A shadowy new figure is about to take center stage, springing from the minds of some of comics’ leaders in horror. Announced during a panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego, in December Dark Horse Comics will debut a one-shot titled “The Occultist,” created by publisher Mike Richardson, written by “Hack/Slash” creator Tim Seeley and illustrated by “Predators” artist Victor Drujiniu, with designs by Guy Davis. CBR News spoke with Seeley about the project and the possibility of seeing more of “The Occultist” beyond December.
“It’s about a down-on-his-luck guy named Rob who just got dumped by his girlfriend and now has to go to work. There’s some peripheral stuff involving crow-demons and spellbooks and a tattooed wizard, but y’know, that’s the basic thrust,” Seeley said of “The Occultist.” More directly, the writer added, “This is the origin story of the Occultist. We follow this guy Rob as he stumbles onto this old spell book. He’s basically an entry level mage-superhero – a first-year Doctor Strange of a sort.”
As to how Rob finds himself in this situation, Seeley told CBR, “Rob is a victim of circumstance. [He is] the classic accidental hero.”
Given his unplanned origins, CBR asked Seeley whether the Occultist is a good guy at heart. “That will really be the question Rob has to answer,” Seeley replied. “Having a spell book suddenly opens up a whole host of possibilities. Temptations, really. The powers of the Occultist might be able to be used for personal gain. But then again, he might be damning himself by using the powers for anything short of altruism.”
Seeley said that the universe “The Occultist” is placed in is “that sort of psuedo-superhero world that a lot of DH’s great characters inhabit. It’s the same kind of place ‘The Mask’ took place in, where masks of Loki and such are floating around and up for grabs.”
Asked how the tone of “The Occultist” differs from Seeley’s most well-known work, Image’s “Hack/Slash,” the writer said, “Well, with anything I do, you’ll always get that ‘watched way too many movies and read too many comics’ vibe that I throw off. But ‘H/S’ is really a slice of life comic wearing horror pants, while this is more of a modern take on the hero-magician.”
“The Occultist” is the product of several minds working together, beyond simply the writer/artist combo. The character originated with Dark Horse president Mike Richardson, who described the book at a Comic-Con panel as being about “a kid with a book only he can read.” “Mike had written out what I guess I would call a ‘Hollywood pitch’ for what he wanted out the character and the vibe of the book, which I followed as the backbone of my script,” Seeley elaborated.
“BPRD” artist and Dark Horse’s go-to man for monster designs Guy Davis also put his two cents in, designing the Occultist’s appearance and contributing a cover. “Guy is able to make something look both very creepy as well as very practical and real, so I used his designs as an inspiration for what kind of guy Rob was, how he came upon his uniform and what kind of magical discipline his abilities hailed from,” Seeley said. “Guy’s designs suggested a character who thought at the level of a parlor magician, but hinted that there was a larger history that he was ascending to.”
Rounding out the team is “Predators” adaptation artist Victor Drujiniu, who will be handling interiors. “I’ve seen some of Vic’s stuff, as well as his previous stuff on Zenescope’s ‘The Waking’ with my friend [writer]Raven Gregory. Vic is a really solid storyteller and he has an inherently dark, creepy feel to his work,” Seeley said. “The look of this book is going to sort of be as if you slammed together a ’60s Dr. Strange book with an issue of ‘Creepy’ and fed it though a modern filter.”
Though “The Occultist” will debut with a one-shot tale, its creators already have an eye to future stories if fans enjoy their initial offering. “I’m always down to explore a sort of everyman-hero character,” Seeley told CBR, “and in the world we’ve developed for ‘The Occultist,’ I think we could really treat readers to some crazy, fun stories in a modern superhero magic user type world.”