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How real cancer researchers contributed to Matt Hawkins’ ‘The Clock’

The Top Cow president continues his dedication to realistic science portrayals.

Matt Hawkins has been writing hard sci-fi comics for the Top Cow imprint of Image for years, but with his new series, The Clock, he wanted to make sure the science behind the story was extra solid.

As a global pandemic begins, with people from every country getting a viral cancer that can’t be cured with even the most aggressive known treatments, Hawkins needed the idea itself to be plausible, but even the research methods his lead character used were ones that actual cancer researchers employ.

Hawkins details all of this in the author’s notes of the first issue, fittingly titled “Science Class.”

In The Clock #1, the main character, Jack, is a leading cancer researcher, traveling the globe studying various population groups and gathering tissue samples. He testifies before Congress on what he’s learned, detailing the disease and how it’s spread.

All of this was verified by experts, like Dr. Paul Dent, a professor of biochemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University, who’s quoted throughout the author’s notes, confirming the story details and giving more background on the real techniques scientists use.

This attention to detail is definitely reflected in the book — the story feels chillingly realistic. Most interesting to me, especially because he interviewed several real-life cancer researchers, is how quickly ethics is addressed in The Clock. In the first scene, Jack tells his assistants to take tissue samples from as many villagers as possible as they give out vaccines, the cover for being in the Nigerian village. The assistant asks him point blank if that is ethical, and Jack responds:

The ethics conversation picks up further on when Jack testifies, and the politicians debate whether or not to publicize the severity of the disease. Ethics isn’t addressed in the backmatter, though, but maybe that’s coming in a future issue.

AIPT Science is co-presented by AIPT and the New York City Skeptics.

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