Green Hornet comic books began in December 1940. The series, titled Green Hornet Comics, was published by Helnit Comics (sometimes called Holyoke), with the writing attributed to Fran Striker. This series ended after six issues. Several months later, Harvey Comics launched its own version, beginning with issue #7. This series ended in 1949, having run to issue #47. (The title was changed to Green Hornet Fights Crime as of issue #34 and Green Hornet, Racket Buster with issue #44.) Harvey additionally used the character in the public-service one-shot War Victory Comics in 1942, and gave him one adventure in each of two issues of All-New Comics, #13 (where he was also featured on the cover) and #14. in 1946. Dell Comics published a one-shot with the character (officially entitled Four Color #496) in 1953, several months after the radio series ceased production. Both stories therein share titles with late-era radio episodes ("The Freightyard Robberies," June 23, 1949, and "[The] Proof of Treason," October 17, 1952) and might be adaptations. In 1967 Gold Key Comics produced a series based on the TV show. It ran three issues.
NOW ComicsEditIn 1989, NOW Comics introduced a line of Green Hornet comics, initially written by Ron Fortier and illustrated by Jeff Butler. It attempted to reconcile the different versions of the character into a multigenerational epic. This took into account the character's descent from the Lone Ranger, though due to the legal separation of the two properties, the Ranger's mask covered his entire face (as in the Republic serials) and he could not be called by name. In this interpretation, the Britt of the radio series had fought crime as the Hornet in the 1930s and 1940s before retiring. In NOW's first story, in Green Hornet #1 (Nov. 1989), set in 1945, the nationality of the original Kato (named in this comic series Ikano Kato) is given as Japanese, but because of that era's American racism toward Japanese, Reid had pretended that Kato was Filipino in order to prevent Kato's being sent to an American internment camp.
The NOW comics considered the 1960's television character as the namesake nephew of the original, 1930s-1940s Britt Reid, referred to as "Britt Reid II" in the genealogy, who took up his uncle's mantle after a friend was assassinated. Britt Reid II eventually retired due to a heart attack, and Kato—given the first name Hayashi, after that of the first actor to play Kato on radio—goes on to become a star of ninja movies. The NOW comics established Hayashi Kato as Ikano Kato's son. Britt Reid's nephew, Paul Reid, a concert pianist, took on the role of the Hornet after his older brother Alan, who had first taken on the mantle, was killed on his debut mission. Paul Reid was initially assisted by Mishi Kato, Hayashi's much-younger half-sister, who was trained by Ikano Kato. Her being female caused problems between the publishers and the rights-holders, who withdrew approval of that character and mandated the return of "the Bruce Lee Kato." After Mishi's departure—explained as orders from her father to replace an injured automobile designer at the Zurich, Switzerland, facility of the family corporation, Nippon Today—Hayashi Kato returned to crime fighting alongside the Paul Reid Green Hornet. Mishi Kato returned in volume two as the Crimson Wasp, following the death of her Swiss police-officer fiancé on orders of a criminal leader.
In NOW's final two issues, vol. 2, #39-40, a fourth Kato—Kono Kato, grandson of Ikano and nephew of Hayashi and Mishi—took over as Paul Reid's fellow masked vigilante. The comics also introduced Diana Reid, the original Britt Reid's daughter, who had become district attorney after the TV series' Frank Scanlon had retired. A romantic relationship eventually formed between her and Hayashi Kato.
NOW's first series began in 1989 and lasted 14 issues. Volume Two began in 1991 and lasted 40 issues, ending in 1995 when the publisher went out of business. Kato starred in a solo four-issue miniseries in 1991, and a two-issue follow-up in 1992, both written by Mike Baron. He also wrote a third, first announced as a two-issue miniseries, then as a graphic novel, but it was never released due to the company's collapse. Tales of the Green Hornet, consisting of nine issues spread out over three volumes (two, four, and three issues, respectively), presented stories of the two previous Hornets. Volume One featured Green Hornet II, written by Van Williams, star of the 1960s TV. Other miniseries included the three-issue The Green Hornet: Solitary Sentinel; the four-issue Sting of the Green Hornet, set during World War II; the three-issue Dark Tomorrow (June-Aug. 1993), featuring a criminal Green Hornet in 2080 being fought by the Kato of that era.
In March 2009, Dynamite Entertainment announced that it had acquired the license to produce Green Hornet comic books. Its first release was a miniseries written by Kevin Smith. Revamped in 2010 as an ongoing series set in modern times, the new Green Hornet stars Britt Reid Jr., the rebellious and spoiled son of Britt Reid Sr., now a retired industrial and family man. When Britt Sr. is slain by the Black Hornet, a yakuza mobster whose family was shamed by the original Green Hornet, the aging but still fit Kato returns. With his daughter, Mulan Kato, who has taken over the costumed identity of her father, he brings Britt Jr. to China for training and safekeeping as he becomes the new Green Hornet.