INTERVIEW: DECLAN SHALVEY TALKS DICE 2014

With Dublin Comic Con only just in the rear view mirror, we at ICN are already gearing up for the next big con, DICE, coming September 27th and 28th. We’ll be doing interviews with creators, letting you know about comics being launched at the event and providing information on the Irish guests in attendance. First up, we ask Declan Shalvey, Creative Director of DICE, about the event.

You’ve been named Creative Director for DICE 2014. Can you tell us what that entails?

A lot of meetings! I have to give credit to John Hendrick and Bruno Batista (the organisers of DICE); they’re trying to run a full-time business but also make the effort to call out to me to work out details about the show. I generally am a sounding board for the organisers for things like the guestlist, panels, event ideas, etc. I’m a little more proactive on the guest side; I reach out to contacts that the guys may not have. The great thing is that pretty much everyone WANTS to come to Ireland, but timing is always the issue. There’s a LOT of e-mailing involved too. It’s pretty time consuming, especially on top of this little comics career I’m trying to keep afloat, but hopefully it will all help with making a great show this year.

I was really flattered that John asked me to be Creative Director this year. Myself, Will Sliney, Stephen Mooney and all the Irish guys always try and help the show and we all got really involved last year, so to get proper-involved this year was wonderful, if somewhat intimidating.

The guest list has been stellar in previous years. There must have been some pressure to keep that up this year.

Oh most definitely. Our main problem was basically, having the biggest creative team in comics last year in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. How the hell do you top that!?! While building a guest list, you certainly need ‘names’ but we were never going to top Snyder/Capullo this year. Instead, we decided to diversify the list somewhat and try cover a wider spectrum of comics than just mainstream superhero creators. In my view; we got a lot of the hardcore superhero crowd last year. This year, we have a guest list that I hope will bring that same audience, but also have creators who appeal to a wider comics reading audience too; we need to reflect the fact that the audience are picking up different types of genres more and more.

Also, there was a wonderful show in Derry called 2D, and its absence has left a massive hole in the Irish convention scene, especially with all these media-centric shows popping up all over the place. I felt there was room to appeal to the audience that 2D had built, but didn’t have a show to go to. I wanted to make sure that the emphasis of DICE were COMICS and CREATORS, a sentiment very much close to the organisers hearts too.
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On a personal note, I’m psyched that Goran Parlov is going to be in attendance. I know you’re a fan too. It must have been a strange experience getting him involved.

Parlov is one of my absolute favourite artists; I’m a MASSIVE fan of his. In fact, I wasn’t the one to invite him (though I did suggest him) and that’s probably best as I would have probably just sent him an incoherent email of fanboy reverence. I am personally overjoyed that we have him this year. His work on PUNISHER MAX with Garth Ennis is some of the best comics ever made in my view, and I’m delighted to see him gain more popular attention on his current STARLIGHT book.

As a fan, I really enjoyed previous years. I think it must be the same for creators as you have a lot of creators returning.

Well, I’m glad to hear that, I hope you enjoy this years show! Yeah, we never have a problem getting old guests to come back; everyone seems to really enjoy themselves when they’re here so are always up for coming back. The only problem is generally creators schedule and also, you don’t want to just have the same guest list ever year; you need new blood each year to keep the fanbase interested and excited. New guests are always more exciting than old guests.

The last few years have seen Irish creators making great strides in creator owned work and work for hire for US companies. People like Will Sliney, Nick Roche, Ruth Redmond and Maura McHugh. DICE has played its part for some of those. How important do you think it has been?

I think the importance of DICE for Irish creators specifically has been immeasurable. Mark Doyle is Stephen Mooney’s editor on his current DC book for example. Now, while Stephen didn’t get hired AT DICE ’12, it’s clear that it is somewhat indirectly responsible for it, as Mark was a guest at DICE ’12 along with Stephen and they got to meet. Every year DICE happens is an opportunity for the international comics industry to meet a great Irish creator. CB Cebulski hired Will at DICE ’12 and he’s worked his way up to his own Spidey 2099 book since. CB was introduced to Ruth Redmond at DICE ’13 and now she’s a regular colourist on two ongoing books at Marvel. She worked with Nick Roche on New Warriors; clearly DICE has had a huge part in getting Irish creators on the international stage, and I really hope it continues to do so. As a result, we have Irish creators who work at an international level AT our show, right next to the biggest names in the industry as well as the next generation of Irish artists looking to make a name for themselves. While it has to be said all those Irish creators worked themselves to the bone to make it where they are, it can’t be denied that DICE has had a strong role to play, and no other Irish show can really say that.

We’ve previously had Jeanine Schaefer at DICE and now she’s the new Marvel Talent scout. All these things help and DICE is a fantastic opportunity for creators to make connections. It’s an amazing resource to have on our doorstep, and this is coming from someone who had to travel to the UK and the US to create such opportunities.

Ireland has a diverse field of creators. I think it is great to see creators like Ruth Redmond and Maura McHugh working for Marvel and Dark Horse. How important do you think it is to see more female creators being represented?

Personally, I think it’s very important. I don’t know if you noticed, but there are more female creators at this DICE than any previous DICE and that is a very deliberate move on our part. Representation is becoming a more and more important part of our community and industry so we want to try lead by example. I think we were very on the pulse with that in our ‘Comics are for everyone’ panel last year, and it’s something we kept in mind when selecting this years guests.

I for one, am immensely proud of Ruth who as far as I know is the first Irish woman to work for Marvel, Perhaps the first woman to work in American mainstream comics. Maura is working in the Mignolaverse; how amazing is that?

Also, as well as female representation, I’m aware that most of the Irish creators aren’t working in the mainstream, which is why I felt Phil Barrett should be a guest this year. I think Phil is the best cartoonist in the country, and an amazing voice in the Irish Indie scene, which is stronger than it’s ever been. I really wanted to make sure that we represented a wider range of Irish creator, and it’s one of the reasons I asked Phil to provide the artwork for our poster this year.
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Last year saw the dealers room which had free entry. I thought it was great for the small press guys in attendance. How do you rate the quality of Irish small press comics at the moment?

Yeah, I must credit John for that idea; giving the public free access to the small press was a smart move, as it let everyone and anyone the chance to check out the Irish small press. I think people would be more likely to check out material by newcomers, especially if they didn’t have to pay into the main convention hall, and if they still did, even better!

I think that small press is hit and miss. There’s some really promising stuff, and there’s some very weak stuff. To be fair though the small press is where creators first cut their teeth; it’s where I did it too. The small press is where we’ll find the next great Irish creators. What is a new ‘problem’ for us these days, is there’s actually SO much in the Irish small press these days. There is a lot of work being produced and it’s definitely becoming more competitive. It shows more people are putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak, which I have a lot of respect for.

Last year also saw the introduction of panels in the cinema in Dundrum. Anything new for 2014?

Well I’m happy to report that the panels will be in Movies@Dundrum again this year. It’s such a wonderful space and we’re delighted to have it again. The cinema has had a great relationship with Big Bang Comics since, with many successful screenings over the last year and it’s wonderful to have that venue available to us. We plan on having screenings in the cinema on the days leading up to DICE, as well as some workshops too. We’re currently trying to nail down the panels at the moment; it’s particularly hard to do considering the amount of guests, the range of work and the limits of time!

Any final words on DICE 2014?

Well, I hope that everyone can make it out to Dundrum on the 27th and 28th of September to either get a spotlight on their work, see the best in Irish and international comics, and support the show. No other show right now supports the comics community like DICE does; there’s no media nonsense, no consumer pushing; it’s all just COMICS. Follow and promote DICE on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DICEInfo, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dublincomicexpo and look our for the new website where tickets will be available very soon indeed. We hope everyone comes to check it out and has a great, entertaining, stimulating and inspiring weekend.