- Hotell is one of the best horror series of the year. What led to its creation?
John Lees: Hotell was an interesting case for me, as it was my first experience of essentially pitching on spec directly to a publisher. In the past, I’ve come up with pitches, then began the process of taking them to various publishers and hoping they’d bite. But back in 2018 on the week of New York Comic Con, I met up with Axel Alonso for lunch, and he told me about how he liked my other work, and how he was launching a new publisher and would like me to be a part of it. He looked at all my active pitches I had at the time, and none of them suited what he was looking for. But then he asked if I’d develop some new pitches specifically for AWA Studios. And so, with Hotell, I developed something that I thought was tailor-made to appeal to Axel and what he was looking for, based on our discussions, as well as also working in various elements that I myself had been itching to do in a comic, such as crafting an old school horror portmanteau.
- Family seems to be one of the series’ reoccurring themes. Throughout Hotell, one is exposed to both functional and dysfunctional family dynamics. Why go this route?
John Lees: I hadn’t actually consciously occurred to me that family was such a major recurring theme in Hotell, but now that I think about it, you’re right! I guess it’s just that, when writing horror (or any genre really), I like to ground things as much as I can in human emotion. And some of the strongest human emotion comes from family connections: parents and children, husband and wife, sister and sister.
- The series consists of interlocking stories. Did you come up with the overall narrative at once or did you think of the individual stories first and then find a way to weave them together?
John Lees: The original idea was the framing device of the weekend of the eclipse, and that we’d see the events of that weekend play out from the perspective of the occupants of each of the four rooms in the Pierrot Courts hotel. And from there, I took to fleshing out what the individual stories in those rooms might be.
- Hotell is an excellent throw-back to vintage horror shows and anthology comics such as Creepshow and Eerie. The series even boasts its own host in the form of Jack Lynch. What was behind the decision to include him? And is his surname a nod to David Lynch?
John Lees: You can bet that was a David Lynch nod! I’ll slip in a tribute to the master wherever I can! And yeah, the decision with Jack Lynch was very much in line with wanting to give the series its own “host” in the vein of the Crypt Keeper. But Jack is different, not just in his more mournful, conflicted, remorseful demeanor, but in the fact that he is not just our narrator, but at times also an active participant in the stories. It’s a dynamic that I feel would be quite interesting to further explore going forward.
- Although the comics appear to take place in the modern world, the sun-bleached aesthetic recalls films from the 70s and early 80s. Was this deliberate?
John Lees: I think that’s largely down to these old roadside motels being kinda timeless in that sense. A lot of these places haven’t been refurbished in decades, and so staying in them is like stepping into an America of several decades past.
- The ending of the series was definitely left open. Will you be revisiting Pierrot Courts Hotel in the future? Can we expect more stories set there?
John Lees: I know I’d love to revisit Pierrot Courts! There are certainly questions left unresolved, threads left dangling. I mean, just what was that glowing green light coming from the hole underneath the hotel floor? I’ve talked to Dalibor, and we’ve batted back and forth some very loose ideas of where we’d like to go next with the series. But ultimately, that’s going to depend on the readers. I believe AWA have been happy with the performance of the comic in single issues, but the big decider is ultimately going to be how it performs in collected form once the graphic novel is released on October 7th. So, if you want to see more Hotell, tell people to pick up a copy!
- I once read an article that defined a Burton film as a movie featuring a clownish antagonist who then tries to torment the luckless protagonist in a clownish but sinister manner. You, John, are shaping up to be the Burton of comics. What is it with you and clowns?
John Lees: Honestly, I’m not clown obsessed! Really, I thought that with Sink I had more than enough scary clown fodder to keep me busy. It was actually Axel Alonso, back in that 2018 meeting, who said to me that he loved the clowns in Sink, and asked if I had any other clown stories. Now, my first instinct was “absolutely not.” But then it became a fun challenge. How can I tell a story with clowns that are as different as possible as the clowns from Sink? And so while in Sink, the clowns are these dirty, horrifically scarred psychopaths in a blue van, in Hotell I went somewhere totally different for inspiration, drawing from the tradition of commedia dell’arte and coming up with the figure of Pierrot. Broadly also a clown, but with a very different aesthetic. And of course in this instance, it’s much more about supernatural horror. That’s likely me had my fill of clowns, though! If I ever do another story featuring a clown, it will be about a wholesome children’s entertainer who is a hit at parties and is not scary in the slightest!