By Stjepan Sejic
Well, shit. Death Vigil has just taken it up a notch, if you can believe that possible, and at the same time creator/writer/artist Stjepan Sejic has changed everything. Everything that has been building for the last five issues comes to a head, and regardless of the solicit for this issue, it’s still powerful and surprising when it happens. But, certainly you can chalk that up to Sejic’s fantastic storytelling skills both in writing and art.
All-Comic.com: Thanks for taking the time here, Stjepan. First and foremost, how has the response been to Death Vigil?
Stjepan Sejic: Amazing. From fans to fan-artists to cosplayers, this has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.
It was recently announced that this will now be an ongoing series, how far into the future have you planned this book out? Can we expect a lot more Death Vigil in the future?
Stjepan Sejic: Things seemed grim for the series, at least for a while. I messed up, I won’t lie. I jumped into this headfirst and underestimated the market. First issue sold relatively well, but after that, the book started tanking. Irony was it wasn’t for the lack of quality or enthusiasm; it was because it was an indie book.
I learned the hard way that stores very often don’t order indie books beyond issue 1. Reasons are obvious and understandable. Comics market isn’t a hugely profitable business and as such they have to pick what they think would sell. Your batman and Spiderman are relatively guaranteed to move some numbers but new indie stuff not so much. I didn’t know that.
Preorders pretty much regulate print runs of books in indie market and with not that many preorders issue 2 became hard to find. This carried over to subsequent issues. There was a time when I thought of ending it with arc one. At the end of the day, there are bills to pay and all that. However, the word has been spreading, and I am fairly optimistic about it.
Truth is that I have three main arcs and two minis already planned. This summer I will do a 4-issue mini called Death vigil-lost childhood, which will reveal how James joined the vigil while revealing much of other characters as well, and how he and Mia became best friends, while having a badass epic tale to accompany all that.
If you’ve never seen Sejic in action, you really need to pick up anything with his name on it. His art is just spectacularly good, on every level. His character designs, as mentioned time and time again, are absolutely top notch, as are his monster designs. Particularly here, where he has free reign to get as messed up as he likes (and he does) his design shines through. You add to that the fact that he colors all his own work, and you’ve just got a marriage of pencil, ink and color (digital or otherwise) that looks so damn good on the page you can’t help but read it then doddle on the art while trying not to drool on it and wreck the page.
How do you come up with some of these designs?! Do you have nightmares a lot, because I don’t know how anybody that comes up with these monsters doesn’t have nightmares?
Stjepan Sejic: Nah, I sleep like a baby. I just have a long history with design.
In all seriousness, how do you approach each issue of Death Vigil? Do you write the script, thumbnail, pencil, ink, color, letter, or do you mix it up and maybe draw and write as you go?
Stjepan Sejic: For a while, I was somewhat annoyed whenever I read in a review people comparing my art and my writing. It is a natural comparison and I don’t really mind it but it misses the point. I write by drawing.
General process is: I figure out the main story, chop it up issue to issue, then define page count of each event that happens and find a way to make it all fit. At the same time, I am concentrated on dialogues and that focuses the drawing part into purposed storytelling.
Not only is his art fantastic, with great expressions and designs, but his writing is really great too. Every character is unique and is clearly defined apart from the rest of the cast and be damned if you don’t end up liking them almost immediately. Sejic seems to have an uncanny knack for creating and writing down to earth, relatable characters that have great senses of humor, for the most part (looking at you Bernie). They’re the kind of characters you could go out and have a beer with and it’d be an absolute blast. It’s something that, really, you don’t get too often, especially if you’re knee deep into Big Two stuff, and it’s a refreshing and welcomed change of pace from the same old grind.
How much of yourself leeches into your characters? Seeing some of your one-off drawings, and of course reading your work, you certainly have your own twisted, at times, sense of humor.
Stjepan Sejic: Sense of humor definitely plays a big part in my work. Humor is important; it helps us deal with the uncomfortable and the scary. Sometimes it is chaotic, and at other times extremely purposeful.
Nevertheless, I try to keep myself out of my characters heads. I just let them encounter situations and react.
Who is your favorite character in Death Vigil?
Stjepan Sejic: It’s a split between Mia and Bernie.
There’s a reason that Death Vigil is on one helluva roll for getting 5-Star reviews from All-Comic: it’s a f#$%ing amazing series. It feels so fresh and different from what you’re getting out there, and considering the things that Image is doing that’s saying a lot. This is one of those series that has immediately jumped into must-read territory. It feels like something that anybody can pick up and enjoy the hell out of, so why not go out there and pick it up and enjoy the hell out of it! While you’re at it, pick up Ravine Vol 1/Ravine Vol 2 and Sunstone. Guaranteed you won’t regret any of it.
Being such a fan of your work, particularly this series, it’s an honor. What can we expect for the next few issues of Death Vigil? How do you top this issue?
Stjepan Sejic: The way I have it planned, issue 6 is supposed to provide an emotional gut punch. Issue 7 is supposed to blow your minds with things falling into place and importance of every little thing pays off. And issue 8 is when you unhook your jaw and leave it on your desk just to prevent it from getting damaged… CUZ IMMA MAKE IT DROP!
Again, thanks for doing this with us.
Stjepan Sejic: And thank you too.