Dark Horse has always been major player in the world of horror comics, but they stepped up to the plate in 2012. The publisher launched a truly frightening line of books that gave us Tim Seeley’s vampire murder mystery “Ex Sanguine”, Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra exploring a mental patient that was battling insnity in “Colder”, and the comic adaptation of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s “The Strain”.
Since the series have wrapped up, we’ve been foaming at the mouth waiting for Dark Horse to announce what they have planned for 2013. This year the publisher has brought a grenade launcher to a gun fight, as they announced their horror line for 2013 at C2E2.
Witch Hunt is the story of Cassian Steele, the boss of the werewolf mafia in New Orleans, who needs to kill an old witch Verona before she exposes a secret that could ruin him. A bounty is put out on Verona’s head, and she is forced to run from werewolf mobsters, vampire maids, voodoo wizards, and zombie ninjas that are out to kill her. What they don’t realize is that Barnabus Black, a demon desperately trying to regain his halo, is her protection.
Bloody-Disgusting was given the inside scoop on Witch Hunt before the announcement at C2E2, and we caught up with writer Victor Gischler and artist Juan Ferreyra to discuss their interesting take on classic movie monsters.
BD: Tell us about the original concept for Witch Hunt came from?
Victor: I wrote a collection of stories called THREE ON A LIGHT and a novel called VAMPIRE A GO-GO, and in both these works we have a modern world in which werewolves, vampires, zombies, witches, alchemists and other such things all live side by side. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what sort of stories could work in such a world and how they might unfold. I guess that’s where we start with Witch Hunt. I gave some thought to how werewolves, witches, etc. would fit into such a world. Do they have jobs? What do they do? Are they hidden from the “normal” folks in the world or kind of semi-underground or what? Then I wanted our “hero” — Barnabus Black — to be just one step more removed from this world. It started with this simple idea that, when Lucifer was cast out of heaven he took a third of the angels with him, and only one wanted to return. I followed that up with the question, “Who does God’s dirty work for him?” From there it was just an exploration of what cool things could be done to mix action and magic to take readers on the best ride I could conjure within such a world and with the sort of characters I envisioned.
BD: The story is firmly entrenched in the city of New Orleans. How much of a role does the city play in this book?
Victor: New Orleans has the perfect vibe for this story. You have voodoo influences alongside a strong Catholic influences. It’s a city of art and music but also crime and hurricanes. It’s a fair sized town, yet at the same time a more intimate city than New York or Chicago or L.A. Plus, I live an hour away so it’s just a more familiar to me, which never hurts. I felt very comfortable and confident that it would work well for Witch Hunt. Also, I wanted to give Juan some good visual opportunities, so when scripting I’d sometimes send him photos of cafes or various landmarks.
BD: Werewolves are classic literary monsters. How do you tell a story about Werewolves without repeating what’s come before?
Victor: Well, I don’t think it’s completely a good idea to abandon what has come before. I want the reader to feel at least some connection to traditional werewolf lore. One example is we use silver bullets. But getting back to what we were talking about before, I thought okay, how would werewolves fit into this world? I focused on the idea of “pack” and sort of thought werewolves would be the mafia types, running all the rackets you’d expect the mob to run with a similar chain of command, etc. With this in mind, Witch Hunt werewolves aren’t slinking around, slobbering by night looking for people to eat. They wear expensive suits and have nice houses like all cool, snazzy mobsters. Think Tony Soprano with fur and claws.
BD: What can you tell us about the character of Barnabus Black and his role in this book?
Victor: He’s an outsider, but considering the world we’ve created, being an outsider really means something. In a way, Barnabus is the classic tainted hero trying to earn his way back into good graces, and he’s got a long way to go to find redemption. Tough, gritty, good with fists and guns. We’ve checked all the boxes on the comic book hero checklist, but his big question is how can a demon earn his way back to being an angel.
BD: The art is being handled by Juan Ferreyra and being done in this gorgeous style that gives it almost a painted look. What was it about his art that made him the perfect fit for this book?
Victor: I’ll let Juan explain the technical side of his art. But I will say I’m extremely excited he’s on this book. When we were looking to find the right artist for the project, Daniel Chabon sent me some of Juan’s work and told me he was just wrapping up a book called Colder. I could see right away Juan was going to kill on Witch Hunt. He’s a great artist with a very good understanding of storytelling.
BD: Juan, how did you approach this book from an artistic standpoint to make it look so clean, but still maintain the look and feel of a horror story? The art in issue #1 truly pops off the pages.
Juan: Thanks! Last year I was working on Falling Skies and I was doing pencils and inks there, but I also love coloring, so after that project when I had to do Colder and in order to deliver the pages on time I decided to skip the inks and go from pencils directly to coloring. For Witch Hunt they wanted me to go back to pencils and inks to do it faster and someone else on the colors, but I begged Dark Horse to let me do it like I did Colder and they agreed. I think that doing the pencils and then coloring makes my art to look little bit looser, and I also like to add a lot of textures with watercolors, which sometimes it gives a more little subtle dirt look. I also do a lot finishing touches on the coloring process and I can get to fix a lot of mistakes in the pencils that I find out later on.
BD: There is somewhat of a resurgence of horror in the comics world. What do you think sets this book apart from the rest of horror books on store shelves?
Victor: There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there now. Maybe one of the things that sets Witch Hunt apart from other horror is my approach to writing it, which is to say that when I sat down to write it I almost never thought, “Okay, I’m going to write horror now.” I just wrote a story, and when it wanted to be horror, I’d let it be horror. When it wanted to be pulp action, I’d let it do that. But I don’t know. Maybe other writers do the same thing. In the end, regardless of genre or market or anything else, I just want to give the reader the best ride I can.
Juan: From my point of view, besides having like almost every kind of monster present in the book. I get to draw werewolves, vampires, zombies, ninjas, cowboys, angels, demons, and beautiful women that are supposed to be witches. I also think that is a really fun book. It has really funny moments that I would love to see when I read something.