Recently, I had the chance to chat with Brandon Seifert. He’s most famously known as the writer of Image’s “Witch Doctor,” but he’s a very busy guy, releasing the first part of his Monkeybrain comic “Spirit of the Law” this week (earning a “Buy” rating from yours truly), and having work coming up in “Hellraiser: The Road Below” from Boom! and “Doctor Who” from IDW.
We talked about all of those books too, but with “Witch Doctor: Mal Practice” #1’s FOC (Final Order Cut-Off – meaning the last time the book can be ordered before its initial launch) date coming up this Monday, we wanted to make sure to bring some eyes to that book. “Mal Practice” continues the story of supernatural doctor Doctor Morrow and his assistants as they continue to fight monsters and supernatural diseases, and if you didn’t check out the first mini, you’ve been missing out on a top notch book.
We talk to Seifert about what this new mini-series is all about, what we can expect for the supporting cast of the book, how he paired up with artist Lukas Ketner, and much, much more. Look for more with Seifert about his other books next week, but for now, make sure to pre-order “Witch Doctor: Mal Practice” #1 ASAP.
For those that haven’t read the series yet, don’t worry! “Witch Doctor” #0 is available for FREE on ComiXology. Check it out for a great introduction to this series.
I usually do pitch it as House M.D. meets Supernatural or Doctor House meets Doctor Who. Hellboy definitely is a bit touchstone, but it’s one of many. People compare us to Hellblazer, they compare us to Buffy and a bunch of, I don’t know, anime. Lots of stuff that I’ve heard of, and also people are like, “it’s clearly a rip off of this thing.” And I’ve never heard of. (laughs) And I’m like, “what?!”
You’re unknowingly ripping it off.
Yeah. I think honestly the most accurate way I can compare it is Doctor House meets Supernatural.
As in the TV show?
Yeah. So yeah, it’s a jerk doctor who fights supernatural diseases instead of normal ones.
One thing I thought was interesting, especially towards the end of the first mini-series, was, it seemed the adversaries for the doctor — the Deep Ones — it seemed like they had an open ended finish. Are you looking to build a layered mythology in the background of the book?
Yeah. Absolutely. It’s like…one of my concerns with introducing the Deep Ones in Witch Doctor was, if I did it, I wanted them to be sort of the face of the Lovecraftian apocalypse. Which is kind of a problem because that is what B.P.R.D. did with the frogs. If you read the Lovecraft, the Deep Ones are sort of frog/fish hybrids. In Witch Doctor they are just fish. Sea fish. That was me intentionally trying to get away from what B.P.R.D. did.
The intention is to do a kind of case of the week issues. And then build a few different plots in the background. And one of them is definitely the big, Lovecraftian apocalypse we set up in the first mini-series.
I have to say, one of the things that really appeals to me about the book is that it’s episodic in each story it’s telling their own stories, but still developing the world around it. What’s your process for developing your stories?
I don’t really have a set specific thing that I do. Most Witch Doctor stories start with the monster because we’ve got…the Doctor fighting the supernatural thing on one side, and all the supernatural stuff is all crossed with diseases and medicine and what not. Once we had the characters set, the Doctor and his two assistants, the way I tended to approach it was I find some disease I find interesting or a monster I find interesting, and then I figure out how it would work in Witch Doctor.
Once I had that, the question is, how does Morrow come into contact with that? In most cases, if I come up with a monster, like the Cuckoo Fairies from issue two for example, if I come up with that monster I tend to come up with…like, okay “well, he could encounter it this way. Or we could do this other thing with it. We could do this short story. We could do this arc later on. It could come back and haunt him in this way.” Generally, when I come up with a new monster for Witch Doctor, it ends up coming with five or six different story ideas. And you know, I just pick and choose.
One thing we’re doing with Witch Doctor, especially the second mini-series is…you know, the first one is very kind of procedural, very episodic, very monster of the week. The second one is not like that. The second one is six issues, and it’s one six issue story.
Although I hasten to point out is that it’s not paced for the trade. Every issue, Morrow has some specific goal in mind, and by the end of the issue he’s either achieved that goal and can move on to the next thing, or he’s failed so miserably that he has to do something else in the next issue.
I really loved…when I got into comics it was the early 90’s. It was shortly before the Image stuff, and I really loved things like New Warriors and how they would do these extended storylines in which each issue actually told the story. Each issue was the story, and they fed into a six or ten issue arc, or whatever. This was before trade paperbacks, so they were not paced for the trade. I don’t want Witch Doctor to be formulaic. I’m not interested in just doing one type of story. I’m not interested in just doing single-issue stories. I’m not interested in just doing six issue arcs. I want to mix it up.
Mal Practice is basically six issues detailing the worst 36 hours of Dr. Morrow’s life.
Both Eric and Penny have a lot more stuff to do in Mal Practice. I kind of feel Eric got short changed in the first mini-series which, in part, was intentional because the focus was on Morrow and the mystery of Penny and setting her up in a way that we weren’t really telling people anything about her, but in a way that they would find interesting and intriguing. So later…I wouldn’t say we answer any questions about her by the end of the first mini, but we did tell you what questions you should be asking.
Meanwhile, you have Eric Gast who just seems like the normal dude in this supernatural setting. And that’s not entirely accurate. He is normal to a degree, but there are reasons that he is part of this group. We have not really asked the question yet as to why is this normal dude working with these people. He has had his own strange supernatural events in his life that he is trying to make sense of. And so, in Mal Practice, we begin to get into that more. Basically, we kind of do the same thing we did with Eric that we did with Penny in the first arc. We’re not actually telling you anything, we’re teasing you with the things you don’t know about him. I’m honestly really excited to start doing that.
In the first mini, he felt like the every man that stands in the place for the reader. When you did the first mini, did you already have it in mind that Eric had that sort of background?
Yeah. I’ve known what we were going to do with Eric basically since within the first couple months we started developing Witch Doctor. We started developing it back in Fall of 2007. So, there is a lot of long term game plan stuff going on in the book whether it’s apparent or not. One of them is the slow roll out of Eric Gast. First setting him up as this approachable, relatable every man who in part is your introduction to the world. As readers are more accustomed to the series, Eric gets more accustomed to it too. Rather than using him as this viewpoint character, we can go more into it. “Who is this guy? Why is he here? What secrets is he hiding?”
Lukas Ketner, your artist and co-creator…has it always been the two of you? Have you been in on this since the get go?
Yeah, more or less. Witch Doctor is based on an idea I had in 2001 which is long before I met Lukas. But that was an idea that was sort of high concept. The brilliant jerk doctor investigating the supernatural and fighting with a sword and stuff like that. The idea of doing the kind of Professor Van Helsing character or Doctor Strange character, but playing them straight and actually having a doctor fighting the supernatural in the way a doctor might.
So I had that idea, but I didn’t have any of the names or visuals. I didn’t know that he was going to be fighting monsters that were analogues for diseases or had medical metaphors built in.
The most basic germ of the idea I had before Lukas came along. The reason it got developed was because Lukas and I were looking for a comic we could do to together. That was the one in my notebook that I pulled out and thought had potential. I brought it up to him, and it’s not like we were immediately like, “oh yeah, we have to do that!” It was a thing where we were both like, “oh yeah, that’s cool.” I just kept having more ideas for it and more ideas for it, and within a few days, Lukas was like, “okay, how about you just keep thinking about this and see where it takes you.” And then yeah, it’s…I wanted to know I wanted to build this building, but Lukas has been there starting with the architectural plan stage through actually breaking ground and building the damn thing.
As far as being an artistic collaborator, what was it that made him seem like a good fit for Witch Doctor?
In this case, when I first started talking to Lukas about doing a comic together, I was very impressed by the variety of art styles he could pull off. He comes from a freelance illustration background, and he’d do all these spot illustrations and covers for these weekly magazines in Portland, and unless you looked for his signature frequently, you had no idea that he had done it. You would get things that were in a kind of 70’s horror mode like Witch Doctor and cartoony gorilla style stuff and oil paintings….he did this gorgeous painting of Barack Obama with his shirt open that was like a harlequin romance novel cover of Obama (laughs).
I was really impressed by his abilities and his versatility. The reason why we went in the direction that we did because initially when we met up, I brought my stack of comics that I wanted to do something in the vein of. He brought his stack of comics, and his were like…The Goon, Hellboy, old House of Mystery reprints…and I was like, “okay, I really want to work with this guy. I’m into this stuff to do. Let’s find something in a supernatural horror, pulpish vein we can do together. That’s where the Witch Doctor thing came from.