Talking To The Witch Doctor About Medicine, Religion And The Practicalities Of Swearing

Louis Falcetti writes for Bleeding Cool;

Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner’s Witch Doctor is back for it’s second volume with Mal Practice in stores November 28. If you haven’t picked up volume 1, “Under the Knife” do yourself a favor and do so. It’s a comic with a simple premise that is able to do quite a lot with it, as the book somehow checks off the boxes for horror, humor, medical drama, and apocalypse prophecies. From the characters to the amazing art that has echoes of Neal Adams and Rick Veitch in all the best ways, Witch Doctor is a comic that delivers on all fronts. I talked with writer Seifert about the new series:

-What can you tell us about what to expect in Vol. 2? Is it going to be more focused on the overarching mythology or more creature feature of the week style storytelling?

We went very self-contained, “case of the week” in volume 1. A lot of that was because we were trying to make it new reader accessible — you can pick up issue #1 of the first miniseries, or issue #2, #3 or #0, and get jumping on point. Plus, Lukas and I hate it when new comics ask you to commit to a four- or six-part story sight unseen, and only give you one-fourth or one-sixth of a story in the first issue.

But now that we’re past the introductions part, we’re breaking out of the formula we’ve established. “Mal Practice” is six issues, and it’s a six-part story. “Mal Practice” kicks off with Doc Morrow trying to unwind after a hard day of treating supernatural maladies. He meets a girl at a bar… and then wakes up the next day with no memory of what happened after that! And for Morrow, that’s a cause for panic. So “Mal Practice” #1 is about Morrow trying to find out what happened in his missing hours… and he doesn’t like what he finds out! But that’s just the start of it. We’re about to see the worst 36 hours of Doc Morrow’s life.

-Congrats on the 6 issue run (for Volume 2), is that thanks to Skybound? I ask because I’m constantly lamenting the 4 issue runs of most Image titles, I was wondering why your title got the extra room? Not that I’m complaining!

Honestly, at this point I don’t remember if Skybound specifically asked for six issues for “Mal Practice,” or if that’s what we pitched. I do know that the initial four issue run was per Skybound. But then it sold extremely well, and so a six-issue follow-up was a much safer bet.

-Are there plans beyond volume 2 for the series to go, sales permitting? Or do you have a definite beginning, middle, end planned out?

I have a huge number of stories planned for Witch Doctor! As for exactly what happens after Mal Practice, we’ll have to wait and see. Making any announcements about it right now would be premature.

-Early on in the first issue Morrow speaks a Latin incantation (or spell?) when dealing with Daniel and his demons, what kind of research do you do when it comes time to put arcane and occult words into the mouths of your characters?

Oh, that wasn’t actually Morrow saying that. He doesn’t even enter the scene until a couple pages later! It’s the priest who’s trying to exorcise Daniel who’s saying it — the priest we see unconscious on the next page. In that case, the text is from the “Rituale Romanum,” the exorcism prayer the Vatican uses. I did a lot of research into Catholic beliefs about exorcism and demonic possession before I wrote that issue, and the text came out of that.

As far as the other weird jargon we use, some of it’s made up. I don’t speak Latin or Greek, but I have fun coming up with fake technical terms using parts of words from those languages — “diablosis” is the technical term for demonic possession in “Witch Doctor,” and it’s a made-up word from the Greek for “demon” and “infection.” Some of the other jargon is actual occult or religious stuff. And then some of it’s biology or medical terms used in a weird context. In #1, Daniel vomits scorpions on Gast, which then dissolve into goo — and Morrow calls them “pseudomorphs.” In biology, a “pseudomorph” is a camouflage trick some kinds of cephalopods use — a mixture of ink and mucus they shoot out basically as a decoy to confuse predators. It means “false body.” Except when you’re dealing with demons, they’re using ectoplasm instead of ink!

Where do you even go for that kind of information?

Google is my friend. J

People always ask me if I have a medical background after they read “Witch Doctor.” I don’t. I have a journalism background. I’m good at reading things.

-Speaking of Daniel and the first Witch Doctor case, any plans to revisit Daniel and his supernatural lawn powered house bubble? How serious is Morrow when he tells someone that he’ll cure them later? I do understand that he has an apocalypse to stop.

You know, I wrote that story with some vague plans for a follow-up down the road, where we’d find out what it actually means when Morrow says he’s going to cure someone. But then we kept getting asked by people when Daniel and the Marquam family were going to come back! So we actually check in on them at the start of “Mal Practice,” and find out there may be more complications in Daniel’s case than Morrow initially realized.

-Is there an explanation as to why so much supernatural weirdness seems focused around Arkham?

Of course there’s an explanation. What do you take me for? ;)

And at some point, we’ll get around to telling people what it is…

-There are a couple of instances in the first trade of WD where swearing has been blacked out. Was this originally intended as a mature readers book? If so, why the change? Or was this simply a stylistic choice?

Honestly, it’s a stylistic choice.

When Lukas and I did the first, self-published “Witch Doctor,” I had Morrow swearing a lot. But while we were looking for publishers, some of the advice I got from editors was to cut the swearing. Basically, it’s really hard to get a creator-owned indy comic to sell… and even harder to get a creator-owned,mature-readers indy comic to sell. Some stores don’t carry indy books — and other stores don’t carry mature-readers titles. So blacking out the swearing meant that we could still have the characters swear, without limiting our potential readership. Because come on — if Gast says “What the **** is going on?” you don’t need to actually see the word he’s saying to get the point.

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