Kato (The Green Hornet) - Character History - Comic Book Adaptations

Comic Book Adaptations

All Green Hornet comic book adaptations have included Kato. These were produced by Helnit (sometimes known as Holyoke), Harvey, Dell and, tied in to the television version, Gold Key. Beginning in 1989 one, published by NOW Comics, established a continuity between the different versions of the story. In this comic, the TV/Bruce Lee version of Kato was the son of the Kato from the radio stories, and had the given name Hayashi as an homage to the character's first radio actor.

The comic also established a new Kato, a much younger half-sister of the television-based character, Mishi. This female Kato also insisted on being treated as the Hornet's full partner rather than a sidekick. However, the Green Hornet, Inc., soon withdrew approval and this character was replaced with the 60s version after Vol. 1, #10. Her removal was explained by having the Kato family company, Nippon Today, needing her automotive designing services at its Zurich, Switzerland facility. Mishi would return in Volume 2, appearing sporadically in the new costumed identity of the Crimson Wasp, on a vendetta against the criminal, Johnny Dollar. She eventually revealed (in The Green Hornet Vol. 2, #s 12 & 13, August & September 1992) that he had been an embezzling executive at the Swiss plant, whose actions she unwittingly began to expose. Consequently, he had murdered her fiancé and his daughter in an attack that also caused the unknowingly pregnant Mishi, the main target, to miscarry.

In the No. 34, July 1994 issue of that run, she appeared in her "Hornet's partner" guise one additional time, as the masked Paul Reid attended a gangland meeting; the rules stated that each "boss" was allowed two "boys." During this period, Hayashi became romantically involved with District Attorney Diana Reid, daughter of the original Hornet, who even thought for a while that she had conceived his child. In the final issue, Diana discussed their wedding plans with Mishi. In the last two issues, yet another Kato, a nephew to both of these named Kono, was brought in to allow the aging Hayashi to retire from crime-fighting, but the publisher's ceasing of operations prevented much of him being seen. The Bruce Lee-based Kato was also featured in two of his own spin-off miniseries, written by Mike Baron. The first had him defending a Chinese temple, where he had studied kung fu, from the Communist government, while in the second he took the job of bodyguarding a heroin-addicted rock star. A third solo adventure, also by Baron, was announced and promoted first as another miniseries, then as a graphic novel (now subtitled "Dragons in Eden"), but was left unpublished when NOW folded. The line featured one other version of the character.

The three-issue mini-series The Green Hornet: Dark Tomorrow (June–August 1993) was set approximately one hundred years in the future, and had an Asian-American Green Hornet, real name Clayton Reid, who had been corrupted by power and truly became the crime boss he was supposed to only pretend to be, fighting a Caucasian Kato. Beyond the reversal of ethnicities, the latter added the claim that he and the future Hornet were cousins, and the art's depiction of this Hornet's unnamed paternal grandparents resembles Paul Reid and Mishi Kato. Although the future Kato is not further identified here, a later "Reid/Kato Family Trees" feature (in The Green Hornet, Vol. 2, # 26, October 1993) gave him the first name Luke.

This comic book incarnation gave a degree of official status to a long-standing error about the character, that in his masked identity he is known as Kato. The name was restricted to his private persona in the original radio series, the two movie serials, and most of the television version (there were two slips in this last medium, one on the Batman appearance, the other in the last filmed episode of the Hornet series itself, "Invasion from Outer Space, Part 2"; this story is well out of sync with the rest of the run, and the writer, director, and even the line producer are people with no other credits on the program). But the NOW comic version made a big point of having the masked assistants called Kato, with the woman at one early point telling the equally new Hornet during their first adventure, "While I'm in this funky get-up, call me Kato. It's part of the tradition."

In the Kevin Smith's 2010 revamp of the continuity, Kato is depicted, in modern times, as the elderly but still physically fit valet of the late Britt Reid, killed by a yakuza mobster going by the Black Hornet sobriquet. The elder Kato, in this version a Japanese forced to act Filipino to avoid the suspicions and the racist charges against his people during WWII, retires his identity along with Britt Reid, and both men decide to devote themselves to their families, respectively raising their offspring Britt Reid Jr. and Mulan Kato.

After Britt Reid's death, Kato returns in America with Mulan, now the second Kato, to act out the Secret Testament of Britt Reid Sr., who wished, in the event of his death, Kato to destroy every Green Hornet paraphernalia still in his possession and whisk Britt Reid Jr. to Japan, for his safety. However both offspring refuse Reid's and Kato's will: Mulan Kato, now clad in a close variation of her father's original outfit, storms off to confront the Yakuza, and Britt Reid Jr. manages to steal one of the Green Hornet costumes to help her, despite having little training on his own.

As the new Kato, Mulan is a strong, physically fit, silent warrior woman, able to perform amazing feats with uncanny strength and precision. Despite having been shown, in her late teens, as a peppy, lively, cheery social butterfly, the adult Mulan Kato is a darker, brooding character who never speaks (despite physically able to do so, Mulan prefers speaking as little as she can to prevent the much talkative Britt Reid Jr., and seemingly everyone else, from talking back) and shows little, if no interest at all, for any form of socialization, a thing that seems to distress the second Green Hornet, every bit the suave socialite his father was.

In addition, the limited series Green Hornet: Parallel Lives by writer Jai Nitz, will serve as a prequel to the 2011 Green Hornet film, exploring the backstory for the film's version of Kato.

Read more about this topic:  Kato (The Green Hornet), Character History

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