidance after Reid the elder’s death. The Volume Two series opens with Britt Reid Jr. missing, and Century City’s underworld running rampant with the Green Hornet gone. Now The Daily Sentinel’s acting publisher, Kato’s struggling with business issues and a willful daughter, Mulan, who’ll assume the Green Hornet role, aided by their brawny tech-savvy gearhead Clutch, who supplies the new Hornet’s arsenal of special weapons in between keeping the current Black Beauty supercar in shape. A lethal martial arts expert herself, Mulan takes on Century City’s criminals and evades the police while trying to uncover the truth behind Britt Reid Jr.’s disappearance. Her search takes her to Istanbul and then Hong Kong where she and Daily Sentinel reporter Tai must confront a league of terrorist assassins. I’ve read three issues so far, and enjoyed them all. The comix shop I got them at just this past Saturday had the rest of the series on shelf from the looks of it; I’ll be returning next weekend.
“Who is the Green Hornet?” the first issue opens and closes with that question. And the answer: “The Green Hornet is not a man. The Green Hornet is a legend.” Amy Chu and German Erramouspe’s Mulan/The Green Hornet is keeping that nearly ninety year old legend alive quite nicely.