Zona Negativa.- In Witch Doctor we find an interesting an original new take on horror genre. Are you close at that genre? Do it have something to do with With Doctor conception?
Brandon: I like horror, but it’s not my favorite genre. If I had to choose a favorite genre, it would definitely be science fiction. I think part of the reason people like Witch Doctor is that it’s got a heavy basis in actual science, in addition to the horror element. Witch Doctor has more real science research put into it than most comics labeled “science fiction.” That was definitely part of the plan from the beginning.
Lukas: Coincidentally, Sci-Fi is my favorite genre as well, as my as-of-yet unannounced pet project will show. Horror is definitely a much-loved genre for me as well, especially in regards to some of my favorite artists, many of whom are classic horror comics artists. If Witch Doctor were straight horror and nothing else, I’m not sure it would appeal to me or many of our fans as much as it does.
Zona Negativa.- In the beginning, Lukas and you tried to self publish Witch Doctor. Now you have Image as publisher. What can you tell us about the hard beginnings and about Witch Doctor evolution in all that time?
Brandon: That’s a hard question to answer. Initially Lukas and I self-published a couple of short issues of Witch Doctor. But the only reason we did that was because we were trying to get a publisher, and that seemed like a good way to attract a publisher’s interest. (We never even discussed continuing to self-publish it beyond an initial couple of issues.) There are a lot of benefits to working with a publisher, and there’s a lot less work that Lukas and I have to do because we’re published by Skybound. But there’s a trade-off there, because when we were self-publishing we had complete control over everything about the series. The extra work self-publishing was hard; but being in complete control over our work is always nice!
Zona Negativa.- Later, Robert Kirkman saw your work and choose it to become the first Skybound Entertaintment title. How was that first contact? Did he ask you to change some of your work?
Brandon: Robert found Witch Doctor through the internet and sent me an email. I wasn’t prepared for it! It really surprised me! And now, Robert didn’t ask us to change anything. He actually asked us to make sure we didn’t change anything. Robert has always stressed that he liked Witch Doctor for what it was, not for some idea in his head of what it could be. I really appreciate that about him!
Zona Negativa.- Witch Doctor designs are awesome, and our readers love all your monsters and creatures. How do you and Brandon conceive them?
Lukas: Thanks! It starts with Brandon’s idea for a twist on a familiar horror creature, and in some cases a horror twist on a real-life species. From there, I sketch up some ideas and send them over. Brandon has quite a bit of input on the designs. I usually start with something that’s a little too ‘horror’, and then he helps steer the look of it back toward ‘biology’. I really think that real-life biology angle is what makes the monsters so cool and Witch Doctor-y.
Zona Negativa.- Witch Doctor is a whole new universe, with its own rules and concepts. That’s something we find in horror books and in universes such as Cthulhu and others. Do you think horror stories need its own rules to work?
Brandon: Honestly, I think any story that involves story elements we don’t have in the real world needs consistent rules to work. People always talk about how magic is “hard to write” or “hard to get right,” because a writer using magic in a story has to figure out how to make it work in a way that’s internally consistent, while also making it so it’s not so powerful that you can just solve every problem with magic. But… that’s true of high-tech machines in science fiction, too. Or of superpowers in superhero comics. Those need consistent rules too — and they need to be written so that they don’t just make the characters all-powerful. I don’t see that magic is any harder than that.
Zona Negativa.- Witch Doctor has something to do with “medical thriller”. It has a technical vocabulary, such as the one we see in tv shows, and you need the advice of Karen Andersen. How important is Karen in your work? How do you work with her?
Brandon: Karen’s a friend of ours who works in emergency medicine. I don’t go to her very frequently, but I like to have someone I can ask questions about how medicine actually works so I can add a little extra authenticity to the stories. That’s about all it’s for, though. I come up with the stories and figure out how to execute them myself.
Zona Negativa.- By the way, can you tell us something about your horror genre influences? How long is H.P. Lovecraft shadow in writing? And Bernie Wrightson in drawing?
Brandon: H.P. Lovecraft is obviously a huge influence on me. Clive Barker is another huge influence. But the Clive Barker influence comes through in my work mostly in the scale and the scope of the worlds I create. I love Clive Barker‘s imagination, and the way he creates these huge, fully-realized worlds. My imagination isn’t as vivid as his, but I still try to create big, real-feeling worlds like he does.
Lukas: When Witch Doctor began, I was definitely trying to be just like the 70s horror artists that I loved from House of Mystery. Since then, I’ve stopped trying to ape other artists as much, or at least ape as many as I can at once so that it’s an equal mix of a lot of influences instead of just being like “this issue I’m gonna try to draw like Sean Murphy, and this next issue I’ll be Eric Powell.” That definitely happens if I’m not careful about just doing what feels natural.
Zona Negativa.- How do you work with Andy Troy?
Lukas: I pretty much just hand off the B/W art with our joint notes on what some of the colors should be, and let them have at it. They’re both wildly talented, and the watercolor-y style they’ve developed really makes my stuff look good. There’s always revisions to be made, but that’s true of every step of the way.
Zona Negativa.- In your work, monsters are patients or sick people. You mix science and supernatural, with some biological principles. In fact, you give a new dimension to horror subjects. How much information do you need to write Witch Doctor and how do you get it?
Brandon: Writing Witch Doctor requires a huge amount of research. I research biology and medicine. But I also research horror fiction, folklore and mythology too. If a detail in a comic I write is different than it is in the real world, I want it to be different because I chose to make it that way. Not because I got it wrong! Most of my research comes from books and the internet.
Zona Negativa.- And last, which is Witch Doctor future? Are we going to read a lot of Witch Doctor stories or do you have an ending in mind?
Brandon: I have an ending in mind for Witch Doctor. But I have so many stories I want to tell first that I don’t know when the ending might happen! Probably a long time from now.
Lukas: The longer the better! More for me to draw!