Published on December 23rd, 2014 | by JCDoyle0
Ten Questions With…Stjepan Sejic
This year has been a good year for Stjepan Sejic.: his self written and illustrated Death Vigil was released with great success and it was announced that he was to take over art duties on Rat Queens, another fantasy comic success of the year. He has worked on a number of Top Cow’s publications including Witchblade and Ravine while producing his own on-line comic strip Sunstone: a love story about relationships, sex and fetishism. With the first collected edition of Sunstone due for release just in time for Christmas, Sejic managed to find time in his busy schedule to have a quick chat with us.
NTC: To introduce you to people who are new to your work, can you give us an insight into how you got into the comic industry? Was it something that you’d always wanted to do or was it a by-product of something else you were involved with?
SS: Practice and perseverance. That’s the only way to get into the industry.
Comic book industry is a harsh mistress… not necessarily in a BDSM kind of way. What I mean is it culls out anyone who can’t keep up. You have to be ready for what you’re getting yourself into.
Storytelling is a grindy, straining, and draining line of work, and you gotta love it or you won’t last. Ultimately that is what made me get into comics. I wanted to tell stories, and I was too lazy to describe a sunset in words.
So here we are.
NTC: You started work as a cover artist, how easy was it to make the leap to interior artist and eventually becoming a writer?
SS: I was never a cover artist. Oh I could draw a shiny excuse for a cover, but the fact is I’m not an illustrator. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll draw a cool cover, even an insightful one every now and then but it is not s natural thing to me.
I just don’t have a mindset of drawing a picture and leaving it be.
You might say that this question should have been inverted, as I started as a writer, then became an interior artist, and then I got to draw my first covers.
Of course my writing was for my eyes at that time as I was Croatian and there was a language barrier that was at the time still insurmountable.
So you got to know me as a colorist, a cover artist and then an interior artist before you got to see me write.
As to ease of it all. I still find covers to be the hardest most frustrating part of my work.
NTC: Turning to Death Vigil, how long has the idea for this been around? Is it an idea you’ve formulated recently or is it something that you’ve been toying with for a while?
SS: It was an idea that first started back in 2011 when I drew a doodle in my sketchbook of a modern age death knight Sam pulling a boat of angry draugr.
Every now and then I would toy with that idea. It was one among about a dozen developing projects. It never sat with me.
See, initially Death Vigil was a far gloomier darker grittier story. I hate gloomy and gritty. Therefore, I never felt this would do.
Luckily, because of Sunstone I realized my love was with comedy, with lightheartedness and with character development. Once I tried applying that to Death Vigil… well… things got awesome.
NTC: Although it is about the fight against evil with violent, tragic situations from the very beginning, it is also a very humorous comic. How important is it to get the balance between the two narrative tones? And do you find it difficult to get that balance?
SS: Balance is everything. As for how difficult it is to get it… well it is a matter of understanding the characters, and their circumstances and measuring just how well they can “feel the room”.
Sometimes a joke will land flat or in an inappropriate moment, and what makes it work is the negative responses of other characters.
From there on it is about acknowledging it. When Sam jokes in issue 1 and Clara calls him out on his less than stellar timing, he apologizes for it. Showing both his characteristic attempts of humour and his humanity.
Ultimately it is about the situation.
Suffice to say issue 7 won’t be having that much humour. However, it will have some adorkableness.
NTC: There must be a great pressure on you as writer and artist for this comic. What do you find are the positives and negatives for working in this way? Did you at any point consider having someone else illustrate the story?
SS: A pet peeve of mine is relevant to this question. It is something that annoys me and it is really never the fault of the reviewers that at times mention this.
I have seen people compare my art with my writing.
Not a bad thing to do, but it is a pet peeve to me for a reason. Truth is , my writing is at best a few notes signaling from what page to what page events take place.
I write with my layouts. I write by sketching the page and scribbling in the dialogues. I write by drawing. It is a process so unfortunately intertwined that at this point, due to my workflow being so weird, I can’t even hire somebody to flat the colours for me, let alone draw .
NTC: In the first arc of Death Vigil you have been teasing out the world that these characters inhabit, adding more and more each issue. How much of the ‘world’ do you have planned out in advance? You’ve said that this is the first act of 3, so how much of that is already planned out?
SS: Everything. First arc is like the Hobbit. A small insignificant event in that book moved mountains later on.
Death Vigil had that kind of an event transpire…and now… we wait.
NTC: Looking at another ongoing work, Sunstone is a webcomic you’ve been producing since 2011 and the first volume is due to be released in early January 2015 (in bookshops, comic shops will have it available from 24th December). Although on the surface it’s very different from Death Vigil, at their heart both of them are about people’s relationships with each other. Do you approach writing the two comics in a different way or does one aspect of the narrative, such as characterisation, come first in both?
SS: Process is the same, it is their circumstances that differ.
My approach to writing is a simple one. Introduce characters, and their circumstances and let the story play out while allowing the characters to influence it and not just be pawns to the plot.
This does at times change the intended flow of the story but usually for the better.
NTC: Sunstone is the Number 1 best seller for Romance Graphic Novels on Amazon at the moment, which is very impressive. Have you been surprised by it’s popularity? Was the print version something you had confidence in because of the series’ popularity on DeviantArt or did it still feel like a risk putting it in print?
SS: Never expected the series to be even properly noticed. Truth is , when you hear about BDSM…well, it carries with it a certain expectation.
Nevertheless, people gave it a shot. Over time the prefix of “I’m not into BDSM, but….” became a sort of a catchphrase in the comments section.
Comic developed an amazing fanbase as it grew and in fact it was because of their repetitive asking and demanding, that I even went to publish the book.
There was risk to it, but fans stepped up, and supported something they love.
For that they have my most sincere gratitude and a promise of many more years of Sunstone ahead.
NTC: So you have more Death Vigil planned and possible future volumes of Sunstone but do you have anything else in the pipeline? Anything that you really want to, or even hope to do in the near future?
SS: Currently I am also doing art on Generation 9 through Top Cow, and Rat Queens through Image.
In 2015 in June I will start a four issue mini Death Vigil-Lost Childhood, which will tell the tale of how James became one of the Vigil. This is going to be the great adventure he had with Mia that made them friends and helped Mia find her lost childhood
After that Death Vigil goes ongoing.
There are also big plans for Ravine, and Teen Witchblade in 2015
There are other projects I plan on starting once I clear some of the stuff from my plate.
NTC: We have a house question here at Need To Consume which is who is your favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and why? So my final question is, were you a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and, if so, did you have a favourite?
SS: Donatello! Many a bruise was had in my childhood from playing TMNT with my friends.
Thanks to Stjepan Sejic for taking time out of his schedule to speak to us and if you’re interested in his work, check out his DeviantArt page or his Facebook page, where he posts a lot of information about up coming projects and sneak peeks of his current work.