The Red Panda Adventures

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In the tradition of the great mystery men of radio, pulp fiction and the golden age of comics comes The Red Panda, famed protector of 1930s Toronto! Hiding his true identity as on of the city’s wealthiest men behind a bright red domino mask, The Red Panda dispenses two-fisted pulp justice with strength, courage and eerie hypnotic powers. Joined in his quest by that Famed Fighting Female The Flying Squirrel, this Terrific Twosome holds high the lamp of justice in a dark time!

      1. Red Panda Adventures - Riddle of the Sphinx

Every now and then the Internet yields up an astonishing find that defies all expectations.  The Red Panda Adventures, a series of half-hour podcasts by local writer and actor Gregg Taylor (no relation) is one such find.  Set in pre-war Toronto, it is the eminently entertaining chronicle of a Canadian superhero created in the style of early pulp radio serials.   The original miniseries had six episodes set in the Second World War, with Red Panda fighting assorted evil, Nazi henchmen.  It was intended to be the pilot for a traditional, commercial broadcast effort that never came to pass.  In 2004, Mr. Taylor decided to release them as free podcasts/audio downloads on the site of his indie theatre company, Decoder Ring Theatre.

The response was overwhelming, and in 2005 he retooled Decoder Ring Theatre to focus on producing audio content and not live theatre work.  He wrote and produced a series of all-new Red Panda episodes, set somewhat earlier in Depression-era Toronto (the file I have linked above is the first of this series).  The new Red Panda Adventures were also released free to the public, with a modest request for listener donations if they enjoyed the product.  Four years and some fifty-odd episodes later, Taylor and Decoder Ring Theatre are still releasing Red Panda episodes to the general public.  For free.  This month they celebrated the millionth download of their audio programs.

The pulp adventure format has proved so popular that Mr. Taylor has branched out into Red Panda books and spawned another audio series: Black Jack Justice, noir-ish detective stories set in 1950s Toronto.  Black Jack Justice has also recently fielded its own comic.  Decoder Ring Theatre has grown in popularity to the point where it is hosting other writers’ creations as well, such as Matt Wallace’s Deck Gibson series (kind of an homage to Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon-style space opera).

The truly remarkable thing is that the vast majority of content is freely available.  I’m sure avid listeners donate regularly, and I’d be willing to bet Mr. Taylor has other, commercial “day jobs” to pay the bills, but I am also astounded at the prolific creativity of the man.  If the story of Gregg Taylor and Decoder Ring Theatre tells us anything, is it not that Canadian media producers need millions of dollars to keep feeding us the same old unpopular tropes and localised ripoffs of American shows.  It is that the basic building block of entertainment is, first and foremost, a really good story.  If you have good stories to tell, people will keep coming back for more—and be willing to pay for it.

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