Kevin Smith Talks Green Hornet – ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

Kevin Smith Talks Green Hornet – ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

Comic Shop Insider is a weekly giveaway newsprint magazine on comic books. Last week, they ran an interview with Kevin Smith about GReen Hornet.

However, CSN don't have an online portal for their content, preferring to remain print only. So how can the publisher Dynamite, get that interview out where it can be Google-indexed? They turns to Bleeding Cool, naturally, who are happy to oblige…

Kevin Smith's Seeing Green

Last week, CSN spoke with publisher Nick Barrucci and editor Joseph Rybandt about the debut of their high-profile Green Hornet franchise. This week, superstar writer Kevin Smith speaks with CSN about the project—how it came to be, what he hopes to accomplish, and what readers can expect.

Was the acclaimed filmmaker and screenwriter resistant to the idea of adding another comic book project to his schedule? "I wasn't resistant as much as I just didn't know where I would fit it in the schedule," Smith said. "I have a really bad reputation in the comic book community for being delayed—or delaying myself, rather—over and over again on books. There was a period after Spider-Man/Black Cat where I kind of swore off writing comics by virtue of the fact that I couldn't guarantee a schedule for delivering scripts.
"When I started working on Batman: Cacophony with Walter [Flanagan, illustrator of the series] we made sure that we got everything done before they even really announced it. The same thing with Gyre; I think I finished the first six issues of the Widening Gyre script before we announced it or before Walter even started drawing. That was an effort to combat lateness.

"I was already up to my neck with Gyre, so the notion of writing a Green Hornet comic in addition was not in the cards for me. Like doing a weekly book or reinventing a universe, it was a far bigger task than I could have signed up for without disappointing everybody across the boards. Thankfully, it was Nick [Barrucci, Dynamite publisher] who brought up the script for the Green Hornet movie that I had written. I said 'Oh man, I guess you could do that! I can't write a new series, but if you wanted to adapt the script that never got made—yeah that could be pretty bad ass.' I had already done that work, so I enjoyed the notion of seeing the project that I had abandoned so many years ago come to quasi-life. I mean, all I had to do was write a script a few years ago and say yes in the present day.

"The good folks at Miramax were very kind about letting us use the script for a movie that was never going to happen once Michelle Gongri and Seth Rogen started working on their Green Hornet movie; everyone pretty much knew that would be only Green Hornet movie we were going to see for a while. So Miramax was like, 'Yeah, even though Kevin wrote a script for a movie and we paid him a lot of money to do so a long time ago, it's obviously not going to go anywhere, so if you guys want to do it here in the comics, feel free.' That was mighty generous of them."

Smith points out that his involvement goes beyond just turning in the old script and walking away. "If I see some lines and I'm like 'Ugh, God, I must have thought that was good writing in 2004,' then I'm going to correct myself and make it more palatable, more readable. So as I start seeing pages come back to me, I'll do the same thing I do with every book I work on—I'll redraft some dialogue and stuff. Other than that, though, it will be a de facto adaptation of a script I wrote for a movie that I'll never make— but at one point was very, very amped to make until I realized I wasn't talented enough to make it. It's nice to see it come to life years later in the hands of a talented artist who can realize that script."

Smith is bringing more to The Green Hornet than his original script, however; as he revisits the story, he's making changes. "What could have started simply as, 'here, take the script and let me see it when you're done' has become much more than that," Smith said. "Things would kick in, like 'I remember in an earlier draft I had a scene involving Brit and his wife, so is there enough space to fit that in?' Suddenly, you're bringing something to it that wouldn't have been there had you made the movie. And it's not like I cut this out of the script because it was terrible. You cut stuff for time, but in comic book form we've got time for character development, and that will enhance any story.

"I've been looking at the breakdowns and going, 'hey man, this scene could totally fit back in here, so I'm going to reinstate that scene.' It's been a great way to revisit it and I'm now prepared to make The Green Hornet, so to speak. Back when I walked away from it I was not up for doing that at all… I can actually move forward and say this is where my Green Hornet script belongs, on the comic book pages—this is where it's going to live the best. I mean, it's an homage to almost every age of comics: Golden, Silver,, and modern. It's a comic book script for a comic book movie written by a guy who loves comics."

Those who have had the opportunity to see the original script comment on the obvious passion and reverence that Smith brought to The Green Hornet. He acknowledges that passion and reverence, which he sees as a sort of liability for the film project—but an asset for the comic book. "When I was working on Hornet, we had kind of a different manifesto than Seth and Michelle have. I wouldn't call their film a flat-out comedy, but it's definitely more along the lines of Pineapple Express. There's action, tons of it, I'm sure—but the first thing they're going to think about rather than punching you in the face is tickling your funny bone. That would have been the ideal version of the Green Hornet to write. But what they wanted was a straight-up costumed superhero actioner, not that different from Batman and Robin..
"I just never really believed that version could work in film, because the core demographic is about 86 now— this was a character created for the radio by George Trendle, who also created The Lone Ranger, so we're going far, far back.

"Granted, the example of the Green Hornet that everybody knows the most is the 60's TV show—but most people associate that with Bruce Lee, and maybe to some degree the car. Lots don't even know who played the Green Hornet, and lots don't even know the show didn't even run for a complete season. So if you're making a feature the way we were doing it, with a straight-up masked crime fighter angle—well, we were dead in the water as far as I was concerned. I was like 'There's no way, man. Why would you go see a serious version of The Green Hornet when The Dark Knight has existed?'

"So the notion of doing that was like, 'Ahhhh, why do another one of those?' Particularly because I'm not visually gifted enough to do it with some panache and add something new to the genre. However, on the comic book page, my version is going to be more apt. It is very true to the origins of the character— granted, we had to make it kind of 'the next generation,' but with the exception that we weren't allowed to reference The Lone Ranger (because that was a separate license) this is pretty faithful to every incarnation of Brit Reed and the Green Hornet and Kato that had been produced. When I looked at it, I thought 'Wow, this reads more like a comic book than it does a movie.' And now I guess we're going to see that proven true."

Surprisingly, in an industry where it seems that almost every script leaks out ahead of time, Kevin Smith's Green Hornet script has never leaked onto the internet. And once the comic deal was negotiated, Smith wanted to make sure that the script remained unseen until the comic was released. "Let's be honest. The angle for this miniseries isn't 'Wow! Kevin Smith reinvents the Green Hornet! He's doing something in comics that no one has ever done in comics before!' Basically, the angle is 'Wow, man you're going to see the movie that turd boy didn't make,'" Smith joked. "That's a powerful angle on which to sell it, because you're selling to both fans and haters. With that angle, you don't want the script out there in advance. This way, they're getting a visual representation of what it might have been."

Is it fair to say that, because of budgetary restrictions, this is the purest vision of Smith's story that may ever be produced? "Oh, absolutely," he said. "Whenever you're writing a script, whether you're directing or not, you're thinking 'someone has got to make this happen.' So there's always some degree of temperance that goes along with writing a screenplay, because only things that are possible in the physical universe are possible, if you know what I mean. Even Jim Cameron and Avatar are bound by certain rules…

"When you're writing a comic book script, you don't have to do that. We never sit there and go, 'I can't write this because nobody can draw this.' The limits of film aren't here. There's always somebody out there that can draw what you have in your head; the only frustration at that point, since I can't draw myself, is trying to translate that image from my head to the page. No matter how good the technology of the motion picture medium gets, it will never match the imagination of a comic book writer and a comic book artist because for them the sky's the limit. There's no budgetary constriction—it's just a dude with a keyboard and a dude with a pencil."

Is Smith's Green Hornet a classic tale revisited, or a contemporary reinterpretation? "It has a foot in both pools," Smith said. "Our story is set one foot in the Silver Age and one foot in the modern era. The tone is a balance between the two. We don't go as campy as the Batman TV series but I'd be lying to say it's not influenced by my being a longtime fan of that show. It's not as dark as Dark Knight, naturally, but it's not as goofy and feather-light and homoerotic as Batman and Robin."

What are the biggest changes that readers are going to find in Smith's take on Green Hornet and Kato? "Anybody who's been reading comics as long as I have isn't going to be surprised by anything we do," Smith said. Back in the late 80's, when Now had the license for Green Hornet, they introduced the notion of a female Kato. For the movie, we were going to use the female Kato as well. So this series features the female Kato. Some people who are too young to remember the Now comics go, 'Hey man, that's groundbreaking, you made Kato a chick.' But I didn't do it. It happened years and years ago. I'm not that clever, believe me!

"I'm picking up somebody else's cool idea because there's something sexier about drawing a woman in that outfit kickin' ass rather than seeing another dude in those clothes kickin' ass. And there's something sexy about the male/female relationship, the balance. What we used to call in the 80's the David and Mattie of it all—the chemistry between those two characters tends to be a lot more electric when they're male and female."

While Smith is committed only to the first story arc adapting his script, he's not ruling out more Green Hornet tales further down the line. "I'd be surprised if, at the end of the run, I'm not going to want to stick with the book," Smith said. "At the end of my film, script, I just start getting deeper into the Brit Reed/Kato relationship in a way that is the most interesting to me. I can write six issues of those two involved with one another. So I could see myself at the end of the series wanting to stick around; I like the couple and I'd like to see where it eventually goes."

The Green Hornet #1, a $3.99 comic by Kevin Smith & Jonathan Lau with covers by Alex Ross, John Cassaday, J. Scott Campbell, and Stephen Segovia, is slated for March release.
—by Cliff Biggers

As for that interview with Nick Barrucci and Joe Rybandt it refers to… well, hell, we can run that as well!

What's the Buzz About Kevin Smith's Green Hornet

The fact that the Green Hornet is returning to comics is noteworthy in itself. After all, the hero whose career spans more than two-thirds of a century is still fondly remembered by fans old and new. But add star writer Kevin Smith to the mix and the story becomes major news indeed!

Kevin Smith's Green Hornet is the first of three Green Hornet projects in the works from Nick Barrucci's Dynamite Entertainment. The publisher landed the rights to the property after lengthy and complex negotiations. "There was a lot of competition for this!" Barrucci said. "We were after this license for four years! The licensor's attorney was very polite, very patient and we would call him like clockwork every other month and he would tell us until the movie was moving forward, they would not sign an agreement for publishing.
"Therefore, we waited and waited and waited, pushed, pushed, pushed and finally were able to sign the agreement for the Green Hornet. We know that many of our friends at Dark Horse, IDW, and other publishing houses wanted the license, and we had a lot of competition for it. When we got the license as a matter of fact, Steve Rotterdam at DC personally congratulated me, so I believe (but don't know for sure as I never asked—but I appreciated the congrats) there may have even been interest from DC. Green Hornet is a great character; how could you not want him? We persisted and we were fortunate enough to get it."
Landing the character rights was a publishing coup—but landing Kevin Smith as writer was even bigger. Barrucci explained how it came about. "You know what they say, 'How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.' I asked, since I knew he had a passion for the character—and he said yes. I honestly did not think he would want to with his schedule.
"We're very fortunate that Kevin has so much passion for his fans. He's a great guy. There is a lot more to the story, as there always is—but ultimately what fans care about is I asked, he liked the idea, and he said yes. It's wonderful; I'm loving every minute of it. This is also a passion project for us, so we're very fortunate that Kevin's writing is so reverent.
"It's too bad they didn't end up making Kevin's movie," Dynamite editor Joseph Rybandt said, "because it's really great. It's too bad for some, that is—but not for us and our readers, as they'll get to experience it through us in 2010! In fact, they might enjoy our comic even more than they would have had the film been made, as we have the equivalent of an unlimited effects budget."
"That's right," Barrucci continued. "In a way, fans get two movies this year: the unseen movie-in-comics-form from Kevin Smith and the upcoming movie from Sony with Seth Rogen. It's the year of the Hornet!"
The Green Hornet's comic book heritage dates back seventy years; how will Dynamite make the character successful in today's market? "Actually, you try to not reinvent the wheel entirely," Barrucci said. "You try to make him contemporary to today's audience, the same as we've done with characters from Red Sonja to Lone Ranger to the heroes of Project Superpowers. You make them as relevant as you can, you bring in the best creative team possible, and you give it your all.
"We're very fortunate that we're launching with the Kevin Smith series, Kevin has put more passion into this than I could have hoped for. His reverence for the material is second to none, and we're very happy to have Kevin's scripts for the entire series in hand already. The artist is going to be Jonathan Lau, who has worked with us on The Black Terror and who is doing excellent work himself. He's a fantastic artist, absolutely fantastic, and we love working with him."
"Anyone who's seen his most recent work on our Black Terror series will be especially pleased with this news," Rybandt continued. "Jonathan is a real talent and this will be a real game-changer for him when people get a look at the world he's helping to create here."
Rybandt stressed that Dynamite does not view this as a nostalgia project. "A lot of previous Green Hornet comics are very much 'of their time'—not bad comics, but not the sort of book we want to do today. As a publisher, our vision is to fit the best creators with the right property; we've done it so far with Red Sonja, The Lone Ranger, and Zorro, and now The Green Hornet – we're not just cranking out licensed comics and hoping the license brings in the reader to us. We realize it's a combination on concept and creative talent that makes it work in the end."
In addition to interior artist Jonathan Lau, Dynamite has put together an incredible team of cover artists and designers—Alex Ross, John Cassaday, J. Scott Campbell, and Stephen Segovia. As Barrucci explained, Ross is more than just a cover artist. "Alex Ross actually designed the Kevin Smith Green Hornet look. It's going to be the son of Britt Reid and this really is going to be a tragic tale, it's really leading into bigger things. Alex was excited that we were working with Kevin and gave it his all. I really can't express how grateful I am that Alex threw himself in here."
While Smith is a phenomenally popular writer, his prior deadline problems have marred some of his projects. Barrucci said that this will not be a problem with this series, however. " We already have Kevin's scripts for the entire series in house; we were basically able to work the movie script into the comic script. It's the movie no one has ever seen, but they'll be able to see it in our comic. As far as the art is concerned, Jonathan has always handed in his books on time, so we're good to go there."
"One of the other assets Jonathan brings to the table is his reliability," Rybandt said. "He's a consummate professional who's able to hit his deadlines and deliver stunning work all at the same time."
The advance art indicates that Kato has undergone a gender change. What led to that decision, and how does it impact the Green Hornet-Kato dynamic? "The gender change is all part of the progression of Kevin's story," Barrucci said. "There's certainly an element of tension between the Green Hornet and Kato as the two characters get to know each other. The best way I can equate it is that, in Kevin's movie script, the dynamics of the characters are reminiscent of the Batman and Robin series Grant Morrison is doing, where you see the tension of the Dick Grayson Batman and the new Robin, Damien getting to know each other and work together for the first time. You're going to see the building of their relationship."
As far as the changes are concerned, "I think we've proven that we can take classic characters and update them respectfully while still adding new modern elements that bring the character up to date," Rybandt said.
While Smith's story is based on his film script, Barrucci pointed out that this will be the first time that script has been seen. "It's absolutely amazing that Kevin's script hasn't shown up on the internet or for sale anywhere, as most scripts end up getting bootlegged. I mean, think about it. He entrusted us with his baby! This is something that he put his heart and soul in to, and never allowed it to be seen just to be seen. He only allowed it to be put in our comic. I've said it before, and I'll say it again—I'm honored and blessed. Especially considering the writing is so reverent and it's compelling. And I think fans will agree."
Kevin Smith's ten-part story not only launches the Green Hornet series, it launches an entire Green Hornet franchise, with two other books in the works, with Matt Wagner and Brett Matthews writing the other two books. "The others start before and after Kevin's book," Barrucci said. "In many ways, Kevin's Green Hornet is the linchpin, if for no other reason than he's first and he's Kevin Smith, and his involvement will build awareness for all the other series."
Dynamite has the Green Hornet license… and they also have the Lone Ranger license. Since Britt Reid was originally presented as a descendant of the Lone Ranger, is there any chance of some sort of a crossover tale further down the line? "We've been asked this a bunch of times," Rybandt said, "and for anyone reading the Lone Ranger, you'll see that seeds have been planted and yes, we hope to fully connect those dots. That said, we're focusing on getting Kevin's whole story out into the world before we dive into something like this."
The Green Hornet #1, a $3.99 comic by Kevin Smith & Jonathan Lau with covers by Alex Ross, John Cassaday, J. Scott Campbell, and Stephen Segovia, is slated for March release.
—by Cliff Biggers
BLimey my fingers are numb after transcribing all that…

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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