Interview - Vincent Ferrante (Monarch Comics)

One of the other folks Omnicomic had a chance to speak with at New York Comic Con was Vincent Ferrante, the man behind Witch Hunter from Monarch Comics. He was gracious enough to give us an interview, so read on for tons of information about his upcoming book.

Omnicomic: So tell us, how'd you get into writing comics? Starting your own lable?

Vincent Ferrante: I created Witch Hunter in 1976 while playing with Mego dolls. I worked on the premise for years, developing a Witch Hunter bible throughout college writing courses as part of my curriculum, and began running Witch Hunter adventures in Comic Culture magazine in 1993 after I properly copyrighted and trademarked the character.

I started Monarch Comics after running the strip for about a year, publishing the first Witch Hunter comic book in the '90s, and getting some more life experience as an editor for various publications, book companies and magazines, as well as exploring England for a little while. Monarch Comics was formed after I returned to the states in 2001. The staff is now at about 11 people, plus we're honored to have comic book legend, Frank Brunner, as our regular cover artist. He is one of my greatest inspirations, and I wanted someone like that as part of the title that also was appropriate for the interior style of the book.

Omnicomic: Tell us a little bit about Witch Hunter. Could you sum up the premise for us, in a few words? What's the inspiration behind the concept?

Ferrante: One of the tag lines is "Witch hunts aren't about hunting witches. They never were."

The witches were never the problem in 1692. People who were different, challenged the status quo, or had ideas that made the powers that be uncomfortable were used as scapegoats, and made the targets of witch hunts, in order to do away with them and conveniently explain away all of society's ills. That still happens today in the home, the business world, governments, and society at large. Witch Hunter, a witch himself that was burned at the stake in 1692 as a boy, is brought back to combat the dark forces of the powers that be that still lurk in the shadows.

They are a secret, ancient cult called The Scarlet Circle, and have penetrated all facets of society. They point the finger of blame at everyone else while they steal all the magic in the world for themselves, in order to create a world more to their liking, being a simpler, older world, no matter the consequences. The other tag line for the book is, "Oppose the darkness without being darkened by it."

Witch Hunter smirks because, after being burned at the stake, nothing else seems so bad. Fans find his outlook inspiring. The powers that be hate being called idiots, so he does it more.

Omnicomic: What do you try to put into Witch Hunter's story? How closely do you and the book's artist collaborate? What do you look for in an artist?

Ferrante: I am telling a long story, 100 issues, that will culminate in a new status quo for the world, and allow for open-ended stories beyond issue 100. I'm incorporating all the things that I love about storytelling into Witch Hunter. I love old adventure serials with cliffhangers, the original Planet of the Apes movies, books, comics and TV series, Logan's Run, and epic sagas with seeds planted early on that will sometimes bear bitter fruit later like Babylon 5.

I want to include include twists into Witch Hunter reminiscent, hopefully, of The Twilight Zone and O. Henry stories, the tone & character journeys/explorations found in places like the TV series Dark Shadows, the works of Zenna Henderson and Walter M. Miller, Jr., the twisted fun of the TV series Soap, and some things I think I've learned along the way. I write full scripts with scene description, dialog, and provide foundations for character designs, as well as working out the elements I'd like on the cover, where I like to show a moment of tension from the issue to draw readers in, and prepare them for a fun ride.

My art director, Alex Williamson, works on cover and character designs with me, and the other regular series artist, Scott W, who alternates illustrating issues with Alex, also does designs. I really appreciate artists who know how to tell a story, that draw on a wealth of influences beyond comics, and who love the full spectrum of comics, all the way back to the Golden Age. I think it's important for artists and writers to bring forward the best of what's come before, add their experiences and outside influences, and present comics that are at the same time familiar and new, to constantly re-invigorate the medium.

Omnicomic: We know that a bit of Witch Hunter lore is based on real locations, real historical events- what do you do to educate/prepare yourself to write?

Ferrante: I read a lot, research locations, histories, lore, etc. in books and on the web, and visit as many actual locations as I can. I lived in England for a while to be able to explore old places and meet people who knew the world was older and more wondrous than many people remember, or want to admit. That's part of the problem explored in Witch Hunter.

We are part of the problem. If we don't wake up, the world will be remade for us into something we don't like. One of the places I'll be visiting shortly is Mystery Hill in New Hampshire, the location of Witch Hunter's Lair, his base of operations. It's an amazing place, and thought by some to be the oldest site in North America, 4000 years old or more.

Omnicomic: What's your favorite part about writing the comic?

Ferrante: I love being surprised by what I thought was the case going into the story not being the case, and having the people in the story surprise me as I'm writing by telling me that what I'm seeing is not what I think I'm seeing. It adds a lot of twists and turns for me that are a lot of fun, and I hope a lot of fun for the readers.

Omnicomic: What's the most challenging thing about writing the book?

Ferrante: Knowing how to start one. I think these are all stories taking place on one of the infinite parallel worlds out there, so to be a good creator you just have to be a good listener. The people in the stories know what's going on, so I let them tell me.

Omnicomic: Can you tell us about Monarch's future plans? Any new projects you have lined up? Can you give Witch Hunter fans a little hint about the direction the plot's moving?

Ferrante: I think world-building is important. I want fans to know Witch Hunter's world like they know their own, so Monarch is going to publish Witch Hunter as the only ongoing series for a while. Fans like the amount of unique characters in the story, and the backup features that flesh out the main story even more. When the time is right, other titles will grow out of Witch Hunter in an organic way, because they will have something important to add to the big picture of the Monarch Comics universe.

In addition, we'll be doing one-shots like Monarch Comics Chronicles and Hall of Horror, which will explore other characters and stories both within and not related to the Monarch Comics universe. Frank Brunner will be writing and providing some illustration for one of his stories in Monarch Comics Chronicles, as well as Scott and Alex doing their own stories, and some other creators who we're saving for a surprise. As far as a hint to where Witch Hunter's plot is going, suffice to say for now that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, and it's going to be fun getting there and back.

Omnicomic: Could you teach us how to play "Seven Tarot Card Stud"?

Ferrante: This is not a game people should play. The Scarlet Circle...and Witch Hunter, will learn that in due time, and I wouldn't want to be too close to anyone holding a losing hand.