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Wagner on “Green Hornet: Year One”

by  in Comic News Comment
Wagner on “Green Hornet: Year One”
“Green Hornet” #7

The first season of Dynamite’s “Green Hornet: Year One” has come to a close. Matt Wagner’s arc, exploring the humble origins of the legendary crime-fighting duo, finished strong with issue #6 and now he’s ready to take readers even further on the journey of Britt Reid and his quest to become a hero.

Wagner’s first arc introduced readers to the crime-fighting duo in their earliest stages of being and shaped their quest to bring down mob boss “Skid” Caruso and his veritable empire of Mafioso. Now, after establishing their position as the only force for good against Caruso’s reign of terror, the Green Hornet and Kato are poised to make an even bigger dent in Caruso’s action.

Matt Wagner took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with CBR News about the new story arc, his plans for Green Hornet and Kato in the next six issues, how he defines the origins of the duo and the challenges he faces in keeping these two classic heroes accessible to modern audiences.

CBR: Matt, you just wrapped your first act of the re-imagined Green Hornet and Kato’s first year of fighting crime and taking names. How do you feel about the direction the series is going so far?

MATT WAGNER: It feels great. My goal with this series was to define the origins of the Hornet and Kato rather than re-define the scenario. When I really started to approach this series, I realized that there wasn’t really an established origin to this seminal crime-fighting team. Unlike The Lone Ranger, who was also created by radio dramatists Fran Striker and George Trundle and had a very specific origin tale, the earliest Hornet shows simply outlined the narrative set-up at the beginning of each episode but didn’t cover the actual formation of Britt and Kato’s crusade against crime, much less their motivations. I was seeking to provide these answers while still playing this whole thing pretty straight.

“Green Hornet” #7

The first arc gave us a better idea of not only Britt Reid’s reasons for becoming the Green Hornet, but a glimpse of how Kato and the Hornet became such solid friends. What do you have in store for the next bit of their first year and what new advances does the duo hope to accomplish in their fight on crime?

Well, the first story arc covered why they pursue their masked vendetta. The second covers more of how they go about that in the earliest stages. This includes the creation of their secret hideout, the Hornet’s Sting weapon and, of course, the sleek Black Beauty. But that’s all the back story, the “contemporary” portion of the tale in the first arc concerned their initial forays into their war against mob boss “Skid” Caruso. By the end of issue #6, they’ve established themselves as a serious pain in this guy’s butt. The second arc ups the ante, both in regards to how they endeavor to bring down Caruso’s empire but also how the Mafioso fights back. The stakes are higher all around.

What are some of the things you hope to accomplish in the next part of the story?

As I said, the war gets more severe. But this second arc is actually only the ending of the beginning. By the end of issue #12, I want to have a fully completed, epic first year tale that also leaves things open for the Hornet and Kato’s many continuing adventures.

Much of what you’re doing in Year One seems to get to the heart of the character, regardless of incarnation. What are the challenging aspects of keeping these characters true to their roots while still making them accessible to a new audience?

Working on a period piece like this is always something of a challenge; you can’t veer too far off the source material and yet you’ve got to paint things with a more contemporary mindset. For instance, grounding Kato’s origins and his initial friendship with Britt during the 1937 Japanese invasion of mainland China (historically known as the Nanking Massacre) achieves that goal pretty well, I think. In the end, I always try to write the sort of book I would want to read. I love these classic-era heroes and the narrative structures that their stories entailed. My biggest hope is to imbue these tales with a bit more specific character and yet still maintain the essence of what made them fun and exciting in the first place.

Art from “Green Hornet” #6

You’ve mentioned that you’re a fan of the connection between the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet, and that connection might be explored at a later date – what are the developments, if any, on that front?

None that I know of at this point. That’s a legal question and I definitely try to stay out of that arena!

Speaking of classic heroes, you’ve also pulled writing duty on Zorro. What do you feel are the major differences in writing these two characters. By the same token, how does your experience writing Zorro inform your writing of the Green Hornet?

Of course, the Hornet and Zorro both hail from the same great tradition of pulp character. They’re both on a personal, masked crusade to fight crime outside of the established norm and they both have a terrific flare for the dramatic. But there are differences between the two, beyond even the variations in locale, language and technology. For one thing, Zorro is pretty much a solo act. He does have his milk-brother, Bernardo, as his aide-de-camp, but only Diego wears the mask and goes through all the fighting and such. Writing both of these characters is always exciting to me because I’m something of a history buff and so I just love having to do the necessary research when it comes to setting stories in these individual time periods. Of course, that sense of history is only just a springboard for the actual narrative; this isn’t “reality” per se but imbuing them with the details of history always helps to flesh things and make them seem more pertinent.

While the book is entitled “Green Hornet: Year One,” you can’t really have the Green Hornet without Kato. You’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring the relationship between the two, but can we expect to see more of Kato’s past in the upcoming issues?

We won’t really be seeing anymore of Kato’s earlier life in Japan during the rest of the second arc, any more than we’ll be seeing more of Brett’s childhood. But, as I said, we do see how the pair of them begin to actually formulate this daring plan of theirs. And, of course, Kato plays a significant role in how that all comes about. As I’ve said before, my take on their relationship is really as more of a partnership rather than then more traditional master-and-servant set-up.

Art from “Green Hornet” #6

You’re not only starting a new arc here, you’ve also become cover artist for the book. How does it feel to be pulling double duty?

It’s fun. Again, I love these sort of characters and, let’s face it-Batman, Golden-Age Sandman, Grendel, Zorro-I’ve had a fair share of experience in portraying them as well.

What do you feel is most rewarding about continuing to reshape the mythology behind these two iconic characters?

I’ve had a pretty blessed career in the comics biz in that I’ve not only got two highly successful creator-owned series (“Mage” and “Grendel”) but I’ve also had the chance to play with and interpret so many of the characters that meant so much to me during my younger comic-reading years. I always equate this to a band or musician doing cover versions of their favorite songs. It’s really great to have the opportunity to add something to the collective mythology of this medium we all love so much-while also having the chance to carve a path of my own!

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