Interview: Christopher Sebela on Dynamite’s Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman

Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman #1 Philip Tan cover

Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman #1 Philip Tan cover

Author Christopher Sebela has been a journalist, written novels, and penned comic books including Escape From New York, Injustice: Ground Zero, Kiss/Vampirella, and many others. Now he turns his attention to the enigmatic Agent 47 from the popular Hitman video games in Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman. Sebela recently gave Westfield’s Roger Ash the lowdown on the series.

Westfield: What attracted you to the project?

Christopher Sebela: I’m a big history nerd and a true crime nerd and the Hitman franchise brings those two things together in a way that clicks perfectly for me. Also I seem to write a lot of books where people are getting injured or killed by weapons, so I guess this is in my wheelhouse? I swear I’m a mostly normal person in person. Also, the chance to explore and build a real living human being out of Agent 47 who is mostly seen as an unstoppable murder machine seemed too difficult for me to pass up. I love a challenge.

Westfield: For readers unfamiliar with the video game, what should they know going in?

Sebela: The games are contained sandbox games. You play as Agent 47, you’re 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, ideally no one knows you’re there. But how you kill is up to you. You can go loud and big or 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 or a morsel of doubt. 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 the equation. All of this set in huge sprawling estates and stark, brutalist buildings. The whole thing is very sleek and menacing, while also being a lot of fun.

Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman #1 Jonathan Lau cover

Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman #1 Jonathan Lau cover

Westfield: For those who haven’t encountered them before, what can you tell us about Agent 47 and Diana Burnwood?

Sebela: 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. He can use pretty much anything as an instrument of murder or destruction.

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 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.

Westfield: What can readers look forward to in the story?

Sebela: 47 is this mythical hitman who can pull off any job and Diana Burnwood is the calm handler who controls this force of nature and points it where to go. Both of them have lived with a lot of violence and loss in their lives. So we’re going to find out what drew them together and what divides them, looking at how Diana went from a frightened orphan to a woman who calls the shots on who lives and dies and how 47 went from a reluctant human hiding inside a weapon to a weapon hidden inside a human.

Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman #1 Gameplay cover

Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman #1 Gameplay cover

Westfield: Aside from 47 and Burnwood, what other characters will readers meet?

Sebela: Diana’s entrance from a 14 year old girl who’s trying to make sense of a world where she’s basically all alone to finding a way to track down the people responsible is a road full of colorful characters. The kind of dangerous people who are dangerous enough to put a gun in the hands of a teenager and encourage them to get good at using it. With 47, we’ll be diving deeper into the characters who have always been part of his story like Dr. Ort-Meyer, who runs the Institute, Agent 6, 47’s “brother” and co-conspirator, and all the other members of the program that gave birth to them both.

Westfield: What can you say about your collaboration with artist Jonathan Lau?

Sebela: Jonathan can pretty much draw whatever he wants, so I was super relieved when my editor told me Jonathan would be drawing the book. Beyond that, he’s also a big fan of the Hitman character and franchise, so that cuts out a lot of work for the both of us. We both know what we’re talking about when we refer to something specific from the game or 47’s backstory.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Sebela: Hm. I’m trying to write a book that will satisfy the diehard fans while still being a brutal, stark little story for people who have no idea who Agent 47 is. If you like spy stories or people up against impossible odds but who’ll go out stabbing, this is probably a book for you. Thanks for giving it a shot.


Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman #1


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