Friday, June 14, 2019

The Green Hornet Newspaper Strip

Bert Whitman
In 1939, George W. Trendle proposed a Green Hornet newspaper strip to help cross-promote both the Universal Studios cliffhanger serials and he radio program. A minor attempt was made involving proposed art work but the idea fell through.

In 1940, Henry M. Snevily, general manager of The Bell Syndicate, Inc. in New York City, proposed the syndication of a strip for newspapers across the country. The Green Hornet, Inc. (Trendle) had been looking for some time for an artist who could picture the radio program to his satisfaction for a newspaper strip. Since Snevily proposed the idea and would front any artist fees, Trendle did not see a reason why he should reject the offer. The Lone Ranger had already succeeded in the newspapers. Trendle insisted that he oversee every detail of the conception art for The Green Hornet, as well as final approval of the art work. Dissatisfied with the initial conception art, Trendle explained that the Hornet should not be wearing a mask similar to The Lone Ranger, which covered the eyes and not the mouth. (Yes, that's how they initially conceived The Green Hornet would look like in the comics!)

Bert Whitman, a 17 year newspaper veteran, was ultimately hired after submitting a number of conceptions that pleased Trendle. Whitman’s first job was with the Chicago Herald Examiner as art office boy. He graduated to one-column cut artist. Later he worked on the Los Angeles Times. In Detroit, he spent four years as a sports cartoonist for The Mirror. When that paper folded, Whitman joined the Detroit News as a staff artist where he served for five years as a sports and editorial cartoonist. He left to join the Western Newspaper Union in Chicago as chief editorial cartoonist, his work then appearing in more than 2,000 newspapers via syndication. He resigned to go with a Cincinnati paper and, after a brief stay there, went to New York and was with Ken magazine until it suspended publication. While with Ken his editorial cartoons were picked up by British and European newspapers. 

The intention for The Green Hornet newspaper strip was to feature the cartoon six times a week (not Sundays) with each episode running from four to six weeks. Twenty-four daily strips, enough for four weeks release, were initially created so newspapers across the country could get an idea of the action depicted and determine whether to carry the strip. If enough newspapers bought it, the strip would be produced beyond the 24 strips. Fran Striker wrote the plot and the entire proposal was submitted in the form of a press book for Trendle's approval. Trendle disliked the artwork and the story, forcing the strip to cease production.

As an early Christmas gift to you, enclosed are the 24 comic strips that were created and proposed but never went to press. This was one of the few things my co-author, Terry Salomonson, and myself had regrets. We wanted to include these in our 800 page book about The Green Hornet, but the printers assured us that if the book was bigger, they could not guarantee the binding. So we had to trim 1,200 pages down to 800. (The same happened with The Shadow -- you have no idea how much more material has gone unpublished. Hopefully this blog, over the coming years, will help supplement what never went to print.)

The newspaper strip never came to be, but Whitman’s efforts were not in vain. His art ultimately found a home in the six Helnit comic books. But not the art you see above. Keep on buzzing!


Bob said...

Very cool... I had skipped this blog post back in the day, but rediscovered it and finally looked at all the strips. I don't remember the radio show using the gimmick of the Hornet using a hypodermic to wake up a gas gun victim. But I don't think I've listened to half the episodes that you have!

Delmo said...

Did Striker and/or Trendle have anything to do with the GH comic book?

Ger Apeldoorn said...

So how that this relate to the Simon and Kirby Green Hornet comic book story? I believe I have even seen a Joe Simon Green Hornet try-out strip in pencil somewhere...

Dennis said...

Trendle must have been a strange one. I can understand him being protective of his properties, and not wanting them to be represented through what he might consider substandard work, not up to the quality he demanded of the radio dramas. Yet how was Bert Whitman's 4-week trial continuity for the newspaper strip rejected, yet Trendle considered it okay to use him as the artist for Helnit's comic books? Even worse is Trendle's picayune rejection of the first sample strip shown above (the artwork certainly could have been fixed with minor corrections) due to the Hornet's mask not being as Trendle envisioned it (ironically, very close to what they wound up using on the 1967 TV series). Furthermore, the artwork seen in the first sample appears far superior to what Bert Whitman was apparently capable of. Any idea who the artist was?

Daniel said...

Thank you for presenting the comic strips. It is understandable that all material cannot be included in a 800 page book. It would be great to see second volumes for The Shadow, The Green Hornet, and Have Gun-Will Travel.

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