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Drawing Deadpool with Declan Shalvey

The artist shares sketches, talks working with colorist Jordie Bellaire and doing drama with Deadpool, plus much more!

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Deadpool #15 preview pencils by Declan Shalvey

By Paul Montgomery

When artist Declan Shalvey first peered under Wade Wilson’s fetid mercenary mask, he responded as most incoming DEADPOOL artists do, retching violently into the nearest laundry bin. Before his gorge fully crested however, Shalvey reached a catharsis, and as colorist Jordie Bellaire held his hair, he realized that he’d greatly underestimated Wade Winston Wilson for years. So often the comic relief, Deadpool also carries the potential for genuine tragedy and pathos.

While this month’s DEADPOOL #15 offers more than its fair share of belly laughs courtesy of writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, the artist promises that “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly” also represents a darker turn for the mouthy merc. The project demanded that Shalvey consider the haunted man under the mask, even as he pulled those faces.

Today we take a glimpse at the artist’s sketchbook, including the raw pencils for a very deadly Weapon X family reunion with Captain America and Wolverine.

Marvel.com: What are the three most important things you learned about Deadpool since signing on for this story?

Declan Shalvey: Deadpool is messed up. More than anyone really knows. Deadpool is more than just a comedy character with guns and pouches. Deadpool is apparently adorable—our intern keeps going on about how much she loves Deadpool, like he's a puppy or something.

Deadpool #15 preview pencils by Declan Shalvey

Marvel.com: Deadpool is definitely more than just a comedic character, but that’s a good place to start. Slapstick proves a unique challenge in sequential art. We've all told jokes, but can you talk about drawing one?

Declan Shalvey: It's pacing for me; knowing the beats. When you tell a joke in person, it's all about how you tell it, and it's the same in comics, I've found. Building up the premise and delivering the punch line. That's with the big jokes; I just drew a very slapstick funny moment and it was all about the pacing, building up the moment, the ultimately undercutting it. In the meantime Gerry and Brian have written 50 great jokes in the dialogue.

Also, while I wouldn't say I'm the best cartoonist, I do think being able to cartoon a little is a huge help. Especially with Deadpool; that mask is completely emotionless, so you have to get creative with your cartooning to portray sadness, pride, concern, etc., through that mask. That leads into the exaggeration and expression that helps with drawing comedy.

I should point out though, that this arc is less jokey than the previous; it goes down some dark alleys.

Marvel.com: Let’s peek down that alley. Actors talk about comedy proving a greater challenge than drama. Do you think Deadpool's versatility as a comic relief character makes him more convincing as a tragic figure?

Declan Shalvey: Actually, I do. There can be a great dichotomy with comedy and drama; some of the best drama has some of the best comedy in it, and vice versa. They play well off each other and there's something to be said for using both approaches at the right time. I do think that Deadpool is more versatile a character than people think; it was Rick Remender's take on him in UNCANNY X-FORCE that made me start to like the character, and though he had jokes, that certainly was not a comedic story. I think that Deadpool seen as a tragic character also makes it a lot easier to see him perform such extreme acts of violence. We can forgive him because we feel sorry for him, I think.

Deadpool #15 preview pencils by Declan Shalvey

Marvel.com: If previous issues are any indication, readers will probably spend some time in Deadpool's head. How much of that space is informed by the script, and how much is pure invention?

Declan Shalvey: So far I've only drawn one of those sequences and it was all in the script. Generally, I think writers will put a lot of thought into those sequences, so I stick close to what they ask for. It's the general storytelling that I'd take more liberties with. I might change how the script tells the story but still make sure the panels do tell the same story the script described. As regards stylized invention though, there's a series of flashbacks that happen in each issue with various characters and Jordie Bellaire, our dynamite colorist, came up with an interesting color device to unify them all.

Marvel.com: How actively do you think about color while penciling? Do you talk about it at length or do you prefer to keep those stages compartmentalized?

Declan Shalvey: I'm not one of those jerks who find an accommodating colorist and then art-direct them to death. If I give Jordie the space to do what she wants, then she'll come up with something unexpected and more interesting than if I just color picked everything for her. Having that kind of closeness to the coloring has been great though; I can explain to her what I was trying to do and she takes that on board when working on the pages. She'll suggest some interesting color notes that I'd also never have thought of; all this makes the overall comic so much better. There was a scene in the second part of the story, where I thought instead of showing a very violent moment it would be more interesting to show the moment just before, the moment just afterwards, and in between just having a red panel. Jordie tied the red with the blood really well, and in the end, I think we had a more interesting sequence because myself and the colorist were in such good communication.

Deadpool #15 preview pencils by Declan Shalvey

Marvel.com: In addition to Deadpool, you're spending a lot of time with Captain America and Wolverine during this story line; three very different temperaments and postures. I'm looking at this page with Logan climbing through the window, and he's that classic, squat Wolverine, almost a gargoyle. Can you talk a bit about how each of these guys holds themselves, and how that informs the action on the page?

Declan Shalvey: The actual height of each character has dominated how I approach them all, strangely. Wolvie is small and squat, Deadpool is taller and leaner, but Cap towers above them all. It actually works quite well; they're all so different that compositionally they all work together on the page. There's no uniformity to the body types, so you can spotlight the characters equally in different ways. I normally hate it when all the characters are the same body type, as you can fell into the trap of drawing the same figure over and over again. I like that when these characters interact with each other, there's no way of confusing them. The fact that Wolvie hunches, Deadpool stands in a very on edge stance and Cap stands proud, strong and regimented means that we can tell more about each of their characters had how they visually relate to each other.

Marvel.com: Have you experimented with any new techniques on this one? Did you sit down at the drawing table with any specific goal for the experience?

Declan Shalvey: Switching from VENOM to DEADPOOL, I was playing with the idea of using more grey wash on this project. When it came down to it though, I found that instead I would pare back the amount of embellishment in this series. More open spaces, negative space, etc. Since I feel I can trust Jordie and have a little more input with how the final colors will look, it means the art will benefit from her input, rather than me adding more “effects” or “noise” so I left her more room to add that Jordie magic.

Deadpool #15 preview pencils by Declan Shalvey

Overworking pages can be really restrictive to a colorist and stop them from making interesting decisions. Now that I'm finally getting to work with Jordie at Marvel, I wanted to give her the space to make me look better, which she has done in spades. That's been the main change in my approach.

I also wanted to have a different take on the look of Deadpool; I wanted to draw him slimmer, more like a spry mercenary rather than a lumbering bodybuilder. I can't get my head around the huge muscular Deadpool look; it doesn't make any sense to me. I wanted to add a little emotional weight to this arc if possible. Thankfully, Gerry and Brian's story really cuts to the core in places, and that kind of emotionally heavy storytelling is very appealing to me.

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