By Glenn Walker
Ask the folks at All Things Fun! how excited I am about this comic. They will roll their eyes. I'm pretty jaded when it comes to comics crossover events, especially from the Big Two, but Masks from Dynamite Entertainment is the stuff of kid-like joy for me.
I am a huge Shadow fan, Green Hornet too, folks who watch the Vidcast know this - I am a big pulp geek. Imagine if The Shadow met the Green Hornet. Now, imagine if those two ran across The Spider... now add in other pulp fiction heroes of the 1930s period joining together with those three for one fantastic adventure. That is the awesome premise of Masks!
The story that comprises this mini-series is based on an original tale of The Spider from the 1930s, the Black Police Trilogy, which spanned over three novels and had the criminal underworld embark on a fascist takeover of New York State. That original story also sees print his week as The Spider Vs. The Empire State by Norvell Page. The new version, an eight-issue mini-series written by Chris Roberson and illustrated by the awesome Alex Ross, adds to the title protagonist, The Shadow, the Green Hornet and Kato, a new Zorro, the Black Bat, Miss Fury, the Black Terror, and the Green Lama, among others. This is truly the ultimate crossover for the pulp heroes.
The first issue does not disappoint, from the first encounter between The Shadow and the Green Hornet to the emergence of the Justice Party and the Black Legion, Masks #1 was well worth the wait. If you love these old characters, or you are meeting them for the first time, this is an incredible comic book. Do not miss Masks #1!
By Glenn Walker
Allison, who is one of my co-bloggers here as well as a fellow commentator on the All Things Fun! weekly New Comics Vidcast, is a wonderful resource for kidlit and comics that are family friendly. You should definitely give all of her work a look -- great stuff. However, this week, I am going to take a walk on the opposite end of the comics street -- where the comics are not for kids, and are for a decidedly much more mature and discriminating audience. Today I'm going to discuss The Boys from Dynamite Entertainment.
Those familiar with the Justice League of America may also be familiar with their enemies the Crime Syndicate as well. The Syndicate were evil doppelgangers of the JLA who came from a parallel Earth. They even made an animated direct-to-DVD feature about them called "Crisis on Two Earths." The point is that everyone on the Earth where these evil Justice Leaguers came from was a twisted version of the real thing on our world. After almost fifty issues of The Boys, I am almost sure that they operate on a world with much the same paradigm.
The world of The Boys is populated by mad, corrupt, sex-crazed, drug-addicted, sometimes even feeble-minded beings who all call themselves superheroes. And all of them are templates of known heroes we all love from other comics. The Justice League are represented as The Seven, the Avengers are Payback, Batman/Iron Man is Tek Knight, the Legion of Super-Heroes are Super Duper, the Teen Titans are Teenage Kix, the New Mutants are G-Wiz and the X-Men are the G-Men. Even a Jack Kirby doppelganger is in there, as The Legend. And none of them, despite the label, are anything like what superheroes should be.
With baddies like the above, it's hard to believe they are not the series' main antagonists, but they're not. It's Vought-American, an evil corporation and defense contractor who is the real big bad in The Boys. And that's because their main product is a drug that creates super-beings for the government.
So how do our real heroes fit into all this? The Boys are a CIA-backed hit squad to keep these psychopaths called superheroes in line. Led by the mysterious and sociopathic Billy Butcher, his bulldog Terror, the strong but sympathetic Mother's Milk, the delusional Frenchman, the brutal and powerful Female, and our point-of-view character, a dead ringer for actor Simon Pegg, Wee Hughie. Their job is to watch the superheroes, keep them straight, and if necessary, intimidate them, or as a final measure, kill them.
The Boys was created several years ago by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson for Wildstorm Comics, but quickly jumped over to Dynamite Entertainment. Its run has been forty-odd issues and a couple minis, one called Herogasm, which was a twist on event comics. The series is well known for its extreme violence and sexuality, but also for its pointed parody of the superhero genre. As any reader of Ennis will attest, he does seem to hate superheroes -- this is his revenge.
That's not to say it's a bad comic, it's not. It's just sooo not for kids. I love superheroes, and I enjoy it. It's fun to see the parallels and how each analog is twisted. I don't know that I enjoy what Ennis is doing with the characters but I am very invested in the characters and the story. I want to know what happens, and pick up every issue. So if you're of age, and want to check it out, you know where to find it - All Things Fun!
By Glenn Walker
Okay, hand count, who out there really knows who the Green Hornet is?
That’s what I thought. The Green Hornet seems to be a generational thing, popping up every now and then to sting pop culture then fading away again, but few know what it’s all about. And those of you who did raise your hands, you think it’s a new Kevin Smith comic that Dynamite Entertainment has overloaded the comic shop shelves with, right?
Not quite. The Green Hornet is actually an adventure character that goes all the way back to the 1930s, predating both Superman and Batman, and even the concept of the superhero as we know it. The Green Hornet was created for the era of radio dramas, before television, before even comic books. The Lone Ranger – masked rider, silver bullets, Native American companion, “William Tell Overture” theme song – was riding high in that medium and his creators wanted to cash in again, this time with a spin-off, a contemporary version of the hero – and the Green Hornet was born.
Crusading newspaper publisher Britt Reid, inspired by the legend of his great uncle the Lone Ranger, puts on a mask to become the Green Hornet and fight the enemies of truth and justice. It’s an updating. Instead of the white horse Silver, it’s a car, a rolling arsenal called the Black Beauty. The Hornet uses a different type of gun, a gas gun and also a shocking weapon, the Hornet’s Sting. Instead of the “William Tell Overture,” the Hornet’s theme is “Flight of the Bumblebee.” And instead of Tonto, the Hornet’s partner is martial artist Kato, his Japanese valet. Everything the Lone Ranger was, the Green Hornet was for the present day – the powers that be had hit radio gold.
The Green Hornet did have some subtle differences however. Just as the Ranger worked outside the law, the Hornet’s cover was that of a criminal who hunted other criminals. The police were always on his tail, a theme shared by many early superheroes who eventually became good guys, but for the Hornet, it stuck.
The radio show lasted into the 1950s and the Green Hornet also jumped into other media. There were a couple movie serials, and several comic book series. The characters were so popular that when the producers of the 1960s "Batman" TV series were looking for other properties to adapt for television, the Green Hornet came immediately to mind. This is when the Green Hornet and Kato really took off, as the young Bruce Lee took on the role of the television Kato and gained his first exposure for western audiences. Notably Lee used his real martial arts skills as Kato, and specifically had to slow down for the cameras or he could not be seen. Man, that’s fast!
While “The Green Hornet” on ABC only lasted twenty-five episodes, it left an indelible mark on pop culture. The Black Beauty (a modified 1966 Chrysler Crown Imperial sedan) became nearly as famous as TV’s Batmobile with its infra-green headlights, rocket launchers, machine guns and silent running. It truly was the rolling arsenal we heard about on the radio. Bruce Lee went on to legendary status and the two-part episode of “Batman” where the two duos fought is a favorite of many.
The show established the dynamic between the Green Hornet and Kato. While it appeared that Kato was the sidekick or even manservant, that just wasn’t true – they were equals. While it seemed the Hornet depended on his weapons like the gas gun and the Sting, he was also a formidable fighter - and while Kato appeared to be just a lethal martial artist he was also just as dangerous behind the wheel of the Black Beauty or with nunchuku or ninja stars. And they used these perceptions and misperceptions to their enemies’ regret frequently.
The Green Hornet and Kato resurfaced briefly in the late 1980s and early 90s with several series from Now Comics. Now established a legacy of Green Hornets, one during the 1930s, his son during the 1960s and a new one, again a son in the 1980s. Kato in turn was also a legacy, the most recent being female.
This seemed to jumpstart some possible Hollywood interest in the characters. Since that time there have been many attempts and rumors regarding a Green Hornet movie, most notably one possibly starring George Clooney and Jet Li in the starring roles, and one scripted by genre fave Kevin Smith. It is the Kevin Smith concept that brings us back to the present.
Last year, Dynamite Entertainment obtained the rights to the Green Hornet, and has utilized the Kevin Smith script as the first arc of their first Green Hornet title. Other titles have spotlighted the various Hornets and Katos in their respective eras. These are some amazing comics, breathing new life into the franchise, and recommended. You can find them at, where else, All Things Fun!.
And just as this is a good re-introduction to the characters, the comics can also prove to be the same for the upcoming film, starring, believe it or not, Seth Rogan. But that is a whole ‘nother blog entry entirely…
By Glenn Walker
Revivals seem to be the name of the game lately in comics.
First there's Alex Ross' Project: Superpowers for Dynamite Entertainment that features a new take on many of the public domain superheroes of the 1940s. Characters that in the public domain are those whose copyright has expired, like Sherlock Holmes - anyone can tell stories of these characters. So even though we've seen versions of these heroes before (and currently in a few cases), we get to see a whole new spin on such classic golden oldies like the Black Terror, the Green Lama, the Fighting Yank and Charles Biro's Daredevil - that last one with a slight name change because of that pesky Matt Murdock character over at the fledgling Marvel Comics. Alex Ross does most of the legwork and the covers for Project Superpowers, with scripts by his partner Jim Krueger and interior art by Stephen Sadowski and Doug Klauba among others.
Speaking of Marvel, they also have a project on tap at the moment involving some of their characters from the Golden Age, although at first glance more than a few of these guys are also-rans and nearly no-shows. If you look up the actual appearances of the heroes who make up The Twelve you might be surprised at how seriously lame some of them were. That said, writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Chris Weston have done a phenomenal job of not only redesigning but also refining and fleshing out these characters for a 21st century audience. Here JMS seriously makes up for his involvement in the "One More Day" debacle over in Amazing Spider-Man. Both of these books are highly recommended by me, and are available at All Things Fun!.
If you're into the superheroes of days past, I would also suggest checking out Justice Society of America from DC Comics and Marvel's upcoming Avengers/Invaders series that brings the 1940s team to the present. Coincidentally Alex Ross is also involved in both of those series as well. I would also throw in a plug for Dan Dare, writer Garth Ennis' new spin on the classic British space hero from Virgin Comics.