‘Immortal Hulk: Flatline’ Writer and Artist Declan Shalvey: The Conskipper Interview

Declan Shalvey’s upcoming Immortal Hulk: Flatline one-shot is an excellent introduction to the new iteration of one of the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creations, and also to the Shalvey’s distinct art style and storytelling techniques.

Shalvey has built a career on telling gritty, grounded stories with dark edges, with runs on Wolverine, Moon Knight, and Deadpool, as well as his recent original graphic novel with Gavin Fullerton, Bog Bodies, for Image Comics.

Shalvey took some time out to discuss his latest assignments for Marvel, as well as some of his fan favorite work in this exclusive interview.

How did the opportunity for Immortal Hulk: Flatline come about?

Declan Shalvey: I had an opening in my schedule and reached out to Wil Moss, an editor I’ve worked with at Marvel. I’ve had a great time working with Wil in the past and he’s always doing interesting stuff. As it turned out, he was looking for someone to do an Immortal Hulk one shot, so I graciously, yet heroically, took it off his hands.

Immortal Hulk is a unique take on the character.  How did you approach Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s version?

Shalvey: Well I had recently started reading the series by picking up the first three trades and I was loving them. It was really impressive to see how Ewing/Bennett really dug into the character more and found another level beyond the already great work done on the character. I think they tapped into what makes the original concept so great, while also turning it on its head, breathing new life into the book both conceptually and visually. 

As someone who is basically a tourist on the book, I had the benefit of taking what they had done and telling a story within that framework. Quite brilliantly, the series starts out in that familiar ‘lonely man’ stage that old school fans will remember from the original TV show. As a result, I feel like my story was able to be within the current continuity but also be accessible to new readers, or people who haven’t yet read the book.

You handle both the art and scripting on this one-shot.  Do ever write yourself into a corner in terms of the art presentation, given the enormous scope of a traditional Hulk story?

Shalvey: I don’t think so. I mean, I had some visual ideas while writing so I knew some moments I was going to hit… admittedly sometimes it was a case of “Why did I make this so hard for myself?”, but I also had moments that made things easier in order to balance things out. The important thing really, was for me to hit the right character/emotional beats, while still making sure it was impressive on a visual front. That was tough, to move all the pieces around, but I worked it out with help from the editors (Wil Moss and Sarah Bruntstad).

Your recent work on Wolverine Black White and Blood exhibited an unhinged Logan.  Do you think the character works best in a more mature series? 

Shalvey: Depends on the story, really. I think he does work really well in a more mature context, but he works well as a gruff character in a more traditional superhero story too. It’s probably a reason why he’s had such longevity, he’s quite flexible that way. It really depends on what kind of story you’re telling, I think.

Were there any restrictions on how much “red” you got to use in the story?

Shalvey: No, not at all. If anything I think Marvel were very encouraging with the use of red. I made an effort to be more sparse with it, to be honest. I wanted it to be black and white for the first few pages so that when the red kicks in, it’s shocking. We ended up having red earlier than I planned, but we built up to it with a dark red for some dried blood on page three, then kicking in with page four. It was a great scheme to work with, I really enjoyed it and I am really happy with how it all turned out.

Moon Knight is about to be turned into a Disney+ series.  Having worked on the character in the past, what do you think is the most important aspect of the character to translate to a different medium? 

Shalvey: Oof, that’s a good question. Haven’t really thought about it really, as I have no idea what they’re doing, though the cast and crew announcements sound really interesting, and considering how wacky Wandavision has been, it’s all very encouraging. I think the most boring thing would be to go with the “Marvel’s Batman” comparison that gets thrown around. He’s not Batman, he’s Moon Knight, he’s a bloody psycho, and that weak link to reality should be something I’d hope they lean into, kind of what FX did with Legion. The one thing about Moon Knight is how malleable is, and that’s exciting from a storytelling point of view, no matter the medium.

Bog Bodies has been a big hit for you.  Any upcoming creator-owned comics/graphic novels on the way? 

Shalvey: Yeah, Bog Bodies has been a great experience. Personally, it was great to have something come out, especially off the heels of the pandemic hitting the globe. Gavin and Rebecca did tremendous work on it.

I do have a new series I’m co-writing that should be announced pretty soon actually, so I can’t really talk about it yet. It’s different from the other creator owned stuff I’ve written before, but I’m pretty excited about it.

Other upcoming work?

Shalvey: Nothing I can talk about at the moment I’m afraid, the projects I’m working on won’t be announced for a while (aside from the one alluded to above).

Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1 will be available on February 16. The Wolverine: Black, White, and Blood Treasury Edition will be available on July 27. Moon Knight: From the Dead Vol. 1 and Bog Bodies are both available right now at finer comic book shops everywhere.

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