SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains spoilers about recent events in "Kevin Smith's Green Hornet"
Green Hornet fans will be adding one more book to their subscription lists come August when "Kevin Smith's Green Hornet Annual #1" hits the stands. The first annual promises to further flesh out and explore the universe created by Smith, revealing a bit more about Britt Reid Jr.'s journey to take on the mantle of the Green Hornet. Newcomers to "Green Hornet" might not realize that Dynamite Entertainment's series comes from the script of Kevin Smith's "Green Hornet" movie, now adapted for comics. The series follows the original Green Hornet's son as he discovers his heritage and attempts to track down his father's murderer, introducing readers to a whole new Green Hornet/Kato team and mythology.
Heading up the Annual's creative team is none other than Phil Hester, who has collaborated with Smith in the past both on "Green Arrow" and on the "Kevin Smith's Green Hornet" series proper. Hester took some time out to speak with CBR News about the plot of the new annual, how it fits into the series' storyline and the collaborative process behind turning the "Green Hornet" script into a comic.
CBR News: Phil, you've collaborated with Kevin Smith before on "Green Arrow," and you're also an accomplished writer in your own right. Tell us a bit about how you got involved writing the series annual of "Green Hornet."
Phil Hester: I've been helping out with Kevin's regular Green Hornet since #1, so I've been in the engine room, so to speak, all this time. I know how the beast runs. Nick Barrucci saw a tangent from one of the earlier issues that could provide for some exploration of Kevin's Hornetverse and asked me if I wanted to tackle that story.
What's the general story behind the annual and how does this tie in to everything that's going on in the series proper?
This issue takes place smack dab in the middle of "Green Hornet #3," right after the original Green Hornet is killed by The Black Hornet. Britt is saddened and angered at losing his father in such a manner and wants to track down this assassin, who Britt Jr. wrongly believes to be Green Hornet. At this point in the tale, he has no idea his father was Green Hornet. Our story explores Britt's misdirected rage and how it impacts his ex-girlfriend Julie (last seen in "Green Hornet #1") and the people trying to protect him behind the scenes, namely Kato.
We're also introduced to Britt's former martial arts sensei, Dante Pollard. Kevin mentions early in the series that Britt Jr. was an elite level kick boxer, and to become elite at any sport you need a great coach. Britt goes to Pollard for a crash training camp that will allow him to go toe-to-toe with the man who killed his father. What Britt doesn't know is that Pollard himself has an unexpected past connection to the original Green Hornet and Kato. Of course, all this comes to light during dramatic fist fights. It's comics!
In the end, we get to slow down from the absolutely breakneck pace of the monthly series and focus on the untold pasts of many regular cast members. Also, we expand the cast for future issues.
There are a great many Green Hornet titles on the shelf right now - what sets this annual apart from the pack?
As I said earlier, we get to slow down and expand the story a bit. It could almost be seen as an appendix to issue #3 in that it's exploring some facets of the story that the pace of the regular series won't allow. Also, it's bigger page-wise, so we get to play out a lot of the fight scenes and get into some Frank Miller fight choreography. Plus, we get some healthy doses of both classic Green Hornet and new school Britt Jr. Best of both worlds!
Are you a fan of the Green Hornet? What appeals to you as a writer about the character?
Well, I am now. Of course, the absolute best thing about the whole character is the dynamic between Green Hornet and Kato. Kato is not second fiddle to Green Hornet in any way. They are partners, and the banter between them, especially as rendered by Kevin, is really engaging. That dynamic will be alive in whatever incarnation of Green Hornet is currently at the fore, but I think Kevin's book really nails it.
I used to complain about the lack of tragic impetus in his character (all the best heroes are orphans, right?), but after ruminating on it a while, I think the fact that Britt Reid decides to become a hero simply because it is the right thing to do is really refreshing. No guilt trip, no revenge motive. It's just right to use a worldly fortune like his in this manner. I mean, really, it's pretty amoral not to. I admire his sense of duty.
Why do you think Kevin's Green Hornet universe lends itself so well to comics?
Kevin's gift for dialogue is the most obvious. In comics you can control timing so precisely that you need not rely on an actor for timing. We control the flow. So, Kevin's timing translates awfully well to comic book pages. And a lot of big budget stuff happens in this book. Stuff that would make the flick costs hundreds of millions of bucks. We can do it all for the page rates of a few cartoonists, colorists and letterers.
How closely are you referring to Kevin Smith's original script?
In this annual? Well, I have to begin and end the story at very specific places that readers have already seen in issue #3. I basically pick up right after his father's funeral and end right before he walks into Lowe's Bar to crack some skulls for information on The Hornet. Outside of that, I had to plant some seeds that readers won't see come to fruition until after Kevin's initial run...all without spoiling things.
In the regular book, Kevin and I go over his screenplay and break down issue breaks, scenes he wants to extend or truncate, etc. From there I type up a comic book format script, and for the first 5 issues at least, I did little thumbnails of the pages with balloon placements for Jonathan Lau, our esteemed artist. Jonathan has his Kevin cherry broken now, so we felt he could take on the sometimes complex task of working out character blocking for proper flow of Kevin's dialogue. Now he handles his own thumbnails. It's been going well so far. Now, I just work with Kevin to adapt his screenplay then help tweak balloon placements and fine tune storytelling along the way.
You've worked with a number of throwback heroes in various "Project: Superpowers" miniseries - how has some of this previous work helped you while working on "Green Hornet?"
In some ways those "Project Superpowers" books helped me to realize that, well, look - nearly every character is someone's favorite character and you should treat them as such. There are no throwaway characters or forgettable stories. Show some deference to what has come before and don't build on top of it unless you have something of quality to offer. That's my ethos with all these storied characters: Build up without tearing down. It's possible, folks! I'm trying, at least.
How does it feel to be adding your own story to a mythology so full of history like the Green Hornet's?
Daunting. But Dynamite and Kevin have given me a really sure footing in the attempt. I always say, write every story like your trying to tell the definitive story of that character. You may fail, but trying for the peak is the only way to get exciting comics.
What's your biggest challenge, as both a writer and a fan, in writing this annual?
Honestly, from a technical standpoint, the constraints of fitting into "Green Hornet #3." As a fan, constructing a plot device that allowed us to see the original Green Hornet & Kato in action for a few extended scenes in the book.
Why do you think telling this story is important within the confines of the big picture of the series proper?
I think it lends some depth to the transformation we see young Britt undergo throughout the series. Also, as I said, we get to introduce a character who I hope will eventually become part of the Green Hornet mythos in Dante Pollard - Britt's original sensei. Believe me, some future friction with Britt's current sensei Kato ensues.