This week, Boom! Studios released 28 Days Later #1 (click for a preview), the first in an ongoing series chronicling the events after the landmark zombie film of the same name. In this inaugural storyarc, writer Michael Alan Nelson (who we interviewed earlier this week) and artist Declan Shalvey follow one of the movie’s protagonists, Selena, as she’s living in a refugee camp in the frozen Northern Europe with returning to the infected England the last thing on her mind.
But somehow, she gets drawn back in.
As mentioned earlier, we spoke with series writer Michael Alan Nelson about this new series, and today we got the opportunity to speak with the artist Declan Shalvey. One of the first things we asked was about drawing these infected "zombies," and here’s what he had to say.
“It's true really, the best way to learn drawing is to draw from life, so it was simple really; I invited friends around to model and stabbed them in the eyes, ears and mouth just to get the right amount of blood. Turns out; it's a lot! Now I have no friends left,” Declan joked.
“I'd say the 'infected' in 28 Days Later are the most difficult part of the book,” explained Shalvey. “They define it in a lot of ways. They are noticeably different than your usual kind of zombie. Usually, a zombie will move awkwardly, slowly, have missing limbs and be in various forms of decomposition. That's the easy, fun way to draw zombies. You can't do that in 28 Days Later. The 'infected' are rabid, furious creatures. Yeah they run, but the way they move is much more visceral, which is hard to do in a single image/panel. The range of emotions on their faces are different too; ranging from dead-looking, to panic-stricken, to absolute fury. That's a challenge to get right, and one that's specific to this book, as opposed to any others in the zombie genre.”
The zombies in 28 Days Later aren’t zombies so to speak, but are better referred to as “the infected”. In the movie, a highly contagious virus called “Rage” is accidentally released into the human populace of Britain that turns humans into zombie-like beings with no free will, only a hunger for human flesh. They bear a striking similiarity to the classic zombies, which allows them to be grouped into the larger zombie genre.
“This movie/comic is so rooted in the zombie genre yet really stands apart from it,” said the artist. “Finding that balance is both intimidating and a very interesting challenge.”
28 Days Later is Shalvey’s biggest work to date, after working for several years with several UK publishers on titles like Hero Killers, Freak Show and an adaptation of Frankenstein for Classical Comics.
“Ian Brill, the editor of the book contacted me about doing this,” said the Ireland-based artist. “I had been working on graphic novels for a UK publisher for some time but I had also contributed a short story to Joel Meadows' excellent Tripwire Annual last year. Ian saw the short story, seemed to like my work and contacted me looking to collaborate on something. It soon turned out to be 28 Days Later, which sounded like a great project to work on. Which it in fact has been, I'm happy to say.”
Although Shalvey might be a newcomer, writer Michael Alan Nelson is not. Nelson has been one of the principal writers for Boom! Studios since it’s founding back in 2005, and working with Nelson has been a pleasant expereicne for Shalvey.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the scripts,” Shalvey said. “Maybe I'm just jaded, but I was wary that the story would just be gory nonsense and not in the spirit of the original movie. In the book of course, there's moments of violence, but I was really impressed by how much work had been done on the characters and creating tension and relationships between them. I'm really enjoying where the story is going but i don't really want to say any more for giving anything away.”
But while he is enjoying drawing the comic, there’s one thing that nags at him with every page. “I will say though that while Selena and company are looking to get to mainland Britain, as an Irishman, I'd love to know what's going on in Ireland this whole time... we're only next door!”