Strange things are afoot in the mysterious town of Eden in Top Cow’s new series Postal. Matt Hawkins has paired up with co-writer Bryan Hill and Top Cow Talent Search winning artist Isaac Goodhart to tell the story of this off-the-grid civilization full of criminals, who are preparing themselves to be reinserted back into society. Eden is a paradise for those who want to start over, but there are rules and when a citizen is murdered, it sends the town into chaos.
Newsarama spoke to Hawkins about Postal and the influences that helped craft the story, his collaboration process with a newcomer, as well as his decision to give the main character, Mark, Asperger’s Syndrome.
Newsarama: Matt, I had the chance to read Postal and there’s this True Detective, low-tech noir setting to it. Can you tell us what else might have been an influence in the storytelling?
Matt Hawkins: Yeah, you know when I started playing with the idea of this town, in the back of my head I was thinking of shows like Twin Peaks and Northern Exposure a little bit. I think True Detective has a little bit of that, too. I’ve always been fascinated by Witness Protection, but I sort of thought about what if there was a Witness Protection for villains? There has to be something like that somewhere, right? I was thinking about shows like Longmire and if you’ve had this small town that was disconnected from the rest of the world, and you can have a mayor and her husband as her sheriff and their children handling anything else. You have this tightly-knit system in this small town that bring in criminals, once they pay them, and offer them shelter from six months to a year while they are surgically altered or built new identities, they could move back into society.
I see that people always on the run go to Mexico and for me, if you had a bunch of money, would you really start over in Mexico or the country you grew up in? I always loved Northern Exposure and Twin Peaks due to the fact that the cities themselves are characters. You get a little bit of that in Lost, too, with the Island. I always loved that aspect of it. I developed this idea a few years ago and put it on the backburner and wrote all this other stuff I was working on, then I met up with Bryan Hill. He’s a screenwriter out here in Los Angeles and he said he wanted to work with me on a comic, so I pitched him four or five ideas, but he really dove into the idea of Postal.
Isaac Goodhart is one of our Talent Search winners and he’s fast, so there’s that, too. I’ve been working with so many artists as of late that do one book in about six to eight weeks, which really isn’t conducive to a monthly schedule, but this guy is fast. Does a book in about four to five weeks and it’s great. So we plan on sticking with him to do a nice long run.
Nrama: So you have a collaborator on the story, what was whose idea? Was it more of you wanting Hill to flesh it out, or was it more back and forth?
Hawkins: Sort of. The idea of the town, the environment, some characters, the main character who had Aspergers who was the postman, those were mine. The idea of the murder for the town, the sort of catalyst for the story, that was Bryan. Having this character with this condition, who is trying to be so helpful, but ends up getting himself and everybody else in trouble is something I love because he’s in the middle of all of this questionable morality. When Bryan pitched me the idea of the murder, it was so brilliant because one of the big rules in this town is that there is no crime. They are heavy-handed with that rule as well. They’re trying to not attract attention, so there has to be order. These are criminals looking to be entered back into society and you can’t have us kill each other off or dealing drugs so they don’t want to call attention to the town. Of course, the FBI knows exactly what’s going on so they can’t get people inside either and have had a hard time doing that in the past.
Nrama: What was the big decision to make Mark have Asperger’s?
Hawkins: I have a friend with the condition and it’s funny because when I talk to people about Asperger’s, they don’t really get what it’s about. They look at it as part of the autistic spectrum or OCD. It is a recognizable psychological condition and has certain differences from those other things. I thought about doing something with the condition that is sort of a positive turn, because I wouldn’t call it an affliction, they live their life a different way and I know my friend wouldn’t want to change that. I think he’s content of who he is. I was shocked when I spoke to a deaf person and they told me they wouldn’t want their hearing back if it was an option. I asked why and they told me because they are completely content with who they are. I like to clandestinely teach while I entertain with my books like Think Tank or Wildfire, but there’s a lot that people don’t understand that I hope by reading one of my books they learn something new and that might be interesting to them.
Nrama: It seems that Mark is the only moral character in this town. How is that going to affect things later on?
Hawkins: Well, he’s not the only moral character in this town. I mean, there are a lot of criminals out there with their own moral code. There are Robin Hood-type villains and such. Morality, to me, has shades of grey. You have some priests in the world, who are the worst mother fuckers on the planet, and you have some criminals that only have good things in their lives. You have this spectrum that you need to look at and in this situation, most of these people are going to be bad people. Though you have Maggie, the girl at the diner, a pretty important character, and then some of the family members. I mean, to me, it’s sort of like The Godfather and being born into that family. What choice do you really have? Are you not going into the family business? Were the Corleones really bad people? I mean, yeah, at the end they were. Mark isn’t going to be the only moral character in the story, and the nice thing is, with the set up, we can bring back a lot of new characters at any given time and not have a monster of the week type of thing. You can have new blood and interesting characters who have done interesting things.
Nrama: Tell us more about the artist on the book Isaac Goodhart. You mentioned he won Top Cow's talent search and has stuck out to you for being quick on pages, but what’s it like bringing in new blood into the fold? Have there been any real challenges?
Hawkins: It’s actually much smoother than we actually expected. Isaac is a natural talent and we’ve found and broke in a lot of artists over the years at Image and the various studios I’ve worked at. Isaac falls into the category of he was born to do this. He’s fast and he’s just plain good. He’s grown by leaps and bounds already and he’s a young guy and you’re going to see him for a long time.
Nrama: What was it about his style that drew you to him? Pun unintended.
Hawkins: It was a different kind of thing and not the usual Top Cow style. I’ve always sort of leaned towards the, for a lack of a better term, the old school Vertigo style. It’s not flashy, but it’s got lots of detail. It doesn’t overpower the story.
Nrama: Since Postal is an ongoing do you have a definitive ending?
Hawkins: Well, no, not a definitive ending. We have the first arc wrapped up story wise, which is the first four issues. Bryan and I met up last week to talk about the second arc and we’re definitely game for doing the third and fourth arc. We don’t have a thirty or forty arc story planned like a lot of people do, or say they do, but for me, we’re setting up a world and building these characters. That’s the fun of it!
Nrama: Matt, do you have anything else in the pipeline you’d like to share real quick?
Hawkins: I’m working with my Think Tank partner Rahsan Ekedel on this mini-series called The Tithe coming out in April. That is basically a heist story anything before. I love films like Heat and such, and realized nobody has really thought about stealing from megachurches. There’s going to have a bit of a Robin Hood angle there, too.