Meet the latest Irish illustrator making stories come alive at Marvel

RECENT years have seen a number of Irish illustrators achieve their dream of working for Marvel, one of the giants of the comics business.

Ballycotton’s Will Sliney is one of the most high-profile, along with Clare’s Declan Shalvey. The latest to join the list is Cork colourist Chris O’Halloran, who makes his Marvel debut on a story written and drawn by Shalvey featuring the characters Punisher and Venom.

It’s quite a step up, given just three years ago O’Halloran was making comics locally as part of the Cork comics group Turncoat Press. 

It may seem something like an overnight success but O’Halloran has been on a steep curve that has seen him rise from local indie publisher to working with a host of high profile comics creators and international publishers.

“It can’t get any bigger than Marvel really to do work, but I’ve been doing it for about a year-and-a-half now with smaller publishers and stuff and getting loads of really cool jobs, so this is kind of the icing on the cake for the moment,” says the 28-year-old from Mayfield.

Starting off, O’Halloran tried his hand at writing and art but he soon focused on being a colourist. Most comics are created by teams of writers, artists and colourists. Once the artist has brought the writer’s script to life the colourist fleshes it out, as it were. Their task is much more than making the comic look pretty.

 

“You’re there to follow the story,” he maintains. “I have the script and I have the pages. There might be something from the script that the artist couldn’t get across.”

This might be something as simple, but as crucial, as indicating if a story is happening by day or by night. But there are also more subliminal things going on that not only make a story flow seamlessly but also create a certain mood or tension.

“And you have to guide the eye down the page as well,” he adds. “Like if something looks wrong on colours the reader will notice it straight away. But if it’s all bright and perfect they possibly won’t notice the colours. And a step above that then that’s the kind of level you want to hit, where they might appreciate the colours. You’re hitting all the storytelling beats and getting the right vibe as well.”

When it comes to colouring comics O’Halloran uses Photoshop and a Cintiq tablet screen.

Movies are a huge inspiration to the artist and he refers a lot to the meaning of colour in cinema, citing as examples Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s use of warm sepia tones in Sicario and the mysterious green palette employed in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

“A lot of the foreshadowing is done with the colours. The characters will be wearing certain clothes. Or when’s something’s going to happen their T-shirt might be a different colour and that might be a cue to later in the scene where violence might happen or something like that. So the small cues like that are just through colour you can kind of follow it.”

After doing an intensive workshop in internationally renowned colourist Jordie Bellaire’s Dublin studio and encouraged by her partner Shalvey, O’Halloran made his first trip to an American comic convention with his portfolio under his arm and handed it over to Marvel’s talent agent. They liked what they saw and last month they offered him the eight-page Marvel story created by Shalvey.

While he’s achieved something of a childhood dream he does not want for work with the amount of projects he’s involved in, including a James Bond arc; a comic based on the Atari arcade game Centipede; and a creator-owned project titled Generation Gone written by one of the most exciting new comics creators Ales Kot.

Generation Gone is out now on Image Comics.

VENOMVERSE: War Stories #1 is out September 6 on Marvel


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