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Home / Art & Culture / Savage town: Declan Shalvey Interview

Savage town: Declan Shalvey Interview


With the local cops, rival gangs, his best mate, and his mammy all out to stick a knife in him, will the bollocks live long enough to get to the top? More importantly, will he pay me back that fiver I gave him last week? From the savage minds of Declan Shalvey (All-Star Batman, INJECTION), Philip Barrett, and Jordie Bellaire (Vision, THEY’RE NOT LIKE US) comes an original Irish graphic crime novel that’ll leave you gaspin’…for a pint!

Have you always wanted to be an artist? Can you think back to your earliest memory of creating art?
Always, at least as long as I can remember. I can remember lying on the floor drawing in a colouring book while my mum tried to help me. I also remember copying Duck Tales comics and trying to figure out how to draw them.

As an artist, do you have any particular work method? Do you treat it like a 9-5 job, or do you wait for inspiration?
Ah, you have to treat it like a job. Sitting around waiting for inspiration is a luxury you can’t afford when there’s a deadline hanging over your head.
Of course, now and then, the muse isn’t quite there, so you do your best to work out a flexible schedule so that if you’re not exactly able to get the creative juices flowing, then there’s plenty of administrative work to do. Mundane tasks are good, it gives the creative parts of your brain time to regroup. Working in comics is very time consuming though, it’s not necessarily 9-5, it’s more like 9-5AM.

Do you prefer traditional or digital art?
Traditional, for sure. There’s something about the tactile nature of drawing on paper, fleshing out the drawing, refining it, etc. It’s what I enjoy most about drawing; having to work within the limitations and doing my best to come up with solutions to illustrative challenges.

What were some of your favourite comics/graphic novels growing up?
The classics; Asterix, Spider-Man, X-Men, then I moved onto more seminal works like Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, Preacher, etc.

Do you find Ireland to be a good base for those wishing to work in the graphic novel industry?
Yes and no. No, in that not many knew what graphic novels were, so it made it difficult for anyone to understand what I was interested in and wanted to do. Over time though, I started to build a network of other friends who were interested in them and some who also wanted to make them and that grew and grew over the years. Comics and graphic novels are a lot more popular now and more understood in pop culture. With myself and other artists becoming successful in the industry, there’s a lot more interest and people like myself and other creators in the country have offered a lot of support, to encourage younger up-and-comers.

Why choose Limerick for the setting of your latest graphic novel?
I lived in Limerick for many years, I came to study in the art college and stayed around for a while. I remember my time there quite fondly and felt it was under-represented in fiction. After a ten-year career in American comics I wanted to make something that was reflective of where I’m from. I’m also a big fan of crime comics and considering Limerick’s past with its previous gangland problem it seemed like Limerick would be a great place to set this story. With Savage Town, I get to do both!

Were there any artists you idolised growing up, or still idolise to this day?
Oh for sure! Guys like Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, Frank Miller. I’m lucky to say I’ve met a few, like Goran Parlov and JP Leon. They say ‘never meet your heroes’ but I’m happy to say that meeting my heroes has been the best.

If you were to choose any adaptation of Savage Town to be made, what would it be and why?
I’d love to see it as a TV series, personally. I feel there’s a lot more story to tell, I’d love to do more in the graphic novels, then it would be cool to see the story develop in film. Also, I’d love it if it could be made in Limerick, it would be a way to hire Limerick actors and generate income for local businesses.

Was it strange branching out from the fictional world of superheroes and zombies to something so real?
For the past couple of years I’ve been working on a graphic novel series that is set in a real world setting. It has fantastical, sci-fi elements, but it has been hugely educational and inspiring to work outside the mainstream superhero system. I love all that stuff, but it’s refreshing to be able to work outside of that system. Savage Town is the next step for me, trying to do something from the ground up, and telling something totally grounded.

What would be your advice to budding young comic book artists?
I would say always try and remember the kind of creator you want to be. Start small, short stories, and slowly build your body of work while you hone your craft. Build relationships with other creators, you always have more to learn and other creators have lots to teach you.

What other projects are you currently or hope to start soon?
I’m currently working on the series I mentioned earlier, called INJECTION, with writer Warren Ellis, providing covers for Marvel’s current PUNISHER series and IDW’s STAR TREK: DISCOVERY mini-series, and writing a DEADPOOL VS OLD MAN LOGAN mini-series. There’s other stuff too, but nothing I can talk about yet.

Why do you do what you do?
It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and I’ve been fortunate to have developed the skills to do so.

Savage Town is available in Steamboat Records.

Article by: Christine Costello


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