For much of the '70s and '80s, various stories across multiple genres and mediums enjoyed depicting New York City as a hellish concrete jungle full of human predators. In its 1989 X-Men crossover event, "Inferno," Marvel Comics transformed the Big Apple from a metaphorical hell into a literal one as demonic armies from the dimension known as Limbo invaded New York City. The demon lords responsible for the invasion manipulated X-Men ally Madelyne Pryor and New Mutants member Magik into helping them, resulting in the two mutant teams joining forces to put an end to the infernal onslaught on New York.
While the X-Men were successful, restoring NYC to order, a new "Secret Wars" series begs a very important question: What would become of the Marvel Universe had they failed, and how far would Magik's brother Colossus go to free his sister from the grip of her demonic Darkchylde persona? Writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Javier Garron endeavor to answer that very question this may in "Inferno," which reimagines the event with a negative outcome and examines the hellish version of Manhattan five years after it was claimed by Limbo.
CBR News spoke with Hopeless about the group of X-Men led by Colossus who embark annually on a desperate rescue mission into the devilish version of the Big Apple, what they'll encounter there, and his love for supernatural horror and the '70s action films that influenced and inspired his new spin on an old classic.
CBR News: While it would be a stretch to classify them as horror stories in the strictest sense, both "Avengers Arena" and "Avengers Undercover" showcased your affinity for the genre, particularly its supernatural elements? What is it about that kind of horror that excites you as a writer and how will you bring that to "Inferno?"
Dennis Hopeless: I'll never forget the sad day in 1995 when 14-year-old Dennis realized he had rented and watched every single video in the Blockbuster Horror section. So yeah, I've always been a horror fan. I love the suspense. I love the monsters and the weirdness. I'm sure that love colors my work to some degree but I don't think I've ever written a straight horror story. "Inferno" is no exception. The story takes place in a demon-controlled Hell on Earth Manhattan so it obviously has supernatural elements, but the plot is more "Escape From New York" than "Evil Dead."
That said, it has been a blast digging around in this twisted dark corner of the Marvel Universe. This version of Inferno Manhattan has been left unchecked for five years. It's a weird and creepy place full of all kinds of awful demons and goblins. The beauty of demons (much like robots) is that superheroes can kill lots of them without compromising their morals. Colossus and his team will straight #$% a demon up.
Set the stage for us -- how dangerous and twisted has New York become in the five years since the X-Men surrendered the city to the demonic forces of Limbo? Who controls Manhattan and what kind of life do the innocent souls still trapped in the city have?
Inferno Manhattan is all but unrecognizable. Every square inch of the island has been hellfire scorched and tainted by evil. There are no innocents here. Anyone who stayed behind when the X-Men retreated has either died or turned. It's a city of demons through and through. They don't get a lot of tourism.
There's a bit of power struggle over the control of the city with various factions vying for power that the Darkchylde has been winning. This Inferno turf war plays a big role in the plot. Colossus and his team may need to ally themselves with some of Illyana's rivals if they want a real shot at extracting her--Maybe even a certain Goblin Queen.
In addition to Colossus, who leads the team, I understand Boom Boom figures into the story as well. You wrote both characters in "Cable & X-Force." How does it feel to return to them? What can you tell us about their emotional states and and the teammates that accompany them on their mission to free Magik from New York?
Colossus is a man on a mission. Unfortunately, everyone but Peter seems to understand that mission is a fool's errand (at best, and a suicide mission at worst). He doesn't care. He lives his simple life and follows Cyclops' rules 364 days a year to earn this trip into the Inferno. On that last day he takes his shot. He's totally obsessed -- a sad fact not at all lost on his teammate and girlfriend, Domino. I loved writing Colossus and Dom together in "Cable & X-Force" and couldn't pass up the opportunity to put them together again.
And Boom Boom is Boom Boom. I would write Tabby all day every day. She's the life of every party and a magnet for weird. We'll be taking Boomer down a strange road in this series and I can't wait.
Nightcrawler is another character who plays a significant role in this series. We've got so much cool stuff in store for Kurt. I fully expect him to steal the whole damned show.
Your collaborator on "Inferno," artist Javier Garron, has experience drawing mammoth cities as an artist on several of DC's Batman books and recently showed off his flair for science fiction on Marvel's "Cyclops" series. What can we expect from his take on the twisted supernal Manhattan of "Inferno?" What was it like designing this world with him?
Javier's designs are a gorgeous. I've said this in every interview so forgive the repetition, but his Inferno looks like a Renaissance painter's depiction of Hell. It's equal parts stunning and horrifying. Javier just designed a character for issue #3 so cool I had delete it from my hard drive to avoid spoil-tweeting.
Finally, let's talk a little more about the mood and tone of "Inferno." The late '70s and early '80s gave us classic films like "The Warriors" and "Escape From New York," which you mentioned earlier, which envisioned New York as a nightmarish city. Tonally, and in terms of the style of action, how much does "Inferno" have in common with those classic films?
It's very much a rag-tag team of underdogs up against an unbeatable enemy at the start, but the plot grows and twists into something much bigger. Colossus' plan is simple but he's the only one. Every player in this big crazy game has a different agenda and we'll be smashing them all together. I don't want to give too much away but I definitely think readers will dig what we have in store.
"Inferno" #1 debuts from Marvel Comics on May 27 as part of "Secret Wars."