Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your comic book series, The Butcher of Paris, through Dark Horse Comics! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you share with us about the premise of this series?
Stephanie Phillips: Thank you so much! Our entire team is really excited to be working with Dark Horse on this project. The Butcher of Paris is based on the real-life story of a serial killer in Nazi-occupied Paris. Marcel Petiot was dubbed “the butcher of Paris” for killing an estimated 60-200 victims during the occupation. Our story follows a French detective and his son as they race the Gestapo to solve the crime and find the killer while simultaneously butting heads with the occupied forces.
BD: What can you tell us about the inspiration behind this true-crime series, and what (or who) were some of your creative influences?
SP: I have always wanted to work with true crime, but the biggest deterrent was the fear that the story is seen as a glorification or celebration of these crimes. I think there’s a really fine balance you have to find as a writer working in true crime. In an intro to The Stranger Beside Me, a book about serial killer Ted Bundy by Ann Rule, Rule talks about this balance and how the focus of true crime should be on the victims and never losing sight of them while working on the story. While Petiot is certainly present in this story, the true focus of Butcher is on a city under occupied rule and the many men, women, and children murdered by Petiot.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in working with artist Dean Kotz, colorist Jason Wordie, letterer Troy Peteri, and cover artist Dave Johnson in bringing this story to life?
SP: Seamless! This is sincerely a “dream team.” From the covers to the interiors, Dean, Jason, Troy, and Dave are truly creating a work of art that elevates anything I am writing. I don’t know how I lucked out by getting these guys, but their work is better than anything I could have imagined in my mind.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from the series?
SP: At times, this story has been really difficult to write. When you spend years researching a story that is about a serial killer surrounded by the worst serial killers the world has ever seen, it takes a bit of a toll. For that reason, however, I really felt like the story was worth telling. It’s an angle to WWII that I think paints a more individualized image of the horrors of the War that you can’t get by simply listing facts and figures about the casualties of the conflict. If we do break down some of those numbers, we are talking about a war that saw the death of six million Jews. Beginning in 1942 in Paris, over 13,000 French Jews were forcibly collected and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. In total, 85 million people were lost to war and genocide. But, these casualties are not just numbers. When the world becomes desensitization to such death because the horrors of war are on every street corner, I think we lose a lot of the empathy that makes us human and helps us connect to one another. By telling a story about one aspect of the war, in one city under Nazi occupation, I hope to show a closer view – a more personal view – of what happens when we lose empathy or, even worse, become complicit in such horrors.
BD: What makes Dark Horse the perfect home for The Butcher of Paris?
SP: Dark Horse was the ideal home for this book before we ever discussed the possibility with them directly. They have been very open to the direction of the story and have been nothing but supportive of the entire art team. It has also been personally great to work with editor Randy Stradley. Getting to work with someone with such extensive experience in the industry has really helped me as a writer and really helped shape the story, as well.
BD: Are there any additional projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
SP: Yes! I am working on a creator-owned project with Top Cow/Image Comics called A Man Among Ye with artist Craig Cermak. The story is about notorious female pirates and takes place at the end of the golden era of piracy. I am working on about four creator-owned projects for 2020, but nothing else that I can share yet! Secrets… grr….
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about The Butcher of Paris?
SP: There is a more academic approach to Marcel Petiot’s crimes written by Thomas Maeder. The Unspeakable Crimes of Dr. Petiot presents a lot of facts and research that help paint a complete portrait of Petiot.