CBR TV: Top Cow's Linda & Stjepan Sejic: "They Respect Us Enough to Take Our Ideas Seriously"

If you've been reading Top Cow books in the last eight years, chances are you've seen the name Sejic on some of their books. Stjepan Sejic has drawn everything from a lengthy "Witchblade" run with Ron Marz to events like "First Born" and "Broken Trinity" and the recent "Aphrodite IX" and "IXth Generation" with writer Matt Hawkins. You may have also seen the name Linda Sejic, who has drawn "Tales of Honor" and "Wildfire" for the publisher. Ahead of Comic-Con International in San Diego, Top Cow announced that the husband-wife creators would be going exclusive with the publisher.

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Visiting San Diego from their home in Croatia, Linda and Stjepan Sejic joined Jonah Weiland on the world famous CBR Yacht for the very first CBR TV interview at Comic-Con, talking about everything from their new exclusive contract, writing and drawing their own stories, and "Switch," the new teenage Witchblade series written and drawn by Stjepan. Both creators discuss making the jump to print with their webcomics including "Sunstone" and "Blood Stain," and how they never planned to do anything but continue evolving as storytellers.

In the first part of the conversation, the Sejics discuss how their die hard fans on DeviantArt have turned "Sunstone" into a New York Times Bestseller and how translating their webcomics to print was never actually a plan. They then speak to the reason they both opted to go exclusive with Top Cow, explaining the family atmosphere of the company and how the publisher is always willing to listen to their ideas, no matter how crazy. Finally, Stjepan explains "Switch," the new teen Witchblade series that started as a joke and will soon be the next comic he writes and draws for the publisher.

On their massive fan followings on DeviantArt and how that has translated into major sales success for Top Cow's print edition of "Sunstone":

Linda Sejic: It was a big surprise.

Stjepan Sejic: As far as Sunstone is concerned, I never even intended to make it, let alone publish it. It was a series of flukes. It was not just one lightning caught in a bottle but a freaking thunderstorm, you know? And over time, as the story developed everybody started going, "Can we get it in print? Can we get it in print?" I was like, "I'll see about it." I didn't really expect much of it and then... I was schooled. Turns out, there is a reason why we're living in the age of crowdfunding where people will support things that they like.

Linda Sejic: And they did ask for it. A lot of peopled asked for "Sunstone" in print because they want to have it in their hands and actually flip the pages.

Stjepan Sejic: And then here we are. I never expected it to exist... and it's a New York Times Bestseller, apparently.

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On why they both opted to sign an exclusive contract with Top Cow:

Linda Sejic: I love Top Cow. They let me do whatever I want.

Stjepan Sejic: First of all, when we signed with Top Cow they usually tell us we have our freedom to do stuff on the side as long as we get their stuff done on time. The most important thing of all, the reason why we always came back to stay with Top Cow is whenever we say, "Hey, I have an idea," they would listen. There is an old saying, it's better to be a big fish in a small tank than a small fish in an ocean. That's pretty much it. At Top Cow there's not that many of us and we get things done.

Linda Sejic: And it feels like a family. How to explain it -- we're communicating on a daily basis so we're really good with each other and we feel comfortable working there.

Stjepan Sejic: The series that we're gonna announce [at the show], "Switch" -- basically Teen Witchblade, Teen Artifacts, like an Ultimate Universe-type Top Cow Universe that I'm writing and drawing, it started off as a bunch of sketches and jokes -- but then again, everything with me does -- and I told them, "Check this out." And they were like, "What is this?" I'm like, "I got these ideas" and I gave them a few plotlines and they were like, "Do you want to publish it?" And that's basically all I need. They respect us enough to take our ideas seriously.

On the new teenage Witchblade series, "Switch":

Stjepan Sejic: What Marvel basically did with their Ultimate Universe, that's I think the clearest parallel I could make. There are some characters that are the same, there are many characters that are completely different. There are villains from the original "Witchblade," characters from the original "Witchblade" that are in different roles -- let's just call it a parallel universe. Some things went the same, some other things went differently. And it's gonna be a fun take on the story. If you've ever seen my work, you know that humor is a very important part of my writing, very important part of my storytelling, and "Switch" is gonna have loads of it. It's not a book that's gonna be taking itself too seriously, but it is going to be epic in nature -- but fun.

Linda Sejic: But fun, yes. That's the most important part.

In the second half of their conversation, Linda and Stjepan Sejic discuss why they haven't really focused on working on a project together and how they each view the other's art. They also talk about how they keep an open and honest dialogue about their work going, and how important it is to have the other always be their first reader. They then discuss, as writer/artists, how they break down each part of their duties as a storyteller and why they have such a hard time separating art from writing, and vice versa. Finally, things wrap up with a discussion of whether or not they'd ever consider a move from Croatia to the United States.

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On appraising their strengths and weaknesses and being each other's first critics:

Linda Sejic: I think his art is perfect. [Laughs] Okay, his inking could do work, but he knows that also.

Stjepan Sejic: That's the thing, we are our own first line of criticism, always. When I'm doing "Sunstone" and when she's doing "Blood Stain," the first people that get to see it is we give it to each other, give it a good read.

Linda Sejic: We read it first to see if it makes sense to the other person. If I wrote something and it makes sense to me it doesn't mean that it makes sense to him when he reads it. That's the thing that we usually do with each other. I read his "Sunstone" before he puts it out online and he does the same for me, that way we collaborate.

Stjepan Sejic: Artistically we both have gotten used to the idea that we're going to keep not just improving, but evolving, changing our styles, our approaches to things. So that's kind of now a moot point for both of us. What really matters to us is our writing and our storytelling. How are we telling the story? Does the writing hold water?

Linda Sejic: Writing is the most important for us right now, that's why we put so much importance on it.

On whether they're more confident in writing or art, and how they write stories for themselves to draw:

Linda Sejic: I don't know how to explain it. We work in a weird way. We don't write things -- we write and draw. We sketch and we put in balloons with text, and that's how our story progresses. Then we finish it up -- that's it, basically.

Stjepan Sejic: It's an organic process. At times I used to read reviews of my stuff that I'd written and drawn and you know, you'd get reviewers who are like, "How does the writing compare to the art?" I'm like, "Would you ask that for any other comic? No." We work in a very organic way. Our writing and our drawing is basically the same thing.

Linda Sejic: It can't be separated.

Stjepan Sejic: We write through our drawing. So basically, when a writer is conceptualizing a scene they do the outline and then they go into the details. For us, we do the outlines by flat out drawing them and then flat out writing the dialogue and seeing how the whole thing works together.

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