There is a relatively new Hitman game, and with it comes an increased focus on Agent 47. To go with it, Dynamite Entertainment will be producing a series of comics called Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman, written by Chris Sebela. I got a chance to chat with Chris about the new series and how it ties into the game and also the recent film release. Covers by Philip Tan and Jonathan Lau, and then there's a gameplay cover.
DAN WICKLINE: Since it started as a video game, let's start there. Had you played the Hitman video game prior to being offered the project? How much is the new comic series tied to the game? Would it help to have played the game prior to picking up the comic?
CHRIS SEBELA: I'm a pretty consistent gamer, so I've checked in and out of the games throughout the many iterations of the franchise, but it had been a bit. When I got offered the book, I sat down and played through the first few chapters of the new game to get re-familiar. The new book is definitely tied to the new game, which is a more serious and studied take on Agent 47 and his world and how it affects him. No one needs to play the game to get the book, but I will say that putting yourself in the shoes of 47 and murdering a bunch of people is a nice way to wind down at the end of the day.
DW: There was also a recent film with Rupert Friend and Zachary Quinto based in the Hitman universe and focused on Agent 47. How does the comic series tie into the film, if at all and where does the series fit in with the game and film?
CS: No, no relation to the movies. I think the newest game and this series by extension is wiping the slate a little, taking things back to where they began. Not a hard reset but more of a "Hey, let's align everything so it all feels more organic and natural." So I've been taking the game and all the documents that I got as my foundation.
DW: Now, for the folks who have never played the game nor seen the film, who is Agent 47 and what makes him worth following in monthly adventures? What is the universe around him?
CS: Agent 47 is basically the platinum standard of assassins. He's cold, stoic, bald, and has an encyclopedic array of murder methods at his fingertips. He works for a company called ICA that arranges murder for its shadowy clients, dispatching people like 47 to go out and take down a target. But 47 is who they call when it's impossible odds, tight spaces, when someone has to look like they died of a heart attack or a failure of engineering rather than by human hands.
His whole life is murder. He grew up in a creepy Eugenicsy place called the Institute for Human Betterment, where his skills were honed and the entire focus was on training him to do this one thing. He exists in a world of stark, brutalist spaces and amoral decisions. No one who is targeted to die is a horrible monster nor saints. He's completely alone, has no other interests or hobbies except his job. The closest person in his life is his handler who points him where to go and who to kill. He's not a soldier, he can't run and gun, he has to pick his battles and his exits at the same time. This book is sort of digging beyond this cipher he presents to the world to see what makes him tick.
DW: How does adapting a video game differ from working on other comic projects, whether an original concept or adapting a novel? Video games tend to have pretty extensive series bibles to work from; is that the case here, and did you get to look at theirs for this project?
CS: I got sent a ton of documents about the game to go over, and they're currently working on the second season of the game, so a lot of the challenge is making sure what I'm working on aligns with the story they're in the process of telling. It's a little different from other other adaptions I've done in that they're actually really open to what I'm coming up with and have offered to make tweaks on their end so our stories align. It's a nice change to have everyone working together on this thing to ensure that our book isn't just a margin note to the game but works in sync with it.
DW: You're working with Johnathon Lau on this project, who I think is brilliant. Did you know when you started who you'd be working with art wise? Do you craft your scripts towards the strength of your artists if you can?
CS: I did know he was onboard when I started, which always helps. Writing for mystery artists isn't terrible; I like writing, so getting to do it period is a pip. But knowing who you're writing for and getting to look over their past body of work and studying their strengths is the ideal way to write a book. Fortunately Jonathan is super versatile, so I can throw anything at him and know he'll make it sing.
DW: In a sentence or two, why should comic readers pre-order this series? What is it the thing that will make people want to come back for more each month?
CS: The thing that interests me the most is not only exploring how Agent 47 became who he is, but also following the story of his handler, Diana, and how she goes from being a 14-year-old orphan to an agent for a murderer. Seeing how their lives intertwine and wildly diverge, all along a tour of recent world history and seeing what kind of dark hands are actually responsible for it. Also? So much murder.
For more on Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman, click here.