Inside FEARLESS DEFENDERS with Artist Will Sliney

Irish artist Will Sliney is making his Marvel debut with Fearless Defenders starting in February 2013, but he's been steadily making a name for himself over the past few years, illustrating books including Farscape at BOOM! Studios, the United Kingdom versions of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, plus Pigs and MacGyver — yes, that MacGyver — for Image. We talked to Sliney about entering the world of Marvel NOW!, what he likes about the Fearless Defenders concept and characters, and working with series writer Cullen Bunn. Courtesy of Marvel, we're debuting brand-new interior pages from Fearless Defenders #1, presented throughout the article.


Newsarama: Will, Fearless Defenders is your first Marvel project. Do you know what from your past work specifically drew their attention? And had working for Marvel been a specific goal for you in your career?

Will Sliney: Yep, Marvel always was one of my main goals as a comic book artist. Most of the drive I have as an artist came from watching the Marvel cartoons as a kid, and finding any reprints that I could get my hands on here in Ireland. My childhood dream was to be Spider-Man — when that didn’t pan out, I took to drawing him. I’ve been pretty lucky this year as I’ve got to tick a few boxes: creator-owned work with Celtic Warrior, Star Wars and now Fearless Defenders.

In terms of which work drew Marvel's attention, even while working on a lot of books over the past few years, I always made sure to keep sending sample scripts their way. It’s tough do with regular comic work, but I often found it was in those pages that I pushed myself the most and improved with each one.


Finally, it was after a face-to-face portfolio review with [Marvel talent scout C.B. Cebulski] at DICE con in Dublin where the start of this job offer began. It ended up being a bunch of my MacGyver pages (from upcoming issues) as well as more Marvel-centric samples. It’s been a lot of hard work and late nights over the years, and I am delighted that it has paid off.

Nrama: What is it about Fearless Defenders that specifically appeals to you, and in what ways do you see the book as specifically suited to your skills?

Sliney: Fearless Defenders is going to be such a fun book to draw. One of the things that helped me get the gig was a good ability to get big personalities across in each character. Right off the bat we have two completely different characters, Valkyrie and Misty Knight. Obviously they both are going to enjoy beating the crap out of whatever foes come in their way, but they will do so with different styles. Misty has got to have a swagger about her, and Valkyrie will be much sterner. This is just the tip of the iceberg with the potential characters available for the book, too. That is what really excites me.

Nrama: On that same subject, it definitely sounds like a book that's granted the creative team a lot of room to well, create — new characters, new situations, new settings. What has that experience been like for you thus far? How much have you been able to bring your own style and perspective to the series? 


Sliney: I’m one of those creators who has a lot of respect for what has gone before. Valkyrie and Misty already have such a great look that all I want to do there is bring that to life in my own drawings. Already, like Cullen hinted to, a few new characters will be popping up in the book. I’ve gotten to design one of them, who you will see quite a bit of. Someone again whose personality you will see is immediately different to the characters we have.

Also, in dealing with Valkyrie and her whole mythological background, I quite like being able to draw from the huge wealth of this type of Norse history we have here in Ireland, so you may see subtle hints of that appearing in design choices. Funnily enough it was my own descendants that defeated them here nearly 1000 years ago.

Nrama: A major element of Fearless Defenders is that it's an all-female team, a very welcome site in the superhero genre. How important is that aspect to you? And what different challenges, if any, does that present to you as the illustrator of the book?

Sliney: It’s funny, when the book was first being described to me I didn’t click that it was an all-female team, I was thinking of the characters as individuals at first, and playing in my mind how they would work together. It was only when I heard that Val was recruiting a new team of Valkyrior that it sunk in.

First and foremost, it’s important to tell a good story, and I love the overlaying concept, as well as all of the script that I have read. If people are looking for a good story, then I think they will be happy in the same way that people looking for an all-female team with a good story will be too.


Nrama: So far we know three main characters of the book: Valkyrie, Misty Knight and Dani Moonstar. Generally speaking, are you, as alluded to earlier, looking to stay pretty close to the classic versions of these characters, or — maybe since they're somewhat lesser-known characters within the Marvel roster — is there a little more room for visual interpretation?

Sliney: Well, like I mentioned before, it’s important to stay true to these characters. I’m approaching Val and Misty as two very powerful, independent women who should be drawn as such.

Definitely I’m going to be staying pretty close to the classic versions for now. Looking at Mark Brooks’ great cover reaffirmed to me how good they already look.

Nrama: How has the collaborative process with writer Cullen Bunn been so far? He mentioned that you were able to meet in person at NYCC, which had to be valuable, as many writer-artist teams don't ever get that chance.


Sliney: Especially when we are thousands of miles apart! It’s been great. My biggest reason for going to NYCC was to meet up with the both Cullen and our editor Ellie Pyle, to talk about the story and get the seeds of collaboration going. Personally, I love having a very collaborative process, and Cullen and I are in quite regular contact chatting about the book. The two of us are very excited about it as well and it looks like that enthusiasm is already catching. The stores here in Ireland have been in contact with me about the really high pre-orders that they already have which is very encouraging.

It’s simple really, we have a chance here to do something really special here and both of us believe in putting in the hard work to do so. I’ve already wrapped work on the first issue and I could not be more proud of it. It’s my best work. Now I just got to stay up a little later, and make issue two even better.

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