Brandon Seifert is no stranger to horror stories, but in his latest book, The Harvester, he's combining scary stuff with elements of other genres he loves — from Westerns to crime to antihero action.
Edited by Bob Schreck at Legendary Comics, The Harvester is being developed by Seifert from an idea by Legendary CEO Thomas Tull. The 10-issue comic follows the story of a curious anthropologist and a private investigator who discover that a series of murders spans generations. And although they begin looking for an explanation for the mysterious violence, they end up finding the Harvester, a supernatural soldier who's doing the work on earth for a greater power.
Seifert, who's working with artist Eric Battle on The Harvester, has gotten a lot of attention from critics and fans for his work on Witch Doctor, which started out as a self-published book before being picked up by Robert Kirkman's Skybound Entertainment.
Newsarama talked to Seifert about the story of The Harvester, what themes it's exploring, and why working with Legendary — and the company's potential for film — seemed like a perfect fit for the writer.
Newsarama: Brandon, let's just start with the title. Who is the Harvester?
Brandon Seifert: He comes from the premise that there are shadowy, metaphysical powers in the universe, and the Harvester is an agent of one of those. I think of him as a black ops agent. He's on earth, and he's the one getting his hands dirty and killing the people who need to be killed to keep things on track. He's very much a soldier following orders. He doesn't necessarily understand the orders, and he doesn't necessarily agree with the orders, but he has to believe that they are in service of a greater good.
He's been around for at least 150 years, working in the shadows of the world.
One of the things I found interesting about the series was that it's an opportunity for me to approach the idea that, if there are supernatural powers in the world at work, but we're not publicly aware of, they're going to have effects. There's going to be lasting evidence of them, whether it's in eyewitness accounts or whether it's physical evidence.
So if he's been around for 150 years, in that time, these eyewitness accounts have spawned urban legends and folklore about him, all over the world.
It's also spawned all these unsolved murders and cold cases and newspaper articles.
Nrama: And that's where we pick up the story in the first issue? Because two investigators embark on a mission to uncover the mystery behind the Harvester?
Seifert: Right. In the first issue, we meet a couple different people studying his effects on the world from a couple different viewpoints.
One is Vicki, who's studying the Harvester from the angle of anthropology, from an academic angle. She's studying the stories that are told about him, and the urban legends and folklore, looking at what they tell us about the people who are telling them. Vicki is a grad student, and studying Harvester urban legends is part of her thesis project.
And then the other person who's investigating the Harvester is a guy named Justin, who is looking at things from the physical side, like the physical evidence — police reports, newspaper articles and stuff like that. Justin is a freelance investigative journalist, but he's also very mercenary, so he also works part time as a private investigator.
The two of them will eventually team up to try to get to the bottom of the Harvester sightings and the Harvester killings. And the Harvester killings are like any crime, where some of the families of the people involved — some of them are offering rewards for help solving these unsolved cases. So the two of them end up investigating this stuff, in part, for reward money.
Neither of them actually realizes or believes that this is a supernatural force. They think there's some natural, normal explanation for this. So they're in for a big shock.
Nrama: You said the Harvester doesn't understand why he's called to do some of these things, but that they "need to be done." Do readers find out what the bigger picture is? Are you playing around with the idea of fate? Or the idea of certain things needing to happen for the bigger picture of the universe to go the direction it's "supposed" to?
Seifert: Yeah, that's pretty much the direction we're taking it in. The Harvester is based on a concepts by Legendary Entertainment CEO Thomas Tull, and it was part of the concept from very early on — the Harvester is a soldier or secret agent, you know, for the equivalent of the magical CIA, who's going and assassinating foreign leaders.
It's not apparent to him, why he's doing what he's doing. And why he's dealing with the targets he's dealing with.
But there is an idea that there's a greater good and a grander plan that he is an agent of, but he simply doesn't see.
We never define it as destiny. It's not good and evil. It's not balance. Thomas didn't want to go with traditional angles, or traditional motivations on this project. It's much more of, kind of, an almost ineffable, almost Lovecraftian thing, where there are these metaphysical forces manipulating humanity, and the reason why they're doing it, we don't really know.
It doesn't appear to be anything we've ever guessed. It's not about what afterlife our souls go to; it's not about whose "time to go" it is or any of those things that we commonly see.
The Harvester is really in the dark about why he's asked to do the things that he's asked to do. And that's not going to change.
The series is about understanding the Harvester, but what he's figuring out is who he is and his place in the world — not why his bosses are doing the things they're doing.
Nrama: So he's obeying — and turning over control to the grander plan.
Seifert: Yeah, there's really a push-pull there. Following orders, versus being true to your conscience.
Nrama: What does the artist bring to the title? Did you know who the artist would be when you started this project?
Seifert: I actually wrote all 10 issues of the series before we had an artist attached, so it was something I was nervous about. Ideally, as a comics writer, you want to be writing with an artist in mind.
And then when we got Eric Battle, and he started sending in his initial art for it, I was really relieved. My editor, Bob Schreck, was the one who suggested that we bring Eric in. And looking at his art, I liked it, and I thought he'd be a pretty good fit for the project. But it wasn't until I started seeing his first Harvester art that I realized just how good a fit he was for the project.
The Harvester is horror-flavored, but it's not really a horror project. It's more of a supernatural action comic. It's got a superhero element, or an antihero element. It's almost got a crime element. And it's almost got a Western element.
And Eric's style really hits all those things. He would be a good fit for any of those genres. So the fact that he can do all of them, and he's a good fit for all of them, in a book where we're synthesizing all that stuff, and touching on all of that stuff, he's a really good fit.
Nrama: With Legendary and Thomas Tull involved, fans understandably expect that the story might be made into a movie. Now that the project is about to come out, do you have in mind how it might work as a film? Is it already cinematic?
Seifert: I think I'm different from a lot of comics writers where I love comics, and there are a lot of comics series that I'm really into and I love, but when it comes to actually writing comics, I'm honestly more influenced by things outside of comics than I am by other comics.
I'm influenced a lot by non-fiction and actual action stuff I've researched. And then I'm really heavily influenced by movies and TV shows.
So the way I write comic scripts and the sort of sequences that I ask for — I see things really, really cinematically in my head when I'm writing comic scripts. I used a lot of cinematic kind of techniques and camera angles, and I think in terms of following shots and fixed angle shots and stuff like that. So I ask for a lot of things in scripts that are much more commonly found in movies than they are in comics.
I've done it a lot in Witch Doctor, and there's a lot of that in The Harvester. And I think a lot of that stuff would translate really well on screen, whether it's in a movie or on TV. There are sequences in the comic that, storyboards based on that would be very close and would work on screen.
So yeah, that kind of element — the connection between Legendary and film — I honestly felt very competent working on.