I was updating my Textbroker account when I came across this interview I did with Brandon Seifert sometime in 2011—before I’d really even launched my career! I’d long lost the original interview back when my old website blew up (RIP my love 😭), so I was thrilled to find that I’d cross-posted it on Textbroker as a sample. I’d like to do more interviews with creatives, so I figured this would be a great way to kick things off!
Nothing makes me happier than knowing that an author read my review of their book… except for an author agreeing to let me interview them. I thought that you had to have some kind of shiny to be able to interview writers, but it’s always been one of my dreams for this little blog. When I asked Witch Doctor writer Brandon Seifert for an email interview, I figured the worst that could happen was he’d tell me sorry, he was too busy, and he would never know I didn’t have said shiny. I pretty much bounced around the house when he said yes.
Brandon is just as cool as his comic. Seriously; he’s a Joss Whedon fan.
This is the part where I’m supposed to say that I sat down with him at a coffee shop or book store or something, but we actually talked on Twitter and Gmail, and I have no way of knowing whether he was sitting (but I was).
HOW DID YOU AND LUKAS COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR WITCH DOCTOR? IN #0, YOU KIND OF HINT THAT IT WAS A SPONTANEOUS THING, BUT DID EITHER OF YOU HAVE THE IDEA FLOATING AROUND IN YOUR HEAD BEFORE YOU DECIDED TO WORK TOGETHER?
I had the basic idea for WITCH DOCTOR — jerk doctor who approaches the supernatural with a clinical eye — back in 2002 or so. I’d been thinking about the “occult doctor” kind of characters in supernatural fiction, and wondered why I’d never seen one played like an actual doctor?
When Lukas and I started talking about doing a comic together back in 2007, I started going through my notes — and I found that idea. I immediately started getting more ideas based on it, but the one that really made it all come together was having all the monsters be based on diseases and real biology. Back in 2002 I’d been thinking that some of the monsters would be based on diseases — but no, that was wrong. They all needed to be.
WHICH CHARACTER DID YOU CREATE FIRST, AND WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED THAT CHARACTER?
Like I said, the first character in the project was Dr. Morrow — but I had Penny Dreadful’s name and ideas for her visuals and stuff before anything else. As far as her inspiration goes, I felt like a doctor protagonist needed a nurse sidekick. Penny isn’t much of a nurse these days, and there’s very little of my original ideas for her still present in her visuals — but much of the core of the character is the same.
OF THE THREE, PENNY IS THE MOST MYSTERIOUS CHARACTER, BUT ALL THREE ARE PRETTY INTRIGUING. (I’M DYING TO KNOW HOW ERIC THE PARAMEDIC GOT MIXED UP IN ALL OF THIS!) WILL WE SEE SOME BACKSTORY ON ANY OF THEM IN THE FOUR-ISSUE MINISERIES?
Of the three main characters, the one we delve into the most in the first miniseries is Penny Dreadful — because like you said, she’s the most mysterious! Early on we’re presenting her pretty much as a cipher, but that changes by the end of the miniseries.
Eric’s also got an interesting backstory, and it’s not what you’d expect. Unfortunately we didn’t end up having room to do more than hint at his past before Morrow. I’m hoping we’ll get to tell the story of how he first met Morrow and Penny soon!
WITCH DOCTOR IS HEAVILY INSPIRED BY PARANORMAL LORE, WITH A TWIST. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CLASSIC MYTHICAL CREATURE?
Oh, man — that’s an awesome question!
Huh. Damn. It’s also not something I’ve got a ready answer for!
I’ve done a whole lot of research into folklore and mythology for this project, so a lot of my favorites are things most people probably haven’t heard of. There’s different folklore traditions in different parts of the world that appear in related cultures under different names and with somewhat different traits. Like in the Caribbean and parts of South America, there’s this kind of witch that takes off her skin at night and turns into a ball of light or fire, and feeds off people’s blood or life energy. They’re called Loogaroo in Haiti, Soucouyants in the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago — and in West Africa, where the idea comes from, they’re called Obayifo. I love those, so I’ll go with that.
IN #0, DR. MORROW ATTEMPTS TO DISSECT VAMPIRES TO SEE IF HE CAN FIND A CURE. WHAT INSPIRED YOUR PARASITIC VAMPIRE?
Honestly, I feel like it was something I came up with back in high school. In high school I was really into role-playing games, but rather than playing them, I mostly came up with new ideas for them and wrote my own supplements. I could swear I came up with some version of a vampire that was basically a corpse animated by a bloodfeeding parasite, pretty much like the WITCH DOCTOR version. The funny thing is, it took me a while into the development of WITCH DOCTOR before I remembered that’s when I first had the idea, it wasn’t some new idea I’d come up with! As far as the direction inspiration, I’m really, really tired of “vampire viruses” in fiction. I wanted to see another infectious take on vampires, without it being a virus.
I WAS CHECKING OUT THE PROMO ART ON THE SITE FROM BEFORE WITCH DOCTOR GOT PICKED UP BY IMAGE/SKYBOUND, AND I HAVE TO SAY, I’M SAD THAT I CAN’T GET MY HANDS ON “FIRST INCISION.” WILL WE EVER SEE THIS STORY OR PIECES OF IT IN THE FUTURE?
Ah, you actually have! WITCH DOCTOR: FIRST INCISION was the first self-published story Lukas and I did together — and when we got picked up by Skybound, we ended up cannibalizing it for WITCH DOCTOR #0. It’s basically the same story as WITCH DOCTOR #0, except the writing and the art isn’t as good, there’s no drama (it’s just the doctor getting his way for 11 pages, and then there’s a fight! I was young and very, very new at fiction writing), and its heavily overwritten! But enough about it worked for us to catch Robert’s eye, so I shouldn’t knock it too hard.
YOUR BIO SAYS THAT YOU’RE A JOURNALIST BY DAY. DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU WERE GOING TO WRITE COMICS, OR DID YOU HAVE ANOTHER PLAN IN MIND?
When I started journalism, I thought that was what I was going to do. But while I like writing articles, I don’t really read magazines or newspapers much — whereas I LOVE comics.
I wanted to write comics back when I was a kid, and when I got into comics again in college that immediately kicked back in. But the comics industry has such a reputation for being hard to get into, I let that discourage me. I didn’t think there was any chance I’d be able to write comics. It wasn’t until I met Lukas and found out he wanted to do comics but needed a portfolio piece, that was when I decided to finally give it a try.
(I’m also no longer a journalist. It didn’t pay the bills — like, any of them. So for the last two years I’ve been a security guard.)
WHICH WRITERS INSPIRE YOU THE MOST?
In comics, Warren Ellis, Matt Fraction, Kieron Gillen. In prose fiction, Douglas Adams, Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman, Charles Stross. In film and TV, Joss Whedon and Stephen Moffat.
WHO DO YOU THINK WOULD BE MOST LIKELY TO WIN IN A FIGHT AGAINST LOOGAROO/SOUCOUYANT/OBAYIFO — VINCENT, ERIC, OR PENNY?
Ha! Well, since we’ve got plans to include the Loogaroo/Soucouyant/Obayifo in future stories, that would be telling. (But generally, it’s a good idea to bet on Penny.)
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING WRITERS, ESPECIALLY THOSE LOOKING TO BREAK INTO THE COMIC INDUSTRY?
Honestly, with writing, or comics, or whatever, there’s one thing: You aren’t going to get to do your trade professionally without doing it unprofessionally first. And I mean “unprofessionally” in the sense of “in an amateur” capacity — without getting paid for it — and in the sense of “doing it in a crappy manner.” If you want to do it, you have to go do it. You can’t just sit and wait until someone gives you the OK to get started. In our self-publishing days, Lukas and I got a lot of attention from a handful of publishers — and it was because we were out there, making comics soup-to-nuts, complete with online promotion and hand-selling at cons. If you want to break into comics, you need to make comics, and you need to put them out there. It’s the only way to get noticed, and the only want to hone your craft.
Which creators would you like to see me interview? I’m especially interested in marginalized or indie creators who otherwise don’t get a lot of exposure. Let me know in the comments below!
You should also totally check out Brandon’s Witch Doctor, available as a two-book graphic novel series.