When CBR spoke to writer and director Kevin Smith about his plans for turning his "Green Hornet" screenplay into a fully-fledged comic series for Dynamite Entertainment, it became clear that his take on the hero would invoke a big budget superhero summer blockbuster. Luckily, Dynamite tapped a visual collaborator for the March-launching project who saw eye-to-eye on where the Hornet needed to go in his first comic book incarnation in over 15 years: Alex Ross.
"I'm just doing 'more superhero," the acclaimed painter explained to CBR of how he approached redesigning the look of Britt Reid and the now female Kato of Smith's script (whose interiors will be drawn by Jonathan Lau). "I had conversations with [John] Cassaday on the subject of whether or not it had a better advantage by going more realistic or more superhero. Of course, I was going hyper-superhero in my interpretation because the visual medium of comics needs something a bit more flamboyant. That's why a character like Batman thrives in comics where as Green Hornet was always played realistically in his radio shows and his TV show. It's the most realistic superhero show on television, and it seems lost in the confusion by juxtaposition to the Batman TV show produced by the same company back in the '60s. People didn't know what to make of this thing because it didn't have that flamboyance. In a way, Green Hornet would make perfectly for a realistic representation in film if it was so interpreted, but for comics, to make it impactful for a modern audience dressing him up as a superhero, I thought, was needed."
The public's memory of the Green Hornet has always been influenced by his mass media appearances. And Ross said that Dynamite launching multiple "Green Hornet" series helped make sure each classic visual got its due. While he and Smith's modern take grows more out of the '60s TV show, Cassaday and Matt Wagner's "Year One" version (set to debut in April) picks up the style of the 1940's Universal movie serials. Though the through line for Ross' take became aligning the character's history more with the way comic superheroes have evolved on the page.
"I knew I wanted to do a certain thing that was going to visually translate this odd idea of 'What if Green Hornet was in comics like Batman was in the 1960s when they both had their TV shows, and what if the evolution Batman went through in the '70s to make him much more serious and dark had happened with Green Hornet?'" the painter posed. "That's the intellectual approach I took to my subtle redesigning of the Green Hornet. But what you can tell is that it's really translating the influence from that TV as the instigator because of the half-mask of the face. My instincts usually go back towards the origin of a thing, which is where John Cassaday went with his design for the Golden Age Hornet. It was nice to know that that was being dealt with at the same time because I wouldn't want to do the one and not the other, especially when the old full face mask version has a very unique point and look to it. In many ways, I'd say it's a lot cooler than the half mask look.
"And this is a character that Batman owes a whole hell of a lot to in history because Green Hornet and Kato precede Batman and Robin. The whole sidekick/masked duo aspect of those characters are the template from which Batman was built upon. Just like Batman has The Shadow before him, he probably owes much more to Green Hornet than he does to the Shadow."
One way in which comics has always treated the Hornet well is by vastly expanding on his character mythology in a way that radio and TV serials were never able to do, and Ross understands the history of that development better than most. "This relates to my first comics work experience because the company I first worked for was NOW Comics from here in Chicago who then got – for the first time in many, many years – the Green Hornet name into comics. And it was a big splash around 1989 or '90. That's when I was working on my first comic for them. I never did any work for them on Green Hornet, but it feels ironic to have after 20 years in the business to be working on this character. And frankly, that's the only thing I want there to be in common between Dynamite and NOW."
Though similar to the NOW treatment of the Hornet, Smith's script incorporates elements that make him a legacy character to some extent – truly picking up the spiritual reigns of crime fighters past. "When Kevin Smith was writing his movie script, which has been turned into this comic, he was thinking in the same way without any direct tie-in or reference that NOW did. It's just something that would naturally occur when thinking about this property that's not as set in stone as other well-known comic or radio-born properties. You can play with it a bit, which is where the legacy element comes in. It is itself a kind of bizarre continuation of these kinds of characters. And that has more of a connection to The Phantom, so on and on we go."
"Green Hornet" #1 ships in March from Dynamite Entertainment. The following month, the Golden Age version of the character bows with "Green Hornet: Year One."