Q&A: “WITCH DOCTOR” scribe Seifert on “MALPRACTICE,” “HELLRAISER”
Brandon Seifert has come a long way in a very short time. With his partner-in-crime Lukas Ketner, they turned their supernatural/medical creation, WITCH DOCTOR into one of the most well received new series in the past two years. With the second arc, MALPRACTICE, well underway, Seifert is also finding himself penning such iconic works as HELLRAISER for Boom Studios and DR WHO for IDW. Though relatively new to the comic scene, he has shown a talent for story and dialogue that has continued to spur his popularity. He recently sat down with Fango to talk magic, mayhem, and medicine.
FANGORIA: There have been some big changes even since the last time we interviewed you. MALPRACTICE is out, and you’re working with Clive Barker to critical acclaim. How’s it all been?
BRANDON SEIFERT: It’s really neat and really kind of strange. I kind of have to remind myself that it’s all been over the course of the past year that the first series came out, now the second series is out, I’m writing HELLRAISER with Clive Barker and I’ve got some DR. WHO issues. People always use the term meteoric rise, but meteors don’t rise, they fall. If I thought that was an accurate idiom, I would use that to describe what’s going on right now. But, it’s been a very strange couple of years.
FANG: What was your inspiration for WITCH DOCTOR?
SEIFERT: I really like the idea of there being a doctor who investigates the occult. That’s a really old idea and it’s been done a lot, but I’ve never seen it done straight. Like, I’ve never seen somebody who did that but did it like an actual doctor would—investigating the occult from a medical point of view. There’s Professor Van Helsing, Dr. Strange but their either generic monster hunters or generic sorcerers, so that’s where it started. The other element that I think is really important to Witch Doctor is that all the monsters are crossed with parasites and diseases. It took me a while to come up with that. For me, that was the missing component. It started out as mostly an intellectual thing. I like certain ideas and I wanted to do something with it and over time, with the process of self-revision, that concept expanded.
FANG: Is there a possibility of WITCH DOCTOR as an ongoing series?
SEIFERT: I would love to do it as an ongoing series. Lucas and I both would. Actually, a couple years ago, I did some math and I figured out that if I only did my favorite WITCH DOCTOR stories that I’ve come up with, and did WITCH DOCTOR as ongoing series, and only did one issue of each, it would take three years to get through all of them. So, the intent is certainly there, the ideas are certainly there, but the problem is that Lucas’s art is extremely detailed and it’s not something that he can produce quickly. Unfortunately, it would be flat out impossible for us to do an ongoing series and have Lucas as the artist. So, I can’t rule out something happening in the future, but right now, it’s not in the cards.
FANG: How do you go about doing research?
SEIFERT: Magic and monsters have always been something that I’ve been interested in. I also come from a journalism background, so I tend to research everything. For WITCH DOCTOR, I did a whole lot of research in medicine and biology and a lot of research in monsters and occult stuff. It’s really fun and easy for me to do. If we’re going to have an astral form, I want to have all the chakras on it with the proper colors, and all that takes is googling the word, chakras and click on the wikipedia link. It makes us look smart and well read, and it’s incredibly quick and easy to fake.
FANG: How do you feel on working on one of the most iconic horror franchises in the industry, HELLRAISER?
SEIFERT: I’ve done HELLRAISER, I’ve done DR. WHO, and it’s extremely neat and flattering to work on those two and amazingly intimidating. It was really terrifying for me, especially the HELLRAISER stuff because Clive and Lovecraft were my two horror loves in high school. They both ended up influencing my work in different ways. The Lovecraft stuff is a lot more visible in my writing, and I’m using his specific tropes and concepts. With Clive, you got a sense of grandeur and wonder with the idea that you can do horror and not just have scary and gross stuff in it, but also pretty, amazing and wondrous stuff as a counterpoint. In WITCH DOCTOR, there is a lot of that stuff incorporated and the fact that there is this large mythology behind it where I just scatter these terms and ideas that I don’t really explain, is honestly, something I got from Clive. It was an incredibly informational thing for me and getting to work on HELLRAISER, and having him looking over my shoulder from LA, is amazing and really kind of intimidating.
FANG: What’s it like working with Clive Barker?
SEIFERT: I’ve been working on HELLRAISER for over a year and I still haven’t had any direct contact with him. All of it goes through his film company and my editors at Boom. So, I have heard things. Like, I got an email that said how happy Clive is with what I’ve done with the series so far. But, I didn’t get that email from Clive, it’s a “Clive said to tell me.” He’s a very busy guy and a bit reclusive, so it is very strange to be working with Clive Barker without actually seeing Clive Barker. That’s another thing that makes the whole thing a bit surreal.
SEIFERT: I don’t have too much freedom. That’s the thing with licenses. If you’re working with someone’s characters, you have to keep true to that character. There are definitely things that they’ve been like “no, you have to do something different with this character,” or “we need a different moment here.” So, sometimes I get my way on things, sometimes I don’t. One thing that makes that so fun and interesting is they are willing to do drastic changes to the characters in HELLRAISER. Like, in the ongoing series, the big kick off is Pinhead stepping down and Kristy becoming the new Pinhead. It really sets the tone for crazy stuff. I have a lot of freedom to do big, drastic changes that no one expected within the boundaries of what they’ve established.
FANG: What is it about horror that interests you?
SEIFERT: I’m honestly only interested in supernatural horror. Like, slasher movies that don’t have a supernatural aspect or serial killers that don’t have a supernatural aspect, it’s just not something I’m really into. Mostly it’s my interest in fiction is really fiction-y fiction. If it can potentially happen in the real world, I’m not that interested. So, I’m really into science fiction and supernatural horror/fantasy. It’s the “this can’t actually happen” thing that is really fun for me. I do like horror, I do like being scared, and I like being scared in different ways, like the way Lovecraft is scary or the way Clive is scary. I like the variety of that. Horror is more of a tone than a genre. Most genres are predicated in story structures or specific tropes, like mystery, crime fiction, romance. Horror is about evoking an emotional reaction from the audience. Since it’s [more] an emotional thing than a story structure thing, I think it’s a lot more wide open. On one hand, I can do HELLRAISER and do a very bloody, visceral type of horror and on the other hand, I can do WITCH DOCTOR which is more parasites and diseases and such that shows basically no blood or no guts, but makes people even more uncomfortable.
FANG: Any upcoming projects?
SEIFERT: I have some stuff that hasn’t been announced yet, so I can’t talk about them yet. I do have another ongoing series I’m working on right now that I’m about five issues in and hopefully it will be done soon. I personally have a number of projects I’m working on myself. I’m realizing that it’s really fun to work on HELLRAISER and DR. WHO and getting to do contribute to these things that I love but for me, nothing beats creating my own, weird thing, that’s like an avatar of me. The more I do licensed comics and work on other people’s ideas, the more I want to put my own ideas out there. So, I am actively developing several other projects, some of which are supernatural, some are science fiction or other things that I hope will come out relatively soon.
FANG: Let’s hear a fun fact!
SEIFERT: I have a metal wire in my jaw and used to get frequent nosebleeds. It’s from a childhood injury, but when I was younger I told people it’s because I was abducted by aliens.