This summer, Seth Rogen will bring The Green Hornet to movie screens, 74 years after The Hornet was born in Detroit. A Comprehensive History of the Green Hornet by Jacques Boulerice at Associated Content explains:
…the Green Hornet was one of the first masked costumed crime fighters, making his radio debut on January 31, 1936 – seventeen days before The Phantom started gracing newspaper comic strips and about six years after The Shadow came to radio. His crime fighting efforts were not exactly liked by the police, who viewed him either as a meddling amateur or outright criminal. In future years, popular heroes such as Spider-Man walked a similar path.
The Hornet was the brainchild of Fran Striker and George W. Trendle, the team that had brought us The Lone Ranger exactly three years before the Hornet, with both shows originating on Detroit’s WXYZ radio station. The similarities went one step further, in that the Hornet was the secret identity of newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who was the Lone Ranger’s nephew Dan Reid’s son.
Reid was helped by his trusted butler and sidekick Kato. In the original storyline, Kato was a Filipino of Japanese descent, but as the 1930′s brought conflict with Japan, his character was altered and said to be Korean. This was especially critical when two movie serials were released in 1940 as America was weighing entry into World War II.
The crime fighter’s prime means of locomotion was a powerful sedan called the Black Beauty. When the show began, the producers used the engine sound of the so-called “world’s quietest car”, the Pierce Arrow, for the Beauty. Kato was the car’s chauffeur in addition to his other duties.
The radio show lasted until 1952, eventually being syndicated on The Mutual Network and the NBC Blue Network, which became ABC. Al Hodge originally voiced the Reid/Hornet character and Raymond Hayashi was Kato.
You can listen to a number of the original Green Hornet radio programs from at the Internet Archive and get more about Wikipedia’s entry on The Green Hornet. Although this fight scene from the Green Hornet TV show has no real Michigan tie-in, it does have Bruce Lee!