In March of this year, Dynamite Entertainment resuscitated a story that almost wasn't when they released "Kevin Smith's Green Hornet." Smith, the fan-favorite director of "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy," had written a "Green Hornet" screenplay in 2004 that he was slated to direct, but the project ultimately fell apart and was relegated to a long list of highly-anticipated but never to be projects - until Dynamite acquired the rights to publish comics based on the Green Hornet license. The crown jewel of their launch was "Kevin Smith's Green Hornet," an adaptation of Smith's screenplay by Smith, Phil Hester and artist Jonathan Lau.
While Smith's Green Hornet origin story might be all wrapped up, the character's adventures are far from over. This December, "Kevin Smith's Green Hornet" continues under the steady pen of Phil Hester beginning with #11. He takes over as writer for the next two story arcs of the continuing adventures of the new Green Hornet and Kato, but he's no stranger to the Green Hornet mythology or to Kevin Smith's version of it.
"I've been here all along actually," Hester told CBR News. "I helped Kevin adapt his screenplay to comics, then helped Jonathan Lau lay out Kevin's script, so I've been the stage manager of the book in a way. When Kevin finished his story the powers that be at Dynamite found that he had built a loyal fan base for this version of Green Hornet. Since I'd been around since issue one, [was] familiar with the continuity, and written for Dynamite before they asked me to take over."
Hester previously wrote "Kevin Smith's Green Hornet Annual" #1, which took place in the same continuity, but he mentioned that taking on the series proper and Smith's version of the characters is not without its challenges.
"[It feels] intimidating," he said. "A lot of people love the Green Hornet and I feel a responsibility to present them with a fresh take on the character that's still respectful of the larger Green Hornet legacy. That's my goal. I hope I've got the skills to get there."
Hester described the transition of writers as "pretty seamless." "The guys at Dynamite have been really supportive and let me find my own voice on the book rather than aping what Kevin did," he continued. "I feel really good about the process."
While Smith's story very much set up a franchise hero with the new Green Hornet, Hester shed some light on the impetus to continue the series beyond Smith's departure. "I think we were all surprised by how well-received Kevin's origin story was. Not that Kevin doesn't know what he's doing, but Green Hornet doesn't have the built in big two audience a lot of Marvel and DC books have -- books 'Green Hornet' was beating on the charts," said Hester. "we have a lot of new, loyal readers who seem to be enjoying the Smith-verese version of Green Hornet and Kato. Why leave them hanging?"
While the first ten issues of "Green Hornet" centered around the origin and heroic journey of Britt Reid, Jr. as the new Green Hornet and Mulan Kato as the new Kato, Hester plans to continue exploring the world created by Smith and really put the crimefighting duo to work. "It's my job to take Green Hornet and Kato on some straight up capers; new villains, new allies, etc," Hester said. "We'll see a lot more gangbusting and a lot of crazy villains. There will be heads split and cars crashed. I mean, it's a super hero book -- that's my job! Issues #11-14 are all about the threat of Santa Muerte and issues #15-19 will deal with some ghosts from Kato's past that threaten the new Green Hornet's life. Lots of action!"
Hester's new direction kicks off in #11 with a new, mysterious figure known only as Saint Death appearing in Century City and, according to Hester, Santa Muerte is the impetus for the rise in crime that will have Green Hornet and Kato working overtime. "Saint Death -- or Santa Muerte -- is a real phenomenon among the downtrodden folk of Mexico and parts of the US," Hester explained. "Santa Muerte is the patron saint of the street and as such attracts the worship of criminals, beggars, prostitutes, and any other folk who may not feel at home in a traditional worship setting. Seeing as this is comics, I decided to tweak this a little and make Saint Death a mysterious figure directing a cult-like gang to commit crimes around Century City. Since Green Hornet relies on intimidation for his scared straight routine to work, the presence of a gang with religious fervor and fearlessness presents a special challenge. These guys aren't scared off by knock-out gas and Stinger darts. They fight to the death."
The threat of Saint Death notwithstanding, the new Green Hornet has come into his own as a hero, but Hester clarified that the new Hornet is far from the hero standard of his father. "Britt is firmly into his role as Green Hornet, but he is still a rookie," he said. "He's got a lot to learn. Also, the crime front in Century City has been laying low for the last few years, but now that Britt & Mulan are shining a light into their hiding places they're coming out fighting. The Juuma clan [from the first arc], though decapitated, is not yet dead and may have a few tricks left for our duo. Expect a lot of new bad guys."
In addition to a plethora of new villains, Hester will also explore the growing relationship between Green Hornet and Kato. "The most challenging part is finding the balance in Green Hornet's relationship with Kato. There's a budding romance there, but also remnants of the antagonism from earlier in the run. Plus, Britt's got to get used to the idea that his sidekick is better at his job than he is. Complicated."
Although this new direction for the series takes place mere months before Seth Rogen's "Green Hornet" film, Hester did say that he was careful to cut himself off from all outside influences -- including those in-house at Dynamite. "I've made a point of avoiding all other takes on Green Hornet, even [the other titles] at Dynamite, so that my approach remains fresh," he said. "I'm operating as if the movie doesn't exist, forging my own way."
For Hester, though, the most rewarding aspect of working on "Green Hornet" throughout the series has to do with the series artist, Jonathan Lau. "The most rewarding thing has been seeing Jonathan Lau's astonishing growth as an artist," Hester said. "I mean, he was always good, but the stuff he's doing now is on another level. He's the best of the whole East meets West school of cartooning. The energy and motion of Manga with the drama and impact of American comics. He's going to be a bigshot one day. Don't forget us, Jonathan!"
"Kevin Smith's Green Hornet" #11 by Phil Hester and Jonathan Lau arrives in December.