TFAW Interviews: Green Hornet’s Phil Hester and Jonathan Lau

by Jeff

via The Blog From Another World

jan111126 TFAW Interviews: Green Hornet's Phil Hester and Jonathan LauThe Green Hornet is back! Sure, there’s a new movie opening January 14, but Dynamite Entertainment launched an ambitious slate of Green Hornet comics in the spring of 2010. In addition to Green Hornet Year One by Matt Wagner, Dynamite also kicked off Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet, the first 10 issues of which adapted Smith’s unproduced screenplay, which rebooted the classic pulp duo and stars the original Green Hornet’s son, Britt Reid Jr., and his (female) Kato, Mulan!

Smith was joined by veteran writer Phil Hester (The Darkness) and artist Jonathan Lau (Battlestar Galactica), who brought the Green Hornet and his supporting cast into the 21st century! Now, starting with issue #11, Hester has taken up the reins as sole writer. We spoke with him and Lau to find out what’s next for Green Hornet, what they think about the upcoming movie, and more:

Plus, make sure to enter our Green Hornet Contest to win signed Green Hornet #1 variants signed by Phil Hester and Jonathan Lau! What’s your personal history with the Green Hornet?

Phil Hester: Like most people my age, my exposure was initially from television, but as an old-time radio fan, most of my recent exposure to the character has been through the radio show.

Jonathan Lau: Saw it early on when it was on TV. It was very adult-oriented in a sense that everything is dark and serious, the story, characters, action, etc. that very much contrasted to the superhero shows on TV during that time.

tfaw_GH12p1thumb TFAW Interviews: Green Hornet's Phil Hester and Jonathan What do you think are the essential elements of the Green Hornet mythos? What is it that keeps readers and viewers interested after all of these years?

PH: It’s most definitely the Green Hornet/Kato relationship. The way they interact, more as partners than hero and sidekick, make a great storytelling dynamic for both readers and writers. That and all the gadgets. Where would we be without The Black Beauty, The Hornet’s Nest, gas guns, stingers, and fedoras?

JL: Generally, people make comparison to Batman and Robin. Everybody knows Bats and company are the good guys, they show up in crime scenes, talk to the police, investigate along with their city commissioner, and set up a signal up in their roof. Green Hornet, on the other hand, is a crime lord. They shun the police and work in the lawless underground mafias so to speak. So it’s more of viewing from the bad guys’ angle. Something like the Secret Six from DC. How do you balance refreshing the story and making it different for a new audience, and staying true to the original story so that’s it’s recognizable for longtime fans?

PH: That’s the tough part. For me it’s all about trying to keep what is essential about the characters intact, but find new wrinkles in plot and character that haven’t been presented yet, or at least presented in a fresh way. I try very hard to put myself in my characters’ shoes and make them react with honesty to the situations they find themselves in. In the Green Hornet universe super-powered heroes are fictional, so all the fantastic stuff Green Hornet and Kato wind up accomplishing should amaze even them. We try to keep things on a Die Hard possibility scale; outrageous, but not magical. Seeing a normal person react to those situation is where most of our humor and character-building moments come from.

tfaw_GH12p2thumb TFAW Interviews: Green Hornet's Phil Hester and Jonathan LauJL: I imagine this is a hard area to work on from a writer’s standpoint, but Phil Hester has the experience to pull it off. Visually, though, I get to show my style of comic book action for the Western readers. Its befitting of my style in a comic book having East meets West characters involved. For some readers this might look new, and I hope my style would be generally accepted in due time. What do you two think of the upcoming movie?

PH: I can’t wait to see it! I try not to form any opinions about movies or books until I see them for myself.

JL: Dubious like most people, in particular with the actors portraying the characters. But I have been hearing good remarks from supposed insiders posting news on the Net. Here’s hoping that we’ll be surprised. If not, I hope for a remake! Just don’t let it pass, Hollywood! What other comics are you following right now?

JL: Project Superpowers is one title that I’m looking at, especially after reading chapter two, where there is a long epic battle with a character named Zeus. I’ve thought of many action sequences I could have done in the series. All I can say is the Superpowers series has been a multi-layered story with fast-paced adventure. I can only wish that I was working on the series, maybe the artist there and I could switch books once in a while.

I’m not into collecting per se, but rather I buy everything art-wise–usually illustrators that I admire, even if it’s non-US made comics.

tfaw_GH12p3thumb TFAW Interviews: Green Hornet's Phil Hester and Jonathan Phil, what was it like doing the breakdowns for the first arc from Kevin Smith’s script? Did you have to add anything to get 10 issues out of it?

PH: Oh, no. In fact, it was almost too tight for 10 issues. Adapting Kevin’s script was a lot of fun. It brought back a lot of memories from our Green Arrow days. Kevin’s work is very cinematic and depends a lot on the power of the actors reading his dialogue. In a comic book, the artist is the director and actor. I helped out with the staging and timing, and Jonathan Lau provided all the fantastic acting. Were there any major deviations from his script?

PH: Only the ones Kevin added during the rewriting process. He wasn’t hands off at all. He was on the job every day just like the rest of us. Like any artist, looking back at older work probably inspired him to tweak things here and there. Now that you’re the sole writer of the book, where are you taking Green Hornet next? Will you be changing the cast, characters, or tone?

PH: I’ll be trying desperately to maintain the tone of the book. I’m not as naturally funny as Kevin, so I may replace some of his humor with what I think I’m good at, which is action. The cast will change only through addition. We’ll be seeing some new villains make Century City their home.

tfaw_GH12p4thumb TFAW Interviews: Green Hornet's Phil Hester and Jonathan The first arc was a very traditional “sons avenging their fathers” story. What will the main theme of the Santa Muerte/Los Hijos storyline be?

PH: Stepping out of your father’s shadow. Britt Reid Sr. cast a long shadow. His methods were very successful, but Britt Jr. and Mulan will run into a special brand of criminal on whom those tactics are useless. Green Hornet must establish his own identity, not only for his mental health, but for the physical existence of Century City. He must become a new breed of crime fighter. In issue #11, Kato senior and Clutch leave for Japan. Are they leaving the book for now, or will we see their adventures abroad?

PH: We will follow them to Japan. Hijinks will ensue. There’s a lot of emphasis on the romantic tension between Britt Jr. and Mulan–at least on his side. Mulan’s a little more ambiguous. Will this progress, or will you keep up the “will they or won’t they” aspect for the time being?

PH: The teasing is so much fun. I suppose I’ll just write the characters as naturally as possible and let whatever develops between them grow organically. No stunts. The repartee between them is one of my favorite things about the book, though.

tfaw_GH12p5thumb TFAW Interviews: Green Hornet's Phil Hester and Jonathan I’ve noticed that both this reboot and the movie center around Britt being a playboy who takes on the mantle of the Green Hornet after the death of his father. Besides this being a classic superhero setup, what makes this scenario so well-suited to the modern Green Hornet?

PH: Well, Green Hornet sort of has to be a rich guy. Tough to keep the Black Beauty gassed up on Peter Parker’s budget, right? I guess it speaks to our time. We’re surrounded by the likes of Kardashians and Hiltons who are famous for absolutely no reason other than their social status. If Britt Jr. were a real person he would definitely fall into this category. Also, the fact that Britt is a relatively well-adjusted social being makes taking up the legacy of a relatively realistic action hero more plausible than his becoming something as bizarre as a traditional super hero. It’s not too big of a push to add a mask to a green suit, while putting on Batman armor takes a truly damaged psyche. Is the Green Hornet’s blood relationship with the Lone Ranger ever going to factor into the story?

PH: Not in the near future. Different licenses, I’m afraid. Jonathan, what is the most challenging aspect of drawing this book?

GH12coverthumb TFAW Interviews: Green Hornet's Phil Hester and Jonathan LauJL: Cityscape. [Drawing an] urban setting is often tedious work. Fortunately I took up architecture back in college, I guess that pays off. A long-suffering attitude is really required to work in this field. How do you approach the fight scenes?

JL: For the fight scenes, I have lots of ideas to play with, I grew up watching kung fu shows and kung fu comics, and it was very fortunate I landed on a book where some good kung fu fighting is involved. This is what I enjoy doing, lots of intense action. As much as possible, I would prefer working on these types of genres instead of some talking-heads comics. I remember reading World War Hulk, and it made me wish I was on the book. Early in the series, it looked like you were having a lot of fun with different “updates” of the Green Hornet’s outfit. How did you settle on his present look?

JL: That was all Phil, Kevin, and ultimately Alex for the final outfit. I don’t mind the design, it still looks cool even [after] drawing it endlessly. What was it like updating Kato as a woman?

JL: It spices up everything. You know what I mean.

JAN111128 TFAW Interviews: Green Hornet's Phil Hester and Jonathan Is there a scenario you’re itching to draw for Green Hornet?

JL: Certainly! Sometimes I wish I could ask Phil to cram the talking pages and leave more room for the action. Oftentimes I thought about, “You know, wouldn’t it be cool if they were to execute a fight like this or that.” And in addition, I hope there will be crossovers, like GH vs. Bats and company, that would be awesome! We always have a couple of plot ideas running in our heads, it’s just the matter of being heard when pitched, hopefully someday my voice can be heard. In the meantime, more action please!

Thanks again to Phil Hester and Jonathan Lau! You can pre-order Green Hornet comics and save 20%. Plus, pre-order Green Hornet TPB Vol. 02 Wearing O’ the Green and you’ll automatically be entered in our Green Hornet Contest for the chance to win one of 10 Green Hornet variants signed by Hester and Lau!

See a five-page preview of Green Hornet #12, in stock now.

Are you a fan of the Green Hornet? Are you looking forward to the movie? Post your comments below!

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