Starting in January 1936, as a radio drama, Al Hodge played the duel role of newspaper publisher Britt Reid and masked crime fighter, The Green Hornet. The creative genius behind this drama was George Trendle, who had made a hit out of the radio show, The Lone Ranger. Created as a spin-off to this popular show, the young nephew of the Lone Ranger, Dan Reid, grew up to be the father of The Green Hornet. The Green Hornet, Britt Reid, was a crusader with the ability to sway public opinion against corruption and crime.
The radio show opened with the music of Flight Of The Bumblebee and a spiel about him fighting crime and racketeers feeling the sting of The Green Hornet. In the supporting cast was Kato, his Filipino aide and the only person who knew that Reid and the Hornet were the same man. He drove a souped up roadster know as The Black Beauty. Hidden in an abandoned warehouse adjoining Reid’s apartment by a secret passageway, he drove the Black Beauty through the streets at night, its powerful motor whirring like a maddened insect.
The popularity of the radio series led to Universal doing an action packed serial in 1940. This was immediately followed by a second serial. In 1940, the Green Hornet also became a comic book, published by Helnit Publishing (later known as Holyoke). The art was handled by Bert Whitman Associates, an art shop. This book was unusual in that it was 64 pages, containing 8 Green Hornet stories. It followed exactly the same format as the radio show. In fact, Fran Striker, radio writer, is credited with having written Helnit stories. In this first series, the Hornet wore a green mask, green hat and scarf with a yellow overcoat.
With issue 7, the publishing was taken over by Harvey Publications. They had Joe Simon and Jack Kirby illustrate the cover. The interior was a different format, with one or two Hornet stories and Harvey second features filling in the rest of the contents. His costume was changed to a green overcoat with a yellow scarf. He became a blonde in this series, having had black hair in the former. The hornet emblem on the mask, around where the mouth should be, was drawn differently and sometimes left off completely. Often quite elaborate covers adorned the Harvey series which depicted the Hornet and Kato engaged in pitched battles with the enemies of our country. No illustrated story of such incidents could be found inside. Instead, a 2 page “Story Behind the Cover” feature, would tell the tale in text. The Green Hornet was last seen in the Harvey series in 1949 though the radio program continued until 1952. After the radio show left the air, the Green Hornet made one final Golden-Age appearance… a one-shot from Dell Comics, rendered by Frank Thorne in beautiful detail.
In the late 1960′s, Gold Key did a series based on the TV show, in which they used photo covers of Van Williams who played the part of The Hornet. It was drawn by Dan Spiegle. In the late 80′s and early 90′s, Now Comics licensed The Green Hornet and did several series and specials on the character.
Complete coverage of the “green” characters, can be found in AC Comic’s “Men of Mystery No.25″, available in the Online Store or from AC Comics, PO Box 52-1216, Longwood, FL 32752.