An Interview With Declan Shalvey About ‘Old Dog’
by Benjamin Hall
Writer/artist/colorist Declan Shalvey is one of the creative talents behind titles like Immortal Hulk: Flatline (2021) and Bog Bodies (2020). Shalvey has a new series coming from Image this month. The title is Old Dog (2022-Present). It is an espionage title that has an official description of “The Winter Soldier meets Mission Impossible.” In other words a veteran super spy on impossible missions. This interview about Old Dog with Shalvey delves deeper from that official description.
Benjamin Hall: Old Dog is your latest series to see release at Image. The description is “The Winter Soldier meets Mission Impossible” so taking that into consideration what makes this different from those brands?
Declan Shalvey: The difference is one Declan Liam Shalvey, and yer looking at him! That is kind of my answer though, I’ve never done a book of either brands, so I would hope seeing my take on this genre would be of interest to a general reader, be it how I write the book or the visuals I employ to tell that story. I’m not one to fetishise ideas, I’m more into seeing a creator’s approach, even with recognisable brands. This however, is something I own, and can do whatever the hell I want, and that’s probably the biggest difference from others in a well-worn genre.
Hall: Will the main character have a team? Specifically a team that changes per mission?
Shalvey: No, Jack Lynch is the main protaganist, but when you read issue one, you will be introduced to his backup/partner. The team stays the same, the missions change each issue.
Hall: Might there be relatively quieter issues that show the logistical side of espionage like in the television show The Sandbaggers (1978-1980)?
Shalvey: Wow, way to drop an old example! No, not for this first redact as I want to kind of lean into the action for the opening installments. I want to go quiet in some issues and loud in others, but I think I need to have the reader’s trust before I take left turns. If anything, I am trying to balance some grounded realism with the more bombastic action stuff. The appeal to doing a very ‘episodic’ book like this is that I can do different types of stories within the world of the book and the deeper I go, I’d like to play around more.
Hall: Do you currently have plans for an eventual finale to this series in place, or are you planning as you go?
Shalvey: Both. Such are the pitfalls of creator owned comics, there’s only so far you can plan ahead before you know if there’s enough of an audience to support the book. Fortunately, Image has really supported me on this so I’m confident that I can reach the conclusion I have in mind. What’s been cool about working on the book though, is that I can see more opportunities to tell stories in this world so it’s more of a question of when will I want to end it, so while I know how it’ll end, I’m leaving myself room in-between to get to that ending if I need to, or if the book proves to be a huge success, have more room to play around before I get there.
Hall: Has this series pushed you to grow as a creator in any way?
Shalvey: Oh, for sure. I’ve been pushing myself a little more project by project and with Old Dog, I’ve put all those challenges into one book. To construct a longer form story but that’s all by my own hand (writing, drawing, but also colouring, designing, etc) I would say this is the most ambitious project I’ve ever taken on, and it’s been both intimidating and stressful but also thrilling and exciting.
Hall: Lastly, what do you have to say about letterer Clayton Cowles’ work so far for the series?
Shalvey: Ah, what can I say about Clayton that hasn’t been said by better people? Clayton and I have been friends for years and I’ve always admired his work. When at Marvel I’d always be looking for opportunities to work with him and it’s no coincidence that nearly every creator owned project I’ve done has been with Clayton. He makes every book look better, and if I’m doing a book where I’m doing everything other than the lettering, I want the best co-pilot going and it just had to be Clayton. When I get Old Dog pages back from Clayton, I get nothing but the excellence I’ve come to expect.
Hall: Thanks to Declan Shalvey for his time and answers!
Old Dog is set for a release date of September 28th from Image Comics.