This May, Dynamite Entertainment's long-gestating plans for the classic radio, TV and comic superhero the Green Hornet will enter its third phase with the new ongoing series "The Green Hornet Strikes!" Driven by the creative pairing of "Lone Ranger" writer Brett Mattews and artist Ariel Padilla, the series comes on the heels of Kevin Smith's modern-day reinvention of the property and Matt Wagner's depression-era "Year One" tale in more ways than one.
"Nick [Barrucci, publisher of Dynamite] came to me with a simple pitch," Matthews told CBR. "Kevin Smith was doing the contemporary book that was the genesis of all this happening, obviously. He then wanted Matt Wagner to do a retro/classic/Britt Reid title, and for me to do something a little out of the box that would take place after Kevin's. The lineup just made sense to me right from the jump, and I immediately wanted to push the timeline of mine out into the near-future, and Dynamite was on the same page. The way we saw it, that gave each book a reason for existing, and it was playing to everyone's strengths.
"For me personally, it provided the opportunity to be a little bolder than I might within the framework of an existing Hornet mythology, which was very attractive to me. It was just a fit on a lot of levels."
The most important building block of making "Strikes!" its own, unique take on the Hornet premise is the near-future world the book is set in. The action takes place in a Chicago reeling from the collapse of the U.S. economy, a fate the nation has seemed precariously close to in modern times. "The world of 'The Green Hornet Strike!' is our world, just a little further down the line," the writer said. "Some of the hot button issues we're facing today have played out, for better and for worse. Mostly the latter. These resulting conditions in turn spawn the version of the character.
"The future – and this is near-future, not sci-fi – is usually a direct response to the past," Matthews added, saying he's more interested in the societal affects of the modern era than dreaming up ray guys or robots. "Technology always marches forward and that's not going to stop, so you'll see some of that on display. Print media is on life support today, and of course that would greatly affect the life of a newspaper magnate. The world continues to become a smaller and more connected place, for good and for bad. But I'm interested in what all that stuff does to people a lot more than the stuff itself. You might get the occasional toy, sure, but the story is pretty street level. The Green Hornet lives in a world where all this stuff exists, so it's not like its existence is shocking to him. It's not about the tech."
Early art for the series has revealed a much different take on the Hornet for "Strikes!," with a gas-mask disguise covering the character's whole face...and his identity. Asked whether his Hornet will be a continuation of Kevin Smith's current legacy-centric take, Matthews said "I can't reveal anything at all about the [possible connection], because it lies at the heart of the story. Telling really would ruin the fun." Though the writer did say the core of the concept would live in this new hero: "I've always liked that The Green Hornet fights crime from within. That he's willing to be seen as a criminal in order to take criminals down. That he's okay with being feared – or seen as one of them – in order to get the job done. He gets his hands dirty and he's not a superhero, which is the default direction many things get taken today."
Furthermore, the writer revealed how this Green Hornet is a younger, idealistic crusader operating outside the law. "This kid is so far away from having an M.O. it's not even funny. He wouldn't even know what that means. He's just trying to survive, to get his message out there at the beginning. Then he gets pulled into something much larger, and his beliefs – which is the one thing he always thought he had – get put to the test. Some are proven right, others completely wrong. If he survives the whole ordeal, he'll probably be a much more mature person on the other side. But only if...
"But in the very beginning, [he's] a bit of a vandal. A bit of an idealist, even if his ideas are unconventional. He'd probably consider himself a rebel. But he doesn't really know what that means, yet. He'll find out soon enough."
As for the Hornet's traditional partner in crimefighting, "[Readers] can definitely expect to see a Kato," Matthews promised. "As unconventional a take as GHS! is, I'm still writing The Green Hornet. And it wouldn't be The Green Hornet without Kato, any more than The Lone Ranger could exist without Tonto. This is not to say that The Green Hornet and Kato get along or have the same world view, but that's the fun part.
"You will see the familiar elements, just filtered through a different lens. But to be clear, my love and respect for the character is what made me want to do the series in the first place. So I'm inclined to preserve a lot of these things, or to turn them ninety degrees to make sense for this version of the character. At the end of the day, I want this character to earn his place as a Green Hornet, not just use the title."
When it comes to the test of the pair against the legacy of the Green Hornet and Kato, they'll have no shortage of crime on their hands with what the traditionally gangster-loving city of Chicago has turned into. "If you're going to do a crime story - and I think, at its core, that's the genre The Green Hornet most fits into - you can't really beat Chicago. We wanted the history of that city, its ties to corruption and racketeering, its unique visuals and gray areas. Again, it just made sense on a lot of levels. That one was a pretty easy call to make. [And to] the city's love of gangsters, as you put it, I would add to that its love of underdogs, the common man, might even be something The Hornet can turn to his advantage."
"As for the central villain, there definitely is one. You've not seen him yet. His name is Gregor Kaast, and the first issue will make very clear why The Green Hornet wants to take him down."
Covering the series will be Dynamite staple superstar and professed Hornet fan John Cassaday, with whom Matthews has worked on "Lone Ranger" for years. "We've always talked about [the connection between the Green Hornet and the Lone Ranger], even from the beginning of 'The Lone Ranger.' John is a very good friend, and we spent the entire car ride home from Comic-Con last year spinning out a lot of what makes 'GHS!' unique, including the title of the book. We met with Matt [Wagner] at the show as well and we all threw some things back and forth across the titles. The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet are two sides of the same coin, obviously, only rooted in different genres. If you're familiar with one, odds are pretty good you're familiar with the other, given how connected the characters are and their sharing the same creator.
Matthews also offered his thoughts on what readers would see from artist Ariel Padilla once issue #1 hits in May. "I'm very excited about where Ariel is at right now. The interesting thing about him is that he can draw in so many different styles. It's a little confusing at the outset to settle on which one. He really has a huge range.
"What I wanted from him is something that felt unique to him and the book, maybe even a little unsafe. We've probably dialed that back a bit, it's probably a little bit more conventional than some of the stuff we were considering, but it still feels fresh to me. It looks right. The Green Hornet is sufficiently spindly, it's a little abstract and stylized – a little big of heightened reality – which was always the goal. It allows any futuristic elements to blend in pretty seamlessly, because you're not trapped in a slice of life kind of look where those things would really stick out. At the same time, Chicago is a real place, and his work had to reflect that as well. I think he's finding that delicate balance."