Amid the waves of Dynamite Entertainment news that came out of New York Comic Con, perhaps the most intriguing was the word that writer Mark Waid would take on “The Green Hornet” in 2013. The series will not only mark the writer’s first work for Dynamite, it also gives the Eisner-winning superhero scribe a chance to dig into a classic character with a different pedigree than the likes of Marvel and DC’s pantheons.
While the Hornet is a superhero in the ways that most readers would count — mask, gadgets, secret identity — the character has never functioned the same as his comic book counterparts. From his original radio serials on through TV and movie appearances, the character has always been an outlier to the classic “Crusader Against Dastardly Villains” idea, and that was one of the main draws to the series for Waid.
In a first interview on the series, Waid revealed to CBR News how he’s approaching the mid-century period piece. Below, he describes his long-standing connection to the Green Hornet character and legacy, his classic film influences which will turn this project away from traditional superhero stories, his take on Kato and Britt Reid’s relationship and why this Green Hornet story will explore the grey areas the character traffics in more than any before.
CBR News: Mark, let’s start with your Green Hornet history. You’ve spoken a lot in the past about how the Adam West “Batman” series helped lead to your getting into comics. Did you have a similar affinity for the Van Williams/Bruce Lee “Green Hornet” show that created your interest in the character?
Mark Waid: It was actually another outlet all together. I had seen certain episodes of that show when I was a kid, but I want to remember that it was a Friday night show or some other night where my parents had something they watched which preempted it for me. So I rarely got to watch “The Green Hornet,” and I don’t have that nostalgic attachment to the TV show. What I do have an attachment to is listening to recordings of radio broadcasts with my dad. I especially remember we’d listen to “The Lone Ranger,” and my dad would explain to me the connection between the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet. I remember also being a teenager and reading more about that, and realizing that the Green Hornet was the great nephew of the Lone Ranger was mind blowing to me because that was the first time I’d ever come across that sense of generational superheroes outside of the DC Universe or the stuff we already knew about. This idea that the heroic legacy is passed down and isn’t just a comic book thing but is part of the grander scheme of pop culture fascinated me. I really became enamored of both the Green Hornet and the Lone Ranger from that day forward.
So how did that early fascination play out in terms of the challenge of picking which Dynamite version you wanted to write? Between the “Year One” stories of Matt Wagner, Kevin Smith’s modern take and the rest, there are a number of twists on the familiar formula you can play with.
I want this to be a period piece, but not necessarily a ’40s period piece. I’m still doing the research to nail down the best possible era for the story, but I’m thinking somewhere around the post-war late ’40s or the early ’50s. What I came to [Dynamite Publisher] Nicky [Barrucci] with was two of my all-time favorite movies: “Citizen Kane” and “Lawrence of Arabia.” I started to think about the Green Hornet in those terms. I started to think about how I’ve always been fascinated by Green Hornet’s position as a newspaper publisher. I’ve always loved the idea that he’s not Clark Kent — just some guy who files stories. He’s Charles Foster Kane — someone who makes opinions and is a very, very powerful man in the city in his civilian identity. Focusing in on that, I came back to “Lawrence of Arabia” which at its heart is the story of a guy who becomes so famous and so worshiped and so godlike to the people around him that he starts to believe his own press. That changes him.
I really liked the idea of Britt Reid as a newspaper publisher in the mid to late years of his career and hubris being the driving idea of this story. I love the idea that he’s gotten a little too arrogant about his influence over the city. He’s got them both coming and going as Green Hornet and Britt Reid, so I can see how that could inflate your ego too much and spoil your head a little too much. What happens when you’re an arrogant superhero, and your arrogance ends up costing you everything? That’s what the story boils down to.
How do you want to play those themes against the classic characters? Over the years, the Green Hornet and Kato have changed where Kato started as a valet and morphed over the years into the bad ass as the Hornet himself has become softened a bit. What do you think is the right balance between them?
Kato’s relationship to the Green Hornet, to me, is the easier question to answer. Kato to the Green Hornet, at least in this story, is the voice of conscience. He’s the Jiminy Cricket. He’s the guy trying to point out to Britt Reid that maybe his vision of the world is getting a little skewed, and he’s maybe getting a little bit too pompous. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the original “Pinocchio” story from 1883, but in the end of it, Jiminy gets squished by a shoe. [Laughs] Somebody finally loses their patience with him, hurls a shoe and crushes him. Dear kids, that’s the real moral of being a Jiminy Cricket.
So that’s our take as far as Kato is concerned. He’s somebody who sees his mentor, his friend, his employer — and really to a large degree his partner. A lot of his whole chauffeur/valet thing they’ve done over the years is put on as more and more of an act or a disguise. They’re very much equals, or at least that’s what Kato thinks. And this story shows us that perhaps he was mistaken.
You’re obviously early in building this specific story, but one of the superhero characteristics that the Green Hornet has never had is a rogue’s gallery. He’s always fighting against racketeering or graft — faceless mobsters. Is that an aspect of this franchise you’ve given any thought? Any ideas on who could serve as a memorable antagonist to Britt?
I’d much rather make this more about the idea that the Hornet and Kato are unique to this world. I don’t know if I need to focus on a bunch of criminals running around as I need to remember that this is as much Britt Reid’s story as it is the Green Hornet’s story. It’s about making Britt Reid a real character with depth.
That said, there will be a master villain to the piece, and he will need to be of a bit more of a colorful bent than a gangster in a suit. But I’m still fleshing that idea out, to tell the truth.
Do you know who might be drawing this or any design ideas for how the Hornet will look in this take?
Sadly, not at this point. That’s something Nicky and I are trying to hammer out, but we hope to get things locked down soon.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on Mark Waid’s “The Green Hornet!”