[Interview] Brandon Seifert Chats ‘Witch Doctor’ & ‘Hellraiser’

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Brandon Seifert has become a big name in horror comics in just a few years. After the success of Seifert’s first series, “Witch Doctor”, from Image comics in 2010, he began collaborating with horror legend Clive Barker as the co-writer for the current ongoing “Hellraiser” comic series. In addition, he’s also written issues of “Dr. Who” for IDW, and he recently launched a new mini-series, “Spirit of the Law” at Monkey Brain.

Brandon took the time to sit down with yours truly to talk about his many projects, his love for Lovecraft, and collaborating with Clive Barker. Check out the interview below.

BD: Give us the low down on your new book, Spirit of the Law.

Seifert: Spirit of the law is a noir pulp mashup with some horror elements thrown in. It’s a supernatural pulp heroine origin story that is told from the villain’s point of view. It’s about a group of mob hitmen in the 1930s who end up killing the wrong woman and she comes back form beyond the grave to exact revenge. It’s told from the point of view of the hitmen, so she’s not the main character. The main character is doing a hitman and he’s doing this because the economy is so bad, it’s right in the midst of the depression. So he’s kind of a nice guy hitman, even though he’s the one who pulls the trigger and kills her. I love the idea of pulp hero comics and the old setting, and so this was me doing my take on a superhero pulp comic, and it ended up as a ghost story.

BD: It seems like this pulp noir style is mixing with horror a lot these days.

Seifert: Yeah, for sure. The artist on the series has done some gorgeous gore on the pages. We collaborated on the Hellraiser Annual for the first time, and he did a really good job considering he only had two and a half weeks. He just pulled out all the stops.

BD: And that’s through Monkey Brain. What’s it like working with them as a publisher?

Seifert: It’s really nice and laid back. I’ve known Chris [Roberson] for quite a while now, and going through a publisher who just lets you do what you want is quite nice. You just make your book and send it to them and they put it up. It’s that easy with them, but also that hard because you have to make the book. They don’t get in your way at all, but there is no hand holding. It’s up to you to be a professional.

BD: What went behind relaunching Hellraiser?

Seifert: I was contacted late in the process, so I don’t know all the details and what their intentions were. But, this summer they got in touch and asked if wanted to be involved because I had done The Road Below with them. They asked it I wanted to co-write the new ongoing with Clive [Barker], and I’m not sure if they wanted a new number 1 or if they wanted to continue, so the story now is very different from the first 20 issues they did. It made sense to just draw a line and kind of start over.

BD: How closely do you get to work with Clive?

Seifert: We’re co-writing the book, but I’ve had not direct contact with him. It’s all through my editor and his film company and stuff like that. It all comes from the top down. It’s his ideas, his direction for the series, but it’s up to me to figure out how to make it all work. So we co-plot it out, then I write the script and he sends me notes. It’s the kind of thing where it’s his vision that I’ve been tasked with implementing. It’s really neat for me to do and also intimidating.

BD: Were you a big fan of the franchise beforehand?

Seifert: Yeah, when I got into horror in high school, it was Clive’s stuff and H.P. Lovecraft that got me hooked. I was a really big Hellraiser fan and I kind of wrote some fan fiction, I would plot out stories because as so enamored with the universe. To get to work with him on this now, it’s so strange.

BD: Was brining Harry D’amour back your or Clive’s doing?

Seifert: They did that toward the end of the previous series, and then it was in Clive’s notes that Harry would be the new Pinhead. That was one of the things that made me really excited to do it because I just love that character. I’ve been waiting for the Scarlet Gospels, the Harry D’amour/Pinhead crossover novel, for a very long time. So to be able to my own sort of take on it, this is probably a very different take than what Clive will be doing in the novel, it’s just great.

BD: What’s the projection for the first few issues?

Seifert: The first few issues are fairly stand-alone, just introducing the characters and their worlds. By the third issue we get Kirsty and Eliot, and then the 4th we finally get to Harry. It’s been about a year since the last series, so we’ve got to catch up with them all. I can’t say too much beyond that, unfortunately. One thing I love about Clive’s novels is that he always pulls the rug out, so when you read something and the status quo is altered over and over again, that is very much what we want to continue with the series. I really like the direction Clive is planning and the overall plot we’re getting into.

BD: You mention H.P. Lovecraft, and it’s pretty apparent that he’s a big influence in Witchdoctor. How do you appropriate his stuff for your work?

Seifert: I really like his work, I love his cosmic horror. With Cthulhu and all the Elder Ones, I thought it would be interesting to look at the parasites that have been left behind. From the beginning, we wanted to do a Lovercraft thing. Lukas isn’t a big thing of Lovecraft’s prose, but he loves the ideas. To me, I’d seen a lot of cosmologies that are based on Lovecraft’s stuff, like Hellboy and stuff like that, but I want to do something like that where at the top of the food chain are the old ones, so I thought it would be a fun way to do it with the medical horror aspect.

BD: Tell us about Mal Practice and the different direction you went with it compared to the first mini series?

Seifert: For those who haven’t read it, it’s a horror medical drama. The first mini series was laying the groundwork and easing people into what is a really strange concept that is rather similar to books like Hellboy and Hellblazer and stuff like that, and TV shows like House. But by combining it, it becomes really fucking weird. The first series showcased our take on demons, vampires, and just kind of to get people used to our world. Once we established it and people got on board, we felt like we bought ourselves the freedom to do something bigger and that’s what we’ve been doing with Mal Practice.

Mal Practice is six issues, taking place over a course of 36 hours, and it’s the worst day and half of Dr. Morrow’s life. He tries to take some down time, and ends up getting infected with a supernatural STD. He discovers it is part of this whole plot against him and his work, so the clock is ticking and he doesn’t really have time to do things he would normally do to solve the case and find the cure. It’s been so much fun. The first three issues went over really well, but then issue 4 gets insane, issue 5 gets even more insane, and issue 6 is the craziest. I’m just so excited for people to read it.

BD: As comical as the premise is, the series is packed with some heavy drama, it’s not just a horror comedy. How do you balance the horror and comedy?

Seifert: It’s honestly really difficult. Some genres, like sci-fi, are based on the tropes you are using within the plot. Whereas horror and comedy are based on the emotions and tones associated with the plot and prose. But when you try to make someone laugh, it’s harder to scare them, and vice versa. It’s one of the hardest things in the book for me. If you read the first couple issues, the amount of humor kind of flops around, I didn’t figure out until around issue 3 or 4. The one thing I don’t want is having the jokes at the expense of the monsters, so I try to make the threats seem relatively serious.

BD: It seems almost that it’s like the Re-Animator films.

Seifert: I can’t actually watch them. I just find the effects really revolting; I just can’t bring myself to watch them.

BD: Really? I find that so surprising. This medical horror stuff hasn’t been seen much in comics, so why did you go this route?

Seifert: I think a lot of the most interesting horror is the stuff that is most heavily researched, like The Exorcist. If you watch that film and then go read about what the Vatican believes about exorcism, it’s very similar. Or things like Alien, which was based on the lifecycle of an actual parasite. Witch Doctor came from the idea of pitting Dr. Morrow against supernatural/biological threats, and when I came up with that, it just started writing itself. The first issue of Mal Practice, the monster in it eats and replaces his tongue. This parasite actually fucking exists! It doesn’t do it to people, but I read about it in a book on parasites and I was like, why hasn’t anyone done something with that? So it just started as a thought experiment, and it’s taken over my life. Now that I think in that way, it’s impossible for me to turn it off. I can’t watch a horror movie and not pick apart the biology of it.

BD: Anything else you want to throw on the table before we close?

Seifert: If you haven’t’ checked out Witch Doctor, we’ve got a free issue #0, so check that out. It’s out take on vampires, and it’s an intro to how fucking weird our world is.