While movie goers will be able to check out an all-new screen version of classic radio superhero The Green Hornet come Christmastime in the form of director Michel Gondry’s Seth Rogen-starring feature film, fans of the the hero’s most iconic interpretation won’t have to wait so long for a taste of the classic Britt Reid in action. This june, Moonstone Books releases the first of its “Green Hornet” prose anthologies -Â a series of short story collections featuring the work of some of crime and comics fictions biggest names and taking place in the world of the 1960s Hornet TV series.
“We take the character and his whole story quite seriously. That’s our niche. We put out the character that people recognize,” Moonstone Publisher Joe Gentile told CBR of the project. “We are able to do whatever era that we want to talk about, but for the first couple of volumes we’re sticking to the TV era Hornet. All of our stories take place in the mid 1960s, and the Hornet is based in Detroit, and the characters look like the were portrayed on TV. The TV show had a half hour episodes, and it’s really tough to do any kind of crime drama story in 22 minutes. Our stories are able to take a more crime fiction approach where you’re able to build character and build suspense and tell real stories. We’re very excited about that.”
Although most readers know Moonstone as the comics publishing home of characters like the Phantom and Buckaroo Banzai, the publisher also has a long run of prose collections to its credit. However, Gentile explained that with the June-shipping “Green Hornet Chronicles” he’s pulling out all the stops – releasing four different versions of the book (two covers for a paperback edition, a regular hardcover and a special slipcase hardcover edition) and brining on animation and pulp art veteran Ruben Procopio to illustrate and art direct the project. The first volume will include stories by the likes of comics writers like Denny O’Neil and Robert Greenberger as well as crime and pulp writers including Will Murray and Harlan Ellison, who spoke about his pseudo team-up between the Hornet and the Phantom with CBR earlier this month. Rounding out “Chronicles” collection is the involvement of several members of the TV Hornet’s creative team including series star Van Williams who will pen the introduction and Black Beauty car designer Dean Jeffries who handles the afterward.
“The Hornet was the first property that I went after almost 15 years ago now. That’s actually kind of scary to think about,” Gentile said, explaining that the TV show trappings drew the attention of a diverse range of talent that could be spread over many books. “We went right after people who had a connection to the character – Ron Fortier and James Van Hise. But as far as the others, I wanted to make sure we had a great cross-section of writers. Crime Fiction guys. Comics guys. Movie guys. Whoever was really into the character. And we got hammered with responses from writers who wanted to submit materials. What’s taken the longest has been weeding through over 100 responses to our queries and trying to narrow that down. It’s been a long process, but we’re finally at the point where we can put the first book together, which we are very excited about…There’s never been a collection of Hornet stories in a book -Â nothing like this. As Hornet fans ourselves, this is what we wanted to see. So here we are, and we have some great stories in this volume. There’s a wide variety of stuff from people who really love this character.”
Gentile said that at the core of the volume is the Hornet’s mission to bust up crime by becoming one with it. “The book goes from really deep, gritty crime fiction stuff to a lighthearted look told from the eyes of someone who finds Britt Reid fascinating. There’s a handful of humorous stories, but it’s really mostly crime fiction. The Hornet is quite unique in that everyone thinks he’s a villain…and that’s his schtick. It’s his doing. He works to destroy crime by pretending to be one of the criminals. It’s a fairly unique ploy and one that we want to be sure shows up as well as some cool character stuff. You get background on the Hornet or Kato as they come across some racketeers and some very personal stuff. We get the story of the first time that Ms. Case finds out Britt is the Green Hornet, which has never been told before. There’s a couple of stories in there that really hit what the Hornet is and what he looks like to the outside world.”
Art Director Procopio agreed, recalling that he didn’t become a Hornet fan until he was already a professional artist, getting introduced to the material after he gave Van Willians a tour of the Disney animation studios when Procopio was on staff. “This is great for collectors like myself who grew up when the show came out or grew to love the characters and became a fan of the show through the Green Hornet or Bruce Lee,” the artist said, explaining that matching the look of the TV show became his central occupation. “The look was there. For me now, it’s a matter of getting the stories and finding inspiration from the writers to make illustrations that reflect them. Each story will have its own illustration.
“As I’m doing these, it’s one of those experiences where you have to adapt everything you’ve learned. With these illustrations I’m having a blast. I’m a fan of film noir and of pulps, so I love that mysterioso look of darks and lights. My influences mainly come from a lot of the Silver Age comic book artists like Alex Toth who was a master of simplicity and of using the ink blacks on a page to make a striking image with very few lines.”
Procopio and Gentile promised that Hornet fans will be greeted with special design and artistic elements in the final volume that will harken back to the TV show without losing a more hardboiled crime fiction edge. “There is quite a fanbase out there for these characters,” the publisher noted. “The car and Van Williams still draw a crowd wherever they go. Van, Dean Jeffries and the rest of them have very fond memories of the time they spent on the show or with Dean the time and effort he spent designing the car. It was a long time ago and the show lasted one season, but even without the Bruce Lee element, people remember the show. Those iconic images are ones people still remember.”
“It’s not like preparing a comic book, but it’s much more sophisticated. There’s a time lapse there because of the production, but we hope that the comic book world will embrace it,” Procopio concluded on the volume’s selling points. “I’m a great affinity for the pulp heroes, so this was right up my alley. Anything with Zorro, the Phantom, Green Hornet or the like, and I’m there…There’s going to be a neat look for the front of each stories and a lot of other goodies as part of the project.”