Harvest #1 cover.Doctors stand at the gateway between life and death, tasks with the straight-forward mission of saving lives and, above all else, doing no harm. But in the upcoming Image miniseries Harvest, a disgraced surgeon named Dr. Benjamin Dane finds out the horrible truth about black market organ trafficking and tries to unravel the illicit trade while fending off demons of his own.
Scheduled to launch on August 1, this five-issue series comes from Image wunderkind A.J. Lieberman (Cowboy Ninja Viking, Term Life) and newcomer comics artist Colin Lorimer hailing from the film industry. Newsarama spoke with both of the creators to try to get inside the black market body part business and what lengths they'd go to if they were in the situation of some of their characters.
Newsarama: So guys, how’d you come up with something as terrifying as Harvest? Did you wake up in a bathtub recently with some organs missing?
A.J. Lieberman: I did recently wake up in a bathtub but sadly it had nothing to do with Harvest. Note to all the kids out there; do not mix a good merlot with a few Red Bulls. It’s not pretty.
Harvest #2 cover.Nrama: In the comic you cut through the horror and display some pretty accurate sounding medical jargon and understanding coming from these down-and-out medical doctors. How’d you go about getting the realism, both in the writing and the art, for this series?
Lieberman: I guess now is a good a time as any to let my mother know I’m no longer in medical school. No, actually I just do a ton of research. I knew I wanted all the surgical scenes to be as realistic and true as possible. I wanted the “camera” to be right in the middle of things.
Part of my research uncovered the phrase “transplant tourism” which is where a rich client from say, America, who has the money to by-pass the national organ donor list, and a paid “donor” from a say, Brazil, will meet up in Turkey where black market surgeons will perform the operation. And this is business. The world of illegal organ harvesting is easily the most fascinating I’ve ever researched. And that includes the porn industry.
The main issue with organ donation being illegal stems from the fact that in 1983 the United States government passed Law 98-507, which prohibited the sale of human organs. The sad thing is, is that Law 98-507 is considered by all involved to be utterly ineffective and is probably the biggest contributor to the fact that the black market for human organs has grown every year since being passed.
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Harvest #1.Nrama: The man at the center of Harvest is Dr. Benjamin Dane, and we’re meeting him at a time where even he doesn’t like himself it seems like. What can you tell us about him and his current life as the series opens?
Lieberman: Yeah, Dr. Benjamin Dane is going through a few…. Issues when we first meet him. And by issues I mean drug addiction, sex addiction, and a major league drinking habit. And he’s the good guy in the book. All I knew was that I wanted to do something based on a ex-surgeon and I wanted the character to be in the same vein as Al Swearengen from Deadwood, Vic Mackey from The Shield, Walter White on Breaking Bad. Characters who are a challenge to root for but you want to see what they’ll do next.
Plus who wouldn’t want to read about Turkish prisons turned organ factories, Yakuza run surgical networks, and low rent motel operating rooms.
Nrama: Dane’s already on a dark path reeling from the death of someone on his table, but how does he get involved with organ smuggling?
Lieberman: That’s the engine the runs the series. Once recruited into an black market surgical team Dane is framed for murder and decides his only way out is to bring down the man who set him up by reclaiming organs already placed in some very powerful people.
Nrama: Who else is on this organ smuggling team that Dane works with?
Lieberman: Well Dane is up against two very clever and powerful people. Craven and Greer. Craven is the international businessman who runs the surgical team. Greer is the lead surgeon who is determined to hold onto her very nice life that black market surgery provides her and doesn’t care who she takes down to keep it.
Dane works with Mariko, a Yakuza enforcer who has been… loaned to Ben until he finishes what he’s doing.. or gets killed. Also working with Ben is the meanest son-of-bitch 6 year-old in comics.
Nrama: I want to bring Harvest's artist into the equation here, Colin Lorimer. Colin, although you’ve done comics before like the excellent short UXB in Dark Horse Presents earlier this year, comics is still relatively new for you. Coming from a career doing storyboards and concept designs, how’d you prepare to do comics on a big project like this?
Colin Lorimer: Thanks- I appreciate that! I'm glad you liked UXB. You can expect a couple of more UXB shorts in Dark Horse Presents towards the end of the year.
I would say that supervising and boarding TV shows is good preparation in itself. I mean, apart from the actual boarding of the show, there are a lot of other things that have to come into play, such as: script breakdowns, rewrites, layout design, preparing story scenes for good staging and walk-throughs and of course delivering to very tight deadlines. The most important factor is that I service the story to the best of my ability and the same would apply to comics. The great thing about creator owned comics is that it really is one on one with myself and Andy. I comment on the scripts and he comments on the art- it's quite an organic process.
Nrama: The detail on your work in Harvest #1 is impressively intricate, without being distracting. How’d you settle on a style to do draw this book?
Lorimer: It my natural way of drawing and thankfully it seemed to suit the style of the story which is quite dark and gritty. I have pushed the style a little more towards film noir, with lots of heavy blacks in places to help create more of a mood and give the work more of an identity.
Nrama: And the downside of having art so detailed and gorgeous is fans might worry that getting this level of work might necessitate some delays in the book – especially since you’re doing the full art, including colors. How far are you along in drawing the series, and do you expect to do all five issues on time?
Lorimer: From issue #2 onwards it will all be silhouettes , stick men and set within a white walled empty room- so I don't foresee any problems.
Lorimer: [.] No, in all seriousness; I have spent a long time in the trenches and what it all comes down to is trying to find that balance between quality and the hard reality of the deadline. So whether it's comics, gaming or TV, the same work ethic and rules apply.
In saying that, your absolutely right. It is an enormous amount of work and if the need arises, we will find solutions to make sure the work is brought in on time without lessening the quality of the title. I'm currently finishing up the black and whites on issue #2 and then moving into the layouts of #3.
Nrama: Going back to #1, of the final page of the first issue you two brought a supernatural spin to this series; something that I'm being careful not to spoil. That’s a pretty bold storytelling choice – how’d it come about, and how’d you temper it so it wouldn’t be cliché?
Lieberman: I wanted to be bold and try something different. And the moment I came up with it and then wrote it I knew that the character in that last page would be one of the most important in the book. And the funniest.
Nrama: This new series is coming on the heels of a number of announcements of your previous comics being turned into films. Can you give us an update on Term Life and Cowboy Ninja Viking?
Lieberman: As far as Term Life goes, I am writing the screenplay for Vince Vaughn’s company who bought the book. Which is a pretty surreal experience since it’s pretty weird deconstructing the book I spent so much time constructing. Cowboy Ninja Viking is at Universal who have attached the director Marc Forster who is doing World War Z with Brad Pitt. They say it’s his next project but in Hollywood anything can happen. It’s been interesting ride with both.
Nrama: Coming full circle here, last question guys -- what would it take for you to consider using an organ harvesting program for yourself or a loved one?
Lorimer: For sure! I'd probably go for celebs first; Piers Morgan, Simon Cowell and the like. Maybe we could could make it like a reality show- the surgeons could rotate and sing as they operated. ..of course that would mean that Cowell would have to be awake during the procedure so he could give his opinion.
I think I could live with that...
Lieberman: Seriously, I’m all for it. It’s so incredible how many lives can be effected by that decision to be an organ donor. How much good can come from it. On a purely humanitarian view it’s one of the most important and transcendent things a person can do to help others in dire need.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!