After the impressive debut of Witch Doctor in 2011, Doctor Morrow returns this week in Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #1. I recently caught up with series writer Brandon Seifert and artist Lukas Ketner to talk about what we can expect from the mini-series, plans for future issues, and their interest in a Witch Doctor TV series:
For those that aren't familiar with Witch Doctor, can you tell our readers how this all came together?
Lukas Ketner: It came from an idea Brandon had initially. We really wanted to do something that was a portfolio piece so that we could show that we could create comics.
Brandon Seifert: We started meeting up and talking about potential story ideas. The basic idea of Witch Doctor is something I came up with years ago and was just sitting in my notebook. I never really knew what to do with it before, but it got to be the idea we talked about the most.
Lukas Ketner: We realized that this could be a portfolio piece, but could also be the start of a series because we were really into this character.
Did your first work on the property start with the issue #0 that was included with the first trade release?
Brandon Seifert: It started with a version of that. We were still thinking of it as a portfolio piece and just wanted to do a 16-page complete story. When we got picked up by Skybound, Robert Kirkman really liked it and wanted to publish that, but it had been a year since we had created it.
Lukas Ketner: It was really rough, and we had new and better ideas.
Brandon Seifert: So, we re-wrote it and published it as issue #0, which came out in the back of The Walking Dead. Lukas had done a few other things, but that was my first professionally published work.
There's been a decent between the first mini-series and Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #1. Do you want to continue with mini-series releases, or will we be getting a steady output of Witch Doctor stories from now on?
Brandon Seifert: Initially, the plan was to publish it the way that Hellboy used to get published, with a series of mini-series and one-shots. It turns out that there are a bunch of industry realities we didn't know about. It's much harder to get stores to order it, as opposed to a monthly ongoing series. The hope is to get this to the point where we can make it an ongoing monthly series.
Lukas Ketner: We're working as hard as we can so that sometime soon it could launch as an ongoing series.
In November, we see the launch of Witch Doctor: Mal Practice. How many issues are planned?
Lukas Ketner: There are a total of six issues.
For readers who haven't read Witch Doctor, can you give them a little tease of what they can expect?
Brandon Seifert: Witch Doctor is a horror medical drama. It's sort of like if Dr. House fought supernatural diseases like vampirism and demonic possession. So, we're taking these classic monsters and looking at them through a medical lense with this brilliant jerk doctor as our hero.
The first miniseries was focused on setting up the premise and introducing the characters. Now that we've done that, we're opening up things up and getting more into our cast. We're telling a longer story and putting more emphasis on magic in this world. In this setting, monsters are diseases and medicine is magic, so there are a lot of really interesting things you can do.
This series is exploring more of the downsides of magic and medicine. In Witch Doctor, there isn't white magic or black magic. Magic is not inherently evil; it's just a tool like medicine. There are these lifesaving drugs that you can horribly abuse, kill people with, get high on, or sell for a profit. So, we're getting more into things like witchcraft and spellborn diseases.
Will we get more of Penny and Eric's backstory in this series?
Brandon Seifert: We're going to see a lot more Penny stuff. Of our two supporting cast members, Penny was definitely the one people got really excited about in the first mini-series. We didn't give a lot of information about Eric Gast, but there are a lot of mysteries involving him. I think a lot of people thought they knew him, but with this second mini-series, we'll be doing with him what we did with Penny in the first.
Lukas Ketner: I think people will find out that he has something just as scary as what Dr. Morrow and Penny have going on.
Will the Mal Practice introduce us to new supporting characters?
Brandon Seifert: We have more supporting characters in this. There is a character we introduced in Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation, a necromancer mythologist, and she's involved in this storyline. She's kind of a love interest who's completely wrong for Dr. Morrow. The one-shot was like a prologue for Mal Practice. It might not have looked like a setup at the time, but it secretly set up future events.
I feel that Witch Doctor is a property that could translate very well into a TV series. With the series being published at the home of The Walking Dead, is this something you're open to?
Brandon Seifert: It's something that we're very open to. Before anyone even saw it, we thought it could be an awesome TV show. One of the things that's great about working with Skybound is that they have entertainment connections and Witch Doctor could easily be a TV series. Basically, we can't worry about that, though. If someone wants to take the comic book we love and turn it into a TV series, that's awesome.
The both of you are working on other projects on top of Witch Doctor. Do you see yourselves still working together on Witch Doctor years from now?
Lukas Ketner: There's honestly no other project I'd rather be working on and no other writer I'd rather be working with.
Brandon Seifert: Witch Doctor has turned out to be a very fertile storytelling venue for me. Recently, I totaled up all my favorite story ideas for Witch Doctor, and if we just did only my favorite stories, we have three years worth of issues. It's something I could clearly keep writing for the rest of my life.
If you want to catch up on Witch Doctor, volume 1 is now available and collects the first issues. Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #1 is available on Wednesday and we've included preview pages below:
Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #1 (of 6): The breakout medical horror hit from ROBERT KIRKMAN’s Skybound imprint is back on call! Even the world’s leading expert in supernatural disease needs to unwind sometimes. But when Dr. Morrow wakes up with no memory of what – and who! – he did last night, is it just a case of partying too hard… or something more malignant? (Hint: It’s the malignant one!)