In the comic book Witch Doctor, demonic possession and vampirism are diagnosed like chicken pox

The new horror comic Witch Doctor follows Dr. Vincent Morrow, an eccentric supernatural physician. Together with his bemused paramedic sidekick Eric and morbid anesthesiologist Penny Dreadful, Morrow treats occult infections with the bedside manner of a man possessed.

We spoke with Witch Doctor writer Brandon Seifert about this eminently entertaining series, which comes out this Wednesday. Seifert told us about its eldritch premise and what it was like to pitch an original comic using elbow grease and the world wide web.

One of my favorite facets of Witch Doctor is its precise, medical take on demonology, the occult, and other mystical arts. How did you come up with this concept?

We started with the doctor, Vincent Morrow. And Morrow's sort of character archetype — the occult doctor — is a very old idea in horror fiction, but I've never seen it played straight. Characters like Van Helsing are generally treated as generic monster hunters, and I wanted to see a doctor who approached the supernatural the way a [real] doctor would. And then last in the concept was the idea that all the monsters needed to cause actual diseases from biology.

Did you have a background in biology or demonology when you got into this project?

I have a background in journalism, so I have a background in doing research. When we came up with the series, I just sat down and started reading books. Since then, I've gained a lot of knowledge about these topics.

In the comic book Witch Doctor, demonic possession and vampirism are diagnosed like chicken poxS

How did you land Witch Doctor with Image Comics and Robert Kirkman's Skybound Imprint?

He cold-emailed us in July 2009 right before Comic-Con. He had seen an unrelated piece of [Witch Doctor illustrator] Lukas Ketner's art online and then followed the link to a 15-page pilot comic for Witch Doctor. We had put it online for free, and Kirkman read it and got in contact with us.

That's certainly an unorthodox way to break into comics.

I was off-put by the comic industry for a long time. I've always wanted to work in comics, but it never seemed like a remotely viable career opportunity. Comics have such a reputation for being closed off, but my experience was actually the opposite of that. As soon as we put the first issue out, we were getting attention from publishers and other creators from series that was formative for us.

In the comic book Witch Doctor, demonic possession and vampirism are diagnosed like chicken poxS

Any advice for folks trying to break into comics?

You're never going to get any professional work in comics unless you do unprofessional work. I mean that both in the sense of unpaid work and crappy work. You're not going to get into comics unless you go out and make comics. You're not waiting for someone to let you in.

What can readers expect from this four-issue miniseries?

We're doing a variety of monsters and shorter self-contained stories that are kind of moving into a longer, multi-part story. The first issue is our take on The Exorcist. The second issue goes back into folklore with faerie changelings. Issues three and four branch into the series' overall mythology, which is this sort of Old-One-imminent-apocalypse kind of thing. You'll also see some Lovecraftian fish people.

One of my favorite lines from the first issue was when Morrow's flummoxed by a demonic possession and yells, "I've only seen one case this bad in literature — and that was in the Bible!"

Yeah, for the first issue I read a lot about exorcisms and parasitic fly infections. We ended up combining parasitism with the Gerasene Demoniac.

You can read a free preview of Witch Doctor #0 — which features an encounter with a very prehensile vampire — over at Comixology. The first issue of Witch Doctor hits stands Wednesday, June 29 — you can also check out a 10-page preview of the first issue here.