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TFAW Interviews Witchblade Artist Stjepan Sejic

Witchblade ComicsTop Cow Month is going strong and we continue to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Witchblade with an interview with longtime artist Stjepan Sejic. He tells us what it’s like to be an artist for American comics while living in Croatia, the highlights of drawing Witchblade, and what he’d like to do next!

Plus, Top Cow was nice to enough to give us an exclusive preview of Witchblade #144, so you can see Sejic’s artwork for yourself.

Want to win a Witchblade or Artifacts variant signed by writer Ron Marz? Remember to enter our Witchblade/Artifacts Contest by May 11, 2011!

TFAW.com: So, I’ve read that with issue #150, you’ll have drawn more issues of Witchblade than any other artist. Will you continue with the title past #150, or is that it for you?

Stjepan Sejic: There are several options being discussed between Top Cow and myself. Being a Top Cow guy through and through, I will be staying with the company, which means having fun with their properties. Of course, there is the fact that Ron Marz knows what I like, so there is a great amount of well-oiled-machine-type of cooperation between the two of us. If it seems like I am avoiding directly answering the question . . . then the impression is a correct one. There is a good reason for that. Now, I will be tackling Witchblade again, but there are some other fun options presenting themselves at the Top Cow headquarters.

TFAW.com: What have been your favorite moments and characters to draw thus far?

Witchblade #144 Preview Page 1SS: Those who know me know my love for epic, iconic character moments. Glorious moments in which a hero is displayed for what he or she is, bigger than life, kicking asses and taking names.

Ron was kind enough to provide me with many such lovely moments, but as far as my favorite ones go, strangely enough it would have to be the scenes from Angelus. Somehow that miniseries really worked, with enough touching moments, moments of personal development, and balls-to-the-wall action.

Now don’t get me wrong, Witchblade had its great moments too, but the problem there is that there is a much greater cast of characters. This results in a lot of my focus being directed to handling the character moments, because those are essentially the hardest to do right. Flashy action stuff is easy.

Still, to count a few examples of the fun stuff, I would have to say the entire issue #138, for its epic fantasy feel.

TFAW.com: Is there anything about the book you’re tired of drawing?

SS: Not really. It’s not really the content but the environment that can bum me out. In my approach, environment dictates the use of light and its coloration, which plays an important role in the way I build a scene. An empty-walled room is far less interesting than a ruined old building.

TFAW.com: How did you get interested in comics?

Witchblade #144 Preview Page 2SS: I was sixteen when an exhibition called Comic Biennale came to a museum in the city of Rijeka, where I went to high school. We went there to check it out, and there I got the idea to try drawing comics. That exhibition shaped my life in more ways than one, for it was there that I saw a cover to a comic with a peculiarly memorable title, Witchblade.

A few years later, when I was in my first year of college, I went to the Internet. At that time I had no computer myself, so it was great news to me. After an hour of Googling random stuff, I remembered the word that kind of stuck with me. I Googled “Witchblade” and that got me started. From there on I was on a very unlikely path to becoming a comic book artist in America. I was mocked by my peers and teachers for my perseverance. They figured the chance for my success was slightly below zero.

Still, life is a curious thing: sometimes cards will just add up, a dice will roll a perfect number, and I ended up working on the comic that got me started doodling comic characters. The real kicker is that I read my first issue of Witchblade in the third year of college.

TFAW.com: Who were your artistic influences?

SS: I started off as a strange mix of European comic influences and Michael Turner and Marc Silvestri. It was a little later that I discovered the gorgeous works of Alex Ross. In the end, I found my balance by developing a style of my own that has some of the stylishness of the Top Cow greats, a love for realism inspired by Alex Ross, and a bit of a flair I inevitably picked up from the digital masters of concept art.

Witchblade #144 Preview Page 3My sense of design is under heavy influence by cinematic effect masters such as Stan Winston and Rick Baker. There is some Turner/Silvestri added to the mix, and just a dash of manga influence.

TFAW.com: You’ve created so many different versions of the Witchblade “armor” over the years–including the “light” Dani look and the “dark” Sara look when they shared the Witchblade. How do you decide each look?

SS: Well that was really no challenge. There are designs that require a lot of work and development, but these are organic, as is the Witchblade itself.

Both light and dark armor had the quality of the full armor, but dark needed a more aggressive look, so often it had a fiery kind of a glow from within. With Dani I always tried to pull off a Valkyrie look, and this was in the end fully realized in her Angelus armor.

TFAW.com: On a related note, you used to have two Witchblades to draw–Dani and Sara. Do you miss drawing Dani?

SS: The real kicker about this is the fact that I did not like Dani as a character while she had the Witchblade. The reason for that was the fact that she rarely dealt with her own problems. She was a mule carrying Sara’s problems around. It was only when she left Witchblade, and became the Angelus, that she became a fully realized character in my eyes–dealing with her own mess and having my favorite sidekick/girlfriend ever. What can I say, Finch is awesome.

Witchblade #144 Preview Page 4TFAW.com: What comics are you reading right now?

SS: None . . . the reason for that is simple. Living in Croatia makes the availability of comics very limited. So essentially it comes down to stocking up at conventions and going on a lovely reading spree.

Usually I read the independent titles and Image stuff. I was never big on superheroes. Not for my lack of trying, but I just could not jump in anywhere. For crying out loud, even an event trade paperback in those comics leaves plot threads on the douchiest note ever: “To find out what happens with this character, read this series from issue this to that.”

The sad thing is I want to read Thor, Batman, and Green Lantern, but these comics are so hermetically sealed, no fans enter, and no fans leave. So I stick to limited stuff.

TFAW.com: What other types of projects would you like to tackle in the future?

SS: There is a small number of titles I’d like to work on for a story arc or a mini. Stuff like The Darkness, Conan, Hellboy, and Aphrodite 9 comes to mind for the fun environments.

Still my true love is the pure fantasy genre. I would be severely tempted to draw a Lord of the Rings adaptation, but problem is I already have my own project, Ravine, to release my fantasy-themed frustrations. So essentially, I’m satisfied as I am now.

Witchblade #144 Preview Page 5Thanks Stjepan, for taking some time from the drawing board to answer our questions. Next week, we say farewell to Top Cow Month with an interview with Echoes creators Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal! Plus, remember to enter our Witchblade/Artifacts Contest to win variants of Witchblade and Artifacts signed by Ron Marz.

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Are you a longtime Witchblade fan, or are you new to the series? What do you think should happen next? Post your comments below!

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Written by Elisabeth@TFAW

Elisabeth has been reading comics since we was a wee girl. She's obsessed with John Byrne, Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and making the perfect scrambled eggs. Follow her on @Twitter to get bonus conversations with her cat!