Interview: ‘Think Tank’ Writer Matt Hawkins

Think Tank is simply one of the best comic series going today. This smartly-written series deftly mixes techno-geekery into an action-packed thriller that keeps its fans begging for more. The story focuses on Dr. David Loren, a true prodigy-genius type who was recruited to work in a DARPA think tank when he was a naïve 14-year-old senior in high school. At 19, he was granted the elite rank of National Security Asset “” essentially he’s so valuable to the United States government that he can’t live a free life. David, however, won’t accept his fate without a fight; this formerly unabashed slacker unleashes an ingenious plan to escape his personal prison. It’s just pure vicarious fun to watch David conduct a personal guerrilla war against his superiors by using their own aggressive ambitions and rigid protocols against them.

This series, which was originally slated to end after four issues, revealed a huge swerve at the end of the last issue that completely derailed David’s brilliant escape. Fans have been chomping at the bit at the bit to find out where this story is heading in Think Tank #5.

We here at Geeks of Doom have been singing this series’ praises since its inception. I recently jumped at the opportunity to talk some Think Tank with co-creator and writer Matt Hawkins, and you can read the interview below.

Geeks of Doom: What made you decide to write Think Tank?

Matt Hawkins: Couple years ago I noticed that there weren’t many science-based stories being done and decided to do some. Clearly, Hickman and Stephenson also noticed this with their Manhattan Projects and Nowhere Men projects. Think Tank is an idea I’ve had for a long time. I love tech and am a bit of a gadget nerd and like to try things out. I’m playing with a 3D printer now to see what it can do. I’ve always been a fan of conflicted characters and Dr. David Loren is about as conflicted as they come.

GoD: What’s in store for David, Manish, and Mirra in this next story arc?

MH: The second arc focuses on weapons that are targeting genetics. With the success of the Human Genome Project we’ve learned a lot over the past few years and it’s possible to create a poison, a gas or some sort of weaponized chemical that can specifically kill just one person. Let’s say you wanted to kill some dictator. Find his toothbrush, get some DNA and build your custom kill device. The advantage of something like that is obvious, you could drop it in a water supply for a covert op that would seem natural causes or you could be more overt and dump gas on a city to find the target. Targeting specific genetics is also possible for groups. Racial characteristics are harder to pinpoint and in many cases, race is not necessarily a genetic thing. But you can find ancestors and target the specific similarities in a larger family group or extended group and wipe them out.

David is back in the lab and given his discovery that Mirra was working with the general he may have gone over to the dark side a bit and he’s building some pretty F’d up stuff now…willingly! But our protagonist can’t now suddenly be the villain so more is going on than at first blush.

GoD: While watching the movie Schindler’s List, David had an epiphany about the consequences of his work that sets his whole journey into motion. What about his character made him previously so oblivious about his actions?

MH: It was a slow creep. People delude themselves, even smart people. He was recruited at age 14 and sent through college and then thrust into an environment where he had access to anything he wanted and could rub shoulders with the smartest people in the world…people like him. There’s a comfort in that that he gets used to and only over time and seeing the people die from the uses of his tech does he eventually decide he doesn’t want to do it anymore.

GoD: Up through the Military Dossier issue, what has been your favorite scene to write?

MH: The scene in the Dossier was actually the most fun with David and Manish poking fun at Twilight and each other. The most rewarding scene was David using the Drone to get over the wall. I spent months laying out that plan to figure out how it would work, how it could work and what it would entail. I wanted it to be fantastic but believable and in rereading it I feel like that was achieved. Think Tank, creatively, has been my favorite thing to work on in my whole career.

GoD: One of my favorite parts of Think Tank is how experimental technology based on actual tech is weaved into the storyline. What are some amazing technologies that you just haven’t been able to work into the story?

MH: Oh wow, there are so many! I actually talked about a lot of these in the Military Dossier in the extended Science Class I featured there. I love the Z-man project. Also the synthetic telepathy stuff that they’re working on to get soldiers to talk to each other in the field mind-to-mind is pretty damn amazing.

GoD: There’s a dark concept called genetic targeting introduced in Think Tank #5. Please tell me that this isn’t actually based on a real thing”¦

MH: Like I mentioned above it is 100% real. David is up to something, no question about that. Why would he be developing even more horrific stuff when he dared this fantastic escape to get away from it in the first place? It will make sense, I promise! Genetic targeting is not new the Israelis talked about it in the 70’s as a means of figuring out how to target and kill off all the Arabs. What they discovered is that the genetic links between both groups are very similar. The whole field of genetics is exploding and is so fascinating to me. That and quantum mechanics may absorb me for the rest of my life, heh.

GoD: How many more issues of Think Tank do we have to look forward to? Or is this officially an ongoing series?

MH: It is definitely planned as an ongoing series I’d like to keep it going. With each arc I’ve got so many other ideas to play with. (Artist) Rahsan (Ekedal) has committed through issue 12. I’ll try and get him to do more, but if he doesn’t want to at that point, I’ll have to make a decision about whether I want to continue with another artist or not.

GoD: What made you and Rahsan Ekedal decide to go black and white? Any chance that we’ll ever see Think Tank in color?

MH: Initially it was an economic decision. A book like this is a risky one, there aren’t many non-superhero books that really do all that well. There are certainly some notable exception. I’ve also not written comics in a long time most people at this point have forgotten about Lady Pendragon so I’m not a “sure fire” creator in retailers minds either so hedged the bet. Now I kind of dig the black and white I almost can’t imaging it in color. Never say never though, considering it.

GoD: Why does every page with narration begin with an F=ma tag? And does Top Cow have any plans to ever release a Fun = Mating X Alcohol t-shirt?

MH: It’s just a dumb physics joke. I like things that make books distinctive and I wanted to continue the science theme in the book. The T-shirt is already available on our web site!

GoD: Which do you prefer: running the business aspect of Top Cow or creating comics?

MH: Creating comics, no question. Doing finance work, taxes, and dealing with all that other stuff sucks balls.

GoD: What’s next for you?

MH: Working on Aphrodite IX with Stjepan Sejic for Free Comic book day launch. Also working on a project with Colleen Doran that will be out next fall.

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