The last time we caught up with Witch Doctor: Mal Practice writer Brandon Seifert, he was holding down his table at New York Comic Con, telling fans about the mountain of upcoming work he had planned for late October and early November.
With the second volume of Witch Doctor on the stands this month, along with Spirit of the Law for Monkeybrain and Hellraiser: The Road Below (which was delayed from its Halloween release and instead came out within a week of the surprising revelation that the Hellraiser monthly was being cancelled to make way for an event story featuring the character), we decided to catch up with Seifert to see whether he'd had any time to celebrate the sales success of the first issue of Spirit of the Law, or whether he was still buried under an avalanche of paper.
You're busy as hell right now, and with some work that's right in the spotlight. You've got three books going, including a Hellraiser book that ships right as there's a ton of attention on that property. Is it a bit chaotic to have it all happening at once?
It can be chaotic, yeah! Lots of moving parts, lots of plates to keep spinning. I didn’t plan for all my work to hit at the same time, either — it’s just a quirk of circumstances!
What made you decide that Spirit of the Law worked better as a two-parter, rather than an OGN-style one-shot?
My co-creator Michael Montenat and I originally intended Spirit of the Law to be a 22-page one-shot actually. But when the initial sales numbers came in for the MonkeyBrain launch books, it was clear that people were really eating up the shorter issues that were on sale for $0.99. So rather than sell a 22 page comic for $1.99, we decided to cut it in half and sell each issue for $0.99. Fortunately there was a pretty natural break point mid-issue! $0.99 really seems to be the winning price point for digital comics, so my future MonkeyBrain stuff is most likely going to be geared towards that.
Do you think that digital, with its low price point, is allowing you a bigger audience for Spirit of the Law? It's been getting good reviews, so I'd think that for a buck a bunch of people would see the write-ups and go, "Why the hell not?".
I definitely hope that’s the case! I do think $1 is a good “why the hell not?” price point, and Spirit of the Law #1 was in ComiXology’s Top 50 $0.99 Comics for the first week it was out. Unfortunately I won’t actually know the sales numbers for another month or so, so I don’t know how well its actually sold so far!
While digital ostensibly makes it much easier to bootleg (you only need screen grabs, not scans), it seems to me that the Monkeybrain stuff hasn't been appearing on the sites I monitor as much. Do you think that's price point helping drive downpiracy, or do you think it's just a question of creator-owned stuff taking a while to catch on?
It’s funny that you mention that! Unfortunately, it’s not the case. Spirit of the Law #2 was released through comiXology this morning, around 6 AM or so West Coast time. By the time I woke up today, #2 was already on Pirate Bay, as announced by the Pirate Bay Twitter feed.
I’ve always seen “Witch Doctor” pirated really quickly, so it’s not like people are failing to pirate non-digital creator-owned work before. (My favorite piracy anecdote was when Skybound sent out copies of the “Witch Doctor” #0 B&W ashcan to stores. By the morning after that, the issue had not just been scanned and posted online — it’d been scanslated into Spanish too! I was pretty surprised to see “Medico Brujo” #0 that morning.)
The new Witch Doctor seems a bit more...globetrotting? I don't know if that's the right word but it really seems that the scope has increased a bit. Is that a fair assessment? It was already apretty offbeat book. Is it a challenge to take that kind of book and crank it up to eleven for the second installment?
The scope is definitely bigger in Mal Practice than it was in the first Witch Doctor miniseries — but the flip side of that is that the first mini took place over the course of weeks or months, while all six issues of Mal Practice are set over the course of the worst 36 hours of Doc Morrow’s life! So, it’s kind of weird. Witch Doctor Vol. 1 had some big stories, big stakes — the opening motions of an apocalypse, mass child abductions, stuff like that. In Mal Practice, Morrow’s basically dealing with his own personal apocalypse. After meeting a girl at a bar, he wakes up the next day with nomemory of what happened — or what she might have done to him. And when he finds out what actually happened... it’s pretty damn bad for him! So on the one hand the stakes aren’t as large, because they’re mostly effecting Morrow — but on the other hand, for Morrow the stakes are way bigger, because he’s very self-centered!
And honestly, it’s not a challenge to up the intensity after the first Witch Doctor series — because as weird as it was, the first Witch Doctor was nowhere near as weird or crazy as the other stuff we have planned! We were just kind of easing people into it, so we could throw the really gonzo stuff at them later.
I see Witch Doctor as having a similar appeal to something like Doktor Sleepless, although the more consistent schedule has to help it keep the audience. Was that--keeping momentum--part of the decision to go with a second mini instead of jumping right into a monthly?
Unfortunately, there’s no way we could do Witch Doctor as a monthly series without bringing on more artists. Lukas’ art is amazing, but it took him all of 2011 to draw the four-issue Witch Doctor miniseries and the Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation one-shot. Likewise, I got him the script for Mal Practice #1 at the start of 2012. It’s mid-November now, and he’s halfway through “Mal Practice” #5. So, even a bi-monthly series wouldn’t be in the cards unless we brought in more people on the art end.
You're one of a very few people in this business who has made a name for himself, worked for a number of major publishers and established a strong reputation with the fans...all without having ever worked on a superhero book. Is that something you think will ever be in the cards for you?
Ha! Well, I honestly consider Spirit of the Law a superhero book — it’s just told from the point of view of someone besides the hero.
I love superheroes, and I strongly want to write superhero comics. But because I broke in with a popular, weird supernatural horror book, the offers I’ve been getting from publishers have either for horror books, for supernatural books that aren’t horror — or for IDW’s Doctor Who comic, which has a similar “mad science” vibe to Witch Doctor. I haven’t been getting offers for superhero comics — so I’ve decided to do my own through places like MonkeyBrain. But so far, my efforts in that direction have been... non-standard, like Spirit of the Law. I have other superhero creations I’m working on at the moment — but they’re all pretty non-standard.