The Middle Ground #16: Play That William Tell Overture One More Time
I’ve talked before about the oddness of Dynamite’s Green Hornet line, I think; the sheer deluge of books so quickly after launch, and the way it makes little sense to me in any way other than ensuring a lot of bookstore product in time for January’s movie release. But I’ve been reading a lot of the books recently, and now I have to admit: It makes even less sense.
Here’s the thing: The core books, the actual Green Hornet ones (Which I define as The Green Hornet, The Green Hornet: Year One and The Green Hornet Strikes!; your mileage may vary) are actually pretty good, to varying degrees. My favorite by far is probably Matt Wagner’s Year One, which hits the right pulpy notes without going overboard or seeming too cliche in its recreation of an era that’s been worked over and overworked plenty of times in the last decade or so, but both the Kevin Smith Hornet – which, if nothing else, is more coherent and less filled with urinating superheroes than his current Bat work – and contemporary/dystopic Strikes! have things going for them, as well.
One of the negatives they also have, though, is that they seem contradictory; does Year One lead into Kevin Smith’s run? Does Strikes! take place after it? Apparently not, and that’s more than a little confusing to me; putting aside any concerns about expanding a line too quickly, it’d only make sense to make sure that the line is coherent and, well, a line, instead of a scattered franchise of multiple versions of the same character that don’t fit together. Considering each series seems to take place in a different time period and both Smith’s title and Strikes accept that there have been previous Hornets, why there couldn’t have been one consistent continuity, I have no idea.
Also in the “I have no idea” camp: Holy crap, there are so many spin-offs. Too many, in fact, for Dynamite’s own website to keep track of properly (The book listed as Kevin Smith’s Kato: Origins is, in fact, a spin-off from Year One and has nothing to do with Smith’s series), which should probably be taken as some kind of sign, as should the fact that each of the spin-offs feel, at best, like extras to the other books, instead of something that stands on their own. But, even if the point of these books from a publishing perspective is to increase the amount of Green Hornet material out there for movie audiences, the stories in these books don’t feel strong enough to exist separate from their “source” books, worth the additional cost. They just exist to… I don’t know. Muddy the brand, and also just make the good books seem less interesting or worthwhile by association.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not expecting the movie to be such a massive smash that, suddenly, it’ll seem like a great idea to have so many Green Hornet books available – In fact, I think the movie is likely going to flop, and so perhaps it’ll be a case of Dynamite getting the most out of their license while they can. But that’s the problem, either way; instead of planning long-term to make the most out of the franchise and the license with quality books (Dynamite can do great licensed material; I love their Lone Ranger and Buck Rogers books, both of which were rolled out very slowly and deliberately), the Green Hornet books may end up becoming a model of how not to handle a multimedia franchise in future. And that’s kind of a shame.