A decade ago, Mark Waid was thinking about "The Green Hornet" as he drove from Florida to his new home of Los Angeles. Circumstances had him serving as an informal consultant to a screenwriter working on one of the many dead end attempts to revive the radio hero as a major film, but by the time he arrived in LA, the comics writer had filed away the contradictions and conflicts he saw inherent in the masked vigilantes mythos to a back corner of his mind. After all, no Green Hornet movie was on the way, and the character hadn't appeared in comics for years.
Things are much different now.
This March, Dynamite Entertainment is relaunching their four-color efforts for Green Hornet and his right-hand man Kato with a new eponymous ongoing series written by Waid and drawn by Daniel Indro. The opportunity to write a Hornet series set in the character's original 1940s period reignited the ideas the writer dreamed up on that cross-country drive, but as Waid explained to CBR News, making the story work today was a challenge in more ways than one.
"It's one thing to pontificate about, 'This would be a cool moment,' or, 'This would be a cool idea.' But when I say I have a story in mind, that's not the same as saying I have a script in mind," he said. "The story is just rise and fall and rise again of Britt Reid. Now I'm sitting down and trying to make that work within a context, and I write differently now than I did ten years ago. I write not substantially differently, but I hope I'm a better writer now. There are different themes I'm more interested in exploring about what hubris is like and how it affects people."
Overall, Waid's "Green Hornet" series will focus on how the character's dual role as a powerful newspaperman and a vigilante masquerading as a criminal will slowly break down alter ego Britt Reid's own moral code. But while that conflict is somewhat timeless, Waid noted that the setup surrounding it has to work for a modern reader first and foremost. "I think people's perception of the way the press works has changed a lot over the last ten years. Britt Reid is a newspaper publisher. That was a little more immediate and easy to get a handle on ten years ago than it is today. I have to spend the first page of the first issue just explaining to younger readers why this would have been a major public opinion-shaping job in the 1940s. I have to show why this is the equivalent of Bill O'Reily or Glenn Beck back then. It's not something I can take for granted that younger readers would even know what the power of the press was back then."
The series is firmly a period piece, but don't expect that to mean a throwback story even though the writer admits he writes comics set in the past "very, very rarely. I've done a couple of Justice Society stories over the years and a couple of Golden Age DC characters in one-shots, but in terms of lengthy period pieces, it wasn't until I got into 'Rocketeer' last year that I started playing in that field. I feel that I've done the occasional story where I can draw upon the images of the day, but doing something as a long-form ongoing period piece is a different challenge.
"'Ruse' was a period piece, but it was written in a very contemporary style, where as 'The Green Hornet' is different," Waid said. "It's hard to explain. It's difficult to latch onto that period and make it really relevant today. I think with 'Ruse,' it was such an alien world to the 21st Century with its late 1800s setting that I wasn't worried about the audience connecting to that world. I could focus on them connecting to the characters because that world may well have been another planet. But with Green Hornet, it's not terribly unlike the world outside your window today. In that sense, I have to work harder to make it not seemed old fashioned."Cover by Paolo Rivera