“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)
I love Kit Baxter and her attitude which feels much more modern and makes her feel like much more than just another sidekick in peril, (so much so she feels like the actual star of the book) was that intentional or just a fortunate coincidence?
GT: I’ll tell you exactly how that happened. When I was creating the character of the Flying Squirrel for the radio show, I wrote her for a particular actress who I was crazy about, in every sense of the word. So I never wrote her a lousy line or a scene where she was helpless or stupid. Yes, she was of lower class than the Red Panda, and yes he often had knowledge or training that she did not. But she never lacked for courage, determination, brains and a certain delight in ruthlessness that some fellas find very fetching. And before you can ask, yes, it totally worked and the girl in question is now my wife.
It’s funny, but you mention that her attitude seems more modern, and another review said that their relationship feels like “His Girl Friday” with masks, and you know what – you’re both right. She’s totally true to the spirit of the era, but you could never have gotten away with a female character like that on the radio in 1938, or in the comics in 1944. I wanted her to be more partner than Robin or Kato ever were, and a million times more useful than Margo Lane ever was, but still be the kind of girl you’d chew you own left arm for. And yet the kind of quiet repression between them makes the whole relationship quite chaste (which of course really just drives you crazy) She’s unique, and while it’s the two of them together that make the relationship special, she still gets most of the best lines.
You’re not wrong about her feeling like the star of the book, in fact a couple of years ago I made a point of saying in an interview that with the Red Panda Adventures, I had realized we had always been telling Kit’s story all along. Of course, part of the reason I had said that (If you’re planning on listeing to the radio show, you could consider this next line a spoiler) was that I was setting up a big storyline and I wanted listeners to believe that August Fenwick was dead for a while. But the point is, when I said it, it was believeable. The first episode of the radio show was one of Kit’s first adventures as the Flying Squirrel. We enter the story with her. I’m never more proud than when we get a letter from a little girl who wants to be Kit Baxter. (Also – parents listening to audio theatre with their kids: That’s just good parenting!)
GT: We have a lovely Rogues Gallery in the radio series, and I hope for an opportunity to introduce new readers to many of them. I’d love to see what Dean would make of the Mad Monkey.
Are there plans for more issues after this first run and have you been bitten by the comics bug?
GT: We’ve got three issues coming your way, but yes, the response has been so terrific that Dean and I are looking at how we can carry on. I hope that we haven’t seen the last of August and Kit in comics form. In any case, I have really enjoyed writing for comics and I can’t imagine not doing more. I’ve been very pleased how well my other experience has carried over and I hope there are new opportunities ahead.
Finally, MonkeyBrain are carving out a brilliant niche as a digital comics specialist. Are you an iPad user and if so what do you make of it as a medium for reading comics on? And how do you think you fit into the MonkeyBrain family?
Well, not an iPad, I use a Surface RT, which I freaking love, but yes, I think the tablet of your choice is a brilliant way to enjoy comics. I’m really taken with ComiXology‘s Guided View, and I think we’ve only just started to realize the potential there. I don’t know if you picked up the Atomic Robo story that came out of ECCC, but it was an awesome use of the technology. (In all fairness, I would watch Atomic Robo do his taxes for 100 pages. But this one was really good)
You know what’s fabulous about MonkeyBrain? There’s no two of us alike. At all. And maybe that’s the best lesson of all – that we’re headed for a world where being unique and passionate about it is the key to success. Wouldn’t that be grand?