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Out now, WITCH DOCTOR VOL.1:
UNDER THE KNIFE (Skybound) is an engaging read, filled with humor and chilling scares.
FANGORIA spoke with author Brandon Seifert and artist Lukas Ketner about the
book, how they became involved with THE WALKING DEAD's Robert Kirkman, the inspiration
behind the shaking of the demon baby, and what readers should expect from their
one-shot special, WITCH DOCTOR: RESUSCITATION.
Along with Eric Gast and Penny
Dreadful, Doctor Vincent Morrow is on a quest to cure humanity of its
supernatural illness. Morrow is the only one who can find a vaccine against
vampirism and exorcism.
[SPOILERS] The interview goes a bit in-depth about each issue, including the finale.
FANGORIA: Tell me how you became
involved in the project?
LUKAS KETNER: We had met at a
concert long time ago.
BRANDON SEIFERT: Now it's a
funeral parlor. How appropriate!
KETNER: Brandon and I met at a
funeral parlor, early 2007ish. Right?
SEIFERT: It was. Yes.
KETNER: We met early before then.
We actually ran into each other that fall, talked briefly about the possibility
of doing comics. We ran into each other again. It just had been on both of our
minds. From there, we just started brainstorming. What could we do? Neither of
us had worked in comics yet and we really wanted to. What could we do to
convince people that we can make comics for them? We made a portfolio piece
that was a short horror story piece. From there, we came up with the idea.
WITCH DOCTOR evolved out of those conversations. "Wait! This is actually
good! We could actually make this into a series. People might actually like
it!" From there, we decided our portfolio piece would be a single-issue
piece for a series. That's the self-published issue we put out. It was an early
version of the vampire story from issue #0.
SEIFERT: Skybound came later on.
We were self-publishing WITCH DOCTOR for two years. We did small digital print
runs, and put it up for free online. We tried to drive as much traffic to it as
we could. We got a bunch of interest from a few different publishers. One day,
out of the blue, I got an email from Robert Kirkman saying, "You have a
publisher. Book looks good. Are you interested? Robert." That was the
entire email. We ended up talking to Robert first about bringing the book to
Image; then bringing it to Skybound. It took pretty much a full year, casually
talking to him, before we finally signed with him.
KETNER: It was very much a random
thing. We didn't directly send him a copy. He contacted us. We started doing back-flips,
stuff like that.
FANG: In issue #0, Dr. Vincent
Morrow and his staff are seen from the point-of-view of the vampire, strapped
to this dental chair. Tell me about the importance of their introduction.
SEIFERT: The first version was
called, WITCH DOCTOR: THE FIRST INCISION. When it came time to do a new
version, I was thinking of what I would do differently, “What could I do
better? What could I expand parts of it? What would the movie trailer version
be?” It would be this voice-over, this asylum, and a hand reaching in and
picking up strange surgical tools. We'd see the vampire sitting in this chair.
The Doctor would say, "Say Ahh!" The vampire would lunge at the
camera. That was where that came from. That's a really good way to start the
story. It was a good way to introduce these characters in two pages.
KETNER: It's really from the
point-of-view of the reader. The script that Brandon wrote was very detailed.
It had everything in it necessary for me to draw the story.
FANG: The first issue is homage
to THE EXORCIST. Tell me about the movie's influences and the use of technology.
SEIFERT: It is homage to THE EXORCIST. The idea was to
present some images that people are used to in some horror scene, and then have
the Doctor come in and interact with it the way he would. When you see the kid
levitating and his eyes are glowing, you know what that is. We've all seen
enough movies with exorcism. The Doctor comes in and treats it like it's a
For the use of technology, it's
been a process for me to figure out how to present magic in WITCH DOCTOR. What
can magic do? How big should it be? Lukas can draw the hell out of big
machines. I love the weird contraptions Lukas draws. Part of it is fun, because
I love working with Lukas, and I want there to be grounding in magic. I don't
want The Doctor to shoot spells whenever he needs to. There needs to be more to
it than that.
KETNER: One reason, for me, is
that most of his magical stuff is bastardized into these machines. Morrow
doesn't have respect for magical convention, ritual, and tradition. When he
comes across something ancient, the only thing he sees is a tool. Half of the
time, he's using these tools and turning them into something he can use, which
can be a source of friction within the magical community. He sees it as
something he could use. He goes about magic the only way he knows how, science
and medicine. It's not a direct shout-out to GHOSTBUSTERS but it's in the same
vein, because they're dealing with the supernatural, they're building these ridiculous
machines that do what they need to do.
FANG: Tell me about the slapstick
in the second issue, especially with the shaking of the demon baby.
SEIFERT: There are a couple of
reasons that exists. The most basic reason is I was getting really bored with
that issue. That issue was a last minute thing for me. I had written an
entirely different second issue that didn't work. I had to start from scratch. “What
do I need to do to make it fun for me?” One, I need to introduce the CREATURE
FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Then, the Doctor needs to shake an evil baby. I was really
worried about the response I was going to get.
KETNER: I was worried at WonderCon!
It was our first panel. "Yeah! I'm the writer of WITCH DOCTOR! Guess
what's in the next issue? Baby-shaking!"
SEIFERT: I was so sleep deprived.
I could barely talk. I'm late to the panel. I walk into the room, and there are
700 people there. Robert's in the middle of talking about WITCH DOCTOR. "Hey!
It's the man himself! Brandon Seifert! Come up here and talk about your
book!" Oh, you've got to be kidding me! I got up there and I talked myself
into a corner. Robert says, "What are some of the fun things we'll see...?"
Crap! I need an example. I say, "I think in the second issue, the Doctor
is going to shake an evil little baby." I discussed it with Lukas, but not
with Robert or our editor, Sina Grace, who was at the panel.
KETNER: Sina did a "palm in
the forehead," but in a good way.
SEIFERT: That ended up going
KETNER: Yeah! I got asked about
that the rest of the weekend.
SEIFERT: Yeah. I do have a bleak,
inappropriate sense of humor about some things.
KETNER: One challenge is to let
the slapstick speak for itself, and not make it too cartoony. It's really easy to
go that route. I think a lot of it is getting the expression right. The
slapstick is what separates itself from the other issues.
FANG: In the third issue, tell me
about the verbal banter, the love/hate relationship between Dr. Morrow and
Absinthe O' Reilly. How do you visually approach the dialogue-driven scenes?
KETNER: You have to take into
account, in most TV shows, it's just people talking. They're just talking to
each other. Every two seconds, there's nothing happening, not everything is
blowing up. There has to be a way to make that interesting in every medium.
When you're writing a prose book, there are descriptions of what they're doing,
and what they're feeling. You have to make the angles interesting. You have to
make sure the focus is on the subtext the readers should be getting from the
faces. A lot of the times, it's what the character is feeling on their face and
body language. It's more important than what they're saying. If people are
angry with one another, you can make it really obvious in a visual medium. Archie
Comics does a great job of that; differentiating what a character is saying verses
what they're feeling. You have to make it apparent and obvious, not completely over-the-top.
Comics is a medium that needs a little exaggeration, when you're reading and
seeing what the characters doing. There's a way of going about it. It's always a
FANG: In the climax of issue #4, Eric
Gast, who is usually the butt of Morrow's jokes, fights back as an action hero.
Tell me more about these action packed sequences.
KETNER: You have to take
something to an extreme in the climax of the story. Part of the reason Eric got
so much to do, we slowly realized he wasn't given much to do, especially in the
first issue. He's helping, but he's very new to helping Morrow. Eric is more
reacting, than participating in the solution. From then on, we were thinking of
how to make Eric more integral to the team. It's definitely satisfying for me
to read and see Gast turn into more of a bad-ass. It makes the reader more
confident that Gast will be somebody that the team can rely on in the future.
Plus, it's fun to see a large guy kick some ass with a sword and shotgun. Those
scenes are fun. They're really good seasoning for a really great plot. Once we
learn Eric comes from a very action-packed background, being in the army, it
makes sense for him to take on physical challenging stuff like that. In the
future, we might see him kick some ass again at some point.
SEIFERT: One of the things I
enjoyed about the miniseries is the character arc to Gast. He goes from being brand
new at this, being differential to Morrow, and being the straight man. We kind
of see him break in issue #3. He gets fed up with how he's being treated.
Overall, he's still differential to Dr. Morrow, but he's giving him problems. Some
of the fun stuff for me to write in issue #4 is Eric's one-liners. When you're
first new at the job, you keep an aspect of yourself closed in. Then, over time,
you loosen up. In issue #3 and #4, that's what happens to him. Eric is more
capable with the physical stuff than Morrow is. He is realizing that, and
stepping up physically. I enjoyed what happened to him. You have to bear in
mind, we're both brand new to this. We're making stuff up as we go along. It's
really more about what feels right at the time. Each issue is a reaction to
what we did previously.
FANG: This is the first book you’ve
written, the first miniseries Lukas has drawn, and the first Skybound series that
wasn’t written by Robert Kirkman. Tell me about the significance of looking
back at WITCH DOCTOR VOl.1: UNDER THE KNIFE.
SEIFERT: It's been a really big
learning experience for us. None of us have done our jobs before. Skybound's
published books by Robert, but never with a writer, or an artist who've never
done this before. Skybound figured how to interact with us. We found out about
our roles in the creative process. Jumping into this was really intimidating
for us and a steep learning curve. Initial orders and final cutoffs...
KETNER: Skybound learned we
didn't know stuff like that.
SEIFERT: There's a lot of stuff to learn. You don't realize you need to be
explaining things every step of the way. “We didn't necessarily know what to
ask. What do we need to know about comic distribution, diamond, and promotion?”
During the first two issues, we were finding our butts with both hands. There
were still some questions to iron out. Once we got the first issue up and
running, out the door, it was easier on all of us. I was so nervous writing the
first two issues. Issue three I loosened up. Issues three and four, I'm really
KETNER: It's the same with the
art. I cringe when I look at the art of issue 0. I drew it in a short amount of
time. It's always that saying, "What's the best comic you've ever drawn? The
one I'm working on now. What's the worst comic you've ever drawn? The one I
just did." There's a lot of that going on in my head while drawing this
and looking back. Most of it I'm very happy with. There are certain things I've
done visually, I'll probably never do again. Every page you draw, you should be
getting better. Otherwise, it's stagnant. It's a huge learning experience. When
I finally started loosening up, I started bringing out pages faster. A lot of
it is due to the fact I was much more confident. When you know something is going
to work, you can do the same amount of work much quicker. For future releases,
it's going a lot smoother. The confidence feels good when you know the final
product is something you can be proud of before it comes out.
FANG: What are you working on
KETNER: Right now we're working
on future WITCH DOCTOR releases. There's not really any side projects that I'm
doing in-between. I haven't taken on any other comics work. I'm just dedicated
in getting as much WITCH DOCTOR out there as I can. It can be grueling sometimes,
when you know what the final product is going to be. It takes a long time to
get there. That's pretty much my day job. There's nothing much going on in my
SEIFERT: WITCH DOCTOR is still my
main focus. I am at the moment developing something else, other projects I'm
trying to develop. That's the trade-off in comics. Writing takes so much less
time, less physical labor than drawing. In the time it takes Lukas to draw a
single WITCH DOCTOR, in theory I should be to able to produce 4 to 5 scripts.
They don't all have to be WITCH DOCTOR. I have a lot more freedom to develop
other things. Financially, I have to do that. Writers get paid less in comics.
The art takes so much longer. Artists can't do anything else. They have to be
paid a living wage just to be able to produce the material. I'm still doing
WITCH DOCTOR on the side. I've still got a day job. I'm a security guard. I
dropped one day a week to focus on comics. I may have to take that day back
because I can't afford things. I'm not at that point in my career yet where I
can pay all my bills on comics. That's the end goal for this, to quit my day
job and make a living doing comics. For me, I've made about half as much doing
WITCH DOCTOR, as I have from my security guard job. That's still pretty good
for independent comics. There are a lot of independent comic writers who don't
get paid. My focus is getting more WITCH DOCTOR scripts ready for Lukas, and in
my free time, developing some other projects, and getting them off the ground.
FANG: Tell me about WITCH DOCTOR:
SEIFERT: It's not a Christmas
special even though it comes out in December. A lot of people make that
assumption. It's a jumping-on point, an introduction to these characters, and
also sets up the miniseries for early 2012. If you haven't read this, if you
haven't read the first miniseries, it's not 100% required. It introduces
characters that will come into play more in the second miniseries.
The concept begins with a guy
waking up in a bathtub full with ice. He has surgical incisions near his
kidney. It looks like the kidney theft/urban legend. In the hospital, he gets a
sonogram in his torso. He has another kidney near the incisions. The twist is,
who's kidney is it? Doctor Morrow comes in and is there for a second opinion.
FANG: Where can an audience find
info or more about your work?
SEIFERT: We've got a Twitter,
Facebook, and website.
KETNER: My blog.
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