Image Comics: Matt, what kind of book is THE TITHE? Obviously, it involves religion, crime, and procedural elements, but how would you personally describe it?
Matt Hawkins: It's a heist story, cops and robbers with some conspiracy stuff mixed in. The first arc is about stealing money from corrupt megachurches. The second arc is about stealing the soul of America. That sounds pompous, I know, but our system is so morally bankrupt and people talk about it but do very little. The first arc was intended to be like the movie Heat or The Town, but with religious elements and highlighting the hypocrisy of the prosperity doctrine that's driven me nuts for years. In the second arc, I've added Islam to the mix, but the overriding story element is about a conspiracy that becomes reality based on a politician reading about the 9/11 conspiracies (that it was an inside job to promote war and the military industrial complex)...which at least in the story aren't true. I don't buy the 9/11 conspiracies in reality, but what if the discussion of the conspiracies gave someone in power an idea?
IC: Tell me about Samantha Copeland. What kind of person is she going into this arc?
MH: Samantha Copeland is an idealistic young woman who grew up in the foster system hard. She's crazy smart and a gifted hacker. She believes she can make the world a better place despite the system and the hypocrisies everywhere. In this arc we see that she wants to have the trappings of a normal life, but that they may be out of reach for her. I see her as that mid-20s person who is embarking on their career and now wondering if she's made the right decisions.
IC: Dwayne Campbell is an interesting character, a religious man forced to confront corrupt representatives of his faith, amongst other things. What did you have foremost in your mind while creating him? What marks did you want to hit?
MH: Dwayne is my favorite character in the story. He's a family man first, an FBI agent second. There aren't many men I know that put their family in front of their careers. He's passed up promotions so he can stay in a job that allows him more flexibility with his family. He's the rare religious person that I personally would look up to as an atheist. He's the moral center of the story and he tends to see things morally as black or white, where Sam and Jimmy only see shades of grey.
IC: Rahsan Ekedal is your co-creator on this title, and he's someone you've worked with a lot. What's the appeal of his work for you?
MH: Rahsan is one of the best storytelling artists I've ever worked with. His layouts are cinematic, his characters and their expressions are very life-like. A lot of artists have only three or four expressions their characters use, but Rahsan has hundreds. He also knows what I want, so my plots don't need to be as precise. Collaborating with him isn't work, it's fun, and I think that can be seen in the stories how much fun we have together.
THE TITHE #5 is on sale now. THE TITHE, VOL. 1, collecting the first four issues of the series, is on sale, as well.