Though Top Cow President Matt Hawkins is no stranger to writing comic books, a multi-issue series from the formerly prolific creator has been rare. Now, though, he's back, with a new book called Think Tank launching in August with artist Rahsan Ekedal. The four issue miniseries shows what happens when one slacker scientist in a military think tank decides he maybe doesn't want to make weapons anymore.
Steeped in accessible science, humor, and a healthy dose of action, Think Tank is a fun book we were excited to chat with Hawkins about. And you should be, too! So read on:
MTV Geek: Why was Think Tank the right book to get you to return to writing?
Matt Hawkins: I'm a science nerd with a few degrees that I don't use. I love science and have a lot of friends who work in think tanks. I've wanted to get back into writing comics for years, but this was the right project for me since I think I found a good voice for the character who has something relevant and interesting to say. This book is sort of my commentary on American so called exceptionalism and the military industrial complex that fuels our government and military. I was a military brat and grew up on military bases during the Cold War so I have a unique perspective on all this.
Geek: What’s the basic idea for the book? I mean, I know it, but fill our lovely readers in if you don’t mind.
MH: The core of it is about a slacker genius named David Loren who got seduced and recruited into military weapons research at a very young age. This story takes place 10 years after he started all this, he's 28 now and has decided he doesn't want to do it anymore. He realizes that there aren't retired military Think Tank scientists. He's never really had a relationship with a woman and very naive about certain things. He's smarter than his peers but very lazy and this drives them fucking nuts.
Geek: What’s your science background like? What drew you to the scientific concepts you’re using in this book? And was their any concern that scientists would be all like, “Hey, wait a second!”
MH: I have a Physics degree that I don't use for anything. I love science and my ultimate goal and what would make me proud is to have someone 10 years from now tell me they got inspired to go into science by reading my book. That may sounds egotistical but I don't mean it that way. I want people to think science is fun and cool. Most people I know look at it as VERY boring. Not many people that I know even know a scientist. I know a lot and talk to them online daily.
Geek: In general, I’m always curious to hear how a regular person - or even a person of high intelligence - approaches writing someone who is vastly smarter than any of us...
MH: Fortunately, I've written David as an emotionally immature person which I can relate to very well. I almost skipped second grade but they didn't skip me because during the interview I climbed up on the table. They felt I wasn't mature enough even though I passed their stupid test. What I can do is relate to him as a conflicted character, something I also can relate to. I'm one of the laziest hard working guys I know. I can fake the rest, heh.
Geek: Let’s talk about Dr. Loren... What’s his journey going to be like?
MH: This first arc is all about his journey. We see the current conflict very quickly. The lab is being supervised by a new military officer who is coming in to kick Loren's ass into gear. They know David is the golden boy that will come up with new toys they can play with, but they need to motivate him to do so. There are a lot of flashbacks in the story where we get to meet David as a younger boy and show how he is seduced into working for the military. He's decided he doesn't want to do this anymore but doesn't really want to quit. He's conflicted because he loves the creative process and the access to all the high end equipment they get to play with.
Geek: What about the rest of the cast? There’s a few supporting characters we meet in the first issue...
MH: Manish is David's friend and colleague and also his bitch. He's not quite as smart as David and a family man. He realizes very quickly that his sole value to the Think Tank is to keep David motivated and in line. The two chief antagonists are Colonel Harrison and his superior General Clarkson. I really hate one dimensional bad guys so Harrison is a patriot who's been sent in to kick Loren's ass. He comes across as a hard ass, but he's just doing his job and he believes in what he's doing. Clarkson is far more complex. She is one of the first female Generals and was basically David Loren 20 years ago, but was discounted because she was a woman before it was cool to be a woman in the military. She's overcome a lot and highly intelligent, rivaling Loren, but she's a bit Machiavellian and a bit more twisted.
Geek: There’s a fair amount of high octane action at the beginning and the end, but when you’re dealing with smart characters mostly using their brains, how do you keep a comic book exciting? How do you keep it moving?
MH: It's all about the technology. It is the ultimate brains versus brawn story. This tech is all based on real tech and it's cooler than what we see in a lot of science fiction. I think the grounded realistic portrayal of these advanced weapons systems that exist is pretty fucking cool. We've taken some creative license because a lot of this stuff is classified but the Drones we see on TV are all based on almost 20 year old technology at this point. Walking into a Think Tank is like walking into the future. I've been to many and have always just looked around mesmerized by whatever details I could pick out. I think I annoy people on these "visits" because I do know what I'm talking about and ask a lot of very specific questions.
Geek: Back to Think Tank, let’s talk about Rahsan Ekedal, who made a big splash on Echoes... How’d he end up on the project, and what does he bring to it artwise?
MH: When we published Echoes I really dug his his work and started conversing with him about the idea behind Think Tank. We talked for awhile and he agreed to do it. I really dig his work. He has very expressive faces and gestures which are very important. Any decent artist can make an action scene look cool. Brilliant ones like Rahsan make 2 guys talking at a desk look interesting.
Geek: This is a mini-series, but imagine - assuming the main character survives - there’s potential for an ongoing? Or sequel?
MH: I would love to do 100+ issues of Think Tank. I have endless ideas and could write stories for years and years. It all depends on if people dig it or not.
Geek: And recently, Eric Stephenson came out in favor of comics working as movie or TV pitches... Though I think this particular comic works nicely as a comic, it also seems to be easily translatable to other media. Was that something that played into crafting this book at all? And both for Think Tank in particular, and Top Cow (and comics) in general what’s your take on this idea?
MH: We always take into consideration possible TV and film adaptations of things, but with Think Tank I considered just speccing it as a feature film screenplay but opted to do it as a graphic novel instead. The main reason being is with the comic book I can tell exactly the story I want and not dumb it down. There is a lot of technical and science-y shit in here that would get stripped out of a feature film. Most Sci-Fi concepts are based on junk science with a hair of reality used as the springboard of the imagination. I've worked very hard to make this story fantastical, but believable in a current world environment without any supernatural or super-hero things going on.
Geek: Any final thoughts on Think Tank? Words to get comic fans to pick up a new idea in a crowded marketplace?
MH: Well, I hope people will give it a shot I've put a lot of energy into it and am very proud of the way it came out. This is Rahsan's best work ever! I'm hoping you'll run a preview of the first 6 or so pages with this interview so I'd say to people read this preview and if you like it tell your retailer you want one! I'm also happy to sign books for people or chat philosophy and science on my twitter @topcowmatt or Facebook feeds.
Think Tank #1 hits comic book shops on August 1st, from Top Cow!