BYRON BREWER: Chris, how does it feel to help bring this great gaming and film franchise to the pages of comic books through Dynamite’s new series?
CHRIS SEBELA: I was a little scared at first because 47, from everything in his history of games and movies, is kind of a blank slate, he can do all these other amazing things so that kind of supplanted his need for a real personality. So I had to kind of see things through this ruthlessly successful guy in a black suit and try to understand the mindset and reverse engineer where it all comes from. Getting to dig into the backstory of what makes someone as mythic as Agent 47 tick, that was a chance I couldn’t say no to. I was curious myself.
BB: For the uninitiated, tell us a little bit about this world of Hitman.
CS: The games themselves are what I call murder sandbox games. You as Agent 47 are given a target to eliminate, dropped into their neck of the woods and you have to figure out how to kill them. Stealth is very big, because you’re not so much a running, gunning badass as you are an unstoppable efficient gust of wind, you come and go and ideally no one knows you’re there. But how you kill is entirely up to you. You can go loud and big or you can so small and quiet. And at the center of all this is this enigmatic hitman, Agent 47, who calmly takes his murder menu and then gets to crossing every item off, without question, without a morsel of doubt. And the targets of your professional wrath range from celebrities to CEOs to scientists, none of them are outright evil or unflinchingly good, they’re regular people, morality isn’t part of it. All of this set in huge sprawling estates and angular, brutalist buildings. The whole thing is very sleek and menacing, while also being a lot of fun.
BB: Tell us what you can about your protagonists in the series: 47, Diana Burnwood and any others.
CS: Agent 47 is the best at what he does and what he does is kill powerful, rich, protected people no matter how safe they think they are. He rarely speaks, never hesitates, never asks questions. He’s a perfect weapon and he’s been raised to be one for as long as he can remember. Diana Burnwood is his handler, the one who passes the kill orders over to him, and the one who gets to pick what jobs they handle. She is sort of his defacto conscience, because he definitely doesn’t have one. Diana’s past is very much tangled up in the same world as 47, but from a different perspective, she’s the only survivor of her family dying at the hands of a big corporation. She’s someone who could have been a victim, but who channeled all that stuff into making others hurt, delivering some small measure of what she’d consider justice into this fallen world.
BB: What type of story will readers be seeing in Hitman: all-new stories about the characters, adaptations of the film, perhaps a background/origin story?
CS: We’re going with background/origin story on this one. We’re ignoring the films and mostly focusing on the new Hitman episodic games that are currently coming out. Hitman has been through so many different hands and had so many different takes, I wanted to handle this one as a sort of “how does a monster become a monster” story. But it’s not just about how Agent 47 came to be, but how Diana came to be too. As a mood-setter, the title I have for this story in my head is “Lone Wolves” and I think, by the end, that will make a lot more sense to readers.
BB: Were you a fan of the films and/or the game?
CS: I’ve played most of the games. I’m not amazing at them. Or any stealth-dealing games at all. My play style is very much run in, shoot everyone, hope I survive, keep shooting, usually wind up dead. That’s still the case all these years later. I have terrible impulse control. But I love playing them. I love the setup and the freedom of getting to do whatever I like however I like, even if it means I’m going to end up on a fancy estate lawn riddled with bullets. I did see the first Hitman movie but I have little to no memory of it outside of Timothy Olyphant looks a lot better with a full head of hair.
BB: What can you tell us about the mysterious Institute?
CS: The Institute for Human Betterment is its full name, which should give you a good idea of how creepy it is. Started by the even more mysterious Dr. Ort-Meyer, the Institute is there to put a lot of ideas into practice, to try and improve humanity, not on a one-on-one level but from the ground up. They’re trying to streamline humanity, cut out the fat like personality and feelings to make more room for analytics and encyclopedic knowledge. The Institute’s ideas of an ideal humanity are a lot different than ours, so they give birth to things like Agent 47 and his “brother” 6.
BB: … And speaking of: How big a role will 6 play in this story?
CS: Pretty big. We’re going back to when 47 and 6 were both still residents of the Institute. Grown men in their 20s but tasked with going out and taking out targets, flexing their perfect humanity with guns and knives on behalf of the Institute and their secret backers: Providence. They call each other brother because they’ve been through everything together their entire lives. They’re the only constant in one anothers’ lives and that’ll continue and get explored a lot in our series: just what keeps them so tightly bonded even as they’re growing up and apart.
BB: How great is it to be working with artist Jonathan Lau?
CS: Jonathan is amazing, I was super psyched when my editor told me he was on board and just seeing his first initial drawings of 47 got all sorts of ideas rolling through my head. And I know he’s just as into the character and the whole Hitman world as I am, so having a partner who is equally invested makes me doubly excited to really get my hands bloody on this one.
BB: Chris, any projects current or future you can tell readers about?
CS: KISS/Vampirella is currently coming out from Dynamite as well. I’ll be taking over Blue Beetle for 5 issues starting this fall. On the creator-owned side we’re getting close to the end of the 2nd season of my book Heartthrob and Short Order Crooks’ 2nd issue is wrapping up now. Plus I have lots and lots of secrets I can’t talk about in public, but if you like comics written by me, the next year is gonna be a good time for you.