When Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, announced that he would be launching his own Image Comics imprint, Skybound, the comics industry was abuzz with speculation–what would the first series look like? The answer: Witch Doctor, a supernatural medical drama-comedy by Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner. Reminiscent of classic Creepy comics in style and tone, Witch Doctor centers on Doctor Vincent Morrow, who seeks to cure supernatural maladies–such as vampirism–with science (well, and a healthy dose of magic, too).
We caught up with writer Brandon Seifert and asked him what’s next for Witch Doctor!
TFAW.com: Can you introduce new readers to Witch Doctor?
Brandon Seifert: Witch Doctor is a horror medical drama about Dr. Vincent Morrow, a brilliant, eccentric jerk in the Howard Hughes, Nicola Tesla vein. Dr. Morrow’s trying to understand the biology of the supernatural–the better to fight it. So all our vampires, demons, faeries et al, are based on actual stuff from biology and medicine.
Beyond that, Witch Doctor is the first title from Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Originals line. He found us while we were self-publishing the book, and handpicked us to be part of his new imprint at Image Comics.
TFAW.com: How long has Witch Doctor been in the works?
BS: Lukas and I first started working on Witch Doctor around this time year in 2007–so it’s been four full years now! We self-published our first story in April 2008; we started talking to Robert about hooking up with Image in July 2009; and we signed with Skybound and announced the book (in the New York Times!) in July 2010.
TFAW.com: How did you hook up with Lukas Ketner?
BS: Lukas and I are both from Alaska, and we both live in Portland now, so we had a lot of the same friends. I met him a few times in completely random contexts, and then we got paired together by a weekly newspaper we both worked for. I’d written a feature story, and they brought him in to draw the cover for it. I really liked the cover he did, and the next time I saw him we established that we both loved comics and wanted to work in the industry. We decided to do a short comic together as a portfolio piece . . . but that comic was the first Witch Doctor story, and it turned from a calling card into something we were actively trying to get published.
TFAW.com: When did you realize you would be Skybound’s debut title?
BS: You know, I’m not sure. It must have been a while into the process of talking to Kirkman about it, because that wasn’t the original pitch. He didn’t come to us and say, “Be my launch title!” He just said “Be on my imprint!” (More or less.) When I did finally realize we’d be Robert’s launch title, I kind of freaked out a bit. It’s an enormous honor–and a huge responsibility. Neither of us had done a comic series before, and suddenly we had the entire industry looking at us!
TFAW.com: What’s it like working with Robert Kirkman’s imprint?
BS: Daunting! I think we’ve both mellowed out about it, but for a while there we were really anxious about it. It’s really cool and flattering to have been selected for it, but it’s also a lot of pressure!
We’ve had a really good experience with Skybound. It’s a small company and they’re growing it very slowly, so we’ve gotten a whole lot of hands-on attention . . . which has been very good, as we’re both brand new at this and there’s a lot of stuff to figure out.
TFAW.com: You’ve mentioned that Witch Doctor is “House meets Fringe.” What were some of your other influences?
BS: Honestly, though we describe the book that way, House and Fringe aren’t really big influences. I’ve never seen Fringe, and though I mainlined the first season of House when I started working on the project, I haven’t seen any since.
For me, my biggest influences on the project are Buffy, Hellboy, Doctor Who (especially the current Stephen Moffat-helmed stuff), and H.P. Lovecraft, as well as things like John Carpenter’s The Thing and Aliens.
TFAW.com: I love that besides being a horror comic, Witch Doctor has a lot of humor, as well. Was that the original intent?
BS: Pretty much. Dr. Morrow was always going to be a snarky jerk, so there was always going to be a humor element. Plus, Hellboy and Buffy were my two biggest influences from the start, and they’re both pretty funny. How much humor to include has always been a question, but in writing the series I’ve discovered I need the comedy there to keep myself interested in writing it. The more serious it is, the more my brain starts to wander away.
TFAW.com: Have you done a lot of actual medical research for this?
BS: I’ve done a ridiculous amount of research for this, starting when we first came up with the idea four years ago. All our monsters are based on actual stuff from biology and medicine, so I’ve read a lot of books about diseases, parasites, evolution and the biology of stuff like bloodfeeding animals.
TFAW.com: What drives Doctor Vincent Morrow?
BS: Curiosity. Boredom. Guilt. Ego. He’s a natural problem-solver, and that has a lot to do with his current line of work–but he’s also made some big mistakes in his past, and in some ways his current job is him trying to atone for them. But on the other hand, he’s also a very selfish person, so there’s this constant struggle inside him between the part of him that realizes he’s screwed up in the past and wants to make good on it, and the side of him that likes the kind of attention he gets for coming up with brilliant solutions to supernatural problems.
TFAW.com: Much like House, Doctor Morrow has some trouble with “normal” human interactions. Are we going to see him evolve?
BS: We’ll definitely see him evolve–up to a point. Basically, for me, if we ever got to the point where he’s a doctor who’s nice to people . . . that’s not Morrow, and that’s not hugely interesting for me. The thing I love about Morrow is that he’s the jerk who helps you out. The guy who saves your life, and makes you want to strangle him while he does it.
TFAW.com: What can we expect from issue #4, the miniseries finale?
BS: Ooh, there’s a lot in there! Our early issues were all stand-alone stories, but Witch Doctor #3 and #4 were our first two-part story–and I think they’re the best thing we’ve done so far. We’ve got a bunch of action, some science, reversals involving the cast that people aren’t going to be expecting–and we set up the larger mythology of the series and some of the threats Dr. Morrow’s going to end up facing a lot in future stories.
Plus, the art turned out great, and #4 has some of my favorite moments, lines and jokes in the whole series so far.
TFAW.com: Do you have another story arc in the works?
BS: Witch Doctor ended up going over really well–and has been selling great!–so Skybound is having us keep rolling with it.
Up next is Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation, a one-shot coming out in December. It’s a stand-alone story that sort of bridges the gap between the first miniseries and the second story arc–and it’s also going to be a good jumping-on point for new readers. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but the “patient” this time is a guy who wakes up in a hotel bathtub full of ice with a surgical incision over one of his kidneys–except he’s still got a full set of organs! . . . Or does he? Dun dun dun!
And then we’ll be doing another Witch Doctor miniseries in early 2012. We’ve got a huge number of WD stories planned, so it’s really nice that we can just keep going and start telling them!
Our thanks to Brandon for the interview! You can order Witch Doctor comics and graphic novels here at TFAW.com. Issue #4 is hot off the presses–watch our Witch Doctor review here!
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