WILL SLINEY is an illustrator with Marvel Comics. It’s his dream job.
The 31-year-old is displaying 14 of his prints at the Winterval Festival in Waterford City this week. This year, he worked on the Fearless Defenders comic book, the first Irish person to have his own 12-part series. He’s now working on the superstar of super-heroes, Spiderman.
Comics and graphic novels are so popular that cities are awash with industry conventions. Big publishing outfits, such as Marvel and DC, dispatch talent scouts around the world, including to Ireland, to fish for prodigies, but didn’t a decade ago, when Sliney, from Ballycotton, in Co Cork, graduated from a multimedia course at Cork Institute of Technology.
“When I finished college,” he says, “I took out a loan and went over to San Diego Comic Con, basically to the other side of the world, to show my portfolio around, and kind of got told, ‘Your stuff is crap. We don’t want to look at any more’. So, I flew back home and repeated the process the next year. I got a little bit better. Then, I started emailing my work around to different publishers, and slowly broke in, working for free just to get my first work published. That led to my first paid work, with a small-press comic that was printed in Ireland. Then, I got a job with a company in England, which led to a comic company in America, who saw my work. Eventually, after a good few years, Marvel spotted me at a convention in Dublin and hired me.”
Sliney’s work ethic is useful for one of the most demanding art forms. An artist working on a comic book should sketch a page a day, which can involve a few images, depending on the number of panels. A fine artist might take months to draw a cityscape with 100 people fighting.
“Some characters can be quite hard to do,” he says. “There was one character, in Fearless Defenders, that had a detailed tattoo, which I had to redraw every frame. The comic book powers of Ren Kimura, another character, were that ribbons would come flying out of her hands. They were quite helpful to an artist, because you can use those ribbons to bring a lot of movement to the image, which is essentially one of the most important things for a comic book character to do. You can really control the eye of the reader by controlling those ribbons.
“The way a character walks always has to be reflective of their personality, whether they’re strong or nervous, say. An artist should be able to convey a story, and all of the emotions that are necessary, without the reader having to look at any of the words”.
Sliney has also published the first of a trilogy of Celtic Warrior books, with O’Brien Press. His Cú Chulainn edition became Ireland’s fastest-selling graphic novel ever, earlier this year. One on Fionn mac Cumhaill will follow. “It’s unbelievable that these myths haven’t had more done with them,” he says. “It’s only going to be a matter of time before there is a massive Cú Chulainn movie.
* Will Sliney’s Winterval Festival exhibition is at the Theatre Royal Vestibule, The Mall, until Tuesday, Dec 31. It’s free; www.winterval.ie
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