Jay Stephens exposes the mystery of the 'Cryptids'

Last week Jay Stephens, creator of such quirky comic book coolness as "Jetcat" and "Atomic City Tales," announced that "Cryptids" his latest animation property had been optioned. Once again Porchlight entertainment, who animated "Jetcat" for Nickelodeon and "Tutenstein" for a new series on NBC, is the animation house behind the potential new show.

Comics2Film/CBR News had some Q & A with Stephens about his adventures in animation.

C2F: We know the "Cryptids" are the world's most mysterious creatures, but can you tell us more about them?

Jay Stephens (JS): Cryptozoology is the 'study' of unknown animals... a sort of pseudo-pre-zoology, if you will. Cryptozoologists, therefore, are not-quite-scientists who gather evidence and attempt to track and uncover such enigmatic creatures as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. The question remains... are these weird beasts, or 'cryptids', real or imaginary?

Our show centers around the exploits of a group of former cryptids (Okapi, Komodo, and Megamouth) who set off across the globe on a sort of anti-detective mission, hoping to preserve and protect the world's cryptids from exposure.

C2F: How do the "Cryptids" fit into the rest of the Jay Stephens universe? Will there be comics? Will the "Cryptids" show up in "Jetcat Clubhouse?"

JS: "Cryptids" is my first made-for-TV concept, not based on anything I've done in print. It's very similar in tone to my wacky comic book stuff, but it's too early to say what form they might take in print, if and when we make the cartoon show. The option is, of course, the first of many hurdles towards getting a show made.

C2F: What are plans for the development of the show? Will there be a pilot first? A test animation? Or is Porchlight going straight to series?

JS: This is all yet to be determined. The show is already being developed by myself and Porchlight, but we need a network to be interested before the other details will fall into place. Normally, a pilot would be done first. We got lucky with "Tutenstein" by getting a full order for 26 episodes.

C2F: What level of creative involvement will you have in the show?

JS: So far, it's pretty much all me. Television is a decidedly collaborative medium, though, so I'm expecting to pull in lots of other creative hands at a later date. I've already been in contact with some of my comic book/ animation writer pals about scripts. My producer, Fred Schaefer, who co-wrote the "Jetcat" episodes with me, is great to brainstorm with, I should add.

Stephens' character Tutenstein has long been in development as an animated kids' show. It was originally set up with Discovery Channel as part of their Discovery Kids animation block. That programming block has subsequently been purchased by NBC for Saturday morning viewing. The "Tutenstein" animated show was due on the air this June 14th.

C2F: When will we see the "Tutenstein" show?

JS: It's been pushed back to late summer/ early fall 2003. But it'll be this year, for sure! (touch wood)

C2F: What kind of creative involvement have you had with it?

JS: Again, I was most active in the development stage, doing scores of design work and putting together the series bible and pilot script ideas. Now that we've got a head writer and scriptwriting team, creative director and art staff all set up at the Burbank production studio, I've moved into my Creative Consultant role. I'm overseeing the production alongside Porchlight.

C2F: How do you feel about the "Tutenstein" episodes you've seen?

JS: I've seen animatics (storyboard stills timed and set to final dialogue recordings) for the first eight episodes, and they look great. Some episodes work better than others, of course... we're still finding our footing... but I'm pleased overall, and in love with a few of them. The voice casting is great, and I'm especially happy with the voices for Tutenstein and Cleo. If the final animation lives up to even half of the gorgeous design work Fil Barlowe's been overseeing, it'll kick eyeball!

Stephens' flagship character Jetcat previously appeared in animated shorts as part of Nickelodeon's anthology show 'Kablam!' Sadly, only a few Jetcat shorts were aired before the show was canceled.

C2F: What about "Jetcat?" With shows like "Powerpuff Girls" and "Kim Possible" attaining such popularity, how is it that the powers that be have overlooked "Jetcat?" Any plans to develop new TV shows or movies around this character?

JS: You're telling me! And Jetcat PREDATES the "Powerpuffs!" Nevermind. We've continued to garner interest in the "Jetcat/Oddville" stuff from other networks since the "Kablam!" show got cancelled, but nothing solid has materialized yet.

Jetcat will be returning in the new weekly "Welcome to... Oddville!" comic strip in The Toronto Star starting March 20th, and the Scholastic book club edition of Jetcat Clubhouse is out this month, so Jetcat is poised to reach a new, larger audience. It certainly won't hurt our chances at getting her back on TV.

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