It's the sidekick's time to shine. This April, Dynamite Entertainment releases "Kato," placing the spotlight square on the Green Hornet's always faithful sidekick. Serving as a prequel to Smith's "Green Hornet" book, "Kato" centers on both the original and the new Kato, the original's young daughter. "This series ties directly into what Kevin Smith has done in his Green Hornet revamp," series writer Ande Parks told CBR News. "In Kevin's Green Hornet universe, Kato has been living in Japan since retiring some twenty years ago. He has a lovely wife and a daughter named Mulan. Kato is trying to achieve spiritual balance while dealing with all the typical daddy/daughter issues. In our first issue, a villain from Kato's past shows up and shatters the family's life. Mulan is pushed toward assuming her father's heroic mantle, becoming the new Kato. Fortunately, she has a great trainer, if only she and her dad can work out their issues.
"I'm really psyched to write the relationship between Kato and Mulan as they work together and bond," the writer continued. "I have an eleven year old daughter, and I think this is going to be very interesting territory for me."
Fans may recognize Park's name, but perhaps not as a writer. A longtime inker in the comic book industry, with credits that include Kevin Smith's own "Green Arrow" run, Parks is hoping this project may signal a shift in how fans view him as a creator. "I've been trying to transition to a full-time writing career after spending most of my career as an inker," he said. "I bugged Nick [Barrucci] at Dynamite Entertainment about work for a while, and he came back with the 'Kato' opportunity. I pitched him something that worked, and away we went! Nick had read my graphic novels and the Marvel stuff I did last year, and he thought I would be a good fit for this kind of series."
Though not originally a Green Hornet fan, Parks became one after researching "Kato." "I gotta be honest...my knowledge of Green Hornet was pretty limited before doing research for this gig," he said. "Once I got into it, though, I became a big fan really quickly. I mean, the dude wears a fedora while kicking your ass. How can you beat that?"
Parks was quick to mention what appealed to him - both about Kato and the world that the character and Green Hornet inhabit. "Two things appeal to me about Kato: The badass fighting, and the search for spiritual harmony," he said. "A man who has such violent skills struggling to be at peace is always interesting. The Green Hornet universe as a whole? I like the vibe...the car, the hats, the suits. I dig the hell out of that stuff."
Parks continued, mentioning that one of his greatest hurdles in writing the Green Hornet's iconic sidekick was figuring out the man behind the mask. "The biggest challenge is figuring out what drives Kato," the writer said. "We know the hero - the Bruce Lee badass guy. What I had to get to was that same guy, but in a different place in life. Can a man really set aside that life of conflict and become a peaceful husband and father? Is that a satisfying choice for him personally? Will the past allow that shift to take place? The answer to that last question is ‘No way.' That's where our conflict comes from - the ghosts of Kato's past coming back to destroy the life he's built since he left public life.
"Also, I have to admit, it's a challenge to introduce a credible threat to Kato," Parks continued. "I don't know about you, but if I picture him as a fifty-something Bruce Lee...that guy still scares the crap out of me."
While Parks has a handle on Kato and what makes him tick, the world he's playing in has its foundation built by "Green Arrow" collaborator Kevin Smith. Parks and Smith have not yet collaborated directly, but the writer is enjoying adding his own work to the Green Hornet mythos. "I haven't spoken to [Kevin Smith] about it yet, but I know he's there if I need him," said Parks. "Phil Hester and I have remained pals with Kevin since our 'Green Arrow' days. He's always just an e-mail away. But he's already given me a great foundation for this stuff. I've been enjoying finding my own voice for the work, based on that structure."
Parks is excited for the release of "Kato" for a number of reasons, including seeing art by series artist Alé Garza. "Seeing Alé draw this action stuff is going to be very cool," he confided, but Parks believes that fans will be most excited about the combination of the action and something a bit different during his foray into the world of Kato: family. "I know they'll dig the action, and I really hope they enjoy the family dynamics," Parks said. "Along with the Kato/Mulan story, there's an interesting parallel between Kato's family and the villain's. We get to really look at what family honor means in Japan, and how that can play out, for good or bad."