“Think Tank” launched in 2012 with the creative team of writer (and Top Cow President and Chief Operating Officer) Matt Hawkins and artist Rahsan Ekedal, introducing scientific genius Dr. David Loren. His intellect had been used for years to create weapons of mass destruction, until he decided that wasn’t the life he wanted to lead — which was not a decision endorsed by his bosses, who were ready to employ some extreme measures to keep him around.
The series was originally planned as a limited run, but continued into something more — with a second volume scheduled to debut in September, with Hawkins and Ekedal both back on board. David Loren is once again the focus character, though this time, the series is in color for the first time ever, with Ekedal coloring his own pages along with penciling and inking. The new series takes inspiration from the real life TALOS project, the Iron Man-esque exoskeletons in development from the United States Special Operations Command.
CBR News spoke with Hawkins about the new volume of “Think Tank,” how the addition of color shapes the direction of the series and his evolving work dynamic with Ekedal, who he’s now collaborated with on multiple projects. Plus, a first look at exclusive interior art from “Think Tank” #1.
CBR News: Matt, you’ve talked before about how personal and important of a work “Think Tank” is for you. With the second volume on the way, what can you say about some of the themes you’re exploring with the new issues?
Matt Hawkins: The subtitle of this arc is “Creative Destruction;” which sums up everything well. In what fun new ways can we create machinery to kill? I’m obsessed with how vulnerable the U.S. infrastructure is. We do a good job of protecting our nuclear arsenal from being co-opted, but a lot of our utilities are very poorly guarded. From the water supply to the electrical grid to our basic roadways, these could all be easily targeted with mass civilian casualties and economic disruption.
Slacker genius David Loren continues to be our lead guy, surrounded by his cast of friends, enemies and handlers. They’ve relocated to Edwards Air Force Base in the desert of California. He’s working on the TALOS project, which is a real project intended to create Iron Man-type exoskeleton suits to be used by our soldiers in the field. David is still in his relationship with Mirra Sway, but she works for the CIA and is gone a lot. So he misses her and thematically playing out the difficulties of a long-distance relationship are played out as well. So we have David dealing with his personal life while working on this project while the U.S. infrastructure is under attack. All are linked and it should be a fun ride.
I’ve discovered that when I’m having fun writing, the people reading it like it better. I’ve struggled on some projects and that carries into the work. “Think Tank” is the perfect book for me to write, and some of my best work (in my opinion, of course).
One big change that’s known from volume one to volume two is that the series will now be in color. Who’s the colorist on the book? And how much of an impact has the addition of color had on the series?
Rahsan Ekedal is coloring the book himself. So he’s doing everything; pencils, inks and colors. In the first arc (volumes 1-3) he did a gray “wash” over the inks to give it some depth. In this new arc he’s giving it depth with the color and it looks fantastic! Going with color didn’t really change much of how I wrote it, other than indicating a couple color preferences on things. I kind of let Rahsan do his thing and the book is better for it.
Speaking of Ekedal — you’ve now worked with him on a couple of non-“Think Tank” projects, like “The Tithe.” What can you say about how your collaborative process has evolved since the debut of “Think Tank”?
If anything, it’s become easier and more collaborative. I’ve been working with him so long now that there’s a shorthand of communication we can use that I can’t do with other artists. Since I write the plots without the dialogue initially, he has a lot of freedom to lay the book out however he wants. Some of the scenes require a lot of visual reference, so in some cases my plots might have one or two paragraphs on one scene and then pages of indications with references for a single page. He’s a fantastic storyteller and his layouts are better than anything I could come up with.
It’s notable that “Think Tank” has received praise from some outlets that I wouldn’t expect to see cover Top Cow comics — mainly thinking of the book review from NPR. How broad of an audience do you see for “Think Tank”? How much are you looking to expand it even further?
I’ve been trying to get “Think Tank” into more libraries, with varied success. Using the “clandestinely educating through entertaining” theme, it appeals to groups that want to educate. I jokingly put, “Danger: Reading this book will make you smarter!” on the covers of the first arc (which I got from comic retailer and convention promoter Jimmy Jay) and a lot of people tell me that it’s true. I think the weakness of science fiction today is that the technology being used is not all that far off. I’ve read stories supposedly taking place 1,000 years from now using technology we currently have. When I was a kid I read a lot of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, and those stories moved me to want to learn about science.
Any updates on the potential “Think Tank” TV series?
It’s been set up; hopefully they’ll be making the announcement soon!
How long of a story do you have planned for “Think Tank”? Is it relatively open-ended at this point?
I see myself still doing stories in this “Think Tank” world for as long as I’m writing. I write books in arcs and everything is sales dependent, so as I tell everyone; if you like it and want more, be sure to recommend the book to a friend. Word-of-mouth advertising is everything, especially from someone you know.
“Think Tank” Vol. 2 #1 is scheduled for release on Sept. 23.
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