Hello, Sweeties! It’s your Poor Man’s Lois Lane, Anna T. Rexia! Today I’m interviewing the masterminds behind The Panel Jumper, a “web series that goes all the way to the rivets to examine the details of comic book history and lore” that is also staging its fourth live show on Friday, April 14th! (Snag tickets HERE!!!) I’m sitting on the laps of host/writer/producer Cole Hornaday and director/co-producer Ben Laurance, hoping to glean some geeky goodness from them!
Anna T. Rexia: Hello, Sweeties, and welcome to my spaceship! I was just changing into some latex body paint, but don’t let that distract you -although I may need your help painting on the cape! So, tell me the origin story of how you met and created your web series.
Cole Hornaday: It’s funny: Ben and I were just recently talking about how this whole project came together. We remember bits differently, but essentially Ben and I have been friends since we worked together on their Annex Theatre’s Team of Heroes trilogy. About three years ago he was looking around for a new project and found himself inspired by Alton Brown’s Good Eats. That’s how he pitched the idea to me, “It’s be like Alton Brown’s Good Eats…but with comic books!” I was intrigued, but had no clue how it was going to work. As a theatre person, I believe in the freedom to fail. I’ll give your idea shot…at least once. When I viewed the rough cut of our very first episode, “Muck Men Mania” and saw just how good Ben is with the language of film and all the magical things he brought to it, I knew we had something very special in the making.
Ben Laurance: I liked the way Mr. Brown made food science and history fun and accessible, and he kind of reminded me of my friend Cole here. So I wanted to do my own “Good Eats” style show with Cole. At first it wasn’t about the content, it was about the creative partnership. I’ve always said that if Cole was an expert on tugboats, we’d be doing a show about tugboats right now. But his knowledge of comic books is legendary, so here we are.
Anna: One of your webisodes was about Howard the Duck. I could barely contain myself: he’s so hot because he’s grumpy and yet so not hot because, well, he’s a bird. How does an episode like that come about and how is it executed?
Cole: If you’ve seen “An Odd Duck” you may recall I am pretty frank about my tremendous dislike of the Howard the Duck film. From the onset I knew that Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck comic book had significant (albeit brief) impact on it’s audience at the time. I asked myself how something so significant could go so very, very wrong. I started researching and learned that much about Howard went sideways because Universal, George Lucas and Marvel Comics were deaf to the voice of Howard’s creator. As we say in the episode, “Gerber got the Duck.” I think that’s when Ben and I realized Howard’s was a story about the exploitation of creativity and creators rights.
I tell people that when it comes to my script writing, I hand Ben an 18-page pile of meandering, self-indulgent poop and he hands me back a finely cut diamond. We’re more collaborative on the scriptwriting than he is comfortable admitting, but after years of collaborating with Paul Gude and managing Sketch Fest Seattle he knows how to tickle an audience’s fancy. He makes my ideas stand up and dance.
Ben: Yeah, all of the episode ideas are Cole’s, since he’s the one who has to write the first draft of the script and essentially “dramaturg” the story. I try not to influence the subject matter, because I know the more Cole is passionate about the ideas, the better the episode will be.
One of my primary goals when we started was to make the show interesting and informative to the hard-core comic geek/nerd, but also accessible to the non-comic book reader. Before working on the show, I had read maybe five or six comics in my life, so when Cole hands me the first drafts of the scripts, I go through them to make sure I can understand what’s being said and that they’re not too “inside baseball.”
That’s also one of my favorite parts of our collaborative process: Taking Cole’s wall-of-text and shaping it into a story with a relevant B-plot involving our long-suffering fictional comic book store employee Manager Mike.
Anna: The Panel Jumper Live! is a “comic book-themed cabaret event”. What’s the origin story for taking your web series to the stage?
Cole: We owe the genesis of the live show to the faith, love and support of AJ Epstein and West of Lenin. AJ loves the web series and was kind enough to play roles in several episodes. Two years ago he pitched me the idea of turning what we do on film into a cabaret-style show. The Panel Jumper **LIVE** is a co-production with West of Lenin. AJ gives us access to a space and a support staff we could not afford on our own. Doing the live show turned out to be a multi-layered blessing as we now create a brand-new web episode to screen at the live show. The live show keeps the web series on target.
Ben: Yeah, our Howard the Duck episode was a year in the making because we didn’t have a deadline for its release. Now that we’ve decided to release the episodes during the live show, that hard deadline really kicks our butts into gear to get them completed. And AJ was one of the first people I met when I started doing theater at Annex back in 1999, so I’m really happy to keep that relationship going.
Anna: One of the performers in the live show is going to be “probing the unexamined life of daikaiju performers”. When I first read that I imagined giant radishes with swords that take on the flavor of anything near them. I know: good thing I’m pretty, right? So, please, tell me about this particular performance.
Cole: Thank goodness for the pretty! I believe you’re referring to the newly-commissioned short play written and directed by Andrew Shanks (Annex Theatre’s ACME) called “Man in Suit!” Several months ago I asked Andrew if he would be interested in writing a short play for the live show and he told me of an idea he was playing with about what happens on the set of a giant monster movie. He and I share a love of daikaiju so I was utterly sold. I am really looking forward to seeing it. “Man in Suit” features the acting talents of some of my favorite people: Cody Smith, Dylan Smith, Brent Griffith, Chad Oswald and Samantha Routh.
Anna: What other aspects of the live show would you like to highlight?
Cole: Um..Everything? This is going to be a powerhouse show. The last one sold out and I expect no less this time around. We’ll have music from nerd-rock pioneer, Kirby Krackle aka Kyle Stevens (The dude spent the spring opening for Weird Al for crying out loud!). SketchFest Seattle headliners and Best of Fest trio, Day Job. Our comic book industry guest is cartoonist, illustrator and teacher Tatiana Gill. There will be our regular live recording of The Perfect Bound Podcast. We’ll also have some nerd-tastic burlesque from Ms Cafe Au Lait Ole. But I am particularly excited to share our latest web episode called “Boy Wonder Years.” In 1988 DC Comics took note of their readership’s growing dislike for Batman’s new replacement Robin, Jason Todd. They decided to try some innovative marketing to determine if the new Robin would survive a pivotal altercation with the Joker by giving readers a 1-900# to decide if the new Robin lived or died. The outcome rattled a great many cages. We’re doing a similar take with the web episode itself. We shot two different endings to “Boy Wonder Years” and we’re going to let the live show audience decide if The Panel Jumper’s beloved and beleaguered Manager Mike survives an explosion at the comic shop.
Ben: What I like about the live show is that it’s an opportunity to gather with a bunch of like-minded people and celebrate a common love for comics. Regardless of the state of the world, the end of the show always leaves me feeling really great for the community we’ve built.
Anna: I can speak geek (because I read gay manga) and I know you love to discuss imaginary battles between heroes. Wolverine vs. Batman. Superman vs. Hulk. But, I want to know: who would win if it were Dazzler from the X-men vs. Gypsy from the Detroit Justice League!
Cole: What era and in what costumes? Disco era Dazzler would probably win as not only would she be able to knock out Gypsy with her sound and light powers, she’d also simply blind the woman with that outrageously garish Disco costume. Everything about Dazzler back then was loud. Loud and painful. She hurt anyone with a modicum of good taste. When disco died and the fashion tamed, so did her wardrobe. I realize that’s a mixed blessing as she kind of lost some of her edge… Was that catty enough? I am no good at catty. Anna, you need to teach me better catty.
Ben: I have no idea who these people are.
Anna: Let’s play Fuck, Marry, Kill: comic strip addition! Our comic strip ladies are: Cathy (Ack!), the mom from For Better or For Worse, and Sally Forth! (Readers: play your own version with Dilbert, Garfield’s owner, Jon, and Vibe from the Detroit Justice League!)
Cole: Oooh. Um. Yeesh. I’ll let Ben play…I’d need to buy them all dinner first.
Ben: If I must: Fuck Sally Forth, Marry the mom from For Better or For Worse, Kill Cathy.
Anna: Who do you think is the sexiest comic character ever? (I’m going to speak for our readers and say: Nightwing, duh!)
Cole: Male? Hellboy. Abs and horns and a stone fist. Clobbers monsters. Draw your own conclusions.
Female? Hmmm. That’s a tough one as I actually find the depiction of most women in comics to be ridiculously sexist and a total turn off. However, our upcoming industry guest Tatiana Gill drew a version of Dazzler I find to be very sexy…because she looks like a real person, happy in her own skin. Total turn on.
Ben: Betty Rubble.
Anna: As a comic strip character myself, I’d like to thank you both for your work and ask if there’s any future Panel Jumper plans you’d like to tease?
Cole: You can check out all Ben and I do at thepaneljumper.com. We also have our weekly Perfect Bound Podcast we do with two other well-meaning geeks at the Comics Dungeon in Wallingford. Please give us a listen. Thanks, Anna!!
Ben: Follow us on Facebook to stay up to date with everything we’re doing: facebook.com/thepaneljumper. Our next episode coming sometime in November is about the 1950s Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency.
The Panel Jumper **LIVE** Chapter IVApril 14th at 8PM
Join us for our fourth chapter celebrating the magic of sequential storytelling– comic books! Produced in collaboration with West of Lenin and hosted by Cole Hornaday and Ben Laurance this one-night gala is the only event of its kind in Seattle and not be missed!
Our evening’s stellar line-up includes:
-Nerd-rock pioneer Kyle Stevens, better known as the internationally recognized singer/songwriter Kirby Krackle!
-Director/playwright Andrew Shanks (Ghost Light Theatricals Battle of the Bards XI Winner and author of Annex Theatre’s ACME) offers up a newly commissioned short play probing the unexamined life of daikaiju performers with “MAN IN SUIT!” Featuring the acting talents of Cody Smith, Dylan Smith, Samantha Routh, Chad L. Oswald and Brent Griffith.
-SketchFest Seattle headliners and Best of Fest trio, Day Job share their inimitable brand of physical comedy, heartwarmingly bizarre interactions…and pigeons.
-You’ll also bear witness to a world-premiere screening of an all-new Panel Jumper Episode #005: “Boy Wonder Years” that explores a tragic chapter in the history of Batman and Robin!
-Our very special industry guest Tatiana Gill is a Seattle-based cartoonist, illustrator and teacher whose work delves into feminism, mental health recovery, vulnerability and body positivity while reflecting upon the diversity of women so often underrepresented in the media.
-Take part in a special live recording with the crew of the Perfect Bound Podcast. There will be trivia. There will be loot.
And we’ll close out the evening with a steaming cup of Café au Lait Olé wherein she’ll tarry with tribbles and deliver some light-brewed burlesque guaranteed to take us WHERE NO ONE HAS GONE BEFORE.
THIS SHOW IS RECOMMENDED FOR AUDIENCES 18 AND OLDER..West of Lenin
203 N 36TH ST SEATTLE, WA 98103
Anna T Rexia is the absorbed twin of Craig Trolli, who is acting in a video segment being shown at The Panel Jumper Live! Craig drew the comic strip, “The Adventures of Em’ma Gawd! and Anna Rexia” for three unpaid years and occasionally it pops back up on this very website! They’ve both been reading a lot of gay manga like “False Memories”, “Kiss Him, Not Me”, and “Ten Count”. Anyone know if “Merman in my Tub” is any good?