Think Tank: Creative Destruction With Matt Hawkins [Interview]

IMAGE COMICS: Take us back to the origin of THINK TANK. What was the birth of the series? How soon was Rahsan Ekedal brought on?

MATT HAWKINS: I had the idea about a year before Rahsan came on board. He was working on ECHOES at the time, and I had no idea who I'd be working with. I hadn't written a comic at that point in almost ten years, so I was pretty nervous about it. When Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan wrapped up ECHOES, I liked how Rahsan's work looked in black and white. I chose black and white initially out of fear of low sales and trying to keep the costs down.

I've always loved science thrillers. Michael Crichton's novels were always favorites for me. I've kept in contact with some of my college friends who have gone on to work in research science. We meet up for beers every now and again and I love to hear their stories. They live in a world so foreign to what normal people know about that I knew it would make for a dramatic backdrop for a story.

IC: THINK TANK is unique in that it's a science-fueled fiction story, for lack of a better phrase. You do a lo of research and pour that into the story. Why'd you chose to go the realistic fiction route?

HAWKINS: There's a lot of science-fiction out there. I wanted to find a niche and thought realistic science-driven stories were being underserved in comics. I've also thought for years that the sciences are kind of poorly represented to kids here in the United States in school. I have two sons in high school, and they told me how boring they found science. That struck a nerve, so I was determined to try and show scientists in a positive light. And not just billionaire geniuses like Tony Stark.

IC: Break down Dr. David Loren for the readers. What kind of person is he?

HAWKINS: He's a highly intelligent but emotionally-stunted 28-year-old man. His mother was killed in a car accident when he was a kid and he was raised by a semi-absentee father who drank too much and didn't know what to do with a kid. He wasn't abused, but he was ignored. He was also four grades ahead in school, so he was a freshmen in high school at age eleven. Being that young and setting the curve made him an unpopular kid. So when he was recruited by the military at fourteen and shown an environment where he could thrive and be with people like him, he jumped at it.

Part of his journey dealing with people that didn't like him much is that he became a bit of a smart-ass and sarcastic as a defense mechanism. For this arc, he's got a girlfriend for the first time in his life and he doesn't always handle himself appropriately. That makes for fun conflict, and I love writing these characters.

IC: THINK TANK: CREATIVE DESTRUCTION debuts this week, and it's the fourth volume in the THINK TANK series. What's the status quo going into the first issue? What would you say we absolutely need to know about what's gone before?

HAWKINS: You can start here without reading any of the previous volumes, but I'd hope that if you read this and dig it you'd seek out the previous ones. There's a quick two-page introductory story to quickly set-up the character dynamics from the previous arcs, and then we jump right in.

IC: I know you can't tell us too much about the plot, but can you tease some of the scientific concepts or technology you'll be exploring in the series? What should we be googling to learn something new?

HAWKINS: The vulnerability in the U.S. infrastructure, including electrical, sewer, water, medical, roads, and so on. There's also a major plot thread about the TALOS suit, which is the military's current attempt to develop an exoskeleton similar to Marvel's Iron Man suit for its operators (that's what they call the soldiers that use them). Later in the arc we'll introduce some of the latest technology from the Chinese and Russian militaries. Fun stuff.

I grew up in the '70s and on military bases, so I was in constant fear of nuclear annihilation. After the wall came down in '89, I wasn't afraid again until about last year. Some of the newer biological and viral threats emerging in weaponized labs around the world are truly frightening. I had a lunch with a research buddy of mine a few weeks ago and he scared the shit out of me with what he was working on.

IC: What's the significance of the phrase "creative destruction," especially as it relates to this arc of THINK TANK?

HAWKINS: It's the idea that these research scientists frequently create things that end up having dual uses. The Human Genome Project has revealed so many positive ways we can help people with genetic disorders and targeted immunotherapy treatments. But, and it's a big but, it also opens the door for genetically targeted weapons. DARPA funds most military research in the US, and they will fund pure research. Most of it goes nowhere. But every few years, they come up with something that will change the world. And not always for the better.

THINK TANK: CREATIVE DESTRUCTION #1 is available now. Catch up on THINK TANK in softcover or digital editions. If you'd like to get to know Dr. David Loren, check out THINK TANK: FUN WITH PTSD!