Nick Fury Jr. has big shoes to fill from his father/namesake, and Declan Shalvey is hoping to make a statement about the character inside Civil War II.
Although Shalvey is best known for his work on Injection and Moon Knight (as well as the upcoming All-Star Batman with Scott Snyder), the Irish artist is branching out into writing for this serialized Nick Fury story inside Civil War II: Choosing Sides.
The series, which debuted earlier this month with a second installment due July 13, puts Nick Fury in the crosshairs as double agents working for a mysterious benefactor have targeted him for assassination. Shalvey has souped up the super-spy with a new logo, a new suit, and some killer fight choreography to create what he hopes is a seminal story for the character.
Newsarama talked with Shalvey about the Nick Fury serial, from character basics to fight scenes and redesigns, as well as his own perseverence in branching out and adding comic book writing to his skillset.
Newsarama: Declan, what made this Nick Fury serial in Civil War II: Choosing Sides something you wanted to do?
Declan Shalvey: Well I was really interested with the offer of writing and drawing something for Marvel; that doesn't happen much these days so it was something I couldn't really turn down. I was planning a little creative break on Injection between Vol 2 and 3 so this was a nice chance to switch things up a little.
Also, Nick Fury is a character with a lot of potential that I thought I could do something fun with. I'm a big fan of stories in this kind of super-spy-fi genre so it was cool to play in that field. Wil Moss, who offered me the project, is an editor I have a lot of respect for and I was excited about working with him.
Nrama: What came first: the idea for a Nick Fury story or the chance to write and draw it yourself?
Shalvey: Both were offered to me at the same time, but I have to admit it was the chance to write and draw that was what grabbed my attention as it's something I've been wanting to do for a long time. It being a Nick Fury story was the icing on the cake, as I saw a lot of possibilities with the character.
Nrama: So what was it about Nick Fury that was ‘icing on the cake’ for you?
Shalvey: To me, Nick is a character who has been around for a good few years now but I don't think has really taken off yet, which is surprising considering how prominent he movie Fury is in that franchise. Nick has legacy attached to him because of who his father was, has involvement in contemporary S.H.I.E.L.D., etc., but still hasn't been in the spotlight. I tried to approach the story with the reader in mind and thought "what would get me excited about Fury?," then things clicked into place.
Most importantly, I felt Nick needed to strike out on his own and we needed to see what he could really do.
Nrama: In this first chapter released earlier this month, you not only introduce a new S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on Nick Fury's uniform, but also a powered-up suit for him where it - and some other elements of his garb - get red piping. Can you talk about this souped-up suit?
Shalvey: Marvel left the door for me to redesign the costume, so I really went for it. The main thing I got I needed to do was get him out of Steve Rogers' Super Soldier suit. As cool as that suit is, he's wearing another man’s gear. The new logo is for Nick specifically; he's never worn actual S.H.I.E.L.D. gear and Steve's shield emblem is on his chest, so I tried to come up with something I between; an emblem for him, but in the spirit of S.H.I.E.L.D. And hell, so many know who Nick Fury is from the movies, so let's just give him a leather jacket already!
I wanted this story to be very visual and I also needed Nick to be able to deal with threats a regular lone S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn't; he needed an edge. Since I had this new look I thought of making the solution to that other problem. Basically Nick's new suit looks very S.H.I.E.L.D.-esque. When necessary, it can switch to a 'blackout' or 'stealth' mode making him invisible to all forms of surveillance (and sucks all he color out of his costume) In more desperate moments, he can switch it to 'Kill Mode' enhancing his strength and speed (charging some of his costume in red), but only for a limited time before the strain becomes too much. The color changes are a good visual way of showing what mode he's in without really distracting the reader from the storytelling. Also; it looks cool.
Nrama: For this you also designed some other new elements - the briefly seen high speed hover jet, and also that sonic weapon Nick uses. Is the tech side something you'll be exploring more in future installments?
Shalvey: Most definitely. Getting to do all that spy-tech stuff is a real treat and really help the story be more visual and help explain how Nick can operate on a level usually reserved for superheroes. So yeah I definitely will be playing with some tech in future stories. There's something I came up with for #3 that I'm especially happy with.
Nrama: This fight scene is well choreographed, and reminiscent in precision with the silent Moon Knight issue done previously. Do you feel you've honed in on fight choreography in comic books more recently?
Shalvey: I've always liked playing with fight choreography, I just think that issue of Moon Knight was so great as we were able to be a little more indulgent and I was really able to do a lot of that stuff. I had thought “I wish I could draw a comic that was one big fight scene.” Two weeks later, Warren asked “How do you feel about drawing an issue-long fight scene.” Kismet!
Speaking of Moon Knight, I'd keep your eyes peeled for #2. I'll say no more!
Nrama: I think the first look pages to that issue we’re running might give that away.
Anyway, I also noticed letterer Clayton Cowles used upper- and lower-case text for this, but not in the rest of the series. Was that a conscious choice and request by you? If so, why?
Shalvey: Well spotted! Yeah, when talking with Wil and Clayton I requested lower case lettering for the Fury story. The first time I was lettered that way was Moon Knight and we carried that over to Injection. I've grown to quite like it and as an artist, I appreciate a distinctive look when it comes to lettering. From a practical point of view, I figured lower-case meant we could squeeze more words in there, and I knew I'd need to drop some exposition in place, and when that happened I didn't want the lettering to completely clutter the page. I hate it when that happens.
Nrama: I'd ask you why you're branching out to writing, but let's go one further - why has it taken so long? This year is your ten-year anniversary of working in comics after 2006's Hero Killers.
Shalvey: Hey; I've been fecking busy, alright!?
Shalvey: Seriously though, it is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I've written and drawn a couple of short stories, but I was so determined to home my craft ion the art front, I just kinda concentrated on that. The more secure I got with my art, the more insecure I got about writing. Working on Injection has given me an autonomy over my work that I didn't have during work-for-hire. In all those years, I know great colorists and letterers and it dawned on me the only thing stopping me was myself, and that was stupid. I've been slowly working on writing something, I thought maybe after that came out someone at Marvel would consider me for writing work, but in a surprising twist, Marvel got onto me before my writing thing has seen the light of day.
Wow, yeah it is 10 years since Hero Killers came out.... Bloody hell.
Nrama: Can you talk more about your writing plans? Is there more coming?
Shalvey: I do. I'm signed on to write a licensed one-shot later this year for another artist to draw but I'm mainly working on that project I previously mentioned. It's a longer piece of work and the artist of that project is about to get started drawing, I'm really excited about it.
I've been totally dedicated to Injection for the past year or so and it's been a fantastic experience. It's a labor-intensive job drawing it though so while there's other things I'd like to draw it's just not humanly possible to. And I've 15 more issues to go! There are other stories I'd like to tell though, so if I can't draw them I might has well write them and have some talented artists I know draw them.
Nrama: Are there certain writers you look to as mentors or inspirations? Or writers you've worked with that you patterning approach to scripting, pacing, panel breakdowns and balloon placement to?
Shalvey: There's definitely writers I'm more fans of and have definitely had influence on my tastes, like Garth Ennis, Ed Brubaker, Jason Aaron, etc. Admittedly, I think Warren has had a big effect on me. From working on his scripts and the space given to me on those scripts, it's given me more confidence and clarity regarding how I like to tell a story. I have formed my own approach to interpreting scripts over the years and that's definitely affected how I'm now writing them.
Other than Warren, I think Jeff Parker and Brain Wood had a big influence on my writing approach, just from working on their scripts. When I worked with Jeff and Brian, they were both artists too so I always got great visual stuff from their scripts and how they considered all the elements of making a comic and I definitely lean that way in the scripts I'm working on.
Nrama: How do you feel about this being serialized in 10 page installments in an anthology versus a solo one-shot or miniseries?
Shalvey: In a perfect world, I'd have loved to do this as a mini-series, but I just didn't have the time, and Wil knew that. Serializing it into shorter segments is a great way to be able to draw the whole thing without eating too much time out of my schedule. It forced me to really strip down the story to its core and be as economical as possible. As regards a one-shot, I've actually constructed the story in a way where it would work as a one-shot, so that it reads as one story. I do want each story to be satisfying as possible though, so I view each story as a single mission that together are part of this bigger story. Maybe someday it could be republished as a one shot, who knows?
Nrama: You wrote this Nick Fury serial to draw yourself, so on the ranging scale from Marvel style to full script how far did you go in formal script writing for this serial?
Shalvey: I'm personally not a fan of Marvel style. An artist doesn't get paid extra to do all the heavy-lifting so when I get a script I look to read it and see that the writer has taken the time to figure out how the script would work visually. I hold myself to the same standard, so I write full scripts. I feel that I need to do so considering I'm working on that craft more now and there's no point taking shortcuts. Also, if I'm being hired to write a comic, I want the editor to see that I've put the work in. Admittedly, I'm trying something a little different with #4 as an experiment, so we'll see how that works.
Nrama: Last question: you've seeded several unanswered questions in this first installment. What can readers look forward to in the next issues?
Shalvey: Each issue will have a self-contained adventure for Fury, in which you can expect a gate-crashing Moon Knight, a cat-and-mouse story with Black Widow, a high tension tale with low temperatures and Fury having to confront some hard truths by the end.