So a minute ago on the podcast, we made recommendations for each participant to check out a book that we might not normally pick up. One sleepless night I decided to follow through and actually read the book in question. Andy recommended that I pick up a Green Hornet/Spirit crossover which I read through in one sitting…and I won’t spoil my reactions to the series other than to say that after I was done, I was looking for more. Luckily, I had the Batman ‘66 Meets the Green Hornet miniseries nearby.
I picked this mini up because the basic conceit appealed to me: I loved the Batman ‘66 tv show growing up; I’d really enjoyed the handful of Batman ‘66 books I’ve read; and I occasionally enjoy the odd Green Hornet tale.
The Green Hornet is actually a hero I tend to enjoy through association: the Green Hornet show famously ran at the same time as (and crossed over with) the Batman ‘66 tv show. They came out of the same production company and have a similar style, although the Green Hornet tended to be slightly more serious. Also, the Green Hornet has roots as a radio serial that tie into the Lone Ranger, one of my other favorite properties. They were created by the same folks, and I think technically the Lone Ranger’s nephew is the Green Hornet’s dad. So in my book the Green Hornet is cool when he ties into Lone Ranger, he’s cool when he crosses over with Batman, and his solo tales are ok in their own right–they just tend to not keep my interest for an extended period of time. I’m good for a story arc or two, and then I’ll check in later on down the line.
So I’ve discussed my Green Hornet biases, let’s look at the creative team.
Arguably the biggest name on this list is Kevin Smith, renowned filmmaker, comic writer, podcaster, and general nerd impressario. I run hot and cold on Kevin Smith. I really enjoyed his earlier films such as Clerks and Mallrats, but found them to be an exercise in diminishing returns after that. I liked Dogma, I guess. I will say that his films definitely reflect his voice, which is not something every director can say. It’s just after a point, I grew tired of that voice. As far as his comic writing goes, sometimes I like it, like his Green Arrow run, sometimes I think it’s a bit amateurish (the Widening Gyre or whatever that was), and sometimes I downright dislike it (Spider-man/Black Cat I found borderline offensive in its characterization). I tend to like the same things he likes, and his name pops up frequently in the nerdy orbit that I find myself in. Most of the time, that’s a good thing. When I saw his name on this project, I sighed. I thought for sure he was going to Kevin Smith all over this. I did not want to see “the pen is mightier” jokes in my classic Batman. Snootchie Bootchies or whatever.
Next is co writer Ralph Garman. Who? I have no preordained biases for or against this guy, because I didn’t know who he was. Apparently, he podcasts with Smith on the Babble-on show and he’s done a lot of work with Seth MacFarlane. That’s cool.
On the art side of the equation, Ty Templeton does the lion’s share of the art duties. I remembered his name from the old Batman Adventures comics from the 90’s and the Spidey/Human Torch miniseries that happened right before Slott took over Amazing Spidey. At least one involved adhering to a distinct style, but neither involved drawing real people, which can be a challenge for artists. Still, both were solid projects, so I expected serviceable art at the least.
Finally, we have covers by Alex Ross. Yes, please. Ross’s photorealistic painting is a perfect match for a project like this.
Originally, this was on online project in 12 parts, followed by 6 printed issues. Each part is set up like the old Batman tv show, including cliffhangers at the end of each issue. As a matter of fact, reading this story was like watching a great band in concert. You’re waiting for the greatest hits the entire time–and they are delivered here, including bits with starting the batmobile and scaling the sides of buildings–but the band also manages to put an interesting spin on the old tropes. They never stray so much that things aren’t recognizable, but they add just enough that the work stands out as its own thing instead of a straight copy. Smith even surrenders some of his trademark voice in service of keeping the band on track to deliver what the crowd wants to hear.
There are winks to the old series, especially when Robin and Kato are forced to face off together in a cage. Fans of the shows may know when the crossover episode was being produced, Bruce Lee famously refused to do the job to Burt Ward’s Robin and walked off set. Eventually the script was rewritten so the fight would end in a draw, but when Bruce Lee came out to film the scene, he pretended to be really mad and acted like he really was going to fight Ward. This freaked Ward out to no end, but it ended up being just a prank.
Interesting fact courtesy of Burt Ward’s book Wonder: My Life in Tights (via http://www.thelastdragontribute.com), It turns out that Ward and Lee lived in the same condo complex, and would occasionally eat dinner together or spar (Ward has a blackbelt in Taekwondo). I don’t care what belt you have, if Bruce Lee is coming at you, you’re going to be freaked out. Anyway, here in the story, both characters agree to fight to a draw ahead of time to avoid any embarrassment.
Other nods I loved included the death-defying escapes from the elaborate traps–often that could have been accomplished as easily by taking off shoes, but it looks so much cooler the way they do it with hornet stings and batcopters!
The sleuthing that involves Batman or Green Hornet going through the elaborately plotted clues only to have one sentence from their sidekicks be the key ingredient.
I couldn’t help but to hear Adam West’s voice say, “You’ve done it again, chum!” Likewise, after Batman would deliver a sermon about being “upstanding citizens” or giving criminals a second chance, I could hear Burt Ward mutter, “Gee, I see your point.”
True to form for your average crossover, you had plenty of crossover tropes as well. The bad guys team up to hatch their diabolical schemes! The heroes have plenty of misunderstandings and conflict before they finally team up to solve the problem! Each set of heroes gets their shine on by the end! While I definitely felt this story was more of Green Hornet in the Batman universe, I was ok with that, because I like that one better I will say Bruce Lee’s Kato did seem to get more respect in this series, and I don’t remember if that was how he was treated on the show or not.
Smith and Garman do a great job with the tone of the characters and the wacky ridiculous that those late 60’s show had in spades. Colonel Gumm gets an upgrade to…General Gumm! The Joker’s voice sounded perfect for Cesar Romero’s interpretation–even down to the referencing of the Penguin, Riddle, and Catwoman.
Templeton does great work on the art duties as well His characters look realistic, but not stiff. They still carry with them a cartoony air of excitement and tension.
All in all, this package is what it says it is. If you were a lover of the Batman and Green Hornet shows of days gone by, you can definitely pick this book up and e instantly transported in front of the TV in your mind. The story was fun (and quick), the show was respected, and the art was crisp and more than serviceable. I was wrong to be trepidatious about Smith writing this one, as he and Garman knocked it out of the park. And words wouldn’t do justice to those Alex Ross covers, so I’ll just drop that picture in here one last time.
Final Grade for Batman ‘66 Meets the Green Hornet: A.
Until next time, I’ll be tuned into the reruns looking for my chums of old!
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