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Image Expo: Delving into the Chaos of “Injection” with Declan Shalvey [Exclusive Interview]

By | July 23rd, 2014
Posted in Interviews, News | 10 Comments

If you’re like… well, pretty much everyone who has read it, you’ve loved Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire’s run on “Moon Knight”, and you were frankly mortified by the departure of two thirds of that team after the upcoming sixth issue. There’s a good reason why you feel that way, as Ellis has delivered one-and-done stories that cut to the core of the character, and Shalvey’s doing career-best work as he gets beyond the brawler at the core of Marc Spector, especially with Bellaire coloring him.

As much as we were sad to see them leave, the fact that the entire team has moved onto “Injection”, an utterly exciting sci-fi project that was just announced at Image Expo, softens the blow and instead makes it something everyone at Multiversity is thankful for. This team working on a creator-owned project that delves deep into a not so unrealistic yet still fantastic (in one sense) future with the ability to control the look and feel of all elements is pretty much our greatest hopes for them realized, and April 2015 can’t come fast enough.

What’s it all about though? Here’s the synopsis from Image’s press release:

INJECTION explores how loud and strange the world is becoming, and the sense that it’s all bubbling into chaos—a chaos poised to become the Next New Normal — and that we did this to ourselves without thinking for a second about how we were ever going to live inside it.

We’re proud to exclusively reveal the first details of the book thanks to an interview with artist Declan Shalvey. He’s had a hell of a run the past few years, wowing readers with work on books like “28 Days Later”, “Thunderbolts”, “Northlanders” and the aforementioned “Moon Knight”, but this is Shalvey’s first foray into creator-owned, and he’s beyond excited about the opportunity. We talk with him about reuniting with the “Moon Knight” squad, what plans he has for the visuals, working in science fiction, and much more.

Having spoken to Shalvey about what might be in store for this project, I can assure you this: “Injection” has all the markings of an all-time great comic, especially with an unleashed Shalvey working on the book. Get excited, comic fans.

Let’s start with the 10,000 foot view: what is Injection, and what makes it the type of project that is perfect for you to work on?

Declan Shalvey: INJECTION is an ongoing series about a group of eccentrics who have basically destroyed our current existence; creating a new level of mayhem in which we all now have to live in. It’s their fault.

INJECTION was appealing to me as it was a chance to keep working with Warren and Jordie, which I really wanted to do after how creatively rewarding Moon Knight was. It’s a long form sci-fi series, something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, and in top of it all, it’s something that I’m creating from scratch. Warren and I have talked about the storytelling approach, and we’re making a book that’s very much curtailed to my artistic sensibilities. Warren call’s it ‘a serial novel for comics’, which goes to show that we have a very specific approach for INJECTION in particular.

Injection is going to find you re-teaming with your Moon Knight collaborators in Warren Ellis and Jordie Bellaire. That’s a book that has seen your star rise significantly, and brought a lot of praise the team’s way in the process. How did Injection come together, and did the three of you realize pretty quickly after starting to work on Moon Knight that you’d want to do more together after your run wrapped?

DS: Well, I had a good idea going in that Moon Knight was probably only going to be 6 issues, so it gave me some time to think about what I might want to do next. By the time i knew for sure it was going to be 6, I had decided not to do another superhero book and maybe it was finally time that I did something creator owned. I mentioned that to Warren at one point when he asked “Why don’t you let me write something for you and take it to Image?” Which was the LAST thing I was expecting. After a stunned silence, I realized that was the best offer I was EVER going to get, so I went for it. Jordie and I already had a great collaboration going; I was really happy that Warren was pleased enough working with so much that he was willing to create Injection to work with us more.

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Moon Knight had been such a great experience and working with Warren had helped me produce the best and most satisfying work of my career; the reception has been amazing. The prospect of keeping that going on something that I could actually create, own and build it into something more substantial…. It was just a fantastic opportunity. It’s very exciting.

This is your first creator-owned project, and your first book that you’re going to be able to control all the visuals on. For you as an artist, how thrilling is that? What are you and Jordie looking to do with Injection that you hadn’t been able to do before on projects, from the interiors to the covers and everything else?

DS: Well, I had already gotten a taste of that on Moon Knight. In fairness to Marvel, they really let us do what we wanted on that book. Of course, after getting that opportunity, I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want anyone else doing covers, I want to have that input, and the only way to do it for sure, is with creator owned.

To be honest, I’m still in the process of exploring visual ideas for INJECTION; it’s not all nailed down. I’m still wading through the story and the characters at the moment. I definitely want to work out some strong colour design, which Warren is very keen on and well, the colourist is Jordie Freakin’ Bellaire. If anyone knows how to use colour it’s her. In a way, it was easier with Moon Knight, because you could take something that exists and, well… fuck with it. Doing something from scratch, for me it needs a longer gestation period and everything is a little in the air right now, but I’m looking for ward to nailing it all down. Working with visually minded creators is the best though; as everyone knows what they like and don’t like, so regardless, we should have some interesting results.

The one thing we do know is the storytelling approach; Warren and I have discussed that a lot, and we have a specific structure in mind. It won’t be the done-in-one style we did on Moon Knight; Injection will be a lot more complex, with a big expansive story and compelling characters.

For me, I’m excited to build a larger project; everything I’ve worked on has been 3 or 6 issue arcs. I want to build a body of work, so I’m looking forward to having a more expansive story in a series if volumes under my belt.

I know that you’re someone who pays a lot of attention to what’s going on in comics, and Image has been getting an unbelievable amount of buzz for both the quality of the books and the creative environment they provide. To you, how important was it to bring Injection to Image in particular, and what appeals to you about releasing a book there?

DS: Well, one thing that’s clear to me is while Image are clearly going through an amazing period of producing quality books of various genres that are finding an audience, they’ve also helped change the Zeitgeist and make creator owned comics something the readers will take more of a chance on. You can see it with all the other publishers, who are actively producing creator owned work now. Before Image helped change things, that was NOT happening, so if anything the market is more diverse, with different types of stories by different creators for different tastes and that’s just better news for the medium of comics. I love my superheroes, but the more diverse genres comics have the better off we all are.

Also, while there are publishers I really like and have a relationship with, doing something creator owned at image is just the best deal in comics, period. Warren, Jordie and I own this book, and Image are helping us make the best book we can, that is all ours. I’d love to do other projects at other publishers, but Image just feels right for this particular book.

Digging into what little we know about the story of Injection, while it’s sci-fi, it’s clear even from the press release for the book that it’s my personal favorite type: the kind that very much feels of this world, and almost exists as commentary on or as a cautionary tale of where we are now. This all came from the three of you wanting to work together more, but both as the artist on the project and as someone who enjoys good sci-fi, what stood out about the idea to you, and what excites you about working within that genre as an artist?

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DS: That’s a fair description of it, it’s contemporarily set, with themes that say more than what’s just happening in the plot; it comments on the world around us. My favourite type of sci-fi, in fact. I read someone once say that ‘Science fiction is social fiction’…. heh, actually, I think It Warren who said that. Anyway, I like that the themes of this comic deal with something in our society which hasn’t been previously addressed much, namely as what we’re experiencing is something that has never happened before. It gives us the opportunity to play with ideas in an area that is very much a product of recent social and technological revolutions.

I’ve never really gotten to work in sci-fi before, though I generally think of my superhero comics as sci-fi, I saw 28 Days Later as sci-fi rather than horror, etc, so most of what I’ve worked on I see through a sci-fi lens. But to do a straight-up sci-fi comic is very liberating. Sci-fi lets you ground a story in whatever period you want, yet opens things up to the fantastical. Look at Doctor Who for example; the dichotomy of futuristic settings paired with a crummy 1970s police telephone box; sci-fi gives you the opportunity to make the mundane bizarre and therefore creates the possibilities for spectacular visuals.

I like the looming threat that’s part of our book. That ‘something bad’, The Injection, has already happened. We’re just waiting for the penny to drop, as it were. That sense of dread is something I feel really motivates a reader through a story.

Also, getting to do something more longform, something where you can plant seeds for a story that will pay off down the line, or develop a character over time, is something I’ve never had a chance to do over with the major publishers, and it’s something I’m quite excited to try.

You talked about how working with Warren has helped you produce some of the best and most satisfying work of your career, and it often seems he’s the type of writer who very much works to build a fantastic creative and collaborative environment on his projects. As your run on Moon Knight closes, how do you feel this experience has helped you find an extra gear in your craft as you move into your biggest project yet?

DS: Oh, undoubtedly. I’ve enjoyed every project I’ve worked on but Moon Knight was one that gave me the room to step up and take some chances. In a way, it’s like Warren made the book a showcase for what I can do, given the chance. He didn’t dictate; he planted seeds in my head, and I took the time to let those ideas develop into something above-average; it gave me a new mountain to climb creatively, and that always comes through in the work. Mainly, by trying things I wanted to do and the response being so overwhelmingly positive, it gave me the confidence to push things further, and the validation that my own ideas could work, if not wildly succeed.

Working with Warren on Moon Knight has certainly put a spotlight on me like there hasn’t been before, and it’s given me the opportunity to be seen doing the work I WANT to do. Kelly Sue DeConnick once told Jordie and I that Warren is a great teacher, and while he didn’t exactly sit down with us and give us lessons or anything, we found he leaves a path for you to follow, and lets you develop your work along that way, however you want to do it. And, if he doesn’t like it, he’ll let you know.

You’re a big fan of comics, and I’m sure you’re like the rest of us who watched Image Expos of the past unfurl on Twitter via those in the audience, constantly blown away by the surprise announcements. Be honest: how pumped are you to walk on stage at the event?

DS: I gotta be honest, when the previous Expos happened, as a creator, you can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy. Image is on fire right now, and to see them invest in new talent, new ideas, giving established pros the chance to tell more unique stories, etc…it’s a pretty interesting time to be in comics right now. Every announcement from the Expos have been extremely exciting. To actually attend one with a book of my own? Well, it’s pretty nerve wracking. For all I know, people are going to be asking ‘Who’s the Irish guy?’

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Ultimately though, it’s a fantastic opportunity to announce the project. Last time I was at SDCC I had my first published book under my belt. Happily, things have changed significantly since then, and it’s going to be great to return to that show under these circumstances.

Thanks to Declan for chatting with us, and for Image for the opportunity. For the full press release from Image, please see below.

Image Press Release

Once upon a time, there were five crazy people, and they poisoned the 21st Century.

Bestselling writer Warren Ellis (TREES, SUPREME: BLUE ROSE, Moon Knight), artist Declan Shalvey (Moon Knight), and colorist Jordie Bellaire (MANHATTAN PROJECTS, NOWHERE MEN, PRETTY DEADLY) reunite for an all-new ongoing series about the disturbing, unruly future that looms near for society.

INJECTION explores how loud and strange the world is becoming, and the sense that it’s all bubbling into chaos—a chaos poised to become the Next New Normal — and that we did this to ourselves without thinking for a second about how we were ever going to live inside it.

“Within a couple of months of starting work together on Moon Knight, I knew that I wanted to create something new with Declan and Jordie,” said Ellis. “And this is what we came up with: something that hits all the same strengths of our previous work together, but opens up a wide space for all kinds of new possibilities.”

“I’m delighted to be continuing the creative relationship I’ve established with Warren and Jordie with Injection at Image Comics,” added Shalvey. “A creator-owned project is something I’ve wanted to do for some time, and I feel that this is the right project, with the right collaborators and at the right publisher.”

“It’s not much of a secret that I view Warren Ellis as one of the most important comic book writers of the last 20 years, but my admiration for the incredible artistry of Declan Shalvey is probably less well-known,” said Eric Stephenson, Publisher at Image Comics. “The two of them together are an absolutely amazing team, and I think it goes without saying everything they do is only elevated by Jordie Bellair’s colors. Add in the fine lettering and design of the always awesome Fonografiks, and I think the only definition truly worthy of their talents is ‘dream team.’”

The chaos is coming to Image Comics in 2015.

//TAGS | Image Expo

David Harper

David Harper mainly focuses on original content, interviews, co-hosting our 4 Color News and Brews video podcast, and being half of the Mignolaversity and Valiant (Re)visions team. He runs Multiversity's Twitter and Facebook pages, and personally tweets (rarely) @slicedfriedgold. By day, he works in an ad agency in Anchorage, Alaska, and he loves his wife, traveling and biscuits & gravy (ordered most to least, which is still a lot).


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