The Black Hornet may be gone, but Britt Reid, Jr.'s troubles are just beginning -- because Phil Hester has promised to deliver a new class of criminal to Century City.
Beginning in December's Green Hornet #11, Hester will take over writing operations with Jonathan Lau on art, as the flagship Green Hornet title launches into its second arc. What happens when the playboy orphan becomes a crime-fighter and publisher? What does that mean for his sidekick, the femme fatale known at Kato?
We checked in with Hester to talk about new villains, new challenges, and how he's upping the ante after Kevin Smith's first ten issues.
Newsarama: Phil, just to start off with, how does it feel to be on the writing side of Green Hornet? How'd you wind up working on this part of the operation?
Phil Hester: To be honest, I've sort of been on this side all along. Not in terms of actually writing the book, but in adapting Kevin's script for Jonathan. I regularly saw the script right after Kevin finished it, tweaked it to fit the layouts I created, then gave it back to Kevin for his pass. I guess the best title for me on the book was "facilitator," but that credit doesn't make much sense to most people, so we just went with "layouts."
So, I've been elbows deep in the book from day one, and familiar with Kevin's vision for the characters. When Kevin moved on Nick Barrucci and Joseph Rybandt asked me to stay aboard and perpetuate the feel for the book that Kevin had established. Sort of like promoting a pitching coach to manager.
Nrama: Now, just to get inside Britt Reid, Jr.'s head a little bit. He's presumably finished with his nemesis, the Black Hornet, but at the same time, he always was a little bit of a playboy. Where's he at emotionally, now that he's done with his father's killer?
Hester: It's a tribute to the arc that Kevin crafted for Britt that he's changed so much between issues one and ten of this comic book. He began as a ne'er-do-well and became a hero. I think Britt still has the glib tongue and roguish humor he started with, but so much of his life has been turned upside down that he had to evolve pretty drastically. He discovered his father, Britt Sr., a man he was frankly underwhelmed with, had established a legacy of courage and sacrifice impossible to live up to... then had to live up to it.
In ten issues he loses his father, inherits a media empire, discovers his father was a super hero, discovers his father was murdered by a super villain who wants to kill him, gained two sidekicks and a mentor, fell in love with one of those sidekicks, and had a couple of near-death experiences. Now that's an arc!
I'd say where is now has a lot to do with finding his role as Green Hornet now that he's no longer motivated by revenge. His father's killer is dead, but his father's legacy remains unfulfilled. Britt is struggling with not only living up to his father's standards, but learning how to adapt them to today's world. Also, he and Mulan Kato are in a full-fledged unrequited love thing. It's hard enough to tie your shoes when you're in a new and complicated relationship, much less dismantle a city's underworld.
Nrama: How about Century City? Now that they have a crime fighter again, things must be different there -- what's the city like, now that there's a new Green Hornet and Kato in town?
Hester: Keep in mind that Green Hornet had been retired for nearly twenty years in issue one, so although Green Hornet and Kato cleaned up the town, criminal enterprises have been finding dark corners they can thrive in. Now that a new Green Hornet is on the scene, he's shining a light in those long neglected crannies. What he finds there would be a challenge to even his father.
We're going to meet a whole new class of criminal.
Nrama: Let's talk a little bit about villains here -- namely, the Green Hornet is taking on a character named Saint Death? Can you tell us a little bit about what this character is like, and what he is able to do?
Hester: It's a she... well, actually, it's an inanimate statue that seems to come to life to order members of her crime cult to commit various crimes all over Century City. It's based on the real phenomenon of Santa Muerte, which is the patron saint of the street in some parts of Mexico and the U.S. Many gangsters, prostitutes, and the extremely poor, basically those who are not comfortable in establishment churches, but still crave Catholic worship find themselves devotees of Santa Muerte.
I decided to amp this up a bit (it's comics) by creating a crime cult that seems to take direct orders from Santa Muerte herself. Is this a hoax perpetrated on the gang, or are they getting orders from a genuinely supernatural source? Either way, St. Death's soldiers are charged with a religious fervor that makes them impossible to intimidate, disrupting Green Hornet's usual plan of scaring gangs off of his turf.
Nrama: And as far as Kato goes, how is she doing by the beginning of this arc? I know there was some teasing in some of the covers as far as a romance between she and Britt -- any word as to whether or not that might blossom into something more?
Hester: It's definitely there. It's sort of a playful, flirtatious thing at the beginning, but as the danger of their adventures begins to take its toll, things get a bit more serious. I don't want to spoil anything, but there will be plenty development on that front.
Nrama: For you, what's the appeal of this Green Hornet as a character? Coming off of Kevin Smith's original ten scripts, have you adopted any "Smith"-isms for your approach to Britt?
Hester: I love Green Hornet because he's motivated by civic duty as much as vengeance or guilt. So many super heroes are driven by revenge, but, like Superman, Green Hornet is fighting evil because it's simply the right thing to do, especially for a guy with his kind of resources. I mean, if you were a multi-millionaire and didn't do anything to help the lives of others you'd be kind of a heel, right?
As far as Smith-isms, I'm fighting hard to keep the idiosyncrasies he established intact. Who needs to see cookie cutter heroes fighting cookie cutter villains? The sense of humor that Kevin imbued each character with is what separates Green Hornet from every other book on the stands. That's very natural for Kevin, but something I have to work at. Any fan of my stuff knows I tend to write heavy, almost dour stories (outside of Golly), so keeping that rapid fire drollness coming is a challenge.
Nrama: As far as working with Jonathan Lau again, you worked with him on layouts for the beginning of this series. Now that you're working as a writer, how has the back-and-forth changed between you two? What sorts of strengths do you feel Jonathan brings to the table, and how do you feel he's upped his game after ten issues?
Hester: Jonathan is a fantastic artist and we're lucky to have him. I worked with him on The Black Terror before this, so we already have a pretty solid working relationship. He's always been great with action and motion, but I think his time on Green Hornet has really improved his grasp of character work. His facial expressions and sense of timing have both grown by leaps and bounds.
My goal for the upcoming issues is to reward Jonathan for all the hard work he's done to date by introducing lots of cool villains for him to design. I feel like he's so great at choreographing fight scenes I should just do a silent issue that's 22 pages of kung-fu fighting. Hmmm... maybe that's not such a bad idea.
Nrama: For those who are still uncertain as far as jumping on the Green Hornet bandwagon, what would you say to get those stragglers on board? Any teases you'd care to give before the book hits the stands?
Hester: Dynamite has done a great job packaging the Kevin issues into readily accessible compilations. Check those out and if they seem to be something you dig, come back for issue eleven. We're going to keep the torch lit and held high.
Also, if you're a fan of Green Hornet, and feel you're already too familiar with his origin to jump into Kevin's run, now is the time to come back. We're moving into new territory and watching this rookie Green Hornet face new villains and threats. You'll find what makes Green Hornet great still here, but hopefully updated in a way that makes the book fresh, fun, and accessible to new readers. I always say the secret ingredient to good comics is giving a damn. Well, I give a damn about Green Hornet. Come see.
Oh, did I mention Alex Ross delivers a mind bending cover every month? Yeah, there's that.Will you give Hester's run a try?