Wolverine is back among the living after a secretive organization known as Soteira has brought him back as part of experiments to create some sort of superhuman army. With some new powers and only a faint memory of what's going on, Logan is once again cutting his way through the Marvel Universe.
After September's Return of Wolverine #1 by writer Charles Soule and artist Steve McNiven, artist Declan Shalvey steps in to draw the next three issues before McNiven returns for the January finale. Shalvey is known to be choosy with the projects he takes on, and Newsarama has confirmed he was already at work on another top-secret work-for-hire project elsewhere... so what made Return of Wolverine worth changing things up?
Shalvey has been drawing Wolverine in his sketchbooks since he was 13, and has only briefly worked on the character in his Marvel runs on Deadpool and covers.
With Shalvey's Return of Wolverine #2 coming out October 24, Newsarama spoke with the artist about joining in with the Soule/McNiven team on this event book, his own inner Logan fandom, and the decision he had to make to make this happen.
Newsarama: Declan, describe what it's like to be brought in as the second artist on Return of Wolverine?
Declan Shalvey: What's it like? Hard to say ...Weird...? Scary...? Exciting...? I haven't had a whole lot of time to really think about it to be honest, I kinda just jumped right in. It's unexpected, that's for sure. I've absolutely always wanted to draw a Wolverine book, I just thought when I did, it would be a small mini-series that no one would be too invested in. This is different though, this is an event. This is an actual big Marvel book, one that they put one of their A-list guys, Steve McNiven on. Being honest, I just never saw myself sharing a title with talent like McNiven so there's an element of imposter syndrome there. Saying that, I don't think Marvel would have offered it to me unless they were confident I could do it, and it's not like they're short on fantastic artists, so that has been very reassuring. I'm quite honored the folks at Marvel even considered me for this, not to mention actually offering it to me. Also, I get to draw Wolverine!
Nrama: How fast did you start drawing in this case after first being asked?
Shalvey: Very fast. I pretty much started right after being offered, which involved putting what I was working on on the shelf for a few months, but it was manageable. I spent a few days wrapping an issue of that project, then I immediately started working on the costume design over about a week while starting on layouts, then moved onto pencils, etc. Thankfully, I already knew how I liked to draw Wolverine, especially after drawing him in my Deadpool “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” arc. And drawing him in my sketchbooks since I was thirteen.
Nrama: I know you're particular about what projects you take on - and drawing anything means putting Injection and your other creator-owned work on hold. Why was Return of Wolveirne worth doing that for?
Shalvey: I took a creative break on Injection to do a short work-for-hire project but then some personal circumstances delayed my start on it. The company have been really cool about it, so I wanted to make good on that obligation. That project hasn't been scheduled or solicited or anything, so I could put it away for a few months to do Return of Wolverine, so I was technically available to do it. I knew I'd enjoy drawing this, as it's Charles and again, Wolverine. Also frankly, I knew it was a big project for Marvel and it wouldn't hurt to get the exposure from a project like that while also proving to Marvel I could do it. I thought about it a lot but realized that if I did this, then finished the other project, it would make a lot of this year a 'work-for-hire' year for me. When I'm done, I can clear my plate and then just concentrate on Injection until it's finished. We're past the halfway mark on that and I'm eager to finish our story.
Nrama: Let's talk about this new design you did, which debuted in the McNiven-drawn Return of Wolverine #1. The design of the costume harkens back a little to Logan's Age of Apocalypse design, and also your Nick Fury design from Civil War II: Choosing Sides. What were you given to start with in this redesign?
Shalvey: It was an interesting challenge to design that costume as the task was to design a costume for Wolverine, that was specifically not a Wolverine costume. The suit is something Wolverine puts on, not a garment that was made for him in any way. The task was to give him a suit that was not a Wolverine costume per se, but gave him something more iconic than a shirt. It plays up to the sci-fi elements of the story Charles and Steve are telling. The black and red does look a bit like my Fury costume design, but if I'm being honest, the original inspiration for the design is the uniforms in the original Star Trek movies. I wanted it sci-fi, but somewhat naval. Charles had asked for the costume to be primarily black, so started from there, even looking at the basics of the old John Buscema 'black' costume. from there I took that 'flap' from the Star Trek costumes, also incorporating design elements from the mysterious Soteira group.
Nrama: What were your thoughts on what was needed - and what wasn't needed?
Shalvey: Bare arms! No matter what, he had to have bare arms. This may sound silly, but I spent my childhood drawing all the arm hair on Wolverine; I wasn't going to design a Wolverine costume where I didn't get to draw Logan's arm hair! Again, this isn't a costume designed for 'Wolverine' but if I'm going to make something for Logan, I had to show off those hairy guns.
For story reasons, a lot of the usual Wolverine iconography couldn't be used, like the mask, etc. I have versions of the costumes with stripes, etc as a nod to his classic costume but again... it looked too Wolvie. Obvious references would only end up detracting from the actual story.
Nrama: I noticed some duality in this and Mike Hawthorne's design for Persephone, this event’s big bad. How much was this designed with other facets of Return of Wolverine in mind?
Shalvey: As I mentioned, my main starting point was a black costume with those Star Trek elements. After my first pass, Marvel showed me those excellent Persephone designs. What I love about Mike's designs, is that he comes up with great costumes that was brilliantly designed with great use of shape and graphic elements. His designs aren't overly-complicated, so they're not a pain in the arse to draw, but are still interesting enough to be visually interesting on the page.
After seeing Mike's design, I took another whack at my Logan one, and made it more asymmetrical. I tend to make my costumes symmetrical (less confusing when you're drawing characters from different angles) but leaned more into what Mike was doing on that front. I also gave Logan the same belt that we see the soldiers have, that were designed (I assume) by Steve McNiven.
Nrama: I know it's early on, but what’s your impression of the story Charles and Steve are doing here?
Shalvey: I really just initially kept my head down and got started with #2, but I just literally read all the remaining issue scripts (including the #5 script for Steve) and am stuck with how high concept the overall story is. It gets quite epic in scope and has a really messed up development later in the mini. I have the benefit of looking at the story as a whole and I can see how Charles has constructed it in a way that each issue does something different to Wolverine, and says something about who he is. That's really satisfying.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals for this?
Shalvey: Really, I'm just along for the ride. I see this as Charles and Steve's baby, but if I can draw some great pages and tell some entertaining Wolverine action, I'll be happy. I get to draw a Wolverine book, get colored by Laura Martin, work with Charles and the editors, I even got to chat to Steve McNiven about my pages, it's a really fun gig. I guess long term, if this puts me on a bigger stage at Marvel, then maybe it'll oven up some doors for me down the line to work on some more choice characters.