First, they’re not really superheroes. As mortals, they rely on cunning, logic, and detective work to solve crimes.
Second, they each have younger sidekicks. Batman has Robin. The Green Hornet has Kato.
Third, their alter egos of Bruce Wayne and Britt Reid enjoy extreme wealth, thanks to family fortune. The Reid fortune began with a silver mine once owned by Britt Reid’s great-uncle, John Reid. His alter ego is the Lone Ranger. The Wayne portfolio grew from the success of Bruce Wayne’s parents, Dr. Thomas and Mrs. Wayne. Wealth allows Bruce and Britt to buy or invent high-tech gadgets, weapons, and cars. The Green Hornet drives the Black Beauty. Batman drives the Batmobile, of course.
Fourth, Batman and the Green Hornet had television series in the 1960s built around their characters. Both shows shared the same producers.
Batman had several elements unique to it.
Visual: Batman used a pop art look, slanted camera angles, and and a reinforcement of the character’s visual roots in the comic book medium with bright colors and words on screen during fight scenes, for example, “Wham!”
Cameos: Batman had a gimmick of a celebrity opening a window while the Dynamic Duo scaled a building, for example, Sammy Davis, Jr.
Story structure: Batman used a formula in its two-part stories. The first part ended with a cliffhanger and the narrator teasing the audience to tune in tomorrow…same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
The Green Hornet, however, functioned primarily has a straightforward detective show. Updated for the 1960s, Britt Reid owned a television station, DSTV, in addition to the newspaper The Daily Sentinel, a hallmark of the character’s roots in 1930s radio. Reid’s wealth, status, and power allowed him to investigate crimes without arousing suspicion, later busting criminals as the Green Hornet. After Batman debuted to great success in January of 1966, William Dozier capitalized on the Caped Crusaders’ popularity by also producing The Green Hornet. It debuted on Friday, September 9, 1966 at 7:30 p.m. on ABC.
The scheduling was logical because Batman occupied the same time slot on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Because it was straight rather than camp, The Green Hornet lacked the quirkiness, novelty, and appeal of Batman. This creative decision was no accident. On the early 1990s southern California public access television show Welcome To Hal-Land, Van Williams told host Hal Lifson about paying tribute to the Green Hornet’s origins on radio. Williams said, “I told Dozier before I ever did the show, it was going to be straight. It wasn’t going to be the whip-wham-bam-zam that they did with the other thing. The Green Hornet was a successful radio show. We really had to follow that format.”
Like its radio version, The Green Hornet villains were based in political corruption, graft, and business. There were no villains with outrageous costumes, names, and behavior. Britt Reid’s metropolis would not be soiled with the likes of Catwoman, Siren, Louie the Lilac, Bookworm, the Joker, the Penguin, or the Riddler. Another difference is the pop culture element that ran through Batman. It’s difficult to imagine the Green Hornet surfing or parodying the latest dance craze with the Batusi.
There was a crossover between the two shows. In the Batman episodes A Piece of the Action and Batman’s Satisfaction, the Green Hornet and Kato visit Gotham City to apprehend Colonel Gumm, a goal shared by Batman and Robin. Somehow, the Green Hornet and Kato seemed plausible in Batman’s Gotham City. If Batman and Robin appeared in the Green Hornet’s tough, gritty, and unnamed metropolis, it might have seemed silly.
Bruce Lee played Kato just a few years before he skyrocketed to worldwide fame as a martial arts master. Legend dictates that Bruce Lee ordered a fight scene between Kato and Robin be rewritten. Apparently, he didn’t agree with the original outcome of Robin defeating Kato. Ultimately, the scene that appeared in the show resulted in a draw between the two sidekicks.
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