Interview: Stephanie Phillips on Dark Horse’s The Butcher of Paris

The Butcher of Paris #1

The Butcher of Paris #1

Readers know Stephanie Phillips as the writer of Kicking Ice, Devil Within, and Descendent. Now she turns her attention to the story of serial killer Marcel Petiot in Dark Horse’s The Butcher of Paris. Phillips recently shared more about this intriguing story with Westfield’s Roger Ash.

Westfield: Why did you decide to tell this story?

Stephanie Phillips: When I learned about Marcel Petiot, I knew the story needed to be told. You can read details about the case online, but there is something I think case notes miss when simply presenting facts. This story is about a serial killer hunting in a city occupied by Nazis – one of the darkest periods in French history (really, world history writ large). This case is about so much more than a serial killer, and I think that’s why it stood out to me.

Westfield: How much research did you do for the comic?

Phillips: I spent about a year just researching this case before ever putting pen to paper. I really enjoy researching and definitely went down every rabbit hole I could find.

Westfield: How much of the final story is your invention and how much is history? Is it challenging to strike a balance between the two?

Phillips: The entire team has done our best to keep the information accurate. Of course, there are changes and liberties we have to take given the scope of the story (5 issues) compared to the scope of Petiot’s crimes. Instead of creating a story that is situated completely in facts about the case, then, I really tried to write something that you can’t find in a Wikipedia article. This meant asking a lot of questions about the people living in the occupied city. How did the city respond to Petiot? What was it like for a detective to operate in an occupied city? What happens when people forget how to be empathetic? While the entire creative team has attempted to be as faithful to the historical material as possible, our larger goal was to tell a story that holds a mirror to those who are complicit and provide a reminder about the dangers of silence.

The Butcher of Paris #2

The Butcher of Paris #2

<Westfield: Who are the main characters readers will meet?

Phillips: The story follows Detective Georges-Victor Massu and his son Bernard. Massu is a seasoned French detective struggling with the imposition of the Gestapo while trying to solve the Petiot case. Bernard, a law student, serves as his father’s sounding board. I was really interested in writing about Massu’s struggles with raising his son during some of the most horrific events of human history and what that relationship might look like under the stress of the case and the occupation.

Westfield: You’re working with artist Dean Kotz. What can you say about your collaboration?

Phillips: Seamless, really. Dean is an amazing storyteller and this book looks like a piece of art. Dean was just such an obvious choice for the book and he has made the interiors look better than I could have ever imagined. We were also really lucky to get Jason Wordie on colors and Troy Peteri lettering. Both Jason and Troy are extremely talented and I can’t wait for readers to see what the team has created.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Phillips: Working on this book has meant a lot to me. I am really lucky to have such an amazing creative team working with me on this book, and the support from Dark Horse has been really great.

When I started writing, I really didn’t expect that I would be learning about my own family history in the process. My mother’s side of the family is Jewish and I had relatives in Holland during WWII, as well as serving in the U.S. army. I hope that the story allows everyone the chance to connect with history in the way that I did.


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