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Image Month: Brandon Seifert - "Image was a whole new ball game"

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by Brandon Seifert

I’ve been a professional comics writer for approximately 15 minutes. And in that time, I’ve had plenty of surreal, dissociative “this is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife, how did I get here?” moments. Stuff like meeting people cosplaying as my characters at conventions, or drunkenly introducing myself to Matt Smith at a schmancy Hollywood party at Comic-Con. And then there was the Thursday in February where I went to the opening of the Image Comics 20th anniversary retrospective art show at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco.

The art show was a round-up of art from throughout Image’s history. There was everything from the cover of Al Gordon’s WildStar: Sky Zero #1 from 1993 (which I geeked out over to a couple of friends who’d never heard of it), to pages of Image United, to the Fiona Staples cover of Saga #1.

And then there was the black and white cover of Witch Doctor #0. Art from a comic I co-created, drawn by my collaborator Lukas Ketner. Hanging on the wall a little ways down from the Wizard Magazine Special Edition cover from 1992, the one that’s a gatefold of profiles of the first-wave Image Comics characters, each drawn by their respective creators. (I had a poster of that Wizard cover when I was 12 years old. It lived on my bedroom wall. I loved the crap out of that thing.)

The founding of Image Comics in 1992 changed the industry in ways we’re still feeling. And it changed things for me, too.

I was 11 years old when Image was announced — and I was excited about it in the way only an 11 year-old could be. I honestly hadn’t been that familiar with the founders’ work before they announced the company. I’d read the odd issue of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man run (which was disturbingly dark for me at the time), and Erik Larsen’s run following him — and I’d really liked Rob Liefeld on X-Force. (The new Weapon X Rob and Fabian Nicieza introduced in X-Force was basically the coolest thing I’d ever seen at that point in my life. He had CYBERNETIC HANDS that he could SHOOT AT PEOPLE, and his jacket wasn’t long enough to reach his abs! For some reason, that really did it for me at 11.) But even if I wasn’t interested in the founders when they were working on Marvel’s characters, seeing them coming up with their own creations was a whole new ball game.

I eagerly followed the announcements about the new company in Wizard, Comic Shop News, and Hero Magazine — the only comics news outlets available tp a kid in the middle of Alaska in the B.I. (Before Internet) era. I bought all the first-wave Image titles, and had a complete run of everything they published… up until they did the first swimsuit special. (For some reason, I didn’t want to try to sneak that past my parents. Considering what the women were wearing in Youngblood, I no longer clear on why I thought my folks would care.) A lot of the books didn’t appeal to me, but Image itself was exciting for me, as a company and as an idea, and I followed them regardless. And some of the books I loved — especially WildC.A.T.S., Cyberforce, WildStar, and most especially Jim Valentino’s Shadowhawk.

Seeing the Image titles was creatively eye-opening. I was more or less a born writer — or at least a born story-maker. For as far back as I can remember, the main appeal of cartoons, movies and comics was taking the characters and setting I loved and telling new stories with them. Fan fiction before there was a term for it, in my head. But before Image, fan fiction was about as far as I went. I created, I came up with new stories and characters and twists — but they were all within some established framework like the Ghostbusters franchise, Hyrule, the world of Redwall. Image showed me that I didn’t have to limit my imagination like that. If I wanted to come up with a new superheroine, I didn’t have to place her in Manhattan in the Marvel Universe — I could put her where-ever I wanted. In hindsight that seems like such an obvious thing — but at the time, it was extremely groundbreaking for me.

     

This was all in seventh grade. In eighth grade, I moved from comics into role-playing games. I honestly only played them a few times — again, this was interior Alaska, and it was hard to find people who played RPGs at all, let alone people I could stand. But they gave me a very mechanistic, structured system for expressing my ideas and my stories. Writing my own fan supplements for role-playing games was what honed my writing abilities to the point where they were near-professional.

By the end of high school I’d given up my geeky pastimes, in a calculated effort to actually date a girl someday. (Again, in hindsight that’s hysterical — especially since the girl I’m dating right now has tattoos based on creator-owned comics.) And then as an underclassman in college, I rediscovered comics.

And now I write them for the company that inspired me when I was 11. Life turns out to be much weirder than I realized when I was a kid. But then, you’d think I would’ve learned that lesson when two of my hometown friends’ wedding was officiated by the guy who played Odo on Deep Space Nine.

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Brandon Seifert writes Witch Doctor for Image Comics under Robert Kirkman's Skybound imprint. The story was deservedly tabbed as one of the best mini-series to hit in 2011 and has been collected as Witch Doctor Vol 1: Under the Knife.

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