An interview with the creator of Witch Doctor!
Brandon Seifert has had a busy month. While the creator's been a bit quiet since the debut of his critically acclaimed Witch Doctor miniseries last year, Seifert re-exploded onto the scene this month, releasing three comics. We sat down with the creator to discuss some of his newest work.
The Outhouse: The last time you stopped by for an interview, Witch Doctor, your first widely distributed work in the industry, was getting ready to make its debut. How do you feel that you've grown over the last year and a half?
Brandon Seifert: Man, that’s hard to even sum up!
Witch Doctor Vol. 1 wasn’t just my first work in the industry, it was really my first comics work. Before Witch Doctor #0 came out through Skybound in May 2010, I’d written two self-published Witch Doctor short stories that my collaborator Lukas Ketner drew. One was 16 pages, and the other was eight pages. That was really my only experience writing comics before we got picked up by Skybound. So the first Witch Doctor miniseries was basically me figuring out how to write comics. First I had to figure out how to write a 22 page story, and then how to write a miniseries. I’m a way better, more seasoned writer now — but I’m sure I’ll be even better and more seasoned by this time in 2013!
OH: If there was one thing that you could tell "2011 Brandon" to do differently, what would it be?
BS: Man, there’s lots of things!
When we were working on the first Witch Doctor miniseries, it was a gigantic learning curve. I was also working four days a week as a security guard, and frequently dealing with email and production tasks on my lunch breaks. Pretty early on I made the decision that until the first miniseries was done and on the stands, I was only going to concentrate on getting it done — I wasn’t going to pick up any additional projects. I didn’t want to split my focus, because I felt that’s what my first project deserved.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it was going to be a full year between when the first Witch Doctor miniseries ended and when Witch Doctor: Mal Practice began! So the downside of that kind of narrow-minded focus on what was right in front of me meant that I only had one single comic (Hellraiser Annual #1) come out during the first three quarters of 2012 with my name on it. If I had the opportunity to go back in time to last year and tell myself to do something different, I would tell him to put some other irons in the fire!
OH: So you have three comics coming out over the next few weeks. First, let's talk about your new digital comic Spirit of the Law. What's the general premise of Spirit of the Law?
BS: We’ve all seen plenty of superhero origins. Spirit of the Law is an origin, but from the villain’s point of view.
Or, to be more accurate, the Spirit of the Law isn’t a superhero, she’s a pulp heroine. And our protagonist isn’t a “villain” — his name is Sammy Workman, and he’s a blue collar syndicate hitman back in the Great Depression. After an ordinary “day at work,” Sammy and his coworkers find themselves hunted down — by the woman they thought they killed. As she butchers them one by one, it’s up to Sammy to figure out who it actually was that they killed, and how it is she’s come back for them — before it’s his turn to die. Spirit of the Law is a noir/pulp mashup, with a horror edge.
My co-creator Michael Montenat and I did Spirit of the Law as a two-parter. The two issues are each $0.99, and available exclusively through comiXology.
OH: Since Spirit of the Law is only a short two issue miniseries, do you have any additional stories planned for the character?
BS: That’s the hope, yeah! Michael Montenat — my artist on Spirit of the Law — and I were looking for a short story to do for MonkeyBrain Comics, to kind of test the waters. We ended up having a great time working on the story, and we want to do more work together. And SotL is definitely open for further stories — although as in the first two-parter, the Spirit of the Law herself is unlikely to be the actual protagonist in them.
OH: Spirit of the Law is being published by Monkeybrain Comics. How's working for digital publisher like Monkeybrain different than working for a publisher like IDW or Image?
BS: It’s honestly completely different. MonkeyBrain so far has been almost entirely frictionless. Releasing comics through MonkeyBrain is a matter of creators teaming up, producing the work and turning it in — and then having their comics go on sale in as short a time as two weeks after the files are completed and turned in. There’s all kinds of standard comics industry stuff you don’t have to deal with, from pitching ideas to editorial deadlines to promoting a series ahead of time to encourage Diamond orders from retailers, to sell-outs and second-printings. I love print comics and I’d never want to stop working in them, but it’s been really refreshing to work in such a streamlined process.
OH: You also have a new Hellraiser miniseries coming out. What's the general plot of Hellraiser: The Road Below? How familiar do readers have to be with the Hellraiser movies/franchises and does it tie into any of the other comics?
BS: It certainly helps to have seen the first Hellraiser movie before you read The Road Below, but I don’t think it’s completely necessary. As far as the comics go, all you need to know with The Road Below is that in the current Hellraiser ongoing series, the Pinhead from the movies has stepped down, and been replaced by Kirsty Cotton — the “final girl” from the Hellraiser films.
Hellraiser: The Road Below is a “year one” story for Kirsty, set shortly after she became the new Pinhead. She gets summoned to Earth by a woman named Rhea Wolfe, who wants to use Kirsty as a weapon in a blood feud between her family and a family called the Neithercoates. But the Wolfes and the Neithercoates aren’t entirely human, and Kirsty really quickly gets in over her head — just like everyone else in the story!
Basically, my idea was do to a self-contained story, the equivalent of one of the Hellraiser movies — except with Kirsty in the role of Pinhead.
OH: If I'm not mistaken, this is your first foray into work-for-hire stuff. What's it been like coordinating the Hellraiser property with BOOM’s editors?
Honestly, even though there’s more story-related stuff to coordinate for Hellraiser, there’s way less coordination involved than working on Witch Doctor. For Witch Doctor, there’s a lot more stuff that I’m involved in — giving notes on thumbnails, B&W pages, colors and letters, stuff like that. With Hellraiser, that stuff is much more streamlined — a lot of decisions get made on the editorial end or by Clive Barker and his people that never come to me. So there’s more freedom on Witch Doctor — but more freedom also means more work.
OH: Finally, let's talk about Witch Doctor. Dr. Morrow's back for a brand new six-part miniseries beginning later this month. What's Dr. Morrow been up since The Resuscitation one-shot? What sort of adventures will he find himself in over the course of Witch Doctor: Mal Practice?
BS: Honestly, Witch Doctor: Mal Practice picks up only a week or two after the events of Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation. So Doc Morrow hasn’t had time to do much more than treat some more supernatural diseases — and think about Catrina Macabrey, the necromancer pathologist he met in The Resuscitation.
The first Witch Doctor miniseries was a set of mostly self-contained stories. Mal Practice, on the other hand, is a six-issue story arc. It starts with Doc Morrow going to a bar to relax after a day at the office — and then he meets a girl, and wakes up the next day with a big hickey on his neck and no memory of anything that happened! Because of the apocalyptic stuff Morrow’s involved in, this is a way worse situation than it would be for most of us. It kicks off the worst 36 hours of Morrow’s life, which we’ll see unfold over the course of the miniseries.
OH: Dr. Morrow's been conspicuously absent from comic stores since last December. Are you afraid that the ten month delay between The Resuscitation One-Shot and Mal Practice will affect your readership or sales?
BS: Well, the first issue’s sales numbers are in — and they’re exactly the same as our order numbers for issues #2-4 of the first Witch Doctor miniseries, and up from the orders on The Resuscitation! So, it’s good to see the orders are steady despite our year off the shelves.
As for readership, if anything there are way more people into Witch Doctor now than there were when the first miniseries was out last year — because of the Witch Doctor, Vol. 1: Under The Knife trade, which has sold really well!
OH: Are there any other Witch Doctor stories planned? Is an ongoing series in Witch Doctor's future?
BS: Lukas and I would both love to do an ongoing Witch Doctor series. But right now, that’s physically impossible, just for the simple fact that Lukas can’t draw at that speed. Lukas is a great artist, but he’s not fast enough for a monthly series — or even a bimonthly series. So if we did Witch Doctor as a monthly ongoing, we’d have to get other artists involved.
OH: Do you have any other projects coming up besides these three?
BS: I sure do!
I wrote issues #3 and #4 of the Doctor Who comic from IDW. Issue #3 should be coming out the first or second week of December, with #4 following a few weeks later. My story is a Doctor/Rory time travel road trip buddy comedy. The story’s drawn by the amazing Philip Bond, who I think is a perfect fit for Doctor Who.
Also, BOOM! recently announced that Clive Barker and I will be co-writing Hellraiser: The Dark Watch, the relaunch of the ongoing Hellraiser comic series. That’s coming in February, and picks up where the current ongoing series wraps up.
Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #1 hits stores next week. Spirit of the Law #1 & #2 are both available now through Comixology. Hellraiser: The Spirit Below #1 is also in stores now.