Marvel seem to be making a proper investment in their female characters in 2013, with a number of new books launching and several of their more prominent female characters getting a boost in profile. Of their many comics featuring female characters, though, one of the most anticipated is Fearless Defenders, in which an all-female team of heroes will be pitted against a threat to the world. And in perhaps the most interesting move, writer Cullen Bunn and artist Will Sliney will start with only two members on that team – the rest will join as the series progresses, leaving readers guessing as to who might join next – and when.
Very kindly, Will has agreed to profile each new member as they do join, explaining his process for drawing them, how their designs have been tweaked and changed, and how he personifies them as individual characters. He’ll also be sharing a look at some of his sketch designs for the characters, which are brilliant! First up is the team leader and protagonist Valkyrie.
Steve: Which ‘classic’ depictions of Valkyrie have you used as the basis for your version of the character?
Will Sliney: There was quite a bit of discussion on this actually. We pretty much went with the most recent version of the character that was best seen in Fear Itself: The Fearless. The only change to that is that I matched up the braiding of her hair similar to the way Mark was doing so on the covers. All I wanted was that Val was to wear pants but everyone on the team was of the same mind there anyway.
Steve: Valkyrie is a rather statuesque, dignified character. How do you approach her body language and posture? Do you keep in mind a specific fighting style for her?
Will: Definitely. Of the bunch I have drawn so far she is the one who has fashioned her body language from hundreds of years ago. It’s a touch regal and in stark contrast to Misty, who has much more style to her. In my mind Val is someone who would rather end a fight with one blow rather than look good in doing so. Her body language is of a type that if she walked into a room, you would know just by the way she did so that she has the grace of a powerful Goddess.
Steve: There’s a notable connection between Norse myth and Irish history – are you tempted to develop that in your design for Valkyrie?
Will: That’s a great question and yes I definitely was. We are steeped in Viking mythology here, in fact, just as I started working on Fearless Defenders, two swords were discovered in a river near me that are over a thousand years old that were more than likely lost in a Viking battle. I am fortunate enough to have seen countless burial sites, armour and decorative wear from all periods of Viking history.
With Valkyrie though, she has a history herself with her look that is too important to change, however, even in the first few pages of this first issue I had to design some artefacts from Norse mythology so its safe to say that itch has been scratched.
Click the image for a larger look at Will’s sketch!
Steve: Do you prefer with a character like Valkyrie, who wears armour, that the armour be practical or visually entertaining? Would you rather have things seem realistic or fantastical?
Will: Both really. I think the look of an iconic leader going into battle is as important as the practicality of her outfit. In the same way that in the olden times, you should spot a king on a battlefield as he will inspire his troops, I think Superheroes fall under the same category. You should be able to tell them apart by their silhouette alone. That applied back in the golden age of comics and it still applies now.
I have a few quirks of my own. I wouldn’t put a hero in a pair of stilettos as that for me crosses that line a bit too much. Her cape has not returned either but those I don’t mind at all.
Steve: What do you think stands her apart visually as a character? What’s the most fun thing about drawing her?
Will: I think what separates her is that underneath it all, Valkyrie has a sadness to her. She’s been through hundreds of years of battle and as we found out in The Fearless she has had some real hard times, which may even get worse. On the rare occasion that she is cracking a smile, its nice to be able to see the warmth that her character has.