Interview: Writer Brandon Seifert Takes ‘Hellraiser’ On ‘The Road Below’

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Writer Brandon Seifert has been clawing his way through the comics scene. Seifert came to prominence with his Image Comics the horror medical drama “Witch Doctor”, which was championed by Robert Kirkman for being its unique and off-beat take on the horror genre. Since then Seifert has quickly becoming one of comics hottest writers with his creepy and twisted tales.

Now Seifert is being rewarded with the chance to play with Clive Barker’s Pinhead in the brand-new mini-series “Hellraiser: The Road Below” from BOOM Studios. Seifert primed and ready to tell the story of Kirsty Cotton, survivor of the original “Hellraiser” film, and her road to hell as she transforms into a cenobite. Bloody-Disgusting got the inside scoop from Seifert on his upcoming tale with one of horror’s elite, his love for the “Hellraiser” film franchise and his upcoming “Witch Doctor: Mal Practice” mini-series. Below is also a preview for “Witch Doctor Mal Practice” #1.

Tell us how you got involved with the Hellraiser series?

Seifert: At the start of the year BOOM! Studios approached me to do a story in Hellraiser Annual #1, which came out in April. I really enjoyed working on it, and they were happy with what I did — so they invited me to pitch more for the series.

Talk about the genesis for this story and what made you want to tell the story of Kirsty Cotton’s first few days in hell and as Cenobite…

Seifert: I really like that Kirsty Cotton became the new Pinhead in the Hellraiser comics. It’s really game-changing — after a move like that, everything is different. But in the ongoing series, we saw Kirsty become the new Pinhead — and then the next issue, it was a full year later. We jumped from Kirsty taking on this new role, to Kirsty months and months later, adjusted and used to what she was doing. And for me, one of the really interesting ramifications of a change like that is seeing the character adjust to their new status quo, and watching them get faced by challenges they weren’t expecting.

So the idea behind “The Road Below” is — this is a self-contained Hellraiser movie, only with Kirsty in the role of Pinhead. What would be similar, and what would be different — and how does Kirsty react when she’s the minion of Hell, and doing her duties means destroying innocent lives in the way her first brushes with Hell destroyed her own?

So is “The Road Below” a good jumping on point for someone that has seen the movies but never read the comics?

Seifert: “The Road Below” picks up near the end of the first year of the Hellraiser ongoing, when the status quo has been completely up-ended, and then it runs from there. I tried to make it pretty self-contained, so it’s not going to be as hard to get into as picking up the current ongoing mid-run — but there’s definitely a learning curve. But if you’re a fan of the movies and you want to pick it up, all you really need to know is that Kirsty is the new Pinhead, and she’s trying to lead Hell in a “kinder, gentler” direction. But we all know where good intentions lead…

Did you follow the current comic series or did you go back and re-watch the films to refresh yourself on the source material?

Seifert: Both! I’ve read the current ongoing Hellraiser several times as research, and I’ve also watched the first couple Hellraiser films several times. It’s really important to me that my work on Hellraiser synchs up both with the current comic series, and with the movies it spun out of.

What is it like working with Clive Barker and BOOM Studios?

Seifert: Hellraiser is Clive’s baby — but he’s a very busy man. So most of my direction comes through BOOM! Studios or through Clive’s film company Seraphim. But Clive is reading all the outlines, all the scripts, everything — and making sure everything matches with where he wants Hellraiser to go.

How do you approach a long standing property with a history and passionate loyal fan base?

Seifert: I can’t please everyone. It’s impossible, and I understand that. So all I can do is write the stories I would want to read, and to be true to the parts of the franchise that made me fall in love with it to begin with. So “The Road Below” is basically the Hellraiser story I’ve been wanting to read ever since I first became a Clive Barker fan in high school.

How does working on a licensed property compare to creator owned? Are there benefits and drawbacks to both?

Seifert: Definitely! On the one hand, doing work on an established series is easier, because I don’t have to make everything up from scratch. I know the ground rules of the universe and I know who the characters are. On the other hand, working on a creator-owned series gives you a lot more freedom. I may have to make up every single element on something like “Witch Doctor” or “Spirit of the Law,” but I also have the power to do that. There’s nobody else chiming in and saying “No, you can’t have the doctor shake that evil baby.”

The majority of your comics work has been in the horror genre, what is it about that genre that keeps you inspired enough to write more dark stories?

Seifert: Honestly, I like a lot of genres, and there are lots of genres I want to write stories in — science fiction, Westerns, superheroes, martial arts, lots of stuff. But I really like the supernatural, and I find it really easy to get ideas for supernatural-related stories — and horror and darkness just goes hand and hand with magic and monsters.

What other horror book would you love to get a chance to write? I think you’d write a great Crossed story-arc?

Seifert: Crossed is honestly a lot bleaker than I’m into. I love horror, but I prefer horror that’s cut with some lighter elements. I’d love to write Hellblazer at some point, or to do some sort of story in the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. universe, or Aliens, or The Crow — which, there again, is sort of horror-ish without being full-on horror.

What other comics have you been reading?

Seifert: Atomic Robo, The Unwritten, Godzilla: The Half-Century War, Uncanny Avengers, Hawkeye. That’s most of the current ones. I also just finished Alan Moore’s Miracleman run for the first time, and it was a little mind-blowing.

As a creator owned book your always trying to beat the drum to retailers as initial orders are always so crucial. What is your elevator pitch to retailers and fans that have never given Witch Doctor a chance or simply have never been exposed to it?

Seifert: “Witch Doctor” is a horror medical drama. Lots of really classic monsters in the horror genre are infections, right? Zombism, vampirism, lycanthropy, demonic possession. Dr. Vincent Morrow is the doctor who treats them. It’s sort of like if Dr. House fought supernatural diseases, instead of normal ones. In one corner, we have this brilliant jerk doctor who’s augmented his medical training with magic spells and devices — and a big sword. (Spoilers: It’s actually Excalibur!) In the other corner, we’ve got every monster from horror fiction, folklore and myth, crossed with really disturbing stuff from actual medicine and biology. (For instance, demonic possession is actually an infection by the parasitic larval stage in the demon’s lifecycle — like a botfly laying eggs in your skin!)
If that doesn’t grab people, we also give them the chance to check out “Witch Doctor” for free! “Witch Doctor” #0 — featuring our weird twist on vampires — is free to read through ComiXology at this link: http://is.gd/kymQNs

Tell us a bit about this upcoming new Witch Doctor “Mal Practice” mini-series?

Seifert: The first “Witch Doctor” miniseries was all about laying groundwork. We introduced Doc Morrow, his assistants and their weird medical practice — and we introduced the world they live in and the cases they take. Now that the preliminary stuff is out of the way, we can go deeper.
“Witch Doctor: Mal Practice” kicks off with Doc Morrow going out for a drink, meeting a girl — and waking up the next day with no memory of what happened after that. For most of us, that’d be embarrassing — but Morrow’s a key figure in the upcoming apocalypse, and he panics. What happened? Was he drugged? Poisoned? Infected with a supernatural disease? Or did he just getblack-out drunk — which is what his assistant Eric Gast thinks? Morrow becomes his own patient, and over the course of the next six issues we’re going to see the worst 36 hours of his life!

You are also working on a new digital only mini-series Spirit of the Law. Talk a bit about that book and the decision to a digital only release?

Seifert: “Spirit of the Law” is a two-part noir/pulp/horror mashup, coming out just in time for the Halloween. It’s set during Prohibition, and follows a group of syndicate hitmen who’re being hunted down and butchered… by the paranormal vigilante they accidently created. We’re all seen plenty of superhero origins. “Spirit of the Law” is a superhero origin — from the villains’ point of view. The black and white art is by Michael Montenat and the color is by Ron Riley, and both of them really out-did themselves — the issues look amazing! Both issues are $0.99 and are available exclusively on ComiXology, for iOS devices, Droid, Kindle Fire, and any web browser.

As for why it’s digital only, I love, LOVE print comics — but I also think digital comics are really exciting. They’re a completely different reading experience, with a lot of storytelling devices you can use that you can’t do in print comics — lots of filmic stuff, especially. Also, print comics can be damn difficult to get a hold of. I recently heard from a “Witch Doctor” fan who loves our series, but has a great deal of trouble buying it — because he lives in New Zealand. That’s not a problem with digital. When “Spirit of the Law” #1 goes on sale, you can buy it anywhere in the world, from New Zealand to McMurdo Station in Antarctica to a small town like Astoria, Oregon that doesn’t have a comic store for a hundred miles.

Why release this book via MonkeyBrain (a new company) and not release this book through Image?

Seifert: The real answer to that is: Because MonkeyBrain asked me to. MonkeyBrain’s publishers Chris Roberson and Allison Baker are friends of mine and huge supporters of my work, and I was part of the first batch of creators they approached to release work through MonkeyBrain. I like Chris and Allison and I like what they’re doing, and I wanted to be a part of it.

But more than that — I couldn’t do this book through someplace like Image. For one thing, most of the Image imprints aren’t doing digital-exclusive content at this point. And for another, “Spirit of the Law” is a two-parter, with one 12 page issue and one 10 page issue, released twoweeks apart. You could never do that through the direct market, because retailers wouldn’t order it and fans wouldn’t buy it — and you couldn’t sell it for $0.99 if it was a print comic, because of printing, shipping and distribution costs.
Now, if Michael and I do more “Spirit of the Law” stories in the future, I could definitely see us doing a print edition through one of the indy publishers. But the two-parter we’re starting with is very much something that could only exist as a digital comic in the length, format and price point we’re working with now.

Preview: Witch Doctor Mal Practice #1