Matt Hawkins is a familiar name in the annals of independent comic book history. Having been with Image Comics almost since its initial launch in 1992, Hawkins famously asked for a job from Rob Liefeld while in line at an Extreme Studios event in the summer of 1993. Now president and COO of Top Cow comics, he has also written several books that explore the relationship between humanity and technology. Books like Think Tank, the story of a brilliant young inventor who became trapped in the military industrial complex at a young age, continue to touch both of those worlds closely. Paralleling themes of man and technology are books like Golgotha, the video game adaptation Warframe, Symmetry, and others, as well as the superheroes-meets-transhumanism universe of Aphrodite IX and Cyberforce.
Hawkins’ journey into comic books started as improbably as one would expect, considering where he comes from.
“I have a master’s in physics that I never used for anything. My dad was an engineer for the military in the 70’s and 80’s, part of the Cold War, and he’s long retired.”
Being involved in the early days of Image Comics seemed to hook Hawkins into the world of comics, even if that didn’t always thrill the family back home.
“My sister’s an astrophysicist. I’m the black sheep of the family that I do comic books.”
While with Top Cow, he went on to write Lady Pendragon, and helped with The Darkness video game. He also worked with with guys like Mike Turner, David Finch, Joe Benitez, J Michael Straczynski, and Mark Millar during his time at Top Cow.
Matt’s work asks questions like, What does the future tell us about who we are in our present times, in which we constantly deny science in the name of politics?
To that, he responds, “I think it says we’re a bunch of morons. I really do, because I run into these people that are the anti-vaxxers, and some of these people, like the flat earth people. . . these people are real. I’m still shocked.”
This rejection of what was once accepted as scientific fact is what built the foundation of one of Hawkins’ more notable works: “I’m kind of fascinated by future dystopian utopian. I tried to create a utopian book with Symmetry and I realized it’s just not possible.”
Symmetry, which touches on the idea of a perfect society, plays up some of the natural tendencies of humanity. In Symmetry, humans have artificial intelligences implanted into our heads as a fetus, and we choose our names and genders at the age of 13. From there, our whole idea of humanity and culture is shaped by a fictionalized and seemingly distorted view of history.
“The whole idea is you create a utopian society and watch it crack and crumble–definitely some influence from Brave New World (love that book), and a little 1984.”
After an accident separates man from artificial intelligence, Hawkins’ characters are left to their own devices and must figure out the world for themselves. Once the AI is able to return, what does the world look like and what has it become? These are the things that people often ponder about technology, sometimes not realizing our level of reliance on it. “I’m fascinated by religion, fascinated by science and philosophy and how these interact and affect us. I’m always amazed when people tell me, ‘Oh, if I went back 300 years from the future, I’d be a God.’ No, you don’t know how to do anything.”
It’s this reliance on technology that has become the new religion in Hawkins’ fictional worlds.
“There’s a running theme in my work. I was raised as an evangelical; my parents are still evangelicals, right-wing conservative Christians, and I abandoned that faith entirely at the age of 27. I became one of those douchey atheists for a couple years that are, like, militant, ‘You’re a moron for believing this,’ and then I finally got through that. I tell people who become atheists, ‘Don’t do that. It’s just wrong.’”
This intertwining of religion and technology pushes the boundaries of humanity and the future. How far can we go as a people? What will that world look like? “I always tell people to keep an open mind… keep an open mind about everything.”
This open mind, though, can cut both ways, as humanity as a whole has long struggled to make the best choices for what it should do with its technology. The future is as scary as it is wide open, something that has long been in the back of Matt Hawkins’ mind: “I hope we don’t kill ourselves.” A pessimistic view or an honest one? That is something only time can tell. In the meantime, check out issues #11 and #12 of Cyberforce coming this summer, completing Matt Hawkins’ latest run with Top Cow.