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Matt Hawkins has been churning out some of the best work of his career over the last several years. Between Think Tank, Postal, and now The Tithe, there are few writers tackling more intense issues than the Top Cow President.
In advance of the release of the first issue of The Tithe, Hawkins agreed to sit down and chat about the book with Capeless Crusader’s Josh Epstein.
Josh Epstein: You’ve characterized this book as the comic version of a heist film. What is it about that particular type of story which appeals to you as a writer?
Matt Hawkins: Smart heist films aren’t about just sticking a gun in someone’s face and taking their money. The stories have complex characters that often spend months planning and executing their crimes. I like morally ambiguous characters, nothing drives me nuttier than a purely good or purely evil character…they’re not very realistic.
The two investigators in The Tithe, Campbell and Jimmy, seem at first glimpse like the classic “odd couple” of all great buddy cop stories. Aside from the obvious difference in their religious beliefs, what would you say is the key in making their dynamic interplay work?
Dwayne (the older of the two) was a foster kid and grew up in the system without a feeling of parental love or family. He’s now married with four daughters and he sees Jimmy as the son he never had. They have a deep admiration for one another and Jimmy has a moral code that’s more “flexible” let us say, so Dwayne keeps him on the straight and narrow.
Campbell and Jimmy don’t seem to shy away from talking religion. Knowing that you’re an atheist with a religious background in your earlier life, is it at all difficult to channel the sort of strong faith someone like Campbell works with?
Not at all, it’s easy for me to remember what that was like. My family is also still deeply religious and I’m friends with religious people. Faith is a state of mind and a way of living and for the truly righteous it affects every aspect of their life so they’re not just Sunday Christians. Dwayne is one of the truly faithful and he loves life. He believes in being an example of righteous living and not just one to proselytize.
In the first issue’s after-matter, “Sunday School” (Which I love, by the way) we see a bit more of the characters’ histories in their designs. You’ve said that this will be a four-issue arc, so should readers expect much of that history to be explored in this first installment?
For characters I use the iceberg method of storytelling (which I’m not quite sure who I stole that from) which means you know the whole story of everything about them, but you only see 10% of it, but it’s authentic and has a realistic resonance because you know the other 90% that isn’t seen. I already have a second arc in mind, but the characters background in this first arc is important to the story.
You’ve talked before about how you’re personally critical of organized religion, but see value in going after the hypocrisies in it. Have you made Samaritan and the organization behind these heists a sort of vector for those critiques?
Yes and no, I hate answers like that but it’s true here. The problem with people who point out hypocrisy is they’re frequently hypocrites themselves. Samaritan has self-discovery in this arc where she realizes this is true of her. She hates the misappropriation of people’s charity being siphoned to the luxuries of these pastors, but their methods start to spiral out of control and she has to face that.
Let’s talk about the art for a moment. Besides the fantastic uncolored work he did with you on Think Tank, this makes how many times you’ve worked with Rahsan Ekedal?
Well he did Echoes for Top Cow which was written by Josh Fialkov and the fourteen issues of Think Tank with me. He and I are also going back to Think Tank soon so he’s been working with me for 6-7 years now. It’s a good collaboration!
What would you say it is about style which makes it such a solid pairing with your writing?
Rahsan is a phenomenal storyteller. He has a way of making mundane boring scenes fascinating to look at. He’s got a great arsenal of character facial expressions and emotions I find lacking in most comics today. I read a lot of comics and I sometimes have to stop and try to figure out what is going on between the panels, but with Rahsan that’s never an issue.
How long do you think a series like The Tithe can run? Is this something you see as open-ended like Think Tank or do you already have an endgame in mind?
The first arc is an intended four issue story arc. Just about every comic I write I could see going into the hundreds eventually, but it’s always dependent on fan reaction and sales. I have a second arc in mind already for this, but impossible to say just yet.
A big thanks to Matt Hawkins for the chat!
The first issue of The Tithe will be in comic shows on April 15, 2015.