Van Williams as Green Hornet (1966)
|First appearance||The Green Hornet radio program (January 31, 1936)|
|Created by||George W. Trendle|
|Alter ego||Britt Reid|
The Green Hornet is a fictional masked crime-fighting superhero created in 1936 by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, with input from radio director James Jewell. Since his 1930s radio debut, the character has appeared in numerous serialized dramas in a wide variety of media. The Green Hornet appeared in film serials in the 1940s, a television show in the 1960s (which costarred Bruce Lee in his first major adult role), multiple comic book series from the 1940s on, and a feature film in January 2011. The franchise is owned by Green Hornet, Inc., who license the property across a wide variety of media that includes comics, films, TV shows, radio and books. As of the 2010s, the comic-book rights are licensed to Dynamite Entertainment.
Though various incarnations sometimes change details, in most versions the Green Hornet is the alter ego of Britt Reid (//), wealthy young publisher of the Daily Sentinel newspaper by day. But by night, clad in a long green overcoat, gloves, green fedora hat and green mask, Reid fights crime as the mysterious vigilante known as "The Green Hornet," and is accompanied by his loyal and similarly masked partner and confidant, Kato, who drives their technologically advanced car, the "Black Beauty." Though both the police and the general public believe the Hornet to be a wanted criminal, Reid uses that perception to help him infiltrate the underworld, leaving behind for the police the criminals and any incriminating evidence he has found.
In the original radio incarnation, Britt Reid is the son of Dan Reid, Jr., the nephew of John Reid, the Lone Ranger, making the Green Hornet the grand-nephew of the Ranger. The relationship is alluded to at least once in the radio shows, when Dan Reid visits his son to question him on why Britt has never captured the Hornet. On learning the truth behind his son's dual identity, Dan Reid recalls his days riding in Texas with his uncle, as the William Tell Overture plays briefly and softly in the background.
The character debuted in The Green Hornet, an American radio program that premiered on January 31, 1936, on WXYZ, the same local Detroit station that originated its companion shows The Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon. Beginning on April 12, 1938, the station supplied the series to the Mutual Broadcasting System radio network, and then to NBC Blue and its successors, the Blue Network and ABC, from November 16, 1939, through September 8, 1950. It returned from September 10 to December 5, 1952. It was sponsored by General Mills from January to August 1948, and by Orange Crush in its brief 1952 run.
The Green Hornet was adapted into two movie serials, 1940's The Green Hornet and, in 1941, The Green Hornet Strikes Again! Disliking the treatment Republic gave The Lone Ranger in two serials, George W. Trendle took his property to Universal Pictures, and was much happier with the results. The first serial, titled simply The Green Hornet (1940), stars Gordon Jones in the title role, albeit dubbed by original radio Hornet Al Hodge whenever the hero's mask was in place, while The Green Hornet Strikes Again! (1941) stars Warren Hull. Keye Luke, who played the "Number One Son" in the Charlie Chan films, plays Kato in both. Also starring in both serials are Anne Nagel as Lenore Case, Britt Reid's secretary, and Wade Boteler as Mike Axford, a reporter for the Daily Sentinel, the newspaper that Reid owns and publishes. Ford Beebe directed both serials, partnered by Ray Taylor on The Green Hornet and John Rawlins on The Green Hornet Strikes Again!, with George H. Plympton and Basil Dickey contributing to the screenplays for both serials. The Green Hornet runs for 13 chapters while The Green Hornet Strikes Again! has 15 installments, with the Hornet and Kato smashing a different racket in each chapter. In each serial, they are all linked to a single major crime syndicate which is itself put out of business in the finale, while the radio program had the various rackets completely independent of each other.
The Green Hornet (2006)
The Green Hornet (2011)
A film version of the character had been contemplated since the 1990s, with Universal Pictures and Miramax each attempting to develop a film. On June 4, 2008 Sony Pictures announced plans for a feature film of the superhero. Eventually, Sony Pictures, through its subsidiary Columbia Pictures, released an action-comedy Green Hornet feature on January 14, 2011, starring Seth Rogen, who co-wrote the script with Superbad co-writer Evan Goldberg. It was directed by Michel Gondry. Jay Chou co-starred as Kato. Also starring were Cameron Diaz as Lenore Case, Edward James Olmos as Mike Axford, David Harbour as Frank Scanlon, Christoph Waltz as the main villain Benjamin Chudnofsky, and Tom Wilkinson as James Reid.
Deadline.com has reported that Paramount Pictures and Chernin Entertainment have acquired the rights to The Green Hornet and have started preliminary work on developing a reboot with Gavin O'Connor attached to produce and direct the film and Sean O'Keefe writing. On January 29, 2020, Deadline reported that Amasia Entertainment has gained the rights of the Green Hornet. On April 16, 2020, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Amasia has officially teamed with Universal Pictures for the reboot titled Green Hornet and Kato.
The Green Hornet (1966)
The Green Hornet is a television series shown on the ABC U.S. television network. It aired for the 1966–1967 television season and stars Van Williams as both the Green Hornet and Britt Reid, and Bruce Lee as Kato. With his insistence on using his martial arts skills, Bruce Lee stole the show as Kato. This was perhaps the first time Asian martial fighting was seen on American TV. The show launched Bruce Lee's career as a popular actor in the U.S.A. as well as in Hong Kong. Audience interest even led to Van Williams asking to learn some martial art moves.
Williams and Lee's Green Hornet and Kato appear as anti-heroes in the second season of the Batman TV series in the two-part episode "A Piece of the Action" / "Batman's Satisfaction." The episode ended with Robin questioning whether the Green Hornet was really a good guy or a bad guy; even Batman himself was not sure. Unlike the "campy" version of Batman, this version of The Green Hornet was played more seriously.
Green Hornet comic books began in December 1940. The series, titled Green Hornet Comics published by Helnit Comics (sometimes called Holyoke), with the writing attributed to Fran Striker. The stories were loosely based on episodes of the radio show. This series ended after six issues.
Several months later, Harvey Comics launched its own version, beginning with issue #7. This series lasted until issue #47 in 1949; during that time it also changed its title twice: first to Green Hornet Fights Crime (issue #34) and later to Green Hornet, Racket Buster (issue #44).
Harvey additionally used the character in the public-service one-shot War Victory Comics in 1942, and gave him one adventure in each of two issues of All-New Comics, #13 (where he was also featured on the cover) and #14, in 1946.
In 1953, several months after the radio series ended, Dell Comics published a one-shot with the character (officially entitled Four Color #496). Both stories therein share titles with late-era radio episodes ("The Freightyard Robberies," June 23, 1949; and "[The] Proof of Treason," October 17, 1952) and might be adaptations.
In 1989, NOW Comics introduced a line of Green Hornet comics, initially written by Ron Fortier and illustrated by Jeff Butler. It attempted to reconcile the different versions of the character into a multigenerational epic. This took into account the character's ancestral connection to The Lone Ranger, though due to the legal separation of the two properties, his mask covered his entire face (as in the Republic serials) and he could not be called by name. In this interpretation, the Britt of the radio series had fought crime as the Hornet in the 1930s and 1940s before retiring. In NOW's first story, in Green Hornet #1 (November 1989), set in 1945, the nationality of the original Kato (named in this comic series Ikano Kato) is given as Japanese, but because of the American policy regarding the Japanese minority during World War II, Reid referred to Kato as Filipino in order to prevent Kato's being sent to an American internment camp.
The NOW comics considered the 1960s television character as the namesake nephew of the original, 1930s–1940s Britt Reid, referred to as "Britt Reid II" in the genealogy, who took up his uncle's mantle after a friend is assassinated. Britt Reid II eventually retired due to a heart attack, and Kato—given the first name Hayashi, after that of the first actor to play Kato on radio—goes on to become a star of ninja movies. The NOW comics established Hayashi Kato as Ikano Kato's son. Britt Reid's nephew, Paul Reid, a concert pianist, takes on the role of the Hornet after his older brother Alan, who had first taken on the mantle, is killed on his debut mission. Paul Reid is assisted by Mishi Kato, Hayashi's much-younger half-sister who was trained by Ikano Kato. Her being female caused problems between the publishers and the rights-holders, who withdrew approval of that character and mandated the return of "the Bruce Lee Kato". After Mishi's departure—explained as orders from her father to replace an injured automobile designer at the Zurich, Switzerland, facility of the family corporation, Nippon Today—Hayashi Kato returned to crime fighting alongside the Paul Reid Green Hornet. Mishi Kato returned in volume two as the Crimson Wasp, following the death of her Swiss police-officer fiancé, on orders of a criminal leader. In NOW's final two issues, vol. 2, #39-40, a fourth Kato—Kono Kato, grandson of Ikano and nephew of Hayashi and Mishi—took over as Paul Reid's fellow masked vigilante. The comics also introduced Diana Reid, the original Britt Reid's daughter, who had become district attorney after the TV series' Frank Scanlon had retired. A romantic relationship eventually formed between her and Hayashi Kato.
NOW's first series began in 1989 and lasted 14 issues. Volume Two began in 1991 and lasted 40 issues, ending in 1995 when the publisher went out of business. Kato starred solo in a four-issue miniseries in 1991, and a two-issue follow-up in 1992, both written by Mike Baron. He also wrote a third, first announced as a two-issue miniseries, then as a graphic novel, but it was never released due to the company's collapse.
Tales of the Green Hornet, consisting of nine issues spread out over three volumes (two, four, and three issues, respectively), presented stories of the two previous Hornets. Volume One featured Green Hornet II, and its story was plotted by Van Williams, star of the 1960s TV series, and scripted by Bob Ingersoll. The follow-ups were written by James Van Hise. Other miniseries included the three-issue The Green Hornet: Solitary Sentinel; the four-issue Sting of the Green Hornet, set during World War II and Clint McElroy's three-issue Dark Tomorrow (June–August 1993), featuring a criminal Green Hornet in 2080 being fought by the Kato of that era.
Discounting depictions of the cars utilized by the 1940s and 1960s Hornets, there were two versions of the Black Beauty used in the NOW comic series. The first was based on the Pontiac Banshee. The second was a four-door sedan based on the eleventh-generation Oldsmobile 98 Touring Sedan.
In March 2009, Dynamite Entertainment announced it had acquired the license to produce Green Hornet comic books. Its first release was a miniseries written by Kevin Smith with pencils by Jonathan Lau. Revamped in 2010 as an ongoing series set in modern times, the new Green Hornet stars Britt Reid, Jr., the rebellious and spoiled son of Britt Reid, Sr., now a retired industrial and family man. When Britt Sr. is slain by the Black Hornet, a yakuza mobster whose family was shamed by the original Green Hornet, the aging but still fit Kato returns. With his daughter, Mulan Kato, who has taken over the costumed identity of her father, he brings Britt Jr. to China for training and safekeeping as he becomes the new Green Hornet. Writer Jai Nitz is also writing Green Hornet: Parallel Lives, a miniseries prequel to the 2011 Green Hornet feature film.
In 2013, an eight-issue miniseries called Masks brought together famous heroes from the pulp era. It starred The Shadow, The Green Hornet and Kato, The Spider and a 1930s descendant of Zorro. It was written by Chris Roberson with art by Alex Ross and Dennis Calero.
In 2018, the Green Hornet appeared in newspaper strips as a guest-star in Dick Tracy by Mike Curtis (script) and Joe Staton (art), continuing the trend of Tracy stories reviving characters from defunct strips.
Western Publishing subsidiary Whitman Books released four works of text fiction based on the character, targeting younger readers. There were three entries in the children's line of profusely illustrated Big Little Books, The Green Hornet Strikes!, The Green Hornet Returns, and The Green Hornet Cracks Down, in 1940, 1941 and 1942, respectively, all attributed to Fran Striker. In 1966, their line for older juveniles included Green Hornet: Case of the Disappearing Doctor, by Brandon Keith, a tie-in to the television series. At about the same time, Dell Publishing released a mass-market paperback, The Green Hornet in The Infernal Light by Ed Friend, not only derived from the small-screen production as well, but, "allegedly based on one of the TV episodes."
In 2009, Moonstone Books gained the prose license and has released three Green Hornet anthologies as part of its "Chronicles" line: The Green Hornet Chronicles, The Green Hornet Casefiles, and "The Green Hornet: Still at Large".
Few examples of Green Hornet merchandise have appeared since the 1960s. To coincide with the 2011 movie, Factory Entertainment produced six-inch action figures and a die cast Black Beauty, among other collectibles. Hollywood Collectibles has made a full-size prop gas gun replica. Mezco Toyz has made a set of 12-inch action figures, with the prototypes donated to the Museum of the Moving Image.
CKE Restaurants, Inc., the parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, teamed with the studio on a promotional marketing partnership that included commercials featuring Seth Rogen and Jay Chou in character as the Green Hornet and Kato; a beverage promotion with Dr. Pepper; The Green Hornet food items, kids' meal toys, and employee uniforms; and a contest with the grand prize of the Black Beauty car from the film.
In June 2018, the toy company Funko released a Funko Pop of the Green Hornet.
In other popular culture
Art, entertainment, and media
- The 1960s cartoon series Batfink is a parody of both Batman and the Green Hornet. Batfink rides in a pink vehicle called the Battilac, which is driven by his assistant Karate who is a martial artist.
- Bill Cosby parodied The Green Hornet in his c. 1970 syndicated five-minute daily radio program, The Brown Hornet, which he revived in the late 1970s for his Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoon show.
- Inspector Clouseau's valet/houseboy is called Cato (spelled with a "C" instead of a "K"), and his car in the film Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) is a heavily modified Citroën 2CV, "The Silver Hornet".
- The 1993 American semi-fictionalized biographical film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, in which Jason Scott Lee portrayed Bruce Lee, features scenes involving the filming of the 1966 Green Hornet television series. Van Williams, who starred in the TV series, appeared in the film as the show's director.
- A 1994 Hong Kong film, Qing feng xia, stars Kar Lok Chin as a Kato-like masked hero called the Green Hornet in English subtitles. In one scene, he is reminded of his predecessors, one of whom is represented by a picture of Bruce Lee in his TV Kato costume..
- Black Mask is a 1996 Hong Kong action film starring Jet Li. The film is an adaptation of the 1992 manhua Black Mask by Li Chi-Tak. In the film, in homage to The Green Hornet, Black Mask wears a domino mask and chauffeur's cap in the same style as Kato from the series. The Black Mask is even compared to Kato in one scene. In 2002, it was followed by a sequel, Black Mask 2: City of Masks starring Andy On.
- Season 6 of The Venture Bros. introduces parody characters of Green Hornet and Kato from 1960s TV show in the form of the masked crime-fighter Blue Morpho and his assistant Kano in a flashback, the latter having later become a member of the original Team Venture. It is also revealed that Blue Morpho was the father of the orphaned villain The Monarch, and he and Henchman 21 later take on the roles of the Blue Morpho and Kano respectively.
- The 2019 movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood depicts a sequence where fictional stuntman Cliff Booth fights Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) on the set of the Green Hornet 1960s tv show.
- Mark Tennant, a Calgary alderman, was nicknamed "The Green Hornet" during World War II. During his military service with The Calgary Highlanders, it was said he "always knew where the bad guys were" during his tours as an orderly officer.
- Marx, Andy (July 12, 1992). "A look inside Hollywood and the movies - Beyond Batman - The Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz: Eddie Murphy as the Green Hornet". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 10, 2011. Retrieved 2010-12-07.
- "The Official Website of The Green Hornet". The Green Hornet, Inc. Archived from the original on March 10, 2019. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
- Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 297–299. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved 2019-09-05.
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- Lidz, Franz (January 7, 2011). "Float Like a Franchise, Sting Like a..." The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-10.
- "Aurelien Poitrimoult: Kato and the Green Hornet Get Ready to Sting Again!". Black Belt. Archived from the original on 2011-03-08. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- "The Green Hornet". Box Office Mojo.
- Fleming, Mike Jr. (November 15, 2016). "Badass 'Green Hornet'? Paramount, Chernin Set Gavin O'Connor For Movie". Deadline.
- Boucher, Geoff (January 29, 2020). "'The Green Hornet': Amasia Chief Is All Abuzz About Superhero Acquisition". Deadline.
- Kit, Borys (April 16, 2020). "'Green Hornet and Kato' Feature in the Works From Universal and Amasia Entertainment". The Hollywood Reporter.
- Boucher, Geoff (July 23, 2010). "Getting 'The Green Hornet' off the ground". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 18, 2011. Retrieved 2010-09-13.
- Pool, Bob (May 27, 1992). "The Green Hornet Returns to Sting a Radio Pirate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-07.
- "American Heritage Center Blog: Bruce Lee Steals the Show in ""The Green Hornet""". American Heritage Center. The American Heritage Center holds the papers of William Dozier, who produced and narrated the TV series The Green Hornet, as well as the Batman TV series. March 16, 2020.
- "Green Hornet Animated Series in the Works From Kevin Smith". CBR. 2020-07-30. Retrieved 2020-07-30.
- Benton, Mike (1992). Superhero Comics of the Golden Age: The Illustrated History. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company. pp. 102-103. ISBN 0-87833-808-X. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
- War Victory Comics at the Grand Comics Database
- All-New Comics #13 at the Grand Comics Database
- All-New Comics #14 at the Grand Comics Database
- Four Color #496 at the Grand Comics Database
- The Green Hornet at the Grand Comics Database. Accessed 2010-12-25.
- Murray, Will (October 1989). "Where Hornets Swarm". Comics Scene. Starlog Communications International, Inc (9): 41.
- Piron, Diane (w). "The Buzz Word (letter column)" The Green Hornet 13 (November 1990), NOW Comics
- The Green Hornet #11 (September 1991)
- Dark Tomorrow at the Grand Comics Database
- "Issue 73 | Clint McElroy". September 26, 2018.
- Weis, Joan (w). "The Buzz Word (letter column)" The Green Hornet v2, 9 (May 1992), NOW Comics
- "Dynamite Lands Green Hornet Comic Book License". Newsarama. March 31, 2009.
- Bernardin, Marc (May 13, 2009). "EW Exclusive: Kevin Smith takes on Batman and the Green Hornet". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
- Green Hornet, Dynamite Entertainment, 2010 Series at the Grand Comics Database
- "Nitz Separates 'Green Hornet: Parallel Lives'". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2010-12-25.
- "Masks". www.comicvine.com. 2013. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
- Kevin Smith & Ralph Garman Announce New Batman/Green Hornet Project. YouTube.com. DC Entertainment. March 11, 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
- "Dick Tracy / Green Hornet Crossover". February 14, 2018.
- Sims, Chris. "'Dick Tracy' Is Hanging Out With The Spirit (And More)". ComicsAlliance.
- Weis, Joan (w). "Buzz Word (letter column)" The Green Hornet v2, 36 (August 1994), NOW Comics (letter from Timothy E. Jones)
- Wright, Eddie (December 16, 2010). "Mezco Donates the Green Hornet Prototype Action Figures to Museum of the Moving Image". MTV Geek!. Archived from the original on May 25, 2015.
- "Carl's Jr. and 'The Green Hornet' Bring Action-Packed Excitement to the Drive-Thru with Sony Pictures Deal (press release)". Carl's Jr. October 8, 2010. Archived from the original on January 11, 2011.
- Decaro, Frank (August 5, 2007). "Another Caped Crusader, Super Tongue in Cheek". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-10.
- "Channeling Kato: Jay Chou dons the iconic mask in Green Hornet". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
- Galbraith, Jane (May 16, 1993). "Green Hornet Pays Homage to His Kato". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-10.
- Galbraith, Jane (May 16, 1993). "A Look inside Hollywood and the movies : Cameo Corner : Green Hornet Pays Homage to His Kato". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- Ching, Gene. "Channeling Kato: Jay Chou dons the iconic mask in GREEN HORNET". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
- Gaudette, Emily (2016-02-22). "'The Venture Bros." the Monarch Is Officially Dead, Long Live Blue Morpho". Inverse. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
- The Glen, Regimental Newsletter of the Calgary Highlanders
- Bercuson, David. Battalion of Heroes: The Calgary Highlanders in World War II.
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- Grams, Martin, Jr.; Salomonson, Terry (2010). The Green Hornet: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television. Churchville, Maryland: OTR Publications LLC. ISBN 978-0-9825311-0-5.
- Harmon, Jim (1967). The Great Radio Heroes. Doubleday.
- Little, John (April 1995). "Bruce Lee and the Green Hornet: Van Williams remembers 'Kato (The Green Hornet)'". Black Belt. Rainbow Publications. 33 (4): 52–58.
- Murray, Will (August 1986). "The Green Hornet". TV Gold. Movieland Publishing (4).
- Osgood, Dick (1981). WYXIE Wonderland. Bowling Green University Press. ISBN 0-87972-187-1.
- Pollard, Maxwell (1974). "is The Green Hornet's version of Gung-Fu Genuine?". The Best of Bruce Lee. Rainbow Publications: 14–18 – via Google books. (reprinted from Black Belt vol. 5, #10, October 1967, Rainbow Publications)
- Van Hise, James (1989). The Green Hornet Book. Pioneer Books. (Movie Publisher Services, 1991)
- "The Grey Hornet". Comics Scene. Starlog Communications International, Inc (15). October 1990.
- "In Kato's Gung-Fu Action Is Instant". The Best of Bruce Lee. Rainbow Publications: 14–20. 1974 – via Google books. (reprinted from Black Belt vol. 5, #11, November 1967, Rainbow Publications)
- Harmon, Jim (1992). Radio Mystery and Adventure and Its Appearances in Film, Television and Other Media. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-1810-7.
- "Van Williams After the Mask". Starlog. O'Quinn Studios, Inc (135). October 1988.
- Official website
- The Green Hornet at the International Catalogue of Superheroes
- Green Hornet at the Grand Comics Database
- Zoot Radio, free old time radio show downloads of The Green Hornet
- The Green Hornet - Original Film Serial
- William Dozier, the producer and narrator of The Green Hornet TV series, has his papers preserved at the American Heritage Center.