I have been a fan of Gregg Taylor and his thrilling throng of thespians over at Decoder Ring Theater since before he even had a proper website. Way way back in the dark times of the early aughts, when he released what’s now called the Red Panda Original Universe series–a very silly throwback to World War 2 propaganda-style radio dramas. It was as if someone poured The Shadow, The Green Hornet, The Lives of Harry Lime, and Hitchiker’s Guide into the same mixing bowl and cranked the speed up to “liquefy.”
This is comedy, I thought. Sharp, smart comedy with a surrealist bent and a fantastic sense of style.
The series ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, and rumors leaked out from time to time that there might be more in the offing.
Then, six years later, the website came alive, with a rebooted (and darker) Red Panda series, along with a hard boiled detective show called Black Jack Justice.
As fun as the original universe Red Panda was, these new shows were better.
And over the years, they got even better. The actors grew, the writing grew, the production grew. I felt lucky to have the Internet every two weeks (then, later, every month (as the production schedule thinned out) when I popped it onto my living room stereo, or my car stereo, and spend an evening with my nearest-and-dearest listening to the newest Decoder Ring Theater episode.
When I left my apartment in Castro Valley for a shitty neighborhood in San Lorenzo, I moved boxes and organized the new studio to the catty arguments between Jack Justice and his partner-in-crimefighting Trixie Dixon. When I got stuck in the back country of New England for two weeks in the middle of an unfolding tragedy, Decoder Ring was my baseline.
Yea, when I walked through the valley of the shadow of the death of my father-in-law, an interstate move, the darkest hours of the Crudrat struggle, and many other dark, dark hours, Gregg was with me. His mask and Fedora, they comforted me.
When the household got a dog last year, we wanted to call her BlackJack–but since she’s a female, we settled on Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective.
Gregg is a peer and colleague who, though I’ve not yet been privileged to meet, has won my deep-rooted respect with his work and work ethic. I would love to work with him, or even near him, someday, if the right project presents itself. But even if I never get the chance, I am lucky to be alive at a time where I can find his work and enjoy his writing–the radio dramas, and the books they’ve spun off, both.
Earlier this year, Black Jack started closing down storylines. I got a sinking feeling. Then, this month, Gregg came on the podcast out of character, as himself, and announced that Black Jack Justice is ending. Christopher Mott, who plays Jack, has been able to parlay the Black Jack role into a rising career, which means a union card, and abandoning independent productions.
So, as of now, Black Jack Justice is no more. I couldn’t imagine a better reason for it to go, but I’m already missing it. And with his actors succeeding, Gregg sounds like he might have one eye on the door that leads into full time novelist or comic writer or filmmaker territory.
Gregg, if you’re reading this, I hope you don’t go–and if you do, please do come back before long. But whatever happens, I hope you and Clarissa, and Andrea and Julie and Chris and Pete and Mike and Steve and Greg Cook and all of the rest of you go from strength to strength, and success to success. You’ve achieved something very, very special, and my life has been the richer for it.