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DF Interview: Mega-churches hit by hackers in Matt Hawkins’ Tithe
By Byron Brewer
Mega-churches are being robbed for millions of dollars by a crusader hacker group known as Samaritan. It is then giving the money to causes the group deems more worthy. This modern day “Robin Hood” is being pursued by two FBI agents who actually admire their quarry but want to stop the theft before it escalates.
Writer Matt Hawkins (Think Tank, Tales of Honor) and artist Rahsan Ekedal team up for an all new thriller suspense series—The Tithe—coming from Top Cow this April.
Dynamic Forces caught up with Top Cow’s prez – also Hawkins – to get the 411.
Dynamic Forces: Matt, the subject of hackers breaking into high-profile computers has been in vogue even before WarGames hit the screens in 1983. But the target of hackers in The Tithe is mega-churches. What gave birth to this idea?
Matt Hawkins: I like heist stories and my favorites are Heat and The Town. I’ve always wanted to do a story like this, but didn’t want to hit banks or art museums. So I started thinking about where there were piles of cash that could be taken and the idea for the mega-church robberies hit me. The hacker part of it came after that when I was trying to figure out what plot I could tell without offending religious people.
DF: Tell us about the general storyline for The Tithe.
Matt Hawkins: The FBI was investigating a series of churches for fraud. Samaritan hacked this list and has been dealing out her own kind of justice. She’s stealing the money from them and giving it to other charities she deems more worthy. The FBI agents in the story admire what she’s doing but are trying to stop her before it escalates.
DF: “Her”??! What or who is Samaritan? I take it the ref is biblical rather than to the super-computer on Person of Interest?
Matt Hawkins: The perception of Samaritan is that it’s a group like Anonymous but it’s actually a lone woman. That’s revealed to the reader quickly in the story, but the FBI doesn’t realize it until much later.
DF: What can you tell us about the FBI agents pursuing this modern-day Robin Hood? (Maid Marian?)
Matt Hawkins: Dwayne Campbell (50’s) -- Dwayne is a family man, loves his wife, has four daughters (only one still at home; the three oldest are educated, married professionals). He’s dedicated to his job and attends a small Baptist church in their hometown in suburban Austin, Texas. He wants to give his family everything he didn’t have as a child. He’s always wanted a son and Jimmy (the other agent) becomes a proxy of that for him. Raised in the foster system, Dwayne had no parents to speak of. In his job, he’s smart, well respected, but considered a bit of a Luddite. He never advanced beyond his field agent status because of his unwillingness to sacrifice his family for career. Dwayne is a Baptist and a believer, which causes him some comedic friction with Jimmy. Despite his confident aura, he’s never quite felt like he fit in the world, not comfortable in his own shoes. He has nightmares about his childhood, but he hides this and compartmentalizes it and has never sought therapy as an adult. He doesn’t allow his family or work to see the weak side of him. Jimmy knows more about his childhood that Dwayne’s wife does.
James “Jimmy” Howard (late 20’s) -- Jimmy is a hacker that was caught infiltrating the FBI database at age 14 and was recruited in lieu of going to jail. He’s young, good-looking, smart, charming, likable and a bit of a womanizer. He has a bad boy image inside of the FBI, but most of it is a façade he continues to cultivate. When he applied to be an actual field agent instead of just in cyber crimes, Dwayne took him under his wing and has a soft spot for Jimmy. He's a genius level hacker but Samaritan is younger/smarter and knows the new tricks -- this drives him nuts. He's our atheist.
DF: How has it been working with artist Rahsan Ekedal on this project?
Matt Hawkins: Rahsan is phenomenal. His layouts are some of the best in the business and he conveys a range of emotions in his characters that is somewhat lacking in most comics I read. We’re excited to be working on both this and the next arc of Think Tank together. I think he’s excited about seeing his work in color.
DF: Do you have any incidents/tales, real or fiction, involving hackers that are your favorites?
Matt Hawkins: The hacking of the Iranian nuclear centrifuges was fun. The Sony hack was scary. All of them are interesting. I haven’t seen Blackhat yet, but that’s on my list to watch. The scariest part of hacking is that you can be hacked and not even know it. http://computer.howstuffworks.com/zombie-computer.htm
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Matt Hawkins for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to answer our questions. The Tithe #1 hits stores April 15th!
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