Declan Shalvey on putting gang members in the frame

Declan Shalvey took a break from his work for Marvel to produce an Irish graphic novel, writes Don O’Mahony
Declan Shalvey on putting gang members in the frame
Comic book artist Declan Shalvey, who has drawn the likes of Deadpool and The Punisher for Marvel Comics

Declan Shalvey took a break from his work for Marvel to produce an Irish graphic novel, writes Don O’Mahony

Having illustrated for comics giant Marvel on such titles as Deadpool and Moon Knight, Declan Shalvey is best known as an artist.

However, in 2017 the Clare man announced himself as a writer with his original graphic novel Savage Town, a wonderfully off-colour tale of a would-be crime lord set in Limerick.

While art is his bread and butter, Shalvey harboured ambitions to do more writing.

At the time he was working on Savage Town another idea was hatching, Bog Bodies.

Like its companion it is also a crime story, but of a much darker pitch.

“I’ve always loved crime stuff,” he says enthusiastically reeling off a list of film and television favourites like The Sopranos, The Wire and Goodfellas.

“But I’ve never really gotten to work on a crime book in any way, shape or form. So that’s why I did Savage Town originally and it’s why I wanted to do Bog Bodies, because I like the genre.

"But I’m rarely hired to draw or work in that genre so I made the project for myself.”

Except now he’s just illustrated a new series of Marvel’s relentless vigilante The Punisher, which is due out at the same time as Bog Bodies.

In contrast to the high-octane action of The Punisher and the colloquial humour of Savage Town, Bog Bodies is a more fretful work, concerning a pair of gangland functionaries and the grim job they have to perform one night in the Wicklow mountains.

A great pleasure of the book is Gavin Fullerton’s artwork and the sense of scale and space he creates, beautifully rendering the characters’ insignificance in the inky nocturnal expanse of the woods and dales.

“It is a bit of a trope to say that the landscape is a character,” Shalvey ventures, “but I definitely wanted the landscape to have a big, big voice in it.

"Gavin and I have a similar feel for composition so I kind of left the space for him to play with that stuff and by God he went for it.

"It was really great to see. There’s a lot of stuff that’s basically just a black page with a sliver of landscape and I love that stuff.”

Declan Shalvey: "I’ve never really gotten to work on a crime book in any way, shape or form, tthat’s why I did Savage Town originally and it’s why I wanted to do Bog Bodies, because I like the genre."
Declan Shalvey: "I’ve never really gotten to work on a crime book in any way, shape or form, tthat’s why I did Savage Town originally and it’s why I wanted to do Bog Bodies, because I like the genre."

As a staunch advocate of the need to acknowledge artists as equal creators to writers, Shalvey was happy to give full rein to Fullerton.

“Having been an artist for years the last thing I wanted to do is be directing somebody how to draw something, but I think what I try to do is give a feel for what I would have in my head and then just leave it open as to what Gavin or whoever else I’m working with come back with.

"Because you find the stuff that you weren’t expecting is the more interesting stuff. That’s the beauty of collaboration,” he insists.

Adding to the atmosphere is colourist Rebecca Nalty, a Dublin-based Corkonian who has been doing work for American comics publishers Boom! Studios, Dynamite Comics and IDW.

“I met her years ago,” Shalvey recalls.

“She was an apprentice in a studio I was in, she was just starting out then but she’s really come together.

"She’s been properly killing it in the colouring. And it’s nice to have Irish creators doing this Irish story.

"Like it doesn’t have to be that but it makes it a little more authentic.”

"It’s not easy to cross over from artist to writer but Savage Town allowed Shalvey to do that on a bigger stage when Marvel opened the door for him to write Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan.

“I just got to write Wolverine and Deadpool, which was just pure fun. And it was another opportunity for me to try something different writing wise — there’s no Irish accent in that book,” he chuckles.

“It was exciting and rewarding.

“So Savage Town in that regard is a complete success for me because I got to make what I wanted to do and then people started taking me more seriously as a writer.”

  • Bog Bodies by Declan Shalvey and Gavin Fullerton is out on Image Comics on Wednesday

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