I’ve been reading Thunderbolts since Warren Ellis wrote the title with 110. Many great artist have come and gone, but none of them have entertained me in the way Declan Shalvey has. While at first I thought he was a fill in artist for Kev Walker, I soon came to appreciate him as unique voice that also told the Thunderbolts stories. From his breath taking art of what the inside of Juggernaut looks like to his most recent story of Thunderbolts vs. Thunderbolts, he’s proven himself an incredible artist with every issue. Declan takes time to talk to me about one of my favorite mainstream comics.
Adam: What is your favorite character to draw in Thunderbolts?
Declan: That’s tough to answer actually, as all the T-Bolts are all so different and interesting to draw. I like how big and bulky Hyde is, how thin and creepy Ghost is, how messy and organic Man-Thing is, etc. There’s something about each character that is a lot of fun to draw. I probably like drawing Satana and Moonstone the least, mainly because both their costumes are less interesting to me. Fixer is tough too, because of all that tech, but I still really liked drawing him regardless.
Adam: What has been your favorite moment to illustrate in Thunderbolts?
Declan: Ooh, tough one. I guess a recent death was a pretty great moment to draw (don’t want to spoil in case you haven’t read it). Well, both ‘deaths’ the character had, really. They had a real emotional impact and I think I was able to do Jeff Parker’s script justice. I really enjoyed when The Hand attacked during Shadowland arc, with Crossbones and his machine gun, etc. The sequence inside Juggernauts mind during Fear Itself was a great challenge too, and I loved how that came out. Any time Jeff wrote something challenging for me, it made me raise my game and those are the moments that I remain the most satisfied with.
Adam: How does sharing the title with another art team affect your output on Thunderbolts?
Declan: It makes me jealous whenever I see the cool stuff Kev gets to draw! I would have loved to draw when the T-bolts met the Invaders and all that WW2 stuff happened, but at the same time I’ve been spoiled with all the great stuff I’ve gotten to draw.
If I’m being honest, the fact that Kev and I have been sharing the book has had a downside for me, as I very much feel like I’ve been living in Kev’s shadow. He’s a great artist, and I think that a lot of the fans of the book just see me as the ‘fill-in’ guy, even though I’ve drawn like, 13 issues or something. I love Jeff, I love the book, and I love Kev’s work too, but having two artists on the one book leads to a lot of comparisons between the two and ideally I’d prefer be seen as my own guy. I’d prefer tell a whole story myself, but that’s not easy to do at Marvel these days, with so many rotating art teams.
Adam: Will you be staying with Jeff, and Kev when Thunderbolts transitions into Dark Avengers?
Declan: Yes, the creative team remains the same, but the Dark Avengers raise the game a little. I’m drawing all the Dark Avengers-centric stuff that takes place in present day, while Kev is drawing the Thunderbolt team as they try find their way back through time.
Adam: What does your daily grind consist of?
Declan: At the moment, I get up around 9, have my breakfast, check my e-mail, news sites, etc. Work til 3, take a break, maybe watch short comedy show while I eat lunch, get back to work, have dinner around 9 while watching a TV show or film with the girlfriend, then do more work or help the girlfriend out with some prep for her colouring work. Call it a night around 3.
Adam: Do you prefer digital art or physical art, and why?
Declan: Physical, or traditional art, is the only way for me. A lot of guys argue for traditional art with the point that a lot of their income is from selling original art. I sell a little, but not much at all so that doesn’t really matter to me. Ultimately, digital art in comics always looks dead to me. Any sense of spontaneity or risk is lost from the work. This is why artists can work much quicker digitally; because it eliminates mistakes, or makes them easily fixed. To me, it’s the act of correcting a mistake or coming up with a creative solution to a drawing problem that makes an artist improve. The act of working it out on the page helps an artist improve in leaps and bounds in my opinion. A lot of digital-centric artists get too involved with the drawing and they end up adding way too much detail. It also makes shortcuts in drawing so easy to make, and to me, that breeds complacency in the work.
Of course, this is only my view; some artists work digitally with phenomenally well, but they are generally artists who have already honed their craft. With the availability of digital drawing tools these days, I think there’s a lot of kids who are learning how to do flashy drawings but are using the ‘flash’ to cover up their lack of basic drawing skills. That scares me a little.
Adam: Who are your biggest inspirations artistically?
Declan: David Mazzucchelli, JP Leon, Goran Parlov, Jorge Zaffino, Stuart Immonen, Sean Murphy, Duncan Fegredo, Tommy Lee Edwards. There are also lots of great younger guys that inspire me and make me try harder like Chris Samnee, Raphael Albequerque and James Harren.
Adam: Is there a creator at the top of your collaboration list that you’ve not got a chance to work with yet?
Declan: Hmm…there’s a lot of writers I’d like to work with; Rick Remender, Ed Brubaker, Jeff Lemire, John Arcudi, Jason Aaron. I’ve always wanted to work with Dave Stewart on colours, but that looks like it’s going to happen on something later in the year, which I’m quite excited about. Other colourists I’d love to someday work with are Bettie Breitweiser and Matt Hollingsworth. Mainly though; I’d like to do more work with my girlfriend, Jordie Bellaire. We’ve done a few small gigs together, but I’d love to do a proper project with her someday. Looking at both our schedules though, it certainly won’t happen soon.
Adam: What is your dream project?
Declan: There’s a shortlist: Batman. Daredevil. X-Men. BPRD. Creator owned project with a favourite writer. Self-penned graphic novel.
Adam: What are you currently reading?
Declan: Man, I’m falling behind these days because of all the work but there are a lot of great books out there. I’m currently reading everything BPRD, Daredevil, Uncanny X-Force, Secret Avengers, Hulk, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, American Vampire. I’m reading a lot more Image stuff these days too, like Thief Of Thieves, Saga, Manhattan Projects, Fatale, Prophet. I’ve also recently gotten into The Sixth Gun in a big way too. I try to make sure I pick up an OGN whenever I can; recently enjoyed Petrograd and Old City Blues.
Thus concludes our intriguing interview with Declan! A huge thanks to him for stopping by. Go check out his work in the current issues of Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers! You can also check out what he has to say on twitter, @DeclanShavley! Special thanks to Comicbuzz admin, Shabbir, for being the head honcho of all head honchos. Next week we talk with the artist and co-creator of the incredible indie comic Atomika, Sal Abbinanti! Ya’ll come back now! Ya hear?