Comics

Interview: Comic Book Writer and Artist Declan Shalvey

As one of the busiest creators in comics, Declan Shalvey talks about his work on Time Before Time, ThunderCats, Old Dog, and more!

Declan Shalvey - comic creator
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By: Javier ReyesJan 25, 2024, 9:55 PM

Declan Shalvey is among the rare breed of comic book creators known for their stellar work as both a writer and artist (and even part-time colorist). While many know him as the artist who helped reinvent Moon Knight, Declan has made a name for himself in recent years as a passionate writer within the creator-owned space. With titles coming out from Marvel, Image, and now Dynamite, Declan is easily among the busiest comic book creators today. 

I had the pleasure of catching up with Declan to chat about many of his monumental releases this year, from Time Before Time to Old Dog. Then, we also go into his highly-anticipated run on ThunderCats slated for next year! Want to know more about what went into some of the coolest comics coming out today? Read on below! 

Declan Shalvey Interview

Working on creator-owned comics:

What are some of your earliest memories/experiences related to comics? What was it that pushed you to pursue a career in comics?

DS: I have early memories of Duck Tales newsstand comics, Turtles too... Asterix books in the local library... I was always drawing stories as a kid, but I think it was a mix of the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Batman 90s animated series that opened me up to American comics, and then finding the comics themselves. I was IN. I was happy to later learn it was an actual career for some people. That was a relief.

What was the turning point to focus more on your creator-owned work over projects from Marvel? 

DS: From childhood, all I ever wanted to do was draw for Marvel. By age 23, I achieved that goal. I was very happy working on various superhero titles, but I found working on books like Northlanders at Vertigo scratched a storytelling itch that was satisfying in a different way. While working on Deadpool and Moon Knight, I was very excited by what was happening in the creator-owned space, and I got to contribute to that with Injection. I was getting more control over my own work, and that became more and more appealing.

I like generating projects, and while it's always tough to do so, doing it in the creator-owned space means less hurdles to jump through than at one of the big two. Also, owning your work has become very important to me. I feel I'm in a great spot as I can generate my own projects at Image while also working on established projects at Marvel. I'm happy to play within the sandbox on Marvel projects, but if I want to do something different or more ambitious, the creator-owned space is the place to make those moves.

What were some of the biggest adjustments you had to make as a creator when you shifted more toward creator-owned/indie comics? 

DS: Scheduling. I'm a creature of habit and I respond to deadlines. I prided myself on hitting my deadlines and being professional on work-for-hire projects. Creator-owned projects, by their nature, require a more nebulous timeline on how the concept and project come together. Also, it requires a lot more planning and administrative work, which can really eat into the production schedule. Eventually, I hired Heather Antos to edit my creator-owned work to stay on top of all that stuff, as it's not my strength, and I respond to a whip-cracker. So, if there isn't one, I need to hire one.

Time Before Time Comic Cover

Time Before Time:

With Time Before Time being the longest series you’ve worked on, can you describe the feeling of closing the book after 29 issues?

DS: Verrrry strange. The last issue came out this week and it still hasn't really sunk in. Maybe when I read my comps. It’s very satisfying, though. Myself and Rory had high goals with the book when it came to the story. We initially didn't even know if we'd get past the first arc. To have passed that first hurdle and dig into some bigger ideas meant that we were able to fully exploit the story potential we knew we had on our hands.

What’s the origin story behind you and Rory McConville teaming up to write the comic? Was creating something as challenging as a time travel story something you’ve always wanted to do?

DS: I had finished a graphic novel called Bog Bodies and was looking to work on something new, but was a bit burnt out writing-wise. Rory was a writer I knew with huge potential but had no exposure within the American market at the time. We were both at a convention together when I asked if he'd like to try to work on something together. It meant I could develop a new idea without having to do all the mental heavy lifting, and it'd be a project that might open doors for him in the US market. I knew Rory to be a good high-concept writer, so I suggested a sci-fi book, a genre I wanted to play in. As we worked on it, we realised the genre we had more of a common ground on was crime. So, we essentially took a cool sci-fi idea and told it through a crime lens, which really suited us.

As an artist yourself who’s been writing more in recent years, can you describe what it’s been like collaborating with an incredible lineup of artists, including Joe Palmer, Eric Zawadski, Ron Salas, Jorge Coelho, and Geoffo, for this one title? 

DS: One of my favourite things about writing comics is working with great artists. I loved Joe's work and was always so interested in his storytelling choices and how his work was evolving from issue to issue. When Joe decided to leave the book to pursue a solo project, Rory and I decided to not replace him fully and instead rotate artists per story arc. It was the best move for sure, as it really saved our monthly release schedule, and it was exciting to see how each new artist would interpret our characters and add a new visual element to the world in each new timescape. My problem is now I want to do a book with all those people. I should also mention, that we had some amazing artists do one-shot stories between arcs, like Lauren Knight, PJ Holden, Will Morris, and, uh ...me.

Now that you’re at the end of the road of TBT, did the story play out how you and Rory originally envisioned it? 

DS: Rory had a very clear idea of how he wanted to end the series, which is exactly what we see in #29. The question was more about how much room did we have to do some of the bigger ideas in between.

Thundercats Cover

ThunderCats:

Can you describe the story of how you landed the writing gig for the ThunderCats? What was your elevator pitch behind the upcoming run?

DS: Editor Nate Cosby reached out and asked if I'd be interested ...and I was! I loved ThunderCats when I was a kid and the idea of devising a new spin on the concept was very exciting, especially when Drew Moss came on board. I was already invested in the project, but even more so with Drew attached.

My take is essentially X-Men meets Lost In Space. It has elements of superheroes in there (much like the original cartoon) but leans into the sci-fi elements while digging more into the character relationships.

How does it feel being in the driver’s seat for such a beloved franchise? Especially one that’s not as well known for its history in comics.

DS: It's very cool. I enjoy taking something and finding my own angle. It's a fun challenge. It's a little more liberating with ThunderCats as opposed to say, Alien, which has many many comics incarnations. ThunderCats is more pure, with only so many interpretations. So, there’s more opportunity to make something of our own on this.

What has it been like jumping from a hard sci-fi story like TIme Before Time to the science-fantasy world of the ThunderCats? 

DS: A different kind of challenge. I mean, the story arc of Time Before Time got bigger and bigger and it was a case of wrapping up a lot of elements we'd built... but we very much knew the world. ThunderCats is different. We know all the characters and we know the world. My job is to find a new way in and tell a story that attracts both old fans and new ones too. The genre itself is a little different I guess, but both really start with the characters.

Old Dog Cover

Old Dog: 

Old Dog was another incredible series you had this year. Can you talk about what it was like having that as your main writer-artist title alongside all your other writing projects? 

DS: It was very satisfying in that I'm very used to being part of a larger collaboration, yet this was a book where I was the sole creative force (outside of the lettering, love you Clayton!). But yeah, it was where I felt I had to go creatively and it was a huge challenge. It was an interesting experience as I was still working with other people on other books. I think overall it helped me be more flexible with my collaborators, as I always had Old Dog to aim all my ego towards :P

Seriously though, I'm really glad I dedicated myself to Old Dog. I'm immensely proud of it, and genuinely think it's my best work in years.

Considering Old Dog is your first creator-owned comic with you as both the writer and artist, how long have you been working on bringing the concept to life? Can you describe what it was like to finally see the comic in your hands? 

DS: And colourist, I should mention, that was an added challenge on top of everything else. Working solo on a book can be a bit more isolating because you don't have a team or the support that comes with that. But it's also a greater overall endeavor to slowly chip away at the story, the design work, or the storytelling. It was very hard to clear chunks of time to really concentrate and build some momentum. In the end, it was tough to really progress and that was frustrating. I just kept plugging at it though, and got to that main story point to wrap up the first arc. It felt great to reach the top of that particular mountain. Having designed the book too, to have it in my hands, something that's all me, is the purest feeling of accomplishment I've had in my career, that was already a blessed one.

After the comic’s thrilling first story arc, what can you tell us about what’s next for Rottweiler and Retriever?

DS: Well with certain secrets revealed, the status quo of their relationship has changed, though there's plenty of secrets left between the pair. Not to mention mysteries even Lynch himself needs to solve.

"I feel I'm in a great spot as I can generate my own projects at Image, while also working on established projects at Marvel. I'm happy to play within the sandbox on Marvel projects, and if I want to do something different or more ambitious; the creator-owned space is the place to make those moves."

Fun Stuff: 

Who are your favorite artists/writers/creators you think people should be looking out for?

DS: Here's a list in no particular order: 

What’s one novel, movie, and comic that you recommend everyone should check out?

DS: I'm gonna say Orwell's 1984 as I'm looking to go back and read that over the holidays, Sam Mendes' Road To Perdition, and Planerary by Ellis/Cassaday

Is there a specific year in time you’d love to go back (or forward) to? Not to change your life anything, but more like a summer vacation across time (with no threats of altered timelines or crime syndicates).

DS: I think I'd like to go back to the early 90s and look at the stuff that got hardwired into my brain from an early age and look at them through the eyes of a cynical adult. I’m pretty sure I could ruin a lot of things for myself :P

Coming from Old Dog, what piece of media do you consider to be peak spy fiction?

DS: Ooh, good question. Hmm, it's still a broad genre so I'll just touch on my favourites off the top of my head... Mission Impossible films, Bourne, Waid Samnee's Black Widow, Brubaker Phillips' Sleeper, The Americans, and of course, any of the John LeCarre stuff. I'm sure I'm forgetting loads.

Be sure to check out Time Before Time Vol. 1-4, Old Dog [REDACT ONE], and ThunderCats #1 when it hits shelves on February 07, 2024!

TAGGED: Interview, Comic Creator, Image Comics, Marvel
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