Westfield: How did X-Men: The 198 come about?
David Hine: The 198 is a book that had to happen once the House of M reached its conclusion. Everyone knows by now that the number of mutants in the Marvel Universe has been drastically reduced. We are now at a point where virtually every mutant in existence will be appearing in one of the Marvel titles. The 198 is where you will be able to follow all the characters who don¹t appear in the other books. As the effects of M Day become clear the decision is made to provide a safe haven for the remaining mutants. The grounds of the Xavier Mansion are turned into a sort of refugee camp that welcomes all mutants no matter what their background. That includes both old allies and old enemies of the X-Men. In theory there should be solidarity between all the survivors but with such a mixed bunch it isn't long before the cracks start to show. This is a group of severely traumatized people who have often fought each other in the past.
Westfield: Will the book focus on a core group of characters or will it shift focus among the 198?
Hine: There is no core group. The focus will shift from story to story. Our first story line will concentrate on Magma, Empath, the enigmatic Mr. M from District X and a new character called Johnny Dee. In the first few issues we'll see Outlaw, Arclight, Mammomax, Fever Pitch, Toad, Erg and Leech among others. We also have Cyclops, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Beast and Bishop representing the X-Men, although the focus is on the lesser-known characters. This is an opportunity to explore characters who have often been dealt with fairly superficially in the past or to put characters like Magma and Empath back into the spotlight. They are all potentially as fascinating as any of the A-list mutants.
Westfield: What can people look forward to in the mini-series?
Hine: All the tensions, drama and conflict of a group of people forced into a closed environment. The obvious parallel is with survivors of a shipwreck washed up on a desert island. There is immediate rivalry as the various mutants jockey for position and establish a pecking order. In a sense this is Mutant Town with walls. There are refugees from all over the world who have lost home, family and most of their possessions. Within a very short time the frustrations build and violence breaks out. The mutants need leadership and it comes from a very unexpected quarter. Readers of District X will already be familiar with the enigmatic Mr. M who is potentially one of the most dangerous mutants on Earth. He is also unpredictable and quite possibly insane.
Westfield: What do you think artist Jim Muniz brings to the book?
Hine: I love Jim's clean graphic style and the intense realism he brings to a story. I first saw his work on Marvel Knights 4 where he did a terrific job. He has a very cinematic approach to storytelling and I've given in to the temptation to give him a double-page splash in each of the first two issues so he can really strut his stuff.
Westfield: How much does this book tie in with the other Decimation titles?
Hine: The premise is set up in House of M: The Day After. Also, the character Johnny Dee makes an appearance in the first issue of Son of M issue 1. There will be big developments later, which will impact on other titles. The point of House of M was to reduce the Marvel Universe to manageable dimensions and in future, all Marvel books will integrate into a coherent whole. That's the theory anyway.
Westfield: Could someone just pick up this book and understand what's going on?
Hine: Of course. Readers will have to understand the basic premise of the existence of mutants and the status of the X-Men as superheroes. In other words to have an inkling of what Marvel and the X-books are all about, but no one will have to buy any other series to follow what is happening in The 198. I don't like crossovers in that sense and I'm firmly of the belief that every title should stand alone while also adding to the Marvel mythos.
Westfield: Are there any other projects you're working on you'd like to mention?
Hine: Colossus: Bloodline is running for the next few months. Jorge Lucas has instilled the story with a wonderfully dark and edgy atmosphere. It is an offbeat story and a book I'm very pleased with.
Son of M is also coming up very soon. Bendis has established Quicksilver as a great tragic character and I'm enjoying taking him to the limits. Once again I'm working with a very talented and original artist, Roy Martinez. His approach is a unique blend of American and European styles which is perfect for this book. He also draws a terrific Spider-Man.
Westfield: Any closing comments?
Hine: In the short time I have worked for Marvel I've had the chance to work with some of the best new talents in the business on some very exciting projects. There is a lot of debate and often negative comments on the internet about mainstream American comics but I have no doubt that both Marvel and DC have not been this vibrant, fertile and downright original for decades. It is a great creative atmosphere to be working in.