“She’s totally true to the spirit of the era” Mask of the Red Panda writer Gregg Taylor discusses how to write the perfect female sidekick (and also get the girl)
The idea of a masked crime fighting detective with a teenage sidekick is well established so how do you keep it fresh? And what what do you think the Panda brings to the genre that’s different and new?
GT: Well, first of all, the Flying Squirrel is not actually a teenager. It might seem that way because she isn’t spilling out of her costume and tripping over her own anatomy, but that was a consious choice not to betray an awful lot of listeners, many of them young girls who love Kit Baxter, by turning her into the usual zero-gravity-stripper that comic books still favor. In fact… let’s see, we mentioned in a radio episode that she was sidekick by twenty-one, so at the point in the continuity where Mask of the Red Panda is set, she’d be about twenty-two, I guess. She is of an entirely different class than her Boss though, and that’s a big factor in the relationship between them. Remember, this is the Great Depression. People haven’t yet convinced themselves that they are all middle class. August Fenwick is obscenly rich and Kit Baxter is from a working-class background, at a time where that mattered even more than it does today. That’s the key to their relationship at this point in their story, and the thing that makes it work is the fact that we never forget that this is actually supposed to be an adventure story, and anything that is going to happen is going to be teased out, over a long period of time, in the spaces between battles between good and evil.
I love the magical elements you bring in, are they based on anything or anyone’s writing in particular and why do you think that period has such a strong association with the occult?
GT: Really, for me it goes back to Raiders of the Lost Ark, though now I know of course that Indy was simply drawing on influences of his own. It does feel a little bit like the era where the last of the old magic in the world faded away, to be replaced by the science of man. (In fact, in the Red Panda‘s world, this is exactly what happens, but that is a story for another day) There is still this sense of wonder and the unknown or unknowable in stories of that era, it makes them a joy to enter, both as a writer and as a reader.