Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, looks at Green Hornet, the new audience for pulp characters, and the Red Circle revival.
There I was, thinking that I had finished writing about rehabilitating old characters (for the moment anyway) when Dynamite dragged me back on topic with their announcement of a new Green Hornet series. Like Buck Rogers he's an ideal candidate for revival because while a surprising number of people know of him they don't actually know much about him. Even better this brand name recognition comes without the usual baggage of a devoted fan base who'll complain loud and long when publishers invariably start to make changes to the property.*
Like when they update a character's look, a problem you really don't have with The Hornet since his design is both simple (a guy in a suit with a mask that has an insect insignia) and has been repeatedly changed. Being a child of the 60's I naturally prefer the color coordinated ensemble worn by Van Williams in the TV series but really don't see anything wrong with Alex Ross' character designs. The yellow mesh over the eye slits, reminiscent of European fencing masks, is a nice touch, though his overcoat does seem unnecessarily ornate. I mean, is he The Green Hornet or Barnabas Collins?
Plus he comes with a twist making him distinctive in a crowded market place; he's a vigilante pretending to be a criminal so he could infiltrate organized crime while being hunted by the police. Dynamite has shown a remarkable knack for not just being able to modernize older characters without losing their intrinsic appeal (see their version of The Lone Ranger, and I only wish we would see more of him) but also making them solid sellers. So here's hoping…
And since the subject is once again revival I've got to admit in spite of his consistently poor comic book track record I'm still looking forward to seeing Doc Savage back at DC. Even better, the publisher appears to be creating an entire line devoted to more human adventurers, hence the promotional art that's been circulated showing Doc about to meet Blackhawk and The Spirit. The woman to his left is supposedly Rima the Jungle Girl and while DC hasn't seen fit to mention her I for one would enjoy seeing the adventures of a jungle girl who didn't suffer from persistent back pain.
As you might imagine I'm all for this but it does seem a little odd they're making a licensed character the lynchpin of the line. And I might be wrong but this seems to be an attempt by DC to take a bite out of the growing niche market for pulps, the same one Marvel is targeting with their Marvel Noir line.
It generally goes unreported but there is a small but thriving renaissance going on in pulp related material ranging from facsimile reproductions to new pulp fiction to comics based on pulp characters. And it occurs to me these products might provide a new revenue stream for direct sales comic shops. Now if the only image that comes to mind when you think of pulps is pulp collectors, almost exclusively men well past the age of retirement, I don't blame you. I've attended pulp conventions where I've been the youngest person there.
Clearly they alone can't be buying all this material and they're not; for the most part they're only interested in the actual articles. At recent pulp cons I've begun to see younger attendees; the average age of buyers of new pulp material being somewhere between thirty and forty -- just the sort of customers we all could use more of. I realize you always take a chance when trying out a new line of merchandise but who knows; along with attracting a whole new clientele some of your regular customers just might start taking their heroic fiction in prose form.
And finally as someone who loves Golden Age comics and revivals of Golden Age characters as much as I do you might well assume I'd be really looking forward to finally seeing the first of the Red Circle comics being solicited. But frankly, I'm not. Maybe it's because I think the market is already saturated with this sort of thing, or I question some of JMS's choices (The Hangman, sure, The Shield, absolutely, but Inferno?). Or maybe I've just become fatigued by too much of a good thing.
Still, his takes on the characters look interesting so I'll be reading the books as they come out. Who knows, there might even be a guest appearance by Rang-a-Tang and Richy the Amazing Boy.
* Although there's a female Kato in Kevin Smith's upcoming Green Hornet series it should be noted that the first ones to use this idea were writer Ron Fortier and artist Jeff Butler in their Green Hornet series from the 1980's.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
Column by Steve Bennett
Posted by ICv2 on May 20, 2009 @ 11:00 pm CT
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