Toy-Lines: Hi Brandon, thank you for the chance to speak with us regarding the great new comic Seekers of the Weird. How did you get involved with Marvel & Disney Kingdoms “Seekers of the Weird”?
Brandon Seifert: I’d previously contacted Marvel editor Bill Rosemann, hoping to do some writing for him some day. I followed up last summer — and he told me that he’d actually just been considering me for a project! The project turned out to be “Seekers of the Weird.” That’s pretty much the whole story!
TL: Sort of “the right place at the right time”?
BS: Pretty much!
TL: Did you have any nervousness about taking on a project like this?
BS: Not that I remember? I was pretty excited. A little anxious, I guess — but more because I’d never done anything for Marvel before, and I wanted to make sure I put my best work into it.
TL: Well, let me just say, the book has been excellent, so you’re definitely putting your best work into it.
BS: Thank you! That’s nice to hear.
TL: How did the plot come about? Did you have a basic idea, or did Rolly Crump’s sketches inspire you, or did the characters themselves help inspire you while you wrote?
BS: The basic plot actually came from my editor, Bill Rosemann. Before he brought me on board, Bill came up with a possible plot for the series. It had most of the basic elements of the series: The kids, their parents, the kidnapping, the Society of Shadows, the swashbuckling uncle. When Bill brought me on board he had me flesh that plot out, and come up with two wildly different takes on what the Museum of the Weird could be and the stories we could tell in it. But I think we all agreed that the plot Bill had come up with was the strongest. Bill’s not just an editor — he’s also quite a talented writer! The Marvel series Deadline that he wrote is one of my favorites.
Rolly’s sketches were a big inspiration, though. One of the big challenges for me was to figure out how to incorporate as many of Rolly’s designs as possible, in ways that made sense and did them justice.
TL: I can see how that would be a challenge. His designs even stumped Walt Disney at first, so to use them in a comic would be twice as tough I would think.
BS: I think Walt’s call to incorporate Rolly’s designs into a “Museum of the Weird” was a good call! It was definitely a convenient way to unify all the stuff Rolly was coming up with.
TL: Did you get to speak with Rolly Crump before or during the writing of the comic?
BS: I didn’t, personally. But the Imagineers at Disney who were working on the project did. After we finished the first issue, they went and visited Rolly at home and showed him everything we’d done so far. Rolly was apparently pretty excited about it all. It meant a lot to me that Rolly approved!
I did get to meet Rolly shortly after the first issue came out. Rolly, the Imagineers and I did a signing at Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim. I briefly got to meet Rolly, and I got to tell him how honored I am to be working on his creation. That was a pretty nice feeling!
(Cover to Seekers of the Weird 1)
TL: I’m glad you mentioned the Imagineers who worked on the book. How did Jim Clark, Brian Crosby, Tom Morris and Josh Shipley help with the book?
BS: The Imagineers gave notes each step of the way. Mostly early on, during the initial outlines and plotting of the series, and then again on the individual scripts. Brian Crosby also provided variant covers for all the issues.
TL: Rolly Crump’s first name is Roland. Was the character Uncle Roland Bill Rosemann’s way of paying tribute to him?
BS: Bill’s initial pitch was about 3/4ths of a page for the whole series. So there wasn’t really detail on any of the characters. I don’t remember what Roland’s original name was in Bill’s pitch — or if the uncle character even had a name. I suggested Roland as the uncle’s name, both as a tribute to Rolly, and because Roland’s a name with a heroic pedigree. That’s why the two brothers are named Roland and Arthur, and why their ancestor is named Enkidu!
TL: Did you add anything to Uncle Roland?
BS: I think in the original pitch, Bill described the uncle character as an “occult Indiana Jones” character, but didn’t go into more detail. So everything else about him came about during the creation process. For instance, the dark twist that happens with Roland at the end of #1 came about in one of my outlines.
TL: What was the inspiration for Uncle Roland as a character? Whenever I look at him I get this “occult-Errol-Flynn-vibe”.
BS: Yeah, pretty much. Like I said, the initial idea was “occult Indiana Jones,” but we ended up going in more of a swashbuckling, Errol Flynn direction. A lot of that was our series artist, Karl Moline. “Swashbuckling” was one of the adjectives in my description for the character to Karl. Karl really took it literally, more so than I expected — but I think it really worked well, and now I can’t imagine the character any other way!
(Cover to Seekers of the Weird 2)
TL: I can see the Indiana Jones idea in there. I like the swash-buckling version though, there’s something about it that just fits the tone of the comic.
BS: Yeah, I think it works well!
TL: Speaking of names, I’ve been trying to figure this one out since I read the issue, where did the name Enkidu come from?
BS: Sumerian mythology! Enkidu was Gilgamesh’s companion in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Basically, the idea was that most people in Roland’s family line have had classically heroic names. So we’ve got the brother Roland and Arthur — as in, “The Song of Roland” and King Arthur — and their ancestor, named after one of the first heroes recorded in literature.
TL: Thank you, that one was driving me crazy. So it is presumable that the Keeps come from a long line of heroic ancestors, or is this something that we just need to wait and read?
BS: That’s pretty much the implication of issue #3, yeah!
(Cover to Seekers of the Weird 3)
TL: Uncle Roland has an interesting arsenal: the spider-grapple, the gun that shoots skeletons and the sword’s pommel that (freezes or gases?) the taxiderma. Were these original ideas?
BS: Yeah, those were all things I came up with. The weapons in the series were a lot of fun to come up with. But hard, too — one of the remits from the Imagineers was they wanted us to be showing people stuff that they’d never seen before. Which is both great, and time consuming! Roland’s guns, for instance, took me most of an afternoon to come up with. A pair of guns made of stone that snap together to form one double-barreled gun, and fire bones that are haunted by the ghosts of the people they came from? That sort of thing can take a while to dream up!
TL: Now that is seriously cool. So, the gun, the sword, the umbrellas, they all do things. You created ideas for what they can do for all of these? The guns alone are really detailed in what you just said, and from what we see of the Warden’s Armory, I can only imagine what these things can do. Information like that is the kind of stuff I like to hear, Roland’s gun was so cool when he first appears using it, I was trying to figure out if that was a Crump or something original. Very cool, indeed.
BS: Thank you!
TL: How many years apart are Melody and Maxwell? They’re not twins are they?
BS: Melody and Maxwell are about a year and a half apart. They aren’t twins; we decided that would be too Gravity Falls.
TL: Maxwell really likes working in “Keep it Weird” while Melody seems to hate it. Will she eventually become more involved with the family business or rebel?
BS: Spoilers. In all seriousness, I think Melody’s always going to look down her nose at the rest of the family. No matter how much better-suited than she is for the exercise their work involves.
TL: I have a copy of Jason Surrell’s book “The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies”. In the book it tells of Crump’s involvement with the Haunted Mansion, the creation of the Museum of the Weird as well as shows some of his sketches (pages 26 & 27). Whenever I read an issue of Seekers of the Weird, I always pore through these two pages and then the comic to see what of Rolly’s was included. How much did you include and did you stick any in there that even fans might not know of, sort of Museum of the Weird “Easter Eggs”?”
BS: We had… I’d estimate around two dozen of Rolly’s concept sketches on-hand when we were developing the project. The goal was to include every single design! And I think we succeeded. We may have missed a chandelier design or two, but otherwise I think we found a place for everything.
I didn’t consciously include any Easter Eggs, myself. The idea was to put Rolly’s designs front and center — rather than to hide them or anything like that. Still, some of his designs are less well-known than others, and some designs ended up being more prominent than others. So there may well be Rolly designs in the series you didn’t catch!
TL: What was a-day-in-the-life for you while writing Seekers of the Weird?
BS: That really depends! I wrote the first two issues back-to-back, in the course of about a week. And at the same time I wrote about half of issues #4 and #5. I tend to write things out of order — and the work I’m happiest with is the work I’m “writing across,” working on scenes that are connected in some way but that don’t necessarily happen in chronological order. Like, I’d write a scene in issue #5 — and then go back and write a scene that set it up in an earlier issue.
TL: With Seekers of the Weird ending in May, will we be seeing more of Uncle Roland and the Keep family?
BS: I hope so! I’d certainly be down to write a sequel — or an ongoing series. But that’s up to Marvel and Disney!
TL: Was there anything you wanted to include in Seekers of the Weird but didn’t get to?
BS: My editor Bill Rosemann’s original pitch for the series involved a subplot with a second group of villains. I was pretty partial to it, but Bill wisely decided it’d make things too complicated for the series. I’d still like to see that plot happen at some point!
TL: Perhaps the second group of villains would make for a sequel to the series? I can hope.
BS: I hope so, too!
TL: Brandon, I’d like to thank you for your time for this interview, wish you the best of luck in your career, and remember, “Keep it Weird”.
BS: No problem! Thanks for talking to me!
You can check out more of Brandon’s work at http://brandon-seifert.com
The Toy-Lines Crew