It’s no big secret here at Outright Geekery that we are big fans of Stjepan Sejic. So when an opportunity presented itself to interview Sejic, it was simply too good to pass up. Stjepan was nice enough to answer our questions on a variety of topics, from his beginnings in the comic industry, to his current work on Death Vigil, his upcoming run on Rat Queens, his own web-series Sunstone and teases us with what future projects he has in the pipeline.
Outright Geekery: Tell our readers about yourself. How were you introduced to comics? What are some of your favorite comics? Favorite characters? Favorite creators?
I’m Stjepan Sejic, a comic creator, a storyteller, a special kind of a dumbass.
Favorite comics… hard to say, I honestly don’t get to do much reading these days, but when I do it’s mostly Image stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I like superhero comics fine, but I find the continuities and event mentality to be draining.
Favorite creators… a list too long to write now as I would find it necessary to write the reasons what I like about them and why….
And I got comics to make!
OG: How did you get your big break in comics? I understand that you were planning to be a lawyer, what made you change your mind?
SS: Planning is a strong word. Truth was: with the perfect grades I was unable to enter the art academy in Croatia. Back then I was still under an impression that college would be important for my life, and my dad suggested trying for a lawyer. I had the grades, and the ability to argue reasonably, so I gave it a try. As fates would have it I forgot my I.D. for the final exam to enter that college.
I can’t say I ever regretted it.
I got my break in a few places at pretty much the same time. There was Kade, I got hired to do for Arcana comics. An erotic comic for a European company, and at the same time got my chance at Top Cow…
I made my choices and it got me to a place I feel very happy about.
OG: You have such a prolific body of work, you really are everywhere nowadays. Would you walk us through what a typical day’s work is like for you? Do you ever have scheduling conflicts because of the volume of work you’re doing?
SS: It’s simple really: wake up, drink coffee, take a walk with my wife, do some gaming, make two to three pages of comics, do some gaming…and overall have fun with my wife, who pretty much does the same
OG: I enjoy your style and just how expressive your characters can be. What real-life sources do you refer to help make your characters so expressive? What were some of the influences on your art style?
SS: I don’t usually use references, I just make faces and try to feel what I’m doing. I don’t even use a mirror, just try and recognize what makes an expression tick.
As for influences… whoo boy…I had many over time: Marc Silvestri, Michael Turner, Alex Ross, Adam Hughes, J.Scott Campbell…
Thing about influences is, they end up being a hurdle in the end. I had many influences and nowadays I’m actually trying to purge them from my work.
Influences are good to get you inspired, problems arise when you inevitably start copying their traits… and lord knows I did that.
Truth is my current style is a testament of me going back to my roots, to the ways I used to draw Ravine before I switched to digital. and I’m working my way up from that.
OG: Looking at the studies you posted of Rat Queens characters, your take on Violet and Hannah is phenomenal. I’m definitely looking forward to reading Rat Queens again. So what can we expect to see during your run as artist on Rat Queens?
SS: Pretty much the same artistic stuff you saw from Roc Upchurch. Characters acting and reacting, emoting, sex, drugs, candy and gore…
Ultimately, expect to see the Rat Queens.
OG: Congratulations on Sunstone being a #1 best-seller. I’ve been a fan of the series for a while now. It’s being considered one of the best love stories in modern-era comics. How does it feel that your web-comic is a hit? What does the future hold for Ally and Lisa beyond Chapter 4? Any chance there might be a limited monthly series of Sunstone from Image Comics in the future?
SS: I am still baffled that this comic exists. I don’t mean in print, I mean at all.
I love a good romance…but I never saw myself writing one…let alone several as will become apparent in Sunstone.
One of the deep dark secrets of this comic was that at many times I thought I was gonna turn it into some weird ass space opera. No, really! I had ideas and plans…very stupid ideas and plans.
Those ideas were birthed by self doubt. I wondered, who the fuck would read a story about people being people.
I mean, let’s face it, from the get go I shot myself in both feet.
There is no villain, hell, you flat out know the story has a happy ending.
But as it turns out, there is much to be said that the narrative power of a story lies in the journey itself, not it’s destination. Over time I realized that we all pretty much know that 95% of romances and romantic comedies have happy endings of some sort… it’s how they get there that keeps us reading or watching.
As for the future… well, plan consists of 4 major story arcs.
I have no plans of stretching things into unnecessary, circular, will they, won’t they narrative.
So the main arc of Ally and Lisa’s story ends with chapter/book 5. They are still in the story afterwards, but then chapters 6 to 10 is about Alan’s side of things. You learn of his college experiences alone and with Ally, and switching to his two next failed relationships before he ends up with Anne.
Third arc is about Marion, her dealing with the situation that happens at the end of book 2, and her finding the strength to reclaim control over her own life with the help of some unexpected friends and a fun new romantic interest.
In all of these arcs you will be seeing the other characters and the progression of their own stories, and it will all culminate in arc 4 where friendships are restored, and estranged people are reunited…and some lessons learned.
So…you know…we got a few fun years ahead.
OG: Let’s talk about Death Vigil. We love it here at Outright Geekery. You really hit home with issue #6, but you teased that issue #7 “where’s minds get blown”. Tell our readers what we should be ready for?
SS: Well, in a way, this is the one where masks fall off and illusions are dispelled. Where seemingly irrelevant points and characters pay off in some big ways… and where many questions get answered.
OG: I read recently that Death Vigil is going to become a monthly on-going series. What does the future hold in store for Death Vigil?
SS: That is an optimistic plan made with hope that the book actually picks up steam and becomes profitable to sustain itself.
Plans are to go with big 8 issue arcs of main storyline, interrupted with 4 issue arcs of personal character stories.
With that in mind first one will come this summer.
Death Vigil-Lost Childhood, is a 4 issue story about how James became a part of the Vigil. How he went from a sad kid to a Vigil powerhouse, and most importantly, this is the story of how he met and befriended Mia.
All told through a badass adventure.
OG: The first issue of IXth Generation was great. How does it feel to be working on a series that features Witchblade, The Darkness and Aphrodite IX all together in one place?
SS: Awesome! I get to wreck a lot of stuff. I mean, it’s a series featuring cyborgs, robots, spaceships dragons, and the artifacts of Top Cow universe. As far as artistic playgrounds go , it doesn’t get much better than that.
OG: I get a kick out of your fan art. Two of my favorites are “Batman’s a Timelord” and “Ally and Lisa Vs. the White Rabbit”. You post your art everywhere: Twitter, Tumblr and DeviantArt. How do you come up with ideas for such great pieces?
SS: I have an inner cynic with whom I have an agreement. He doesn’t interfere with my enjoyment of entertainment, and I’ll draw his funnies. It’s a good system we got there.
OG: You do some a lot of creator-controlled work with Image Comics, what’s your opinion about Marvel, DC and other publishers in terms of creative freedom?
SS: Creative freedom is a loaded term when you are talking about work for hire projects anywhere. In the end you are obliged to be a professional and do what they need you to do.
It has its ups and downs, and it usually pays much better than creator owned stuff, unless you really hit it big with creator owned.
In the end it is a matter of decision.
OG: If the opportunity presented itself, what high profile character or series you absolutely love to do?
SS: There were times when I used to entertain those thoughts, but nowadays I have no desire to do any. I’ll do them on a whim at times, but it’s no longer a matter of me pining for a crack at this or that character.
Nowadays, I prefer drawing my own stories. I find I do my best work this way as my organic approach to storytelling shines brightest when I write by drawing.
OG: Same question as before, only reversed. Which artist and writer team would you love to see work on one of your own series?
SS: Too many options for too many reasons, that would have me writing an entire essay here… Let’s just say that i got some dream teams in mind.
OG: Is there any future projects that you want to tell our readers to keep an eye out for?
SS: Teen Witchblade which we’ll be calling Switch starts this fall. Sometime next year, a fun project under the working title Navigator should get started. That should be enough for now, I should clean my plate first as they say.