Marvel artist Will Sliney has revealed how he used the real deadpan expressions of actress Aisling Bea in creating a new animated character voiced by the comedian.
He said his new RTÉ series, Storytellers — which focuses on a wise-cracking stone called Ogham, played by Bea, and a fearless young Viking mapmaker, Freya, voiced by Laura Whitmore — was the ultimate labour of love.
“I’ve never had to work so hard in my life and I’ve put in a lot of hours and time working on Spider-Man and Stars Wars, but this was a big task,” he said.
His own path into being signed up as a Marvel artist started with him taking out loans to fly to Comic-Con conventions in America every year with his portfolio of drawings.
“I did that for many years and started picking up small jobs and I was climbing the ladder. Finally I broke in with Marvel and I’ve been working with them for nine years.”
After just a year, he was given the chance to work on their iconic character, Spider-Man. He has also helped to hone the character of Kylo Ren for the new LEGO Star Wars Halloween special, Star Wars: Terrifying Tales, on Disney+, which is voiced by Christian Slater.
“I would have been hoping to get to Spidey within five or 10 years, but actually it was right on the button of my first year,” Will said.
“I was given one Spider-Man issue, which was basically trying me out, and it did really, really well. Straight away I was offered my own Spider-Man title and after that, I was consistently drawing Spider-Man for five or six years.
“The books come out as regular comics and then the people working on the animations in the likes of Marvel Studios pick their favourite storylines and put them into animation.
“One of the last books I did for Marvel was called The Rise of Kylo Ren and they liked the main character over at Disney+. He ended up being the star of a new animation that came out just a few weeks ago. It’s cool, Christian Slater voiced the latest one.
“It’s funny that came out right when I was in the thick of Storytellers, so then all of a sudden these characters from different worlds are starting to talk on the screen in front of me, which is great.
“It was lovely to see but I don’t think anything will top being able to create these characters for my own show.”
He is already getting great early feedback for Storytellers, which is part drawing show and part animated adventure.
“The seeds for the characters were sown last year during lockdown when I was out cutting the grass. In fairness to RTÉ they’ve allowed us to do a show that has never been done before.”
The series also features inspirational animated versions of presenter and writer Dawn O’Porter, WWE wrestler Stephen Farrelly, Young Offenders star Demi Isaac Oviawe and actress Suzie Seweify.
“They are all brand new creations. With Spider-Man I draw a page in black and white and it gets handed over and that’s the last thing I need to do, whereas this one, I was there from the start in creating the character right up to the final parts of it.
“It’s quite a thrill to have these down on a piece of paper and then all of a sudden you have this incredible cast lending their voices.
“One of my favourite parts of the whole process would have been hearing the lines we wrote being spoken by them and then taking them and animating them to the recordings.”
He said they particularly picked up on the facial expressions of Aisling for her character.
“Aisling is in every episode. Ogham is her character, who takes the mick out of everything I’m doing, and she ends up drawing herself into the story as it comes to life and being a bit of a hero who saves me.
“It was such a pleasure listening to her reading and acting her lines at the same time. It was very, very intimidating as it was just so good, but then it was up to us to reflect that in the animation and the illustration.
“We filmed her when she was doing the voice acting so anytime she would raise her eyebrows we would make sure Ogham’s eyebrows would raise. She has a great deadpan look, so we based Ogham’s expression on how she does things.”
Will Sliney’s ‘Storytellers’ airs daily on RTÉ 2 at 12.05pm, and will also be on the RTÉ Player