For comics fans, it’s always a balancing act between wallowing in nostalgia and finding something fresh or different. Amazingly, author Jim Beard pulls this trick off with the new book The Green Hornet: How Sweet the Sting, published by Moonstone. It’s a clever adventure that, on one hand, is 100% true to the source material, and the other, reinvents the franchise as a crime novel.
This thriller has the feel of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip’s Criminal series, but mixed in with a liberal dose of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. It’s grittier than I expected. But like a rollercoaster, it’s fun, exhilarating, and frightening – all at the same time.
Kato and his boss Britt Reid, who is secretly the Green Hornet, come across as just a smidge more badass than I expected. And then I was surprised to find the protagonist isn’t the Green Hornet, but an ex-Special Forces soldier who gets dragged into a life of crime.
Beard also brings one of the unsung heroes of The Green Hornet to center stage. Lenore Case, often called Casey, is given a realistic depth and warmth that she seldom exhibits in Hornet stories. Now that I think about it, the last time Lenore Case was this interesting was in Mark Waid’s clever Green Hornet series, published by Dynamite about ten years ago. (Tempus Fugit!)
In The Green Hornet TV show, she was played by Wende Wagner. Billy Wilder, while filming Some Like it Hot, discovered her when he saw her swimming. She started as an underwater stunt double in TV shows like Sea Hunt, but soon moved on to movies including Rosemary’s Baby and Rio Conchos.
Like a magician who doesn’t show you all his tricks, Beard’s Casey is struggling on many levels, and readers, who are all in on the Green Hornet’s secret identity, are left to piece together exactly what’s going on.
Beard cleverly deals with several aspects of the Green Hornet mythology that don’t make sense, like Kato’s lack of a super-hero codename. As an author, he not only ponders the questions but also provides credible solutions.
Beard’s respect of and love for the source material is palpable. This story is built around several episodes of the TV show. For hard core fans that’s great, but for casual fans it doesn’t detract in the least.
Jim Beard has also been busy in the William Dozier-verse. His latest book, with Rich Handley, is OOOFF! BOFF! SPLATT! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Three. It’s the third in a trilogy, as authors take deep dives into each episode of the old Batman TV program. Rumors are swirling that there may be another entry to this series, although it’s not clear how he’d pull that off. *
Moonstone’s been experimenting with slimmer books and shorter stories. It’s such a pleasant change from the long books I usually read. I motored through this one in just three days. And like visiting a high-end restaurant with small, delicious portions – I felt totally satisfied.
I’m a member of the Men’s Adventure Paperback group, and we all agree that strong cover art is an important part of the total experience. Joel Naprstek provides an engaging painting. One thing I’m not clear on is why Moonstone didn’t the use that classic Green Hornet logo for the cover, but did use it on the inside pages. Maybe a trademark or licensor issue? But that is a minor quibble at best.
This story exceeds the original series – but it’s almost impossible to not imagine Al Hirt’s trumpet playing the classic theme song as you read it.
The Green Hornet: How Sweet the Sting
by Jim Beard Author, Joel Naprstek Cover Artist
*Full disclosure: I’m a contributing author to this series.