I recently had an opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Paul Allor to chat about his upcoming collaboration with Paul Tucker, Hollow Heart.
Here’s what Vault Comics tells us about the book:
‘EL used to be human. Now he’s a jumble of organs in a bio-suit. El is also in tremendous pain and has been for a very long time. Hope arrives in the form of Mateo, a mechanic brought in to work on EL’s suit. Mateo sees EL in a way no one else ever has. And what’s more: Mateo offers EL an escape.
Hollow Heart reunites Tet creators Paul Allor and Paul Tucker for a queer monster love story about the choices we make between giving our loved ones what they want and giving them what we think they need.’
Brendan Allen: I was able to read the first three issues, and I’m seeing a few things here. There are obviously some parallels to be drawn between Hollow Heart and stories like Robocop, Frankenstein, ROM, and Darkman. Themes of transhumanism, alienation, dangerous knowledge, ambition, revenge…
What did you do to separate Hollow Heart from the pack?
Paul Allor: Well, it helps that I’ve never read old-school ROM, just some of the more recent stuff (I’m sorry, don’t tell anyone!) and never seen Darkman, haha.
But yeah, Hollow Heart is definitely tapping into a rich storytelling mine. But, not to sound arrogant, no one else is Paul Allor and Paul Tucker, just as no one else is Paul Verhoeven, Mary Shelley, Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema or Sam Raimi.
So rather than consciously thinking “how are we going to separate ourselves from the pack?” we just focused on telling our story in the best way we could. There’s definitely a difference between playing with the same themes as previous stories and directly nicking the storytelling of previous stories. I don’t think anyone is going to confuse Hollow Heart for a Robocop homage, haha.
Brendan: Fair. I don’t think they will either.
The publisher’s blurb calls it a ‘queer monster love story.’ How important is sexual orientation and identity to Hollow Heart?
Paul: I’m glad you asked about this! Yeah, ‘A queer monster love story’ was the line underneath “Hollow Heart” in our initial pitch doc, so that’s been a big part of this from the start.
But Hollow Heart isn’t primarily a horror story about being queer; it’s a horror story about queer characters. I think there was some misconception early on that this was going to be a book about discrimination against queer people — I think one of the early stories about it started with the line “real love doesn’t discriminate” — but nah, this is a story where everyone is queer, haha. The monsters, the heroes, the villains, everybody. A lot of truly horrible things happen in this book, but there’s no queer discrimination, no sexual violence against LGBTQ folks, no difficult coming out scenes, none of that.
And there’s nothing wrong with stories about being queer, but we also need stories about queer characters where the queerness is a fact about the characters and not the driving force of the whole book, and that’s what Hollow Heart aims to deliver.
Boy, I went off a bit, there. Been waiting for someone to finally ask about this!
Brendan: I realize I have a huge advantage here, having read the first three chapters, so without getting too far into spoiler territory, what’s the big picture here? What are you trying to do with Hollow Heart?
Paul: Wow, that’s a big question, so I’m going to try to limit my answer. We’re exploring empathy; how it can be used as a force for good, but also how it can go horribly wrong.
Brendan: Empathy and boundaries are huge in these opening chapters. That kid Mateo has got to be one of the most empathic characters I’ve read. He goes out of his way from the very first meeting to discover commonality and reach past EL’s appearance and attitude to figure out what the big guy needs. There’s even a scene that touches on affirmative consent. Big, big concepts, and it seems like there’s a lot of room for Mateo to overreach and get himself hurt.
Paul: … mmm hmm. He sure could.
Brendan: I love the character designs. EL’s mech components look at least partly inspired by robots in 50’s and 60’s space serials. The uniforms are simple, utilitarian, and look very much like something that would be worn on a secret weapons base. The colors really emote. Everything about this book is rich and interesting to look at. What’s it like working with Paul Tucker again?
Paul: Oh, it’s absolutely fantastic. Paul and I developed a really great working relationship on Tet. He’s so damn good at pacing, and brilliant at wrenching every bit of emotion out of a moment or a panel or a scene. And yes, his design work on this book is just amazing.
Our editor, Adrian Wassel, also provided some great design notes at a crucial point, that really helped bring EL’s look to life. It’s also been so fantastic seeing folks like Nathan Gooden, Jen Hickman and David Freaking Mack work with Paul’s designs on the variant covers. They’ve just been consistently ridiculously good.
Brendan: Again, I really appreciate your time here today. Before we wrap up, is there anything you’d like to leave the readers with?
Paul: Thank you for ordering, thank you for reading, thank you. I appreciate you.
Hollow Heart drops on February 17, 2021 from Vault Comics’ Nightfall imprint. Story and letters by Paul Allor, with lines, color, and main cover by Paul Tucker. Variant covers available by Nathan Gooden, Jen Hickman, and David ‘Freaking’ Mack.