Brandon Seifert: Vengeance and the LawA comics interview article by: Jason Sacks
When last we checked in with Brandon Seifert he had a whole slew of projects he was working on, including a new series from digital-only Monkeybrain and a brand new Hellraiser series. Now that several months have gone by and we've had a chance to check out his new Monkeybrain series Spirit of the Law, it seemed like a good time to check back with Brandon and talk about his latest projects.
Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: Spirit of the Law is a bit of a step away from your usual horror. How did you approach this new series?
Brandon Seifert: It's a step away, but not a big step.
Spirit of the Law is a noir/pulp mashup, but it's also a supernatural horror story. It's about a group of hitmen who are hunted down by the paranormal vigilante they accidentally created. So in some ways it's more of a traditional horror story than something like Witch Doctor, which also mixes in comedy, action, and medical drama. The focus in SotL is very much on these hunted men, the peril they're in, and the fear they feel. And it's gorier than Witch Doctor — a hard "R" rating, rather than the "PG-13" thing we're doing in WD.
My approach to writing Spirit of the Law was honestly more like my approach to my Hellraiser work than it was to Witch Doctor. A lot of that is the genres. Some genres are about setting, character types, story types — noir, hero pulp, westerns, stuff like that. Other genres are about the emotion they're trying to evoke in the audience. Horror is about trying to scare, disturb, or gross-out the audience, while comedy is all about the laugh.
So something like Witch Doctor, which has both a big horror element and a big comedy element, is a bit of a juggling act. Too many laughs negate the scares, and vice versa. Whereas just doing a horror story, that's more tonally pure. So with Spirit of the Law, my collaborator Michael Montenat and I are mixing in Film Noir and Hero Pulp conventions, but the emotional tone is consistent. Same as with Hellraiser — I'm not trying to balance two different emotional reactions in that one either.
CB: Would you call the protagonist of Spirit of the Law a heroine or more a force of vengeance?
Seifert: I think you can definitely look at the Spirit of the Law in different ways. In one way, she's definitely a force of vengeance, in the way you see in folklore and in stuff like The Crow. But because of her setting — the 1930s, the height of pulp — and because the people she's getting vengeance on are criminals, I think there's an argument that she's heroine. Or at least a vigilante. If nothing else, if you put her in a superhero or pulp hero world, the other characters in that world would react to her the same way they react to heroes or vigilantes on the more violent end of the spectrum.
But honestly, whatever the Spirit is, there's one thing she's not — she's not the protagonist of the story. Spirit of the Law is about the Spirit — but it's about her, as seen through the eyes of the mob hitmen who accidentally create her. Basically, I love noir-ish stories that are told from the point of view of a sympathetic criminal. And while I've seen plenty of superhero origins, I've never seen one told exclusively from the villain's point of view. So the Spirit of the Law isn't the protagonist; Sammy Workman, the man who killed her, is.
CB: When we talked at SDCC, you mentioned that she was based on the statue Blind Justice; how do you think the visual works for the character?
Seifert: I've always thought the “Blind Justice“ or “Lady Justice“ visual was a great look for a superheroine. But I've never seen it used. There was even a superheroine in the ‘90s called Lady Justice, but she didn't actually follow the look! She just wore normal clothes and a blindfold. So it was kind of an iconic visual that was just lying around.
There's lots of things I love in the “Blind Justice” icon. For one thing, you've got the mix of vulnerability — the long dress, very feminine — with violence — the big sword. I also love the whole "blinded" aspect. Justice isn't supposed to care who you are. She's just supposed to do her job. All of that works very well with Spirit of the Law. Though whether our character is actually pursuing justice rather than vengeance isn't very clear. There's a moral purity in “Blind Justice” that isn't there in the Spirit of the Law.
CB: Will we get more stories with this character?
Seifert: That's the intention!
My collaborator Michael Montenat and I were just kind of testing the waters with this first two-parter. But we ended up having a lot of fun working on it, and I think it turned out great. Michael drew the living hell out of it, and our colorist Ron Riley took Michael's great art and made it even better with his lovely, moody color work.
I met Michael in person for the first time at New York Comic Con — he's based in New Jersey and I'm in Portland, Oregon. And we agreed we want to work together more, and to do more SotL stories. So, chances are really good! The one thing that remains to be seen is: Do the readers like it?
CB: Witch Doctor is coming back soon, and judging by the ads it will be as intense as ever. Can you give us a preview of the new mini?
Seifert: Our new series, Witch Doctor: Mal Practice, is six issues chronicling the worst 36 hours of Dr. Morrow's life to date. It kicks off with Morrow, tired after a long day treating supernatural diseases, going out for a drink, meeting a girl, and then waking up the next day with no memory of what happened next.
For most of us that'd be embarrassing, but Morrow's a key player in the upcoming apocalypse, so it's potentially catastrophic! Was he drugged, or poisoned, or infected with some supernatural disease? Morrow becomes his own patient, and his quest to find out what happened to him kicks open a whole can of worms. Really big worms. With teeth.
So, that's the story. On the presentation end, Mal Practice is a move away from the kind of stories we did in the first miniseries. Witch Doctor Vol. 1 was very much about setting up the world and cast; Mal Practice is about taking that and running with it. We'll be seeing more of the world, more magic, more danger, more mysteries about Penny Dreadful — and more monsters! My collaborator Lukas Ketner has really outdone himself on his monster designs for this miniseries. We're going to be giving people nightmares!
CB: How are you feeling, being in control of the Hellraiser universe now?
Seifert: Well, I'm hardly "in control" of it. For one thing, I'm just doing a four-issue miniseries — and for another, Clive Barker is the one at the wheel of the ship. But it feels great to be involved! Hellraiser is something I've loved since high school. Back then, I plotted my own Hellraiser fan fiction and stuff like that. So it's incredibly neat to get to contribute to the franchise. And also really, really surreal!
CB: What should we expect in the next mini?
Seifert: In the current Hellraiser ongoing series from BOOM! Studios, the Pinhead we know from the movies has stepped down and became human. And his replacement is Kirsty Cotton, the "final girl" from the first two Hellraiser films.
My miniseries Hellraiser: The Road Below is sort of a "Year One" for Kirsty, picking up shortly after she became the new Pinhead. She's new in her role, and overconfident — and she gets in the middle of a blood-feud between two families who are more than what they seem. Kirsty's only got the best intentions... but we know where those will lead you, right? The Road Below is sort of its own Hellraiser film, told over the course of four issues — but with Kirsty in the Pinhead role.
CB: Sounds great! Thanks Brandon!