Race & Fandom Roundup: Kato Steps Out, Green Lantern Casting, Maggie Q & Dwayne McDuffie

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

Kato1

Thanks to Racialicious reader Tomas for tipping us off to this: this May, Dynamite Entertainment’s Green Hornet comic-book line will focus on the titular hero’s companion in Kato: Way Of The Ninja. The Kato character has been part of Hornet canon since the character’s beginnings in the radio era, but his most memorable incarnation came in the 1960s, when he was played by Bruce Lee. Even there, though, Lee’s character had to play second banana. Ninja writer Jai Nitz told Newsarama that in the comics, Kato is played more as the Hornet’s equal, and this particular mini-series will take him places the Hornet can’t go.

Nitz also said the story will focus on Kato’s somewhat-forced racial ambiguity:

The first actor to play Kato on the Green Hornet radio program was a Japanese actor named Raymond Hayashi, and Kato was explicitly referred to as “Japanese”. Then Kato was ambiguously changed to Filipino as American/Japanese relations deteriorated in the face of World War II (remember, Pearl Harbor wasn’t the first blow struck in the escalation to WWII, it was the last). Then after Pearl Harbor Kato was explicitly Filipino (and you have to remember the closeness of the Philippines and the US at the time to understand why). Whew. All that said, [Green Hornet: Year One writer] Matt Wagner sets Kato as a Japanese soldier that becomes disillusioned with how the Japanese conduct themselves during the war with mainland China. But, like the real-life radio dilemma, Kato hides his identity, in our story as Korean, when he and [the Green Hornet] return to the States due to the tensions with Japan.

Hornetcover1Nitz’s explanation is mostly correct; technically there were a couple of years during the radio program’s run when Kato’s nationality simply wasn’t mentioned, before he was identified as Filipino.

Ninja is one of four Hornet books Dynamite will publish this year; another Kato series, written by Ande Parks with art by Ale Garza, will join Warner’s Year One and another Hornet title written by Kevin Smith. Smith’s series is set in the present-day, with a new Hornet and a new female Kato – the daughter of the original. The comic onslaught, of course, is designed to capitalize on the upcoming Green Hornet film, where Jay Chou will don the mask and chauffeur outfit.
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Morrison1
Good news from the Green Lantern set: Green and yellow won’t be the only colors we see on screen. This week it was announced that two Kiwis were joining the cast: Temuera Morrison, aka Jango Fett, will play extraterrestrial Abin Sur. In GL canon, Abin crash-lands on Earth and, just before dying, bequeaths his ring to fighter jock Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds). Also in the cast is Taika Waititi, presumably as Tom Kalmaku, an Inuit character and Jordan’s best friend.

Waititi1Assuming this film does well – and that’s pretty much a duh at this point – and we’re really lucky, DC Entertainment’s powers-that-be will get with the 21st century and give us a silver-screen version of the Lantern who rocked in the critically-acclaimed Justice League cartoons: John Stewart. Speaking of which, let’s get your opinion in the comments section: who’d you like to see play John?
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maggieq1
So close, yet so far: for awhile, it was rumored that Hawaiian-born Hong Kong star Maggie Q had been tapped to play the newest incarnation of Luc Besson’s Nikita. And hey, better her than another listless Bridget Fonda type, right?

fonseca1As ever, Hollywood would beg to differ. According to IO9, Maggie will not be playing the protagonist, but her predecessor gone rogue. The “real” Nikita will instead be played by Lyndsy Fonseca.

This is sad on two levels: not only do we not get an Asian-American actress in a strong lead role, but listen to the in-canon reasoning for why Fonseca’s character will be picked for the job. According to the article:

She’s recruited because she’s an “attractive, young, white female with virtually no personal ties or paper trail,” which is an ideal profile for this sort of work.

Wow, privilege as a job requirement. At least they’re up front about it.
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milestone1And on a purely self-promotional note, I encourage our readers who are fans of Dwayne McDuffie to give a listen to last week’s episode of Hour 42, a superhero-centric podcast I co-produce and co-host, as we interviewed DMD for 53 minutes about his most recent products (Milestone Forever and Crisis On Two Earths); the storytelling trope known as putting characters in the fridge, and his work on a comic book starring Prince (?!). The interview starts about 20 minutes into the show. Hope you enjoy it!