28 Words Later with Declan Shalvey

To coincide with the release with the first issue of 28 Days Later from BOOM! Studios series artist Declan Shalvey sits down exclusively with CR to chat about the first issue's processes.

David O' Leary: First of all Dec, hearty congratulations on your first published American work. It's been a journey for you.

Declan Shalvey: Thanks very much. For those of you who don't know (ie, everybody), I've been working for publishers in the UK for the last year or so.

DOL: With the book being an ongoing, do you have set amount of issues you will be working on?

DC: I'll be working on this book for the foreseeable future, I'm happy to say. Due to commitments with a previous publisher, I will have to skip an issue here and there. It pains me to do so, as I'm a bit of a completist, but there just ain't enough hours in the day to do everything. I can say for the sake of properly establishing the look of the book, i will be drawing the entire first story arc.

The famous logo

DOL: The story takes place between the two films and will link the two stories of Selena's departure from Manchester of the reoccupying of London. What role will we see Selena play over the course of the first arc in this integration?

DC: In a word: Survival. Clint and his team are looking to get to London to report on what's really happening down there, but they need someone who knows how to survive in that environment; that's where Selena comes in. However, not all of them trust her, which is a huge problem, as everyone needs to depend on each other if they're going to live to tell the tale.

DOL: We see that the book follows the strong female protagonist in Selena, which is still somewhat of a rarity in comics today. I loved how you showed her being emotional in the opening scene with her remembering her past and her able to put that to one side to focus on the upcoming trip to Scotland. When you were approaching the character with no dialogue and having to tell the story through the art, how important at that stage of the story was it to convey this side of Selena?

DC: True, a strong female protagonist is rare enough in comics, especially one not clad in spandex. I really have to credit the writer Michael Alan Nelson with coming up with that scene. We could tell from the movie that Selena was a hardened character; that something happened to her in the past, but we never really knew the whole story. I was glad there was a scene in issue one that reminded us of this; that there is some overwhelming sadness that Selena is living with yet still a strong resolve, urging her to join Clint and his team. When I first heard of this project, i was afraid it would just be some gory nonsense with no attention to character. With a scene like this in the first issue, that is obviously not the case.

I must also credit Michael for writing that scene with no dialogue. A more insecure writer would have felt like they needed to narrate or explain a scene like that, but instead he let the images tell the story. That puts more pressure on me to get the storytelling right, but it also makes it more satisfying a page for me to draw. Hope I got it right.

The cover of issue 1

DOL: From the point when the helicopter lands on the island, I thought that Michael Alan Nelson and yourself did a great job of building the tension to the point of the reveal of the infected. How closely were the two of you working together on this as Michael Alan is a frequent BOOM! writer, was he able to be a guide as to how to work the reveal or was there an element of freedom involved in that?

DC: Again; all credit to Michael for constructing the story in such a climactic fashion. I felt a lot of pressure to get that ';reveal' right, and i hope I didn't let Michael down on that front.

To be honest, I didn't have much ';collaboration' with Michael about the story. I worked more so with my editor, Ian Brill. I mean, if i had any questions, Michael was always helpful, but they tend to be more logistical questions. When it comes to story, it's all really clear in the script. Any emotional notes are always stated, the character's motives clear, etc. Michael's scripts were easy to work from, so there wasn't much need to discuss all the little details. They are also quite open, so there's a lot of freedom to make different storytelling decisions, which is part of the whole fun of drawing comics.

DOL: Mention must go to colourist Nick Filardi. He did a great job on the issue. On this side of the pond, with the exception of Frankenstein, we are used to your work in black and white or grey wash. Did you have to alter how you structure a page to work with a colourist in any way?

DC: Yeah, Nick did a great job. I actually specifically asked for him as I really liked his colours on Paul Azaceta's line work. I didn't expect we'd actually get him though, so i was delighted when I heard he was aboard. He makes my pages look way more impressive than they actually are!

I really don't consider the colourist when I draw my pages. Not to sound arrogant, I just feel that if you worry about what the colourist is going to do, then you're only going to second-guess your own decisions, and that helps no one. If you're lucky, you will be working with a colourist who has a similar mindset to your own and will work with your art rather than against it. If you're not lucky, you'll end up with a terrible colourist who ruins your pages and all your efforts will be made useless. You really don't have a say in the end product, so I just do my pages the way I want and at least i can be satisfied with my contribution no matter how it's coloured.

Saying that, I have been doing a lot of grey wash work with my weekly Eclectic Micks sketches (http://eclecticmicks.blogspot.com) but I can see how that would be problematic/ more work to colour, so I've been doing straight black-and-white line work with 28 Days Later. I'm not a total bastard. I think.

DOL: It is cool to see the amount of detail you put into the backgrounds of the pages. This is something that is conveniently left out when an artist is rushing or doesn't think it necessary but here it fleshes out the book to a whole other level. Was this dictated in the script or something that you wanted to do?

DC: Scenes are described in a script in varying detail but it's pretty rare to get specific background descriptions panel-to-panel. Actually, the backgrounds in this issue are much more sparse than I was expecting. Because of 28 Days Later's association with London, I was assuming the story would take place there, meaning lots of city backgrounds. Obviously, this story is more about the journey to London, so there have been lots of hills, fields and empty skies in the background.

I'm actually a fan of dropping backgrounds when they're not needed. For example, if a character proclaims, "I have 8 hours to live," the point of that panel is the emotional reaction, so having a can of coke in the background could end up distracting from the intention of the panel. Of course, in order to drop panels in such a way, you have to be sure you have properly established your scene and that the reader knows where all the characters are. If you're not drawing backgrounds and the reader pauses because they don't know where the characters are, then you've failed in your job as a storyteller. I just think at the other end of the spectrum, filling every panel with detailed backgrounds make pages cluttered and hard to read. I like my pages to look interesting but remain clear.

An example of the detail in the book

DOL: Now that you are under the roof of probably the fastest rising house in comics, what differences do you see now that you are no longer working with self publishers?

DC: There's a lot of differences. Being paid regularly is the one, glaring difference that comes to mind. To be fair though, working for self publishers is very satisfying, as you get to tell whatever stories you want, but it's coupled with the frustration of no one reading them, especially now, with Diamond's policy changes. Not a lot of fans really go look for new and interesting stories and prefer to read another rehashed Spidey story. Though 28 Days Later is a licensed comic, as far as licensed comics go, it's a really interesting and satisfying project to work on. With this book, I get to work on a property, but also tell some interesting stories. Everybody wins; mainly me.

DOL: Now that the first issue is about to hit shelves, how are the nerves?

DC: Shot. Fans of the zombie genre are difficult to please. If they don't like the book, they're likely to literally rip me to pieces!

DOL: Thanks for the time Dec, good luck and talk next month bud.

Thanks for Dec for talking with us. Should things go well, we should see a regular chat with Dec on the issues upcoming on the title so check back soon and check out issue 1 on sale 26th August for $3.99.

Interviewer Bio

Name: David O' Leary
email: idwfan@yahoo.co.uk

Been reading comics: for about 12 years now.

Review Bio: I am a 26-year-old Hotel Manager from the west coast of the Republic of Ireland and think this is a great way to talk to others about this cool medium. I am a husband to one wife and father to one girl (so far).

Favorites: ONI's Whiteout, Vertigo's Scalped and Garth Ennis Preacher and Punisher in Trades. In comic form I am reading a lot of Marvel and a bit of IDW, Dark Horse & WildStorm among others.

Website: Sorry, I don't have one!

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