The Green Hornet is certainly one of the most iconic names in crimefighting lore. Most people know he was the grand nephew of the Lone Ranger, created by the same team of Fran Stryker and George W. Trendle. Both the Hornet and the Lone Ranger first appeared on radio.
In fact, they are Michigan creations which originated from WXYZ radio out of Detroit.
Both of these well known characters went on to appear in movies, in books, on TV and in comic books. Even today, you can find comic book series about both.
Recently, NMCV had a chance to talk with veteran comic writer, Ron Fortier, who wrote two Green Hornet comic series, about what makes the character so popular.
NMCV: Did you enjoy reading comics as a kid? What were your favorites?
Fortier: Believe it or not, my father got me hooked on comics at the age of 5 when I could only appreciate the pictures. By the time I learned how to read, I was totally addicted. Some of my favorites in the late 50s prior to the coming of the Silver Age in the 60s, were DC’s Blackhawk and Challengers of the Unknown. I liked the war comic titles a great deal and their westerns.
NMCV: How and when did you become involved in creating comics professionally?
Fortier: After getting out of the Army in 1968, I became involved with comic fandom via all the fanzines being published back then. I began submitting articles to these and eventually tried my hand at writing actual scripts that fans with artistic abilities ended up drawing. Once I knew I how to format a proper script, I began submitting stories to the various companies. My first two sales were to Charlton Comics and then Eclipse.
NMCV: How did you get the job of writing for the Green Hornet comic series from Now Comics?
Fortier: Having established myself by writing several titles for a small independent outfit called Ocean Comics, I was approached by comic pro Mike Friedrich who at that time ran a talent agency called Star Reach and he took me on as a client. The first thing he recommended was that I go to the San Diego Comic Con in 1988 where he would introduce me to various editors and publishers. I went and brought along a 40 pg proposal for a new Green Hornet comic series. While there Mike introduced me to Now Comics’ owner, Tony Caputo. Tony hired me there to write his Terminator series, which at that time had been around for about six months. Before leaving San Diego, I gave Tony my proposal for the Green Hornet series. Three months later he called me from New York where he’d met with the license holders and with my proposal got the rights to do the character. Within weeks I was writing the Green Hornet and Jeff Butler had been brought on board to be the artist.
NMCV: Did you know who the Green Hornet was before you started writing for him? If so, how did you learn about him? Did you do any research?
Fortier: My first ever introduction to the Green Hornet was the 60s TV series with Van Williams and Bruce Lee. I loved the show and really thought the concept of a hero posing as a villain was brilliant. Eventually, through various magazine articles, I learned of the Hornet’s actual history in radio and cliff-hanger serials. By the time I actually started working on the idea for a new comic series, some twenty years later, I’d bought cassette copies of the old radio show and VHS tapes of the two cliff-hanger serials. I’d become very well versed in the characters history. Enough so that I wanted to incorporate those previous incarnations into my proposal, thus the idea of creating a legacy character was born. I think my Green Hornet series was one of the first in comics history to use that concept.
NMCV: Do you have any favorite stories you wrote from the series? If so, what made them special?
Fortier: Well, I think of my time with these great characters and there ate two storylines that stick out in my mind. The first was obviously the opening origin saga which ran a full seven issues detailing the World War II beginning and ending with the first ever appearance of our generations female Kato, Mishi. Her creations was something really special for me and Jeff.
The second story being the five issue mini-series Sting of the Green Hornet in which we went back in time to that first GH and Kato and did the story in a cliff-hanger fashion and peppered with lots of great cameos such as the Shadow, Lois Lane and Clark Kent and finally we did our homage to Jack Kirby’s Captain America in whipping up Commando Yank, the second solider to get a shot of the super serum. Most fans I meet today consider Sting to be the best GH comic ever done. Who am I to argue? (Chuckle)
NMCV: What do like about the characters of the Green Hornet and Kato?
Fortier: Again, the entire concept of them posing as criminals to be able to operate in the city’s underworld was brilliant. With Britt Reid, there was that great connection to his Great Uncle, the Lone Ranger, and as for Kato, well who wouldn’t be enamored of a young engineering genius who was also a kickass martial artist? These two were the epitome of pulp heroes and it was a joy to chronicle their exploits together.
NMCV: Did you have any particular artist you enjoyed working with during that time?
Fortier: Obviously Jeff Butler was tops as he was on board right at the beginning and it was his imaginings that gave the primary characters and their supporting cast what would remain their solidified appearances. Jeff and I worked on the both the first year of the regular series and then later reconnected for the above mentioned Sting of the Green Hornet. He’s truly an amazing artist. Later, other artist were brought on board for series volume two and all of them were superb and fun to work with.
NMCV: How long did you write for Now?
Fortier: Roughly two and a half years. I did that first year run, then left the series for about seven months. I came back to Now Comics to do Sting, and they talked me into doing the regular series again when that mini was completed. So yes, about two and a half years total.
NMCV: What comics have you worked on since then? Are you still writing comics today?
Fortier: Wow, in my 48 year career, I’ve been written over 600 comics and continue to do so. In that time I wrote a Hulk story for one of their annuals, two Popeye comics, a Peter Pan series for Malibu, and Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Universe for Tekno Comcis, a Rambo one shot for Blackthorne plus my own original series such as Street Fighter and the Boston Bombers for Caliber. These days I write two ongoing black and white series, Mr. Jigsaw Man of a Thousand Parts and Ron Fortier’s Tales of the Macabre, both for Redbud Studios. They can be found at http://www.robmdavis.com/RedbudStudio/index.html and an occasional graph novel or two. I’ve also started pulp hero comics for Moonstone Comics such as the Black Bat and Domino Lady. I’ve also begun a new series called The Wooden Blade, anamorphic fantasy adventure of Raizee the Ram done with artist Olivia DeGaine.
NMCV: Anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your projects?
Fortier: Over ten years ago, artist Rob Davis, and I started a new pulp publishing outfit called Airship 27 Productions wherein we publish brand new novels and anthologies featuring classic pulp heroes form the 1930s and ’40s. To date we have almost a hundred and eighty titles in our catalog and our books can be found at Amazon. Among these are my own two prose series; Captain Hazzard Champion of Justice (of which there are five) and Brother Bones the Undead Avenger (of which there are now four). All Airship 27 Productions, including my own, can be found at Amazon in both paperback and on Kindle, as well as audio from www.audible.com.
Last year, while at the Windy City Pulp & Paper convention, the Pulp Factory, a group of New Pulp writers and artists, awarded me their first ever Pulp Grand Master award. It was truly special moment in my career.
Then in the Fall, I checked off a huge bucket list item when I began teaching “How to Write Comics & Graphic Novels” at a local community college here in Fort Collins. It proved to be so much fun, I repeated it in the Spring and will pick it up again in the Fall. Sharing what I’ve learned with young writers is a pure delight.
NMCV: Following some of your posts on Facebook, I am wondering if you are a Christian, Ron.
Fortier: I’m Catholic and believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior … and I abhor abortion. The true sin of our times and country.
NMCV: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.