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The Green Hornet is a masked crime fighter. Originally created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker for an American radio program in the 1930s, the character has appeared in other media as well, including film serials in the 1940s, a network television program in the 1960s, and multiple comic book series from the 1940s to the 1990s. Though various incarnations sometimes change details, in most incarnations the Green Hornet is Britt Reid, a newspaper publisher by day who by night goes out in his masked "Green Hornet" identity to fight crime as a vigilante, accompanied by his similarly masked Asian manservant Kato and driving a car, equipped with advanced technology, called "Black Beauty". The Green Hornet is often portrayed as possessing fair to above average hand-to-hand combat skills and is often armed with a gun that sprays knock-out gas (a sonic blast weapon called the "Hornet's Sting" was added to his arsenal for the TV series).

One relatively minor aspect of the character which tends to be given limited exposure in the actual productions is his blood relationship to The Lone Ranger, another character created by Striker. The Lone Ranger's nephew was Dan Reid. In the Green Hornet radio shows, the Hornet's father was likewise named Dan Reid, making the hero the Ranger's grand-nephew.

Radio series

The character premiered in The Green Hornet, an American radio program that ran on WXYZ (the same local Detroit station which originated The Lone Ranger), the Mutual Broadcasting System and the network known through its succession of various owners as NBC Blue, the Blue Network and the ABC Network from January 31, 1936 to December 5, 1952.

The series detailed the adventures of Britt Reid, debonair newspaper publisher by day, crime-fighting masked hero at night:

With his faithful valet Kato, Britt Reid, daring young publisher, matches wits with the Underworld, risking his life so that criminal and racketeers within the law may feel its weight by the sting of the Green Hornet!
During World War II, this was changed to:

... matches wits with racketeers and saboteurs, risking his life so that criminals and enemy spies will feel the weight of the law by the sting of the Green Hornet!
After the revving of the Black Beauty motor, the announcer would then say:

Ride with Britt Reid in the thrilling adventure [title of episode inserted]! The Green Hornet strikes again!
When the series first began in 1936, this was originally:
Ride with Britt Reid as he races toward another thrilling adventure! The Green Hornet strikes again!
and after the thrumming of the hornet sound, Britt Reid would then call out:

"Hurry, Kato! Here's where we smash a [type of criminal operation featured in the episode inserted] racket!"
The opening sequence of the radio show originally began with the announcer (famed newsman Mike Wallace held the position at some point during the run) proclaiming that the Green Hornet "hunts the biggest of all game ... public enemies that even the G-Men cannot reach," referring to FBI agents. Bureau chief J. Edgar Hoover objected to the line's implication that some crime fighting was beyond the abilities of the FBI, and it was changed to "public enemies who try to destroy our America."

The vigilante nature of his operation quickly resulted in his being declared an outlaw himself, and Britt Reid decided to play to it. The Green Hornet became thought of as one of his city's biggest criminals, allowing him to walk into suspected racketeers' offices and ply them for information, or even demand a cut of their profits. He would be accompanied by his similarly masked but unnamed chauffeur/bodyguard/enforcer, who was also Reid's valet, Kato.


The radio show used Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" as its theme music, blended with a hornet buzz created on a theremin, and "The Infernal Dance of King Koshchei" from Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird, usually used after this announced part:
Stepping through a secret panel in the rear of the closet in his bedroom, Britt Reid and Kato went along a narrow passageway built within the walls of the apartment itself. This passage led to an adjoining building which fronted on a dark side street. Though supposedly abandoned, this building served as the hiding place for the sleek, super-powered "Black Beauty", streamlined car of The Green Hornet. [Sound of Reid and Kato getting into car] Britt Reid pressed a button. [Sound of car starting] The great car roared into life. [Sound of revving engine] A section of the wall in front raised automatically, then closed as the gleaming "Black Beauty" sped into the darkness. [Sound of engine roaring and car driving away]

Relationship to The Lone Ranger

Britt Reid is a blood relative of The Lone Ranger. The character of Dan Reid, who appeared on the Lone Ranger program as the Masked Man's nephew, was also featured on the Green Hornet as Britt Reid's father, making the Green Hornet the grand-nephew of the Lone Ranger.

Confirming this was the November 11, 1947 radio show episode "Too Hot to Handle": After his secret identity was uncovered in a previous episode, "Exposed" (broadcast October 28, 1947), by Linda Travers, a novice reporter secretly hired by Britt's father to check up on him, Britt told his father Dan that he was the masked Green Hornet. After his initial shock and anger, Dan Reid referred to a "pioneer ancestor" of Britt's that he himself had ridden alongside with in Texas, a man who rode a horse and acted as a vigilante, and expressed his pride in and love for his son. As he explained this, the Lone Ranger theme briefly played in the background.


The Green Hornet was played by:

* Al Hodge (who later went on to play television's Captain Video) (1936-1943)

* Donovan Faust (1943-1944)

* Robert Hall (1944-1947)

* Jack McCarthy (1947-1952)

The role of Kato was originated by Raymond Hayashi but handled through most of the run by Roland Parker, who also voiced "The Newsboy" at the conclusion of each episode who hawked the "Extra" edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed, concluding with:

"Read all about it! Green Hornet still at large! Sentinel Ex-tree, paper!"

Mickey Tolan was the radio series' final Kato.
Jim Jewell directed the series until 1938. Jewell's sister, Lee Allman (Lenore Jewell Allman) wanted to play a part in a radio series at WXYZ so Jim had her written into The Green Hornet. She was the only actress to play Lenore Case, Britt Reid's secretary, during the entire run of the series.

Other characters

Lenore Case, known as "Casey", was aware of her boss' double life, but only in the later years of the run (specifically in the episode "Miss Case Keeps a Secret", February 17, 1948). Similarly, another confidant, Police Commissioner James Higgins, did not come into existence until near the end of the series; he was introduced in the November 11, 1947 episode "Too Hot to Handle" as an old friend of Dan Reid's who was being blackmailed and who was rescued by the Green Hornet. Shortly thereafter, either Dan Reid or Britt himself confided the Hornet's secret identity to Higgins.

Other major characters in the radio series included:

* Mike Axford (originated by and played by Jim Irwin until his death in July of 1938, then played for most of the series by Gil Shea), a bombastic former policeman who originally had been hired by Britt Reid's father as a bodyguard for Britt, but who drifted into becoming a reporter for The Daily Sentinel by virtue of his contacts at Police Headquarters (especially his best friend Sergeant Burke, known usually as "Sarge"). He was the most dedicated pursuer of the Green Hornet (while expressing his admiration for the Hornet's ability to both smash criminals and elude the authorities). He was known for his pet phrases "Holy Crow!" and "Sufferin' Snakes!" and his usual parting phrase "See ya later. So long!"

* Gunnigan, the irascible city editor of The Daily Sentinel (whose temper invariably got worse in the presence of Axford or even when Axford was talking to him on the phone).

* Ed Lowery (played by Jack Petruzzi), one of The Sentinel's best reporters, who also admired the Hornet.

* "Clicker" Binny, a female photographer for The Sentinel who usually teamed up with Lowery on news assignments and filled in as Britt Reid's secretary on those occasions when Lenore Case was away.

When "Clicker"'s character was written out of the series (in the episode "The Corpse That Wasn't There", broadcast on February 28, 1943, a letter from "Clicker" states that she has become a Second Officer in the WACS stationed in North Africa), her place was filled in 1942 by Gale Manning, whose southern drawl and "dumb southern belle" manner (which didn't fool Britt Reid but which totally irritated both Lowery and Axford, especially when she managed to get information or stories that neither man could) hid both her intelligence and her ability as a top-notch reporter. After Gale's character left the series, Lenore Case herself sometimes joined either Lowery or Axford on assignments.

Two major foes for The Green Hornet were the mysterious "Mr. X", a criminal mastermind introduced in the episode "Walkout for Profit" (broadcast June 21, 1941) who became part of a storyline in 1941 pitting the Hornet against him in an ongoing battle, and Oliver Perry (1945-49), a famous but unscrupulous private detective who repeatedly returned to try and unmask The Green Hornet. Perry suspected Britt Reid of being the Hornet but was never able to prove it, and episodes featuring him always ended with the Hornet either outwitting him or humiliating him, if not both, to the point where he was forced to leave town.

In other media

Film serials

The Green Hornet was adapted into two movie serials. The first serial, titled simply The Green Hornet and released in 1940, starred 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! of 1941 starred Warren Hull. Keye Luke, the famous #1 son of the Charlie Chan films, played Kato in both; also starring in both serials were Anne Nagel as "Lenore Case" and Wade Boteler as "Mike Axford". Even though America wasn't in the war yet, Kato's nationality is changed to Korean. 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 ran for 13 chapters while The Green Hornet Strikes Again had 15 installments, and in both serials the plotlines followed the radio series style, with the Hornet and Kato smashing a different racket in each chapter. In each serial, they were all linked to a single major crime syndicate which was itself put out of business in the finale, while the radio program had the various rackets completely independent of each other.


Inspired by the success of the Batman series, ABC brought The Green Hornet to television in 1966-67, an adaptation which introduced martial arts master Bruce Lee to American audiences as Kato and starred Van Williams as the Green Hornet. Unlike Batman, the TV version of The Green Hornet was played straight, but in spite of the considerable interest in Lee, it was cancelled after only one season. However, the rise of Lee as a major movie star ensured continued interest in the property to the point where proposed Green Hornet productions typically have the casting of some major martial arts film star as Kato as the first order of business. Lee's popularity in Hong Kong, where he was raised, was such that the show was marketed there as The Kato Show.

As with the later years of the radio version, secretary Lenore "Casey" Case is again aware of Reid's secret, and the Hornet also has a confidante within the law enforcement community, but now he is District Attorney Frank P. Scanlon. This character was changed from the original's police commissioner because the same company's Batman TV series was already using a man in that post as the official contact of its hero. William Dozier, executive producer of both programs, wanted no more comparisons between the two than were unavoidable. Michael Axford, the bodyguard turned reporter of the radio series, is now simply the police reporter for The Daily Sentinel, with no history of having been on the force.

The music of "Flight of the Bumblebee" was so strongly identified with The Green Hornet that it was retained as the theme, orchestrated by Billy May (who also composed the new background scores) and conducted by Lionel Newman, with trumpet solo by Al Hirt, in a jazz style nicknamed Green Bee. Each episode begins with the following monologue (narrated by William Dozier):

"Another challenge for the Green Hornet, his aide Kato, and their rolling arsenal, the Black Beauty. On police records a wanted criminal, the Green Hornet is really Britt Reid, owner and publisher of The Daily Sentinel; his dual identity known only to his secretary, and to the district attorney. And now, to protect the rights and lives of decent citizens, rides the Green Hornet!"
Britt Reid (in the confines of the shows version of the story) creates the Green Hornet persona intentionally as a ruthless underworld figure (unlike many other superheroes such as Spider-Man who are only many times mistaken for criminals or like either characters of The Punisher or Spawn who gain a criminal reputation due to their violent methods for handling various criminals.) in order to further infiltrate the Criminal Underworld and deal with it more directly. As the Hornet, Reid is able to interact with criminals in a more face to face manner than other vigilantes would also unlike Batman who fights criminals in a shadowy, indirect manner or Superman or many other similar heroes (including The Lone Ranger) who fight crime in a very public and forthright way (which in itself is similar to many real life Law Inforcement Organizations or various public figures of Victims Rights.). The Hornet instead of outright threatening any Criminals to stop their activities instead pretends in to "Want In" on their action (from high stakes theft to Extortion) or if the crimes are percived as either to violent or extreme The Hornet threatens to not "Interfere" with his own supposed criminal actions within the city or which may be connected to the people that the actual criminals are victimizing. This version of the Hornet persona also seems to give Reid a sense of protection that his secret identity will never be found out due partially to the fact that most criminals dont seem to seek revenge mainly due to their belief that the Hornet is a Criminal not a hero so would not hold himself to the same moral limits as a heroic figure. Also (as is seen in many episodes) many criminals are far too afraid to know who the Hornet really is out of fear that they will be killed.

The TV series displayed the Hornet's car, Black Beauty, a 1966 Chrysler Crown Imperial sedan customized by Dean Jeffries. The Beauty's regular headlight cluster supposedly could be flipped over to reveal what studio publicity described as "infra-green" headlights, which doesn't actually exist. Furthermore, the car's headlights could not be rigged to flip, so green filters were seen deployed constantly. It was revealed in the related comic book spun off from the show that the green headlights used polarized light which in combination with the appropriately polarized vision filter (translucent green sun visor-like panels that the two men pulled down when needed) could provide almost as much illumination as conventional headlights while being extremely dim - almost invisibly dark - to someone without the filter. In some early episodes in two-shots with both Van Williams and Bruce Lee inside the Black Beauty, as seen through the windshield, Lee's face was tinted green since he was supposedly seen through a "polarized" filter in the form of a large pull-down, transparent green-gray visor; Williams on the other hand was seen in normal light. The tint is not present in close-ups of Lee alone. Since specification of what this lighting was supposed to indicate never actually made it into any finished episode, the effect was unexplained to the audience and soon discontinued. However, most night shots were actually filmed during the daytime by the day for night technique, giving the illusion of night-time as the actual car headlights were not polarized but just had green lenses, which would render the headlights useless for real night-driving. As the series progressed, the process was executed less effectively, reaching the point where the viewer would need context to understand that some scenes were supposed to be taking place at night, as can be observed in screening the episodes in either original network airing or syndication (production) order.
The Black Beauty could fire explosive charges from tubes hidden behind retractable panels below the headlights which were said to be rockets with explosive warheads; had a concealed-when-not-in-use, drop-down knock-out gas nozzles in the center of the front grille and the vehicle could launch a small flying video/audio surveillance device (referred to as the scanner) through a small rectangular panel in the middle of Black Beauty's trunk lid. Working "rockets" and "gas nozzles" were incorporated into the trunk lid as well.

Comic books

Green Hornet comic books began in December 1940. These, initially titled Green Hornet Comics, were originally published by Helnit Comics, sometimes called Holyoke, with the writing attributed to Fran Striker. This series ended after six issues. Several months later, Harvey Comics launched their own version, beginning with issue #7. This series ended in 1949, having run to 47 issues. (The title was changed to Green Hornet Fights Crime as of issue #34 and Green Hornet, Racket Buster with 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. Dell Comics published a one-shot with the character, officially entitled Four Color #496, in 1953, inexplicably several months after the radio series ceased production. 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 well be adaptations. In 1967 Gold Key Comics produced a series based on the TV show, which reflected that program's short life with a brief three-issue run.

Beginning in 1989, NOW Comics produced a line of Green Hornet comics, initially written by Ron Fortier and illustrated by Jeff Butler. Inspired by the aforementioned Lone Ranger connection of radio days, they attempted to reconcile the different versions of the character into a multi-generational epic. There was even a portrait of the Ranger in the Reid family's mansion, 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 the line, back-dated to 1945 (in Vol. 1, #1, November 1989), the original Kato (named in the comic series Ikano Kato)'s nationality is revealed to be Japanese, but that because of the political/popular feeling of that time against the Japanese and through Britt Reid's efforts, this had been hidden and officially Kato was "Filipino", thus preventing him from being sent to an American internment camp. A shocking twist to the comic series' modern-day storyline is that Britt Reid is murdered in Vol. 1, #5, March 1990, on the orders of mob-heiress Angela DeVane and at that very moment back in Japan, Ikano Kato suddenly awakens from a deep sleep, telling his wife sorrowfully, "My friend is dead."
The television character was revealed to be the namesake nephew of the original Britt Reid, referred to as "Britt Reid II" in the genealogy, who took up his uncle's mantle after his friend, an up-and-coming political reformer, is assassinated. In the comic, his nephew, Paul Reid, a concert pianist, takes on the role of the Hornet after his older brother Alan is killed on his very first mission and is assisted by a new, female Kato trained by Ikano Kato.
Another major character was Diana Reid, the original Britt Reid's daughter, who had become District Attorney some time after the TV series' Frank Scanlon had retired, and used her position to provide information and assistance to the Green Hornet exactly as Scanlon had. As the comic series progressed, a romantic relationship formed between Diana and Hayashi (at one point Diana thought she was pregnant with Hayashi's child, and in the very last issue is discussing wedding plans with his sister) and a possible bond between Mishi and Paul was hinted at.

There were two main Green Hornet series from NOW, as well as various annuals, mini-series, and spin-offs. The first series, referred to as Volume One, began in 1989 and had reached 14 issues when the company suspended operations for several months. Volume Two began in 1991 and lasted 40 issues, ending in 1995 because the publishers went out of business. Like Tonto before him, Kato (specifically, the Bruce Lee-based one) got his spin-off solo adventures: 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 mini, 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, with Volume One having a plotline, starring Green Hornet II, provided by Van Williams, the actor who played that character's basis on TV. The follow-ups, beginning with the most detailed version of the Green Hornet's origin in any professional medium, were written by James Van Hise. Other mini-series included The Green Hornet: Solitary Sentinel (a three-issue story retroactively set between Volumes 1 and 2, with a major role for Britt II) and Sting of the Green Hornet (a four-issue series starring the original Green Hornet and set during World War II, involving Nazi espionage and in which the Hornet and Kato encounter unnamed versions of The Shadow and the future Captain America. They also barely miss running into reporters who look like Clark Kent and Lois Lane).

Another three-issue series (June - August, 1993), entitled Dark Tomorrow, focused on a Green Hornet in the future of 2080 who had actually turned into the criminal he was pretending to be and who was fought by the Kato of that era in an effort to set him back on the right path. This series featured a hallucinatory episode in which the future Green Hornet was attacked and beaten by each of his Green Hornet ancestors (in attacking order: Britt Reid I using his gas gun, Britt Reid II with his Hornet's Sting, Paul Reid with his fists and the future Hornet's own father) and the unnamed Lone Ranger as well. An interesting twist is that the Green Hornet of Dark Tomorrow has dark hair and Asian features beneath his hologram mask, while the future Kato has blond hair and Caucasian features. This Kato even said that they were blood related. Furthermore, the art indicated that the Dark Tomorrow Hornet was the grandson of Paul Reid and Mishi Kato. The main Hornet of this comic is named Clayton "Clay" Reid, and a family tree feature in The Green Hornet, Vol. 2, #26, October 1993, gives his father the first name Gordon and the only depicted future Kato the given name Luke (these are references to actors Clayton Moore {the Lone Ranger}, Gordon Jones {the Hornet in the first Saturday matinee serial} and Keye Luke {Kato in both serials}).

Discounting depictions of the cars utilized by the 1940s and 1960s Hornets, there were two different versions of the Black Beauty used in the NOW comic series. The first was based on the Pontiac Banshee. Painted black and green, as a sports/exotic car, it was a big change from the two Black Beauty limousines used by previous Green Hornets. With the realization that such a distinctive vehicle was inappropriate to the nature of the Hornet operation, the series writers created a storyline in which the Black Beauty was destroyed and replaced by a 4 door sedan, this time based on the 91-96 Oldsmobile 98 Touring Sedan.

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