Nitz Separates "Green Hornet: Parallel Lives"

While Seth Rogen's "Green Hornet" film will present a new look at the classic crimefighter from the days of radio adventures, those who can't wait for the movie's 2011 release date to get their fill of crime-fighting goodness will have a chance to sate their appetite in July of this summer. Dynamite Entertainment will release "Green Hornet: Parallel Lives," which follows the lives of the movieverse Green Hornet and Kato before the events on the silver screen. Written by "Kato: Origins" writer Jai Nitz, "Parallel Lives" is set years before the events of the film, showing the steps Green Hornet and Kato take to connect.

CBR News caught up with Jai Nitz to discuss his newest installment in the Green Hornet mythos, the challenges about working in two different Green Hornet continuities and how Nitz's hippy fencing teacher helped his pitch for the only prequel the Green Hornet movie will have.

CBR News: Jai, you've already got "Kato: Way of the Ninja" where you tell the story of Kato spun directly out of Matt Wagner's "Year One" continuity. Besides being a movie prequel, what's different and new about "Green Hornet: Parallel Lives?"

Jai Nitz: Colton and I are having a lot of fun on ["Kato"]. "Green Hornet: Parallel Lives" comes from a different place, but it's a similar process for me. See, I had only read Matt's scripts for "Green Hornet: Year One" - the issues weren't out yet when I started writing Kato. It's the same thing here. I got to read the screenplay without knowing what the movie would look like. So my foundation for both projects was essentially the same.

What can you tell us, if anything, about the setting and plot of this book?

"Green Hornet: Parallel Lives" is set in the years before the movie, with each chapter showing the progression of the characters and how they connect. We follow Kato and Britt from about the age of ten up through the moments just before the movie starts. The plot shows how Kato got to be so good at all the things he does in the movie. Each issue focuses on one aspect of his past and builds on the earlier issues. I'm really proud of how the story built up from each previous issue overall.

Tell us a bit about the origins of this book. How exactly did you get involved and when did development begin?

I got started on "Green Hornet: Parallel Lives" at the same time as "Kato Origins." I think I pitched them both in the same week. Reading the pitches side by side is like comparing apples and monster trucks. They aren't remotely the same, and they shouldn't be. Seth Rogen is a different writer with a different vision than Matt Wagner. I like them both immensely, so I'm happy to be working on both projects and flexing different writing muscles while I do.

What do you think sets Parallel Lives apart from the other Green Hornet titles hitting the shelves?

"Green Hornet: Parallel Lives" is the only comic that will be true to the movie that the general public sees. I think Kevin Smith's version would have been an awesome movie, but it's only going to be a comic, and only Smith fans and comic fans will ever see it. The same constraints hold true for Matt Wagner's "Green Hornet" (and my "Kato," for that matter). That said, the masses of the world are going to see Seth Rogen's "Green Hornet." It's my hope that some of them check out the comic Nigel Raynor and I are doing too. I think they'll enjoy our comic.

How closely are you working with the team that's working on the film? Have you had any involvement with Seth Rogen?

I've had no contact with Seth Rogen, but I'd love to. I know he's a big comic fan and I think it'd be a blast to talk with him. I am a huge fan of his writing on "Undeclared" and "Superbad." I have had contact with the studio people, and they've been nothing but supportive and communicative. I mean that. They have supported my ideas from day one and they are very forthcoming with information about what I can and can't do. It's been a breeze to work with them. Also, Joe Rybandt at Dynamite is a superb editor. He makes my comic writing life a lot easier.

How difficult was it to get into the voices of the characters as played by Seth Rogen and Jay Chou - especially considering the movie hasn't even released yet?

I think it was really easy. I got to read the screenplay, and the characters really leapt off the page. I knew Seth Rogen's writing and acting, so he was basically three dimensional for me from the get go. Also, I did my research on Jay Chou. You can see why the studio picked him. He's got a real performer's presence. I also learned a really good lesson from Matt Fraction when he took over "Invincible Iron Man" before "Iron Man" that movie came out. He did his homework and labored over which direction he thought would be best for his book without compromising for the movie. I put all that together to make the best movie prequel comic I could make.

Have there been any particular challenges with not only working within the constraints of the movie's continuity, but also working in Matt Wagner's universe as the same time?

I haven't felt any constraints, in fact, it's kind of liberating. I get to explore two totally different continuities with similar foundations but different tones. The Wagner continuity is very gritty and dramatic - basically exactly what you'd expect from Matt Wagner. The Rogen continuity is very funny but confrontational - exactly what you expect from Seth Rogen. It's fun to play in both worlds and try different things on each story. It's great exercise as a writer.

By the same token, what do you feel are the major differences between the movie characters and those you've laid out in "Kato: Way of the Ninja?"

There are lots of differences. Broadly, the setting of 1940s Chicago versus modern Los Angeles, the age and origins of the lead characters and the tone of comedy versus drama. Narrowly, Kato is Chinese in the movie and Japanese in Wagner comic. That doesn't sound like much, but it's everything to me.

Did you have a different method of researching this book as opposed to "Way of the Ninja?"

Yes. For "Kato Origins" I had to research 1940s Chicago and 1940s America. It's terribly important to get the setting correct. The setting affects everything else in "Kato: Origins" and it was important to me to nail the racism, sexism and WWII. Also, thanks to Matt, I could go in just about any direction with "Kato: Origins." For "GHPL," I had to research Shanghai, China to make sure I got where Jay Chou's Kato was coming from. More importantly, I knew how the movie was going to unfold, so I had to be careful to let the movie do its thing, but still tell a compelling story.

What is it about the story you're telling in "Green Hornet: Parallel Lives" that is important to the movie continuity.

Once upon a time, I had a hippy fencing teacher (is there another kind?). We were discussing the Tolkien "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (the books, this was long before the movies), and he said something that always stuck with me. He talked about how Gandalf starts out as Gandalf the Grey and becomes Gandalf the White. Tolkien implies that Gandalf was Gandalf the Black before we meet him. Now, just saying that I want to read that non-existent story. I really do. That's my inspiration for "Green Hornet: Parallel Lives" and making it good. What if Kato and Britt were not what you expected as kids or teens? What if I take what you expect and flip it on its head? That's what I'm trying to do with "Green Hornet: Parallel Lives," and I think Nigel and I succeed.

Do you feel readers who pick up this book will get a little more enjoyment out of the film?

I think so. I hope so. First of all, Nigel and I set out to make a good comic. I think we did that. On its own merits, our comic is good sequential storytelling. It also happens to enhance and enrich the movie's story. This isn't a series of deleted or unfilmed scenes or anything like that.

Finally, this being a movie prequel, do you feel that the comic book format is the most appropriate medium to tell this story?

"Green Hornet: Parallel Lives" is a comic book that works as a comic book and only as a comic book. I didn't want to write a movie prequel and make it into a comic. I wrote a comic about the events before the movie. I made sure this story, starting with my initial pitch, fit into the parameters of comic book storytelling. I think comic readers and movie goers alike will enjoy what Nigel, Dynamite, and I have come up with.

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