Talking Comics with Tim | Will Sliney on 'Spider-Man 2099'

Having covered comics for a number of years, I always appreciate encountering a storyteller excited about pursuing what they hope is a major milestones in a long, successful career. That's the impression I got while interviewing Ireland-based artist Will Sliney about his big break as the regular artist on the new ongoing Spider-Man 2099.

I was so focused on discussing his new series, I neglected to congratulate and him on being named Cork Person of the Month in July (Sliney hails from Ballycotton in East Cork).

Wednesday marks the release of Spider-Man 2099 #2, by Sliney and writer Peter David. After reading our discussion, please peruse the preview on CBR.

Tim O'Shea: Can you recount what it felt like when you found out you were going to be the regular artist on Spider-Man 2099 and getting to work with a beloved Spider-Man 2099 writer like Peter David?

Will Sliney: Considering how much of a fan of everything Spider-Man I am, it's no surprise that I was thrilled. My editor called me, long distance to Ireland and all, to tell me about the book and Peter David's involvement. I knew instantly how lucky I was to be the artist chosen for the book. It was pretty obvious, from the pulse of the internet that people wanted both Spidey 2099 and Peter David back on a book, so it's a career high for me to be the artist involved.

How much do you relish the chance to help build a supporting cast for Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099?

That's been a lot of fun. World building is always one of the best aspects of the job, and I enjoy it even with the minor supporting characters. One of the obvious plot points of 2099 is that Miguel is not of this era, so I try to push current day fashions as much as possible to really highlight that he is not in his own native timeline. I lived in New York for a year. Being Irish and completely alien to a lot of fashion trends in the city, I used to sketch people regularly on the subway. I have a few moleskins filled with the craziest things I saw while I was there. That's where the hipster thugs came from for our five-page story in Amazing Spider-Man #1.

In the series second arc, you and Peter dive head first into the storytelling playground of the Spider-Verse. Can you give any hints of what world-crossing trouble you get to pursue?

I can't say too much without instantly giving away where we take the story. But I can say that I get to draw some Spider-characters that even I had never seen before, so its quite challenging and enjoyable.

Are you inking yourself on the series? Who is your colorist? 

Yes, I have always inked myself. I work digitally, so I have very extremely loose pencils which are built up over a ton of layers so it's can be quite different to the traditional methods. The closest I can come to comparing it to is building up tons of sheets on a lightbox. With all of the prep work I do, the inking stage is done over all of these layers, which piece together to give me all the information I need to do the inking. I'm part of a new generation of artists that have always worked professionally digitally. Even when I do any original pages, it is all prepped on computer and printed out in blue almost as a finished product before any traditional inking goes over it.

Antonio Fabela is the colorist, and I think he really suits my work. It's a nice mixture of strong bright colors with a style of rendering that fits the hard edged shadows I put on my figure work. I always feel bad for any of my colorists because I have really detailed backgrounds, but Antonio really matches the level of detail with his own work which is always great to see.

Reading the solicitations for Spider-Man 2099 #4, you get to draw classic Spidey villain, Scorpion. In fact, you got to redesign the character’s look. Care to delve into your thought process when embarking on the redesign?

I wanted to contemporise it while staying true to his original costume, but before I started anything I went and studied actual scorpions. I even went as far as buying a dead scorpion to have in my hands. Their own design is beautiful and translates well into body armor, so a lot of the visual ideas came from there. With modern costumes, I like how they balance armor with a few flexible areas for movement, so that's part of the costume too. There is a grace and power to actual scorpions, so hopefully that comes across in the armor.

Following you on Twitter, you clearly love to consider how best to improve your work. Recently you discussed whether the 180-degree rule should apply in comics. For the uninformed, can you explain the 180-degree rule and how some legendary artists recently challenged your opinion on it?

I think that is essential to any artist. I always strive to improve. Focusing on your work and studying is the only way to do it. I had a debate about the 180 rule recently, at the Marvel artist retreat. It's something I have been a slave to and I was presented with the argument that it does not apply as strictly to comics.

The 180 rule comes straight from film and deals specifically with camera placement. The easiest way to explain it is that once you have established two characters in a scene, character A should always be looking to screen right while having a conversation with character B, who is always looking to screen left. It's a touch more complex than that, but its main point is not to confuse the viewer/reader.

Interestingly, a lot of artists coming through are strongly influenced by film, as a lot of the same compositional skills can apply, whereas 20 years ago, most artists rarely would put film down as one of their main influences. We are far more exposed to both movies, and the production behind them nowadays.

You always have to push yourself as an artist, especially nowadays when we have access to the art of so many gifted people as soon as they create it. I'm currently working hard on my own side project, a tool for developing an artists' anatomy skills that hasn't really been seen before. Hopefully I will be able to share it soon.

Marvel periodically has living legends like Howard Chaykin and Walt Simonson meet with up-and-coming artists to share some of their knowledge. As you just mention, you participated in one of those recent sessions. Care to divulge what that was like and some of the lessons you learned?

It was fantastic. The three days inside in Marvel HQ will have served me better than my entire previous education. Not only was I learning from two of the greats, in Howard and Walt, but I got to see the other artists attending the workshop in action. Howard led the three days and they really put us through our storytelling paces. Each day we would tackle a five-page script, and it was amazing to see how each artist approached it differently. All of us left the workshop feeling extremely energized and inspired. It made me crave for the days of the bull pen where everyday artists would work alongside each other.

What’s the best part of working on Spider-Man 2099?

It's two-fold for me: the amazing costume, and reading Peter David's dialogue. I regularly crack up laughing when reading the scripts.

Any questions you’d like to ask the Spider-Man 2099 fans reading this interview?

No questions really, just to let them know that they can easily contact me on Twitter at @willsliney if they have any questions for me.

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