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Matt Hawkins: Think Tank & Science Comics 101 [Interview]

Rahsan Ekedal & Matt Hawkins create THINK TANK together, a long-running series about Doctor David Loren, a young super-genius who creates military hardware for a living, often against his will. THINK TANK tackles cutting-edge military science and difficult romantic relationships with equal amounts of excitement and intricacy, and the new series aims to keep the creativity flowing. This time around, major figures are being assassinated by animals using technology that Dr. Loren finds very, very familiar...

IMAGE COMICS: Matt, can you tell us about your background in science? What was it that led you to pursue physics in the first place? Why'd you shift to comics?

MATT HAWKINS: I was going to UCLA working on my MS in Physics when I met Rob Liefeld and was hired at Extreme Studios. I finished my degree, but was two years into working at Extreme, which had become a way of life. My dad was an engineer and an Air Force officer. I grew up on military bases and was exposed to a lot of planes, missiles, and military scientists. I always had a love for science and was good at math, so physics made sense. People into science who are bad at math become biologists raspberry I stayed in comics because I grew to love it, and it scratched a creative itch I didn't know I had.
 
IC: Every new arc of THINK TANK features a big shift in the status quo and what Dr. David Loren is getting up to. What are you looking forward to tackling in the new series?

HAWKINS: Well, spoilers, but in the fourth volume of THINK TANK David tried to kill himself, so this fifth volume deals with the aftermath of that. We're easing off a bit from the hard depression stuff and having David confront his father. He hasn't talked to his father in 10 years, but on David's paperwork his father is the only next of kin, so when he tried to kill himself the protocol was to reach out.

His dad shows up and he tells David that he has an eight-year old sister. This floors David and he doesn't know how to react to that. He also is trying to get Mirra Sway back, but she won't have it, so there's that relationship tension. The geopolitical story deals with Russia, NATO, and Turkey, the tech story is about mind-controlling animals and using them as suicide bombers...all doable with today's technology.

IC: THINK TANK often deals with applied science of the military variety. What was it about this kind of science in particular that struck you as fertile storytelling ground?

HAWKINS: There are comics that feature scientists (Tony Stark, Reed Richards), but it was never really about the actual science, and these guys were moguls, too. Most scientists I know are cogs in a giant machine. Most are not wealthy or don't have their own giant corporations. I know several science prodigies who are in think tanks. One of my college roommates has a sandbox in his office that he sits in and runs his hands through the sand to give him ideas. Some of these people are clinically crazy, but they come up with good ideas that DARPA and the various military industrial companies profit from. There's also a lot of anger in this community because most of them don't want to develop weapons or work for the military, but that's where all the funding comes from. It's a great backdrop for drama.
 
IC: What's the most exciting part of creating THINK TANK?

HAWKINS: I love doing the research and working with Rahsan Ekedal to develop the stories. We have a geopolitical story, a tech story, and a relationship/character story that runs through each volume. Navigating David Loren's life is complicated, but fun in his carefree way of looking at it. He knows what he does kills people. He was recruited at a young age to work with the best equipment and like minds...and didn't know that he was signing a life commitment at age 14.

SCIENCE COMICS 101, courtesy of Matt Hawkins

  • HIP FLASK/ELEPHANTMEN, by Richard Starkings and a host of fantastic artists, is a perennial favorite of mine.
  • LAZARUS, by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, is amazing.
  • Darth Vader and the other new Marvel Star Wars books have all been a joy to read.
  • THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS, by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, is just insane fun.

SCIENCE MAGAZINES 201

  • Scientific American: It's the gold standard for science periodicals, and it's mostly understandable by those without PhDs, which I can't say about Nature or Science. 
  • Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku: It's a futurist look at technology and how it will change our lives over the next 100 years, broken down by decade. I can virtually guarantee that all the Black Mirror writers have read this.
  • The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene: One of my favorites! Greene talks about dark matter, dark energy, gravity, stars, pulsars, and all these fun things we saw on Star Trek that people can now read about here and find out what they mean. This one's a bit dense, so I actually recommend getting the audio book and listening to it a few times. It'll sink in better that way.
  • The Economic Singularity: Artificial intelligence and the death of capitalism, by Calum Chace: If you want to read a pragmatic approach to what's going to happen when half our jobs are taken by robots, read this. Fascinating and scary book.
  • The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, by George Friedman: This is kind of a geopolitical book, but it deals with technology and science and a lot of futurism. I'm obsessed with finding out where the world's going to be and how we're going to live. I've been here for 47 years and have seen so much change already.

THINK TANK #1 is available for preorder now and debuts 3/1.