By Glenn Walker
The mantra used to be Comics aren't just for kids anymore, but these days things have changed. A thought occurred to me several weeks back while watching the Super Bowl. We have gone mainstream. The nerds have inherited the earth.
I had friends and family call me during the game, not about the game, mind you but about the commercials, pushed to call by seeing trailers for the new Ghost Rider flick, and The Avengers of course. They didn't call me to find out what these movies are because they already knew – they wanted to know what I thought of them. They also wanted to know if there would be previews for The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, or even The Man of Steel during the game as well.
None of these things were unknown entities. They were all known quantities to folks who know nothing about comic books. This was not a game of ask-the-geek because he'll know what the hell it is, it was ask-the-geek because he'll know if we should see it. Gone are the days of only nerds knowing how many days until the next comic book movie comes out, now everyone is on that clock.
And for clarification, when I say things like nerd, geek, fanboy, etc., it's a term of endearment, and to differentiate ourselves from this new type of fan, the mainstream fan. Remember the days when nobody knew who Green Lantern was outside of your comic shop? Well, game over, your mom knows Green Lantern now. He's Ryan Reynolds in that flick that bombed last year. But still, there is awareness.
Almost all of our Hollywood blockbusters these days, whether they succeed or not, are based on comic books. Audiences around the world get indoctrinated to geek culture on a weekly basis watching "Big Bang Theory." Kevin Smith just started a nerd version of "Hardcore Pawn" set in his own comic book shop. Comics-based "The Walking Dead" gets better ratings on AMC than "Mad Men."
Comic book culture has gone mainstream. It has already happened. Nerds rule. The bad news is we're no longer special. Just sayin'.
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…