Ireland-based artist Declan Shalvey has steadily risen up the ranks at Marvel, coming to them after doing an run on BOOM!’s 28 Days Later series and to be a part of the rotating artist team on Thunderbolts (recently retitled to Dark Avengers). This past week, Shalvey stepped out (and steps up) into a book of his own, drawing Flash Thompson and his sinister symbiote in Venom. Shalvey’s debut was also longtime Venom writer Rick Remender’s finale, and #22 sees this duo wrap up Thompson’s clash with the Savage Six and sets the stage for Shalvey and incoming writer Cullen Bunn’s long-term plans for the book.Going forward, Venom looks to be embracing the underbelly of the Marvel Universe and delving into some of the symbiote’s biggest adversaries, starting with Carnage. This fall, Venom crosses over with Scarlet Spider to present Minimum Carnage, a series which sees Carnage running wild in the storied Microverse realm (home of the Micronauts/Microns), and Shalvey is hard at work drawing the sinewy symbiote/soldier and all manners of heroes and villains, big and small. We recently spoke to the artist to talk about this work on Venom and his future plans...
Newsarama: Declan, this month you’ve gone from Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers to the title of a former member of both teams, if you count the symbiote, Venom. When the switchover from Thunderbolts to Dark Avengers was announced earlier this summer, you and Kev Walker seemed to be poised to keep going on Dark Avengers so it was surprising to see you jump to this. What made Venom a project you wanted to do?
Declan Shalvey: I loved working on Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers with Jeff Parker and Kev. I really think it's a fantastic book and deserves way more love. When I was working on the T-bolts v T-Bolts arc, I felt like my run on the book had come full circle. The story revisited older locations from our run, paid off on things we'd been building up to and I got to play with the original T-Bolts characters from when I first read the series. I also felt like I was living in the shadow of Kev Walker who is just so bloody good. It's tough to keep following him! After two years at Marvel, I felt like I was ready to start something new. Soon afterwards my editor Tom Brennan offered me Venom; it was a great opportunity. There's a short wish list in my brain of Marvel books I'd love to work on, and Venom was on that list. I was reading Spider-Man when all the symbiote stuff was kicking off, so I really like Venom. I love what Rick Remender and company were doing with this new series too, so it was a win/win situation. I did feel bad about not finishing the Dark Avengers story with Jeff though; my Irish-Catholic guilt really kicked in there.
Nrama: Your first issue on Venom, #22, just came out this past Wednesday. In addition to being your first issue, it’s also series writer Rick Remender’s last. What’s it like being handed what is his finale and also treating is as your debut on the book?
Remender: It was bittersweet; I was delighted to get an opportunity to work with Rick, who is writing some of my favorite comics these days. The downside was I only had the one issue to work with him, but man, what an issue. It's pretty intense, very dark; it's exactly the kind of stuff I'm into so it was very, very creatively satisfying to work on. It's definitely my favorite issue I've worked on for Marvel. It was a great issue for me to start on; it wraps up the story Rick was telling and links it art-wise with what Cullen Bunn and I are going to be doing. We got Lee Loughridge on colors too, which is a huge treat. I've been a fan of his work for years. He really made that first issue sing.
Nrama: For the past two years you’ve been juggling a team full of characters with Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers, so what’s it like to shift over to a more solo oriented book like Venom?
Remender: I'm not going to lie... it's pretty neat. Again; I loved Thunderbolts but at one stage I was drawing about 15 different characters in an issue; that can get pretty work-intensive. You've got to always keep in mind who-is-where and who-is-talking-first and who-is-the-focus-of-this-story, etc. Working on a book with a solo character on the other hand gives me more room to breath and less balls to keep juggling in the air.Nrama: As a one-time artist myself, it seems like it’d be fun to draw the symbiote with his gooey mess of a body. What’s that like for you to be able to draw moments where the symbiote takes charge?
Shalvey: Heh, we must have similar tastes as that was exactly my first thought. I guess you don't want to have the symbiote take over in every issue, or else it just becomes a cliché, but where it does happen, I really like drawing those moments. Because the suit is a living thing, you can convey the characters emotion visually in a way that you couldn't do with, say, Spider-man. When Venom is angry, or surprised, I can actually twist the eyes on the mask, as the suit is alive. I do really like when he loses control though, as you can take more liberties and really cut loose, like Venom is doing so himself. It's very liberating as an artist.
Nrama: In being Venom’s new regular artist, you must be getting ready to the Minimum Carnage crossover, with issues #26 and #27. What are you doing to prepare for that crossover?
Shalvey: This crossover is pretty insane! I had no idea what to expect, other than Carnage that is, but I'm currently working on the issues and man, Cullen has written some crazy, crazy stuff. I can't go into what happens I'm afraid, but I'm sure old-school Microverse fans will be happy. As a lot of this was before my time, I had to do a lot of research and gather a lot of reference. Thankfully, Cullen is some kind of Microverse expert, so he's been a huge help. I've had to do a bit of design work too, which is fun, and getting a shot at drawing Scarlet Spider is fun. The last crossover I was involved in was Shadowland, and I was disappointed I didn't get to draw Daredevil, so it was glad to get to show my take on Kaine.
Nrama: When you say Microverse, the first thing that comes to mind is the Micronauts. I know some of those characters were only licensed by Marvel and not available, but we’ve seen Bug and some of the others around recently. Can you say anything about some familiar Microverse characters appearing in the Minimum Carnage crossover?
Shalvey: All I can say is you'll definitely see a good few brand new Microverse characters. You might even see some old ones, but who knows who will be left after Carnage has made his mark on the Microverse. You'll have to pick up Minimum Carnage to find out!
Nrama: Speaking of new characters, one of the little nuggets I noticed in your Thunderbolts run is your spark at character design; correct me if I’m wrong, but did you develop the look of the Underbolts? Can you talk about that, and any upcoming chances you have to do some character design/redesigns?
Shalvey: I did design the Underbolts actually, for the most part. Except for Troll, who Kev had already established, I got to come up with the designs for the Underbolts/B-Team. I really enjoyed that; Boomerang's costume was my favorite costume to draw right up until my last issue. Getting to do some design work on characters always makes me feel like I have more of a personal investment in the characters and Marvel have been great about that. No one has come back to me and said "No, you can't do that". It really makes you feel like you're contributing to the Marvel lore, by slightly tweaking and modernizing it. I did have some design work to do with Minimum Carnage, but if I say any more than that, Marvel will have me shipped off to the Mircoverse itself!Nrama: “Nuff said. In the Marvel sandbox, we’ve seen you draw Captain America, Crossbones, Thunderbolts and now Venom. I’ve seen you do some pin-ups of X-Men characters on your own site and over at Project: Rooftop from time to time. Would you say the X-Men are characters you hope to work on someday?
Shalvey: HELL. YES. I would absolutely love to do an X-Book at some stage. The X-Men got me into comics in the first place and through the years I've always loved the core idea of the X-Men. It's a great sci-fi premise and I hope some day I get the opportunity to draw a great story that would add to the X-mythos. I’d like to think I'm good enough and fast enough that I could do a long, bold take on an X-Book. Saying that, there are a few books at Marvel where I would like to do the same, given the opportunity.
Nrama: Before I let you go, I have to ask about the variety of projects you’ve done. In addition to Thunderbolts, Dark Avengers and Venom you also find time to do some outside work – like your great Northlanders arc from the beginning of this year, to doing a portion of Dracula World Order; The Beginning and also your upcoming stint on Conan. How do you fit all this in, Declan?
Shalvey: Sleep very little and never see my friends! To be honest, I've just had so many wonderful opportunities in the past year, it's been tough to turn them down. I decided to knuckle down this year; honor all my Marvel commitment and make the most of all the opportunities given to me. Northlanders was a chance to work on one of my favorite series with one of my favorite writers, one of my favorite colorists and one of my favorite cover artists before the series ended. Couldn't say no. Conan was a chance to do more of the same, on a new favorite book and to work with Brian Wood again with Dave Stewart on colors. Dracula World Order was a chance to do a BPRD-esque story with my girlfriend (colorist wunderkind Jordie Bellaire) on a project with a lot of great artists. I just had to find a way to make it all work, I guess. Once Conan is wrapped up; I think I'm going to just concentrate on my Marvel work, and maybe a side creator-owned project.
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