Kevin Smith’s Kato launches alongside Green Hornet: Year One in April, giving Dynamite readers an expanded view of the Hornetverse. Built on elements from Kevin Smith’s screenplay and Green Hornet series, “Kato” will focus on the new, female version of that character, as well as the new, mysterious “Black Hornet”. In the writer’s chair is Ande Parks. Parks, known for writing “Capote in Kansas” and more, brought his inking talents to bear on Green Arrow alongside Smith for that character’s 2001 relaunch. Going green with Smith again, Parks talks about the influence of his own daughter in how he perceives Kato’s parent/child dynamic, and addresses why this “sidekick” is a compelling character on her own.
Newsarama: Probably the most obvious question to begin with is this: why make the new Kato a female character?
Ande Parks: That was Kevin's call, but I think it's pretty brilliant. On the surface, of course, it mixes things up in an interesting way. As I write this series, though, it also adds a lot of depth to the "passing the torch" dynamic.
I think father passing the torch to son is interesting, but it's been done and done and done. Father passing the torch to daughter is more unique and layered, particularly in the Japanese family structure.
Nrama: In what way does that change the dynamic between the partners?
Parks: I think the daddy/daughter relationship is fascinating. I know, as the father of an eleven year old girl, it's certainly something that speaks to me.
Kato's daughter, Mulan, is twenty when our story takes place, and there's a lot going on between the two. Kato, now in his mid-fifties, is trying to lead a life of spiritual harmony. He's struggling to maintain harmony, though, because he can't seem to figure out his own daughter. Of course, Mulan can't relate to her dad, either.
In our first issue, something horrific happens in the family that forces the two together. Watching father and daughter come to terms with each other as one tries to prepare the other for life as a hero is what gives our story resonance.
Nrama: Was there any hint in Kato's character history regarding his family? Did that play a role in the take here?
Parks: Information on Kato's origins, as far as I could tell, is sparse and often conflicting. If you do some research about him online, you'll see that there's not even much agreement on his nationality. I don't think there's much definitive information about his family.
This is Kevin Smith's version of Kato. So, while I did some research on the character's past, I felt I needed to be more concerned with how Kevin had the character set up at the beginning of his Green Hornet story. Kevin laid a solid foundation for Kato's life between his retirement as a costumed hero and today. I just had to build on that foundation.
Nrama: Overall, it's been a delicate climate for the comics industry in the past few years. Is it risky to launch a solo book for a supporting character when, as of this writing, the actual GH #1 hasn't hit stores yet?
Parks: Nick Barrucci and the guys at Dynamite make that call. They've been at this a long time now, and I think they understand the market pretty well. I'm just thrilled they chose me to write it. All I can do is write the hell outta the book, and hope it finds its audience. Obviously, having my man Kevin's name in the title doesn't hurt.
Nrama: What in particular makes Kato on her own a compelling character?
Parks: She's interesting on a number of levels. As our book opens, she's going through all that early adulthood rebelliousness. Mulan and her father have a contentious relationship. Mulan has much of her father's natural talent for the martial arts, but she doesn't have his discipline. She's been raised in a peaceful, somewhat sheltered environment.
When Mulan's peaceful life is destroyed in our first issue, she has to come to terms with the end of her life as she has known it. She has to find a way to bond with her father, and become the hero she's capable of being. We watch her move from a somewhat spoiled girl to a woman ready to step into her father's very large shoes.
Nrama: Do you think that Kato is capable of finding an audience apart from the other GH titles, as Batman's sidekicks occasionally seem to do?
Parks: Yeah, I think so. Thanks in large part to the legend of Bruce Lee, the original Kato has always sparked with audiences. Green Hornet has appeal, but Kato has always stood out on his own. We get to borrow some of that magic, and fold in the inventiveness of Kevin Smith. Those are two pretty good horses to hitch our wagon to.
Plus, our book features two Katos: one casting a legendary shadow, and the other about to step from that shadow to create her own legend. That's a universally appealing story.
Nrama: In a word, what's the appeal of Kato for the comics audience?
Parks: Um… kickassery? Our new Kato is a smart and driven young woman with a legendary heritage who can really kick your ass. Who doesn't want to read that?!