Declan Shelvey Interview

ComicsVerse talks to this accomplished artist, Declan Shalvey, about working on SAVAGE TOWN, INJECTION, MOON KNIGHT, and more at NYCC.

ComicsVerse: Hi! You’re watching ComicsVerse covering NYCC 2017. I am talking to the very talented Declan Shalvey.
So my first question is, SAVAGE TOWN, we were talking a little bit briefly before off-camera. What made you move into writing and picking an artist for yourself versus producing art for other people?

Declan Shalvey: Well I was already really busy with INJECTION with Warren [Ellis], and that’s like my full-time commitment. I just can’t draw anything else, I’ve only got two hands … for the moment, maybe I can get some more. Injection’s a hugely rewarding experience but at the same time I would see Warren writing for TV and doing Wild Storm and x, y, z, and Jordie [Bellaire] was doing BATMAN and PRETTY DEADLY and I saw how having other avenues of producing work was exciting, or interesting. Whereas with an artist you generally have to pick one thing and stick to it.

So I thought, I always had this idea to do a crime book set in Ireland and there was stuff I wanted to go with it, but, I didn’t want to have to wait ’til INJECTION was finished, you know? There’s other stories I’d like to tell and I can only draw so many of them so I thought, well, what if I could take somebody and give them the spotlight the way that Warren did with me on MOON KNIGHT?

After doing MOON KNIGHT a lot of people knew me who didn’t know me before. And there’s loads of great artists out there that don’t have any kind of exposure or spotlight, so I thought there’s a great Irish artist back home called Phil Barrett, so I asked him if he’d be interested. So now people who’ve never heard of him now will know of him, and I like the idea of bringing up people the way other people have brought me up, you know?

ComicsVerse: I think that’s really nice and that will tie into my next question: SAVAGE TOWN appears to be a very personal story because it is about, if I’m not mistaken, where you used to grow up or where you did grow up. So what kind of drew you to wanting to tell the story? Maybe it was a story that you had always wanted to tell. When did the inception of this idea come into your life?

Declan Shalvey: Well I had the idea to do a crime story in America a long, long time ago. That was before I had any kind of leverage in comics at all. I think it was when I was working on INJECTION and I saw the benefits of creator-owned and just how empowering it was. I realized I’d down do much work in the American market, telling American stories and superheroes, and action, whatever. And it’s great fun, I really enjoy that stuff. But what I hadn’t really done is work that felt like it actually informed the place I’m from in any way.

There’s a renaissance of Irish film in like the ’90s. Films like THE GENERAL, and recently THE GUARD … a lot of really good films. But I felt like there wasn’t really much like that in comics. What I like about Image is that genre doesn’t really matter. It just wants to do good new, different material. I haven’t seen that really.

The closest would kind of be Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s work, which is huge inspiration on me too. So I kinda wanted to see more of that. So I thought, well I have a relationship with Image, I can reach out to them and see if they say no, they say no. I can just ask Phil, pay him to do a sample. I know professional editors. Let’s just try and put it together and see what happens.

I  work for ’em, well, okay I guess we can make it now. It was just learning that you can make stuff … It’s interesting from Jordie and my perspective where we’re on one end of the production, and now we’re both kind of on that still, but also on the other end and generating projects for ourselves. I mean, it’s a lot of work. It’s really, really hard work. I wouldn’t wanna just do that. But it’s nice to have both, you know? It’s nice to kind of fill the creative well also while kinda working on the other end of things, you know?

ComicsVerse: So it’s kind of like you have more control over the projects that you’re producing, but with that the Achilles’ … or not the Achilles’ heel, but the “downside” is that it’s so much more work, because you do have to do it yourself.

Declan Shalvey: Yeah, yeah, it is a lot of work. Outside of writing the book, I spent way less time writing it as I did managing it, you know, and making sure everybody’s getting paid and talking to lawyers, blah blah blah. It was just so much office work effectively, which would cut into my drawing, so that was difficult too. But as regards saying it’s a personal story, I didn’t grow up around gangsters or anything like that, but I grew up around Limerick and then when I was in my teens I went to art college in Limerick. So, you know, it’s very much inspired by a lot of people I know, and the characters, and just the type of people that I’m familiar with.

But I added in the crime genre element because Limerick has this kind of troubled history with gangland violence. it just seemed like a good opportunity to do … because I haven’t actually gotten to do a crime book, and I love crime stories, so it seemed like a nice way of kind of mixing that genre with the slice of life stuff I was thinking of and, you know, shoving it together and making a book.

I’ve learned a lot about, well, the industry and how things work, what I can do, what I’m able to do. What, with the right amount of effort, I can make happen or help others like with the internship we’re doing. There’s things I realize … we’re in a place where we can help others and make … you know with the phrase “be the change that you want to see”? Instead of just being, you know, work monkeys, you can actually maybe have some kind of small, tiny impact. But still have impact of some kind.

Also just learning how it’s a business, and how an audience needs to support a book in order for it to exist. Reaching out to retailers, trying to spread the word out, things like social media and stuff are really challenging right now ’cause it’s so filled with noise. What breaks through? You just don’t know. So we developed the newsletter. It’s not a pure indie sensibility ’cause we’re still paid by companies. However, it’s good to learn this stuff. Even with SAVAGE TOWN I have already done a creator-owned book and image, so I thought I knew a lot. Graphic novel is a totally different system, so that’s been another learning experience.

I feel the more information a creator has, it’s far more empowering and you can make better decisions because of it.

ComicsVerse: Does having a studio space where you are working with, more or less, a co-worker as well as a friend or a personal associate … does that help you produce better work do you think? Do you think that it’s problematic? And even Buffy being there as a animal daemon or emotional support. Do you think that having that space is important for artists to be producing together in a space or do you think that they need to be alone? Or as like an isolated thing.

Declan Shalvey: It’s weird ’cause I really like being alone. I’ve always worked on my own for years and years and years, other friends would be like, “We should start a studio!” But, as it turns out, me and Jordie live together and we work together so I’m in a studio with her, like it or not (laughs). We’ve been working in the same space for a while and you know we’ve done the internships. It just felt like it was a thing. Not that it’s like a big proper thing or anything but it felt good to kind of call it a something, and just show us as a creative force, just to give it a kind of designation. Especially in terms of the internships and what not.

Having Jordie has been great though over the last few years because she’s so totally honest with me. So if something’s not working she’ll let me know straight away. It’s very hard as an artist to actually try and get better because you’re always fighting yourself. Sometimes you’re not the best judge of character of your own work. So it’s always great to have somebody with such a great artistic eye that Jordie has. Even though she doesn’t really draw anymore, she can see when things are wrong. She’s been great like a sounding board like that.

Aaron Fever who works the studio with us, is kind of a lot more of a support structure for us to help us get things done. We try and make sure that he can help get his projects off the ground as well. So that’s kind of a symbiotic relationship. He’ll do a lot of the stuff that would take us out of getting work done. We need to keep producing work in order to keep everything moving.

Buffy is kind of like the most important aspect of the entire thing. She keeps us sane, you know. ‘Cause she has these little tiny cute meows. She’s not like one of those loud annoying cat meows. It’s like a little, tiny little squeak. Yeah, exactly like … awww.

ComicsVerse: And you’re just like, ohh, what was I mad about?

Declan Shalvey: Yeah, I’m like, “I’ve already fed you!”. That’s pretty much … we’re like, “we fed you 10 minutes ago Buffy, go back to where your food is.” But yeah, Buffy is key. Buffy is how it all works.

ComicsVerse: My name is Kay, you’ve been watching ComicsVerse interview Declan Shalvey. Check out INJECTION and his work on MOON KNIGHT if you haven’t already. Of course check out SAVAGE TOWN, ’cause he has writing jobs as well as art.

Declan Shalvey: Actually I should say DEADPOOL VS. OLD MAN LOGAN also … I’m writing that, that’s out in two weeks’ time.

ComicsVerse: Yes. So Declan is everywhere, if you don’t know his name, you will know it now. And if not, if you get anything from this, Buffy is a great cat. And check out more content at comicsverse.com. Thank you so much. Bye.

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