A Captivating Career Commentary with Consummate Creator Declan Shalvey
Get an eyeful of the writer-artist's finest work as we earmark his mags on Marvel Unlimited!
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Across the comic book industry, you’ll find few figures as beloved and admired as Irish-born artist and writer Declan Shalvey. From a young age, Marvel media—from the classic '60s cartoons to the '70s Spider-Man fledgling films to the classic X-Men animated series—satiated Shalvey until he could get his hands on actual printed materials featuring the Wall-Crawler and Children of the Atom. That childhood fascination with Super Heroes translated quickly into a desire to create.
“As far as I can remember, I've always drawn,” Shalvery says. “I practiced a lot from redrawing stuff from cartoons and comics, getting better and better. I'm largely self-taught, but after school I went to art college. There, I learned more about different kinds of art, that helped me experiment more and develop different ways of doing things. It didn't seem to be a help at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight, those years away from comics made me a much better artist.”
However, comics would come calling back, first in the form of Hero Killers, an unpaid 2006 super villain-centric strip that earned Declan a prestigious Eagle Award. He would go on to draw and letter a supernatural detective series called Freak Show for Irish publisher Atomic Diner, picking up spare gigs across the industry before breaking into Marvel as the artist on an arc of THUNDERBOLTS in 2010.
“I had been drawing a series for a U.S. publisher and was hitting some US conventions,” he recalls. “I was at Heroes Con and met writer Jeff Parker, who told me he liked my work. He sent my work on to his editor on THUNDERBOLTS, Bill Rosemann. As it turned out, they needed a fill in on that book for the SHADOWLAND event so those two issues—#148 and #149—were my Marvel debut. Marvel [was] experimenting with double shipping at the time, so they needed a secondary artist to do back up issues for [regular penciler] Kev Walker [and] I ended up stepping into that role.”
We asked Shalvey to take a stroll back through his prolific past decade working on an eclectic mix of Marvel characters—follow along on Marvel Unlimited and jump back here for additional insights!
Working with writer Parker, Shalvey made his initial mark on Marvel chronicling Luke Cage’s attempts to reform villains like Juggernaut and Crossbones, as well as the team’s eventual evolution into the Dark Avengers.
“The most challenging bit was handling all the characters! Oh god, I don't miss that! It was tremendous fun though, I loved what Jeff was doing on that book, really fun, big action, always funny and ultimately quite emotional. I think it's a criminally underrated run, with some amazing work from Kev Walker. I have strong memories from that time. It was so exciting, to actually become a Marvel artist was such a huge deal for me, and [THUNDERBOLTS] was a very creative book, I know Jeff wrote to mine and Kev's strengths and it really showed.
"While I know it wasn't the case, it felt like no one was paying huge attention to what we were doing, as we got to do some pretty bonkers stuff. Frank Martin on [colors] was a revelation, the characters were great, I really enjoyed the opportunity to redesign the [cast] and I'm delighted to see they still use my Boomerang design to this day. It was also the biggest opportunity I'd ever had, so I felt a lot of pressure—mainly put on myself—to do good work and impress my editors at Marvel. It was a lot of work, especially with all the characters, but it forced me to step up and I'll always look back at T-Bolts with great affection.”
Next up, Declan styled his own take on the symbiotic soldier incarnation of Venom featuring Flash Thompson suiting in the familiar black and white suit.
“Oh man, was it a relief to move to a solo character. Venom was right up my alley. I'd really enjoyed [writer Rick Remender’s run on the book with artists Tony Moore and Tom Fowler], so it was great to start my time on VENOM with Rick's final issue. Then, taking Flash to [Philadelphia] with Cullen Bunn was fun, as I got to have a whole new visual playground with that book. I essentially got to draw a dark, moody Spider-Man book, with the added freedom of playing with what the symbiote could do. Getting to co-create/design a new sidekick [in Mania] was great too.”
“Overall, Deadpool can be hard—he needs to work in this uncanny valley between realism and fantasy. You can't go too far one way in my opinion, or you lose the appeal of what makes Deadpool work so well. My approach was probably a little different to previous artists as I wanted to lean more in the mercenary/ninja interpretation. I wanted to give Wade a bit more of a serious edge and thankfully, people seemed to like it.
"Gerry Duggan really set the stage with that book and especially ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.’ He had been building up to that story for a while, I felt, and while I wasn't really a huge fan of the character going in, I became one from working on the book. Gerry is very collaborative in how he likes to work, which is exciting from an artist's point of view and led to some fun pages. But there was a real emotional core to that book, and that stuff resonates with me way more. Of all the DEADPOOL arcs I could have drawn, this was the one best suited to me. I couldn't have predicted how beloved that arc would become, it means so much to Deadpool fans, which is great, as I put a lot of myself into it.”
Building off strong showings on his assignments to date earned Declan the opportunity to launch a new series featuring a fan favorite character alongside the legendary Warren Ellis and as part of the All-New Marvel NOW! initiative.
“MOON KNIGHT was a very different project for me than anything I had done previously at Marvel. There had been a lot of new books released at the time and I really wanted to do a #1—to build the look of a book from the start. I had followed other artists’ leads on everything else I had done at that point, so I was really chomping at the bit to cut my teeth into a project more and make something that really stood out, visually. MOON KNIGHT truly became that book and all the more because Warren had such a clear idea of what the book was. He gave me the direction I needed while also giving me the freedom to make some big moves.
"That's continued on since in our creator owned work but it all came from MOON KNIGHT originally; every issue felt like Warren was pushing me to go bigger, bolder, weirder and while, by the end, I was exhausted, it really is some of the best work I've ever done. I'm grateful Marvel gave us the space to do what we did on that book, it's the closest I feel to 'owning' a book at Marvel in that there's so much of me in it.”
Becoming a Writer
“I was never particularly confident growing up, and art became a way of building up my confidence, I did well at it, got work, so kind of went all in there. I had forgotten that when I was a kid, I had come up with my own stories and concepts all the time—I guess I just pushed all that to the side as being an artist showed more results. Even having had worked in comics for a while, I lacked the confidence to write. After having worked at Marvel for a while, I learned a lot, especially from working with writers like Jeff Parker, Gerry Duggan, Warren Ellis, etc. I had more confidence in my ideas and my ability to execute them. It became the next storytelling challenge for me and it's been very creatively rewarding.
“Setting a visual identity for a book is important to me. With writing, that is also important to me. What helps is I tend to do covers to the books I write, so I feel I get to kind of take a slight lead on how the book is seen, but in any case, I feel the writing is what needs to set the tone for what the art will bring. As an artist, I like to work within restrictions. As a writer, I need to create those restrictions, which is a whole other challenge. When you are an artist and you get a script, you need to solve that puzzle to make it work as a visual story. As a writer, I find I'm trying to fine tune a map that the artist can follow to get to the end we need. It's a different set of challenges that I really enjoy, especially when the artist is providing work that feeds my enthusiasm back into the book. Those have been the best experiences, especially with Mike Henderson on DEADPOOL VS. OLD MAN LOGAN and that 'Declan Shalvey' guy who drew the Nick Fury serial I wrote—that guy is an incredible talent, I'm sure you'll agree.”
“I did a rough count of Marvel covers I had done before the [MARVEL MONOGRAPH: THE ART OF DECLAN SHALVEY] book we released this year and as of now I think I've done 186 covers for Marvel. Some are fun as I get to just draw characters I love, some are because I got to be more experimental and push myself as a designer. The Banshee one I did last year which was my first UNCANNY X-MEN cover, I have a special place in my heart for that one. SAVAGE WOLVERINE #34 is a random one; [it] was an earlier Marvel cover I did, but remains a personal favourite. DAREDEVIL #595 from a couple of years ago I am really happy with, and was a bucket list cover for me. WINTER SOLDIER #2 was my second cover for Marvel ever, but I feel it was a real calling card for my cover work, and of course, MOON KNIGHT #1—one of the boldest cover I've ever done and really paid off.
Despite a decade in the trenches, this tremendous talent still has a few nagging itches he’s looking to scratch within the House of Ideas!
“Anyone who knows me well knows it's on my bucket list to write/draw Daredevil someday. I got to that in a page of MARVEL COMICS #1001, so maybe that was my one shot, but I'd love to do a solid 12-issue run on that character someday. Maybe a solid 12-issue X-Men or Wolverine maxi-series, that'd be a real bucket list for me. Also, I really like the idea of doing a Winter Soldier/S.H.I.E.L.D. book someday. There's more I'd like to write to be honest, but the above are project I'd love to write and draw, specifically. Marvel [has] so many characters I'd love to write: Rocket, Luke Cage, Thor—so many different X-Men. I just know I could write more stories in the Marvel Universe than I could ever have the time to draw.”
Desperate for more Declan? Head over to Marvel Unlimited and dive into his back catalogue, including Shalvey selections from THUNDERBOLTS (2006), VENOM (2011), DEADPOOL (2012), MOON KNIGHT (2014), DEADPOOL VS. OLD MAN LOGAN (2017), and more!
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