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DF Interview: Rahsan Ekedal: Think Tank: Creative Destruction ‘takes us to very real, very dark places’
By Byron Brewer
An unknown enemy has destroyed the technological infrastructure of the United States. Panic and conspiracy theories spread. Today’s comic book or tomorrow’s reality?
Writer Matt Hawkins and artist Rahsan Ekedal bring us tomorrow’s news today amid the familiar environs of Think Tank.
To get the 411 from a different perspective on the new ongoing, Think Tank: Creative Destruction, DF sat down with Rahsan Ekedal.
Dynamic Forces: First, Rahsan, tell us basically what this new ongoing from the Think Tank universe is all about.
Rahsan Ekedal: We’ve been informally calling it “season two” of the series. Our approach has been to take everything people loved about the first series and carry it forward, while expanding David Loren’s universe and bringing fresh ideas and a fresh look. Think Tank has always been topical, sometimes eerily so, and that hasn’t changed at all. Creative Destruction is about how vulnerable we really are, how our connected systems and infrastructure are dangerously outdated. It’s something you hear about now and then, but the depth of our vulnerability is pretty breathtaking. So Creative Destruction starts out with three mysterious attacks on American infrastructure -- attacks that could happen tomorrow. The technology exists and Dr. David Loren isn’t the only person who could pull it off.
That’s where the plot starts, but the story really gets into the relationships between David and Mirra and his other friends and colleagues. We’ve got all this big picture stuff going on with Russia and China and the U.S. military industrial complex, but at the same time David and Mirra are trying to maintain a long-distance relationship. Manish is trying to hold his family together and finding it harder to put up with David’s antics. And David’s bad behavior is coming across as harassment, especially to his female colleagues. So we are exploring the consequences of that, and seeing how hard it really is for a woman to work alongside this guy, who is pretty much an overgrown man-child who has never had limits set on his behavior by anyone. He grew up in this environment where he can get away with anything as long he keeps doing his job. But that time might be coming to an end.
DF: Love the David Loren character. Can you give us more specifics about he and his science team?
Rahsan Ekedal: David and Manish have been moved out to California and tasked with building real “Iron Man” suits for the military. Again, this is something that’s not fiction. Next gen enhanced armor is really being developed for U.S. special forces, and you can find videos on YouTube showing some of the early iterations. Awesome if you’re a military tech geek like me and Matt, but also a little scary. So David’s working on that, officially. Unofficially -- well, he’s up to something nasty and no one’s going to like it.
DF: Any new characters coming into the saga?
Rahsan Ekedal: Yes! Some great new characters. I’m most excited about Dr. Lisa Brooke, who is a young scientist joining the research team. She’s David’s equal in intellect and ambition, the new hotshot, but she’s actually a nice person and everyone likes her. David -- not so much. And she’s not about to take any of his crap. Lisa was born deaf, and she’s gay. So her life experience is very, very different from David and I think she’s the perfect foil to his tunnel-vision lifestyle.
Diversity in our cast is one thing about Think Tank I’ve been proud of since the beginning. Comics haven’t always had the best track record when it comes to diversity, but Matt and I like our comics to reflect the real world. So you’ll see that in the new series as well. We have powerful and smart characters who are women, who are black and Asian, who are gay, and more -- because that’s the world we live in.
DF: Did you do any new designs for the book?
Rahsan Ekedal: Oh yeah, lots of cool stuff. I put a lot of time into designing the new characters, of course. But I also spent quite a lot of time on mapping out David’s massive new lab on Edwards Air Force Base. It’s literally a converted aircraft hangar, so when I say massive I mean the thing is a cavern. I have maps and sketches on the wall in my studio to refer to so I can always know exactly where in the facility our characters are. David literally lives in a tower in the center of the hangar. I thought it was very funny and appropriate to put him up there, considering the removed way in which he interacts with his team. He’s this cranky hermit who comes out when required to out-smart and out-snark everyone.
And of course we have the “Iron Man” suits, a very down-to-earth visualization that I created, based on the slim amount of imagery online and a heavy dose of informed speculation as to what would be practical for real soldiers in the field. Special forces guys already have perfected what they like and need for the field, so I tried to think, what would they want, and what would they hate? So they’re not covered in giant plates of metal. It’s flexible, it’s light, and it doesn’t look too different from the gear they wear today. From a distance, you might not know that you’re about to encounter an incredibly lethal, strength-enhanced warrior whose liquid armor is nearly invulnerable to small weapons fire, and who has been tracking you with drones from miles away.
And as always, you’ll see lots of cool robots and aircraft and stuff. It wouldn’t be Think Tank without a bit of that!
DF: Have you set your sites on any “focus” character yet – one you especially like drawing for this particular storyline?
Rahsan Ekedal: I love drawing Mirra Sway. She’s such an awesome character. We’ve actually been developing an idea for a spin off starring her in super-spy mode, stay tuned for that. But man, I love drawing everyone. David’s dog Newton. Lisa Brooke, Manish, Pavi, Sandra Kharisova - another new character. Donovan Austin, and his brother Ron. It’s an embarrassment of riches for someone like me who enjoys the “acting” part of drawing comics.
DF: I know that writer Matt Hawkins is very passionate about this ongoing. Can you kind of give us a little behind-the-scenes as to your process for working with Matt?
Rahsan Ekedal: We have an advanced shorthand at this point. We’re great friends and great collaborators, and we work really easily together. We’ll usually have a chat in advance of a new project, and then Matt sends me a plot. Then I draw the book, and Matt comes back in and writes the dialogue and captions. So we work in the classic Marvel style, which is wonderful as an artist because it gives me a lot of freedom. We sort of know how to play to each other’s strengths. It’s awesome.
DF: Rahsan, that main cover for issue #1 is gorgeous. Tell us about the concept behind it, if you would.
Rahsan Ekedal: I think you mean the cover we’ve been referring to as the “red bodies” cover. It was originally intended for issue #3, but Matt loved it so much we ended up making it the main cover to issue #1. I was sketching out cover concepts and instinctively started feeling out this triangular shape bearing down on a lone figure. I had wanted to find a way of conveying the immense weight on David’s conscience, this burden he lives with every day. His research and his designs have literally caused the deaths of so many people. Many of them have been villains, bad guys, but a lot of these deaths have been hapless enemy soldiers and collateral damage -- which is a nice way of saying civilians. He’s hardly ever been the one who pulled the trigger, and sometimes he’s even tried to stop it, like with the incident in China back in issues #11 and #12. But he’s a killer, and he can’t escape it. So this terrifying mass of red bodies -- in the shape of a drone aircraft that David helped to design -- is bearing down on him and David can only stand there and absorb the guilt. When I drew the bodies, I was thinking of all the Syrian refugees who have died both in the war and while just trying to escape with their families, and of all the many senseless deaths of civilians in recent conflicts around the world. I felt quite emotional drawing those frightened faces.
The beauty of Think Tank is that it can be fun and funny and often even silly, but it also takes us to very real, very dark places. And that’s why I love this book, and I think you’ll love it too.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Rahsan Ekedal for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Think Tank: Creative Destruction #1 hits stores April 6th!
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