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Butterfly P.I. – An Interview with the Other Richard Stevens

Peb Casey, Butterfly Detective is the tale of the one honest butterfly in a city of spiders, what would happen if Philip Marlowe mated with a Monarch butterfly. This is Peb's story – or rather, the story of the person who created him.

Tell us a little about yourself, and your background.

I'm 24 and I live in an island state named Tasmania, Australia. I moved from Victoria, Australia about six years ago. My day job is as a Graphic Artist but my more fun jobs are as a Comic Artist, Illustrator, and Animator. I'm currently a year away from finishing my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Tasmania. Drawing has been a passion of mine all my life and I'm always out to improve my skills.

How did you come up with the idea for "Peb Casey – Butterfly Detective"?

Believe it or not - the name "Private Eye Butterfly" just popped into my head one day! There are times where I come up with all sorts of ideas and I always kept a list in one of my sketch books. My major project for university that year was to be a 5 minute animation. I went through my list of story ideas and Private Eye Butterfly (being one of my latest additions to the list at the time) was to be my animation's main character. I felt that it had a lot of potential and started to think about the character and what other characters would be in such a story.

At the time I couldn't think of a name for the Private Eye Butterfly. Casey was originally going to be his first name but I instead referred to him as his abbreviated title PEB. In my notes PEB looked like a unique first name: "Peb". I decided to make Casey his surname and from there on my Private Eye Butterfly was named Peb Casey.

The development of the story then followed.

Obviously you're influenced by noir private eye fiction. Are you influenced more by movies, TV shows, or books? What fiction (from whatever media) has influenced you most?

When you say books, do comic books count? If so then I would say comic books! But out of those three options I would have to say that I am influenced more by movies. I enjoy watching anything with comedy or adventure, or both! TV shows come second but reading novels was a major influence for me. The pity is that I don't give myself enough time to sit and read a good novel.

My greatest influence? Computer games. My favourite game types are RPG, adventure and first person shooters. Lucas Arts adventure games inspired me the most to work on such stories as Peb Casey - Private Eye Butterfly. Grim Fandango being the number one!

Your artwork is very pleasing, and your coloring is amazing. What artists influenced you?

Chuck Jones, Nick Bradshaw, Will Eisner, Bill Tiller, Skottie Young, Jon Sommariva, Jake Parker, Chris Downes, Graeme Base, Mark Bagley and Mohammad Haque. There are others but I lost all of my internet bookmarks!

Why a butterfly, of all things, for a private eye?

It's different.

Outside of Peb himself, whose your favorite character, and why?

A lot of characters have not yet been introduced so they're still in development. At the moment one of my favourites is a big burly Tarantula named Tyrone, who has an anger management [problem]. He's a fun character to write the script around. He can be a timid, over polite and friendly spider who wouldn't hurt a fly. But if someone was to hurt his friends or was to be just down right rude towards them, then Tyrone can be an uncontrollable force of rage. There is one thing however that can control his rage but that will be revealed. In tough situations, Tyrone can be worth having around. But having him around too much can become a bit of a hindrance.

What do you like best about doing this on the web? What do you dislike most about doing it on the Web?

What I like best about doing this on the web is getting the story out to anyone on any part of the globe. I can receive feedback more easily from fans which can help improve my work.

What I dislike most about doing this on the web is the maintenance involved in using a website. Links have to be working properly otherwise people can't read the story. The other issue is that each page looks different on everyone's computer monitor. The other dislike is the big difference between what's on screen and what is printed out. I feel that readers can in some ways connect more with a story if they are holding it in their hands.

Sometimes there is an "alienation" or "minority" theme running through PEB – of a butterfly in a spider city… that makes him quite sympathetic. Is that a deliberate social comment or metaphor, or just incidental to the character?

It is incidental to the character because of his environment and its history, but also metaphorical of my personal issues with moving to Tasmania, Australia. I moved from the busy inner Melbourne city lifestyle to a small county Tasmanian town. The difference in culture and pace of life was difficult to cope with, as well as trying to juggle studies and personal life and trying to plan my future. I projected a lot of my own personal issues through Peb Casey which meant I had a character I could connect with.

I wasn't happy with how life turned out for me. It was nothing like what I had planned. Today things are great and I'm working on the sort of projects that I longed to work on for years. Peb is in a similar situation where he's not receiving the sort of work that he wants, but great things are about to happen for him, and the action he's longed for is not far away from happening.

Do you have an actual ending in mind for PEB, or is the character deliberately kept open-ended? If an ending, how long do you think the storyline will run?

I do have a planned ending for this story, as well as a possible sequel. I'm not sure if a sequel is likely to happen, it really depends on my energy levels when I get close to finishing the current story. Being a Private Detective gives Peb the chance to take on endless amounts of cases, so anything's possible. In regards to how far away an ending is... I really can't make a good guess. Two years perhaps? The story is a bit of an epic through Spider City, other cities and other parts of the surrounding lands, so I'd need to sit down and have a long think about it.

What are your plans for PEB – publish it as a graphic novel, perhaps? What other projects do you have planned?

Definitely as a printed comic. I will be looking at making the first issue when I finish the current chapter. A graphic novel would be further down the pipeline.

A dream project would be to have it as a computer game; where the player gets to search Spider City solving the crimes for themselves.