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“Witch Doctor” writer Brandon Seifert made his way to the world famous CBR Tiki Lounge at New York Comic Con to chat with CBR’s Jonah Weiland about breaking into comics (including a brief stint writing articles for CBR), moving to Portland from Alaska, pitfalls new writers should avoid and his all-digital project at Monkeybrain Comics, “Spirit of the Law.”
On moving from Fairbanks, Alaska to comic book mecca known as Portland, Oregon: I had been [to Portland] once and I had no idea, moving there — I didn’t even know that Dark Horse was based there until I moved there the first time. I had no idea that it was like the secret comics capital of the U.S. We definitely have more comic creates and companies per capita than anywhere else in the country. It’s this really kind of welcoming, close-knit scene between the publishers and then like Periscope Studios is a big one. Periscope is kind of a cultural force in Portland. There are so many of them — there’s like 27 people in that studio — and they are very very nice, and very welcoming. I didn’t realize it at the time, I was pretty much picking the best city — ever — to try to break into comics in. It’s very close knit, I work in a studio downtown, just a couple blocks from Periscope along with [writer] Joe Keatinge and [artist] Wes McClain, who co-created “The Middleman,” and a bunch of other creators. It’s really kind of amazing.
On pitfalls for new writers to avoid: The first “Witch Doctor” story was 16 pages long, it was our vampire short story. I wrote it, I really didn’t know what I was doing. Lukas [Ketner] drew it, and we put it out, and we got a lot of traction with it and a lot of people really liked it. But then I started actually reading some books about storytelling and learned about plot structure and drama. And about how your protagonist can’t just get his way, or her way, the whole time. I went and I looked back at that story and I’m like, “The doctor just gets his way for 11 pages, and then there’s a fight. … Stories do work a lot better if there’s actually drama and consequences.
On whether it was better to just start creating rather than learning how to write: Lukas and I, we did not know what we were doing and we did it anyway. And we learned a lot on the job. If I waited until I actually knew what I was doing, I would probably — I mean, I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing now. … So if I had waited until I was comfortable and actually knew my craft and stuff I’d still be waiting today.
On his all-digital project, “Spirit of the Law,” at Monkeybrain: It’s this kind of noir-pulp mash-up where, more or less, it’s a super hero origin told through the villain’s point of view, sort of like a film noir kind of mode. The artist on it is a guy named Michael Montenat and we’re doing it in — it was originally going to be a 22-page one-shot, but the way things have turned out to work with Monkeybrain it works out better to do a shorter comic for $0.99. That’s what people want. It’s very clear from their sales numbers, that is what people want to buy. So we cut it in half. … A lot of the writing for it was the same that I would do for any other project, but because it’s going exclusively through comiXology and they have all this great stuff that you can do with Guided View — all these interesting storytelling tools that people like Mark Waid and other people are exploring right now. A lot of the appeal of doing something for Monkeybrain was that I could play with that stuff, and I can play with kind of filmic, fixed angle shots where elements in a panel move as you move through a comic rather than the panel itself moving.
On Monkeybrain’s unique position in the marketplace: Monkeybrain, in general, is so subtly different from any other comics publisher that it was really hard to wrap my head around it. This is a company that I can do whatever I want, I don’t have to pitch it to them, and there’s no way they can possibly lose money on it because it’s digital, so they’re not investing any money on it to begin with. So we get paid — all the money that comes in, we get a chunk of. It’s really strange. There’s nowhere else in comics, that I’m aware of, like that. And then also, you know, we’re not going through the traditional distribution system so you can do books that would have died on the vine if you tried to put them out in the direct market. … And I can pay the creative team, which is just bizarre in a lot of independent comics.