Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dynamite Comic Books Explores the Common Heritage of The Lone Ranger & The Green Hornet

I've always appreciated that two of America's earliest masked super heroes originated from my hometown of Detroit.  While the Lone Ranger may have been battling outlaws in the Old Wild West his stories were being produced and played out in the downtown Detroit studio of radio station WXYZ which created the character for a show it began broadcasting in 1933.  The success of The Lone Ranger led WXYZ to create a spin-off of the show in 1936 called The Green Hornet which featured a masked crusader taking on criminal elements in gangster era Chicago.  While these two radio programs were set in different time periods and locations, The Lone Ranger and the The Green Lantern had similar themes in their stories and actually shared a common heritage.

The Lone Ranger story begins with John Reid being a member of a Texas Rangers law enforcement posse led by his brother Daniel who are chasing after a band of outlaws known as the Cavendish Gang.  The Texas Rangers are ambushed and the Cavendish Gang rides off from the bloody scene believing they've left all their pursuers dead.  John Reid is found though clinging to life by a Native American named Tonto who nurses him back to health.  John becomes The Lone Ranger by creating a black mask from his fallen brother's Texas Rangers leather vest and vowing to stop the Cavendish Gang along with any other outlaws he may encounter in the Wild West under his new secret identity.

In the 1942 season of WXYZ's The Lone Ranger radio series, a character was introduced to demonstrate the common heritage the shows' creators had meant for the characters in it and The Green Hornet.  They introduced the son of the Lone Ranger's deceased brother Daniel to the show making Dan Reid Jr. a juvenile sidekick complete with his own horse Victor.  The Lone Ranger eventually sends his nephew Dan is eventually sent East to get an education and eventually becomes a successful and wealthy newspaper publisher in Chicago.  Dan's son Britt eventually takes over running the Daily Sentinel newspaper by day and the wealthy young publisher transforms into a masked vigilante known as the Green Hornet who takes to the streets to tackle crime at night in his own WXYZ radio show.  The police, general public and criminal underworld all believe the Green Hornet to a crook in his own right; a perception Reid uses to his advantage in infiltrating evil doers plans and turn them over to the police along with any incriminating evidence he has found.  As the black masked Lone Ranger has a loyal partner in Tonto and his famous steed Silver, Britt Reed donned in a green mask is accompanied by his trusted confidant Kato and has a ride more fitting of the times, a tricked out car called "Black Beauty."

WXYZ eventually brought the family connection between the two shows full circle in a 1947 episode of The Green Hornet called "Too Hot to Handle" in which Britt reveals to his father, Dan, that the young man is the Green Hornet.  In their discussion, Dan tells Britt of their family relationship with the Lone Ranger and talks of riding alongside him in Texas taking on outlaws.  As their conversation comes to a conclusion The Lone Ranger theme song plays in the background.  Another interesting tie-in between the two shows is that John Todd who played Tonto on The Lone Ranger radio series also has the role of Dan Reid Jr. in The Green Hornet.

The popularity of these two radio shows led to their leading characters becoming iconic heroes of American lore with their stories being expanded into comic books, television shows, and movies over the years.  In the 1950s, WXYZ sold the rights to both The Green Hornet and The Lone Ranger to two different owners.  With that move the family connection between The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet was lost into history as each franchise now didn't have the rights to reference the other.  That was until Dynamite Entertainment obtained the license to both properties and discovered in researching its comic book stories the secret heritage of The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet.

In its mini-series THE LONE RANGER / THE GREEN HORNET, Dynamite Entertainment explores the common heritage of these two classic American heroes.  Britt's great uncle, John Reid, has retired to Chicago where he spends his days at a local park telling tales of his Lone Ranger adventures to children.  When Dan Reid Jr. suddenly dies of a heart attack, Britt must return home from traveling around exploring the globe to take over running The Daily Sentinel with his great uncle keeping a watchful eye over his grand nephew.  When Eliot Ness, leader of the U.S. federal law enforcement agents know as the Untouchables, uses Britt to set up a meeting with John to ask for the Lone Ranger's assistance with taking on a Nazi threat within the United States it creates the spark for a new member of the Reid family to become a masked hero.

I found the first issue of THE LONE RANGER / THE GREEN HORNET to be a very enjoyable read with a nice vintage vibe to it with artwork that pays homage to the style of old newspaper comic strips plus well placed references to both the original radio series and historical events of the time when this story is set.  When John Reid gets angry he uses the phrase "I'm mad as a hornet" which is a nice segue into Britt Reid taking up the identity of the Green Hornet.  John also brings Britt his grandfather's vest which had Tonto used to make the Lone Ranger mask.  Descendants of the Cavendish Gang make a return to lead the Bund, which was a real life group of trouble making Nazi sympathizers in the 1930s and 40s, in a new threat that brings together two different generations of Reid family heroes.  The addition of historical figures of the time including Eliot Ness and Jesse Owens is also an interesting touch adding to the stories classic radio era dynamic.  A band even opens up the story playing the "William Tell Overture" which was the theme song for WXYZ's The Lone Ranger radio show and stuck with the character through his television show and movie appearances.  It's said that George W. Trendle, owner of the WXYZ-Detroit radio station, didn't want to spend money on an original theme song so selected the "William Tell Overture" as it was royalty free in the public domain.  That move tied together the "William Tell Overture" with The Lone Ranger as two things that will always be associated with one another.

My dad loved The Lone Ranger when he was a kid and during my childhood we watched the black and white television reruns together every Sunday morning before going to church.  So I've always had an affinity for the character plus with Bruce Lee as Kato you know I've watched my fair share of The Green Hornet TV episodes as well.  With a retro feel this modern take on these two franchises from Dynamite Entertainment is well worth your time and money to pick up.  Stop by your local comic book shop or order issues of THE LONE RANGER / THE GREEN HORNET directly from

I've been a fan of the offerings of comic book publisher Dynamite for a few years now because they take the popular stories and characters of past generations ranging from early 20th Century works like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, John Carter: Warlord of Mars, Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan to more recent fare from the 70s such as The Six Million Dollar Man and Battlestar Galactiva portraying them in updated adventures for modern audiences to enjoy while maintaining many of their classic elements. Dynamite Entertainment gets A Geek Daddy nod of approval for THE LONE RANGER / THE GREEN HORNET because it reintroduces the Green Hornet the way the character was originally meant to be portrayed through a well done comic book that pays homage to two of America's first masked super heroes.

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