In their comics career, writer Paul Allor has written a strange lineup of characters. Be it nostalgia-stoking stories in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and GI Joe, or the genuinely uplifting work with Marvel’s Hero Project, Allor knows how to get the most story from their characters. Now, though, Allor has a different kind of character in mind: Paul Allor.
As part of a newly-launched Zoop campaign, Allor, alongside artist Juan Romera and editor Claire Napier, is crowdfunding Pink Midnight Presents: The Butterfly House. The first in a series of “weird, one-shot comic books,” this first story follows a man’s journey into said Butterfly House, a kind of “silent descent into one person’s nightmare.” But this project — which is described as “part existential horror story, part allegory” — is deeply personal for Allor as it effectively chronicles their “own discovery of their gender identity.” While it’s an entirely silent comic, this project speaks volumes about existence, identity, and so much more.
Allor was kind enough to answer a few questions about The Butterfly House, including its genesis, working with both Romera and Napier, and what might come next.
The campaign, which as of press time has raised roughly $2,400 of its $4,000 goal, runs through February 15.
AIPT: What was the genesis for this series of one-shots?
Paul Allor: I’ve always loved eerie, slipstream stories — Robert Aickman’s mid-twentieth century shorts, Stephen Graham Jones’ weird horror tales, Twilight Zone episodes — stories that blur genres and often operate on dream logic rather than telling a more literal story. And I’m a huge fan of Juan Romera’s moody black and white art, and his talent for creepy, off-kilter imagery. I knew we could make some amazing comics together.
AIPT: Why lead off with this first story, The Butterfly House?
PA: I considered a lot of different stories for our launch, but once I came up with The Butterfly House, I knew it was the one. It’s a seemingly simple story with incredible depth, one that’s meant to leave the deeply unsettled but somehow still satisfied.
When Claire Napier, our editor, read my script for it, she said her main concern was whether we were setting too high a bar for future stories — which is a fantastic problem to have!
AIPT: How does The Butterfly House set the tone or overall “vibes” for the rest of the series?
PA: In some ways, The Butterfly House is very different from the stories to come — the rest of them won’t be silent, for starters — but in a way, that oddness is a feature, rather than a bug. These stories will all be odd, they’ll all be unique, they’ll all be doing their own thing.
But the majority of these stories will be eerie, they’ll be slipstream, they’ll often be horror-tinged, and they’ll operate on a dream logic, where you may not understand exactly what happened, but it… feels right on an instinctual level. And The Butterfly House definitely delivers on all of those levels.
AIPT: Why opt for a “silent” comic specifically?
PA: Yeah, I’ve been asked this a lot, and the truth is, I never really envisioned this story as anything other than a silent comic.
AIPT: The campaign describes this story as “part allegory for [your] own discovery of their gender identity.” What was it like telling such an intimate/personal story? Does the medium of comics make that story easier or more challenging to tell?
PA: That’s a great question. This story is simultaneously very personal, but also touches on questions of gender identity and self-discovery in an extremely abstract, allegorical way. It leaves an incredibly amount of room for the reader to make their own impressions and come to their own understanding of the story.
AIPT: Juan Romera has such a powerful style. Why was he so vital in telling this story? And how did your collaboration help shape things?
PA: Juan is the cornerstone of Pink Midnight Presents. Like I said, the whole project was largely inspired by looking at his creepy black-and-white art. Pink Midnight Presents also leans very heavily into this layout skills. The scripts are written in a very loose manner, giving Juan an incredibly amount of latitude.
I’ve also worked with Juan on various projects for over a decade, now, so there’s an incredible amount of trust between us, which is a huge help on these weird, offbeat stories.
AIPT: I think this story demonstrates the evocative and transformative powers of horror. What about this genre is so appealing or effective for a deeply personal story like this?
PA: Existence is a terrifying thing, you know? And horror is all about expression real-world terrors in a heightened, sometimes supernatural way. So it allows us to plumb incredibly personal topics from the safe distance the genre fiction provides.
AIPT: Similarly, you worked with editor Claire Napier. What did she bring to The Butterfly House?
PA: Ah, Claire is so fantastic. She has an amazing talent for cutting straight to the heart of the story. She also serves as a reader’s advocate, providing me with a clear-eyed view of how a story will come across, in ways that are often difficult to see when you’re too close to the project.
Every book that we work on, she strengthens through her notes and insight, and this has been no exception.
AIPT: What can we expect from the rest of the series in terms of other stories? How tied together is each individual story/title to the others?
PA: All the stories are totally independent — unless we change our minds about that down the road. But yeah, as of now they don’t tie together at all, other than sharing that eerie, horror-adjacent vibe. It’s really just Juan, Claire and I doing what we want to do, and we know the stories will be good enough that readers will want to come along for the ride.
AIPT: Why should anyone back The Butterfly House?
PA: Because this book is amazing, the whole series is amazing, and you’re going to want to get in on the ground floor! And because we also have some amazing incentives to go around. The enamel pin alone! And the variant cover by watercolor artist Jody Edwards! And Juan’s commissions! Ah, you lucky readers!
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