HE IS the British artist whose stylised superheroes are swinging from the walls of Disney’s first-ever Marvel hotel – yet he almost dismissed the commission as spam.
Liam Brazier, already a hot property after his Star Wars series of pictures had taken the internet by storm, was sitting in his London flat when an email dropped into his inbox.
It was from Caroline May, creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering, and the woman charged with the transformation of Hotel New York at the entertainment giant’s Disneyland Paris.
“Immediately my first thought was ‘Oh, spam!’” he confesses. “Luckily, I read on and probably hurriedly replied with far too many exclamation points.
“After that initial email and a few calls, she laid out the hotel transformation for me and the exciting concept of bringing Marvel to the Paris park.
“They were reaching out to artists like me to pay tribute to the 2D origins of these iconic characters. They wanted comicbook art but they also wanted new visions of the characters, new ways of looking at them. They really wanted to stretch artists.
“That was exciting to me.”
In fact, Liam was the first artist invited to work on the four-year project, which reached its completion this week with the opening of Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel.
Some of his older Marvel art was used in the initial mock-ups and CGI images of what the hotel might look like, and he has since contributed five exclusive pieces for the super suites.
His Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Captain America, The Hulk and Thor have been chosen as signature pieces in a 350-item collection including no fewer than 50 never-before-seen exclusives.
“It’s impossible not to be a fan of Marvel, especially in more recent years with the explosion of the MCU films and now the Disney+ shows,” says Liam, who admits it’s been a bucket list dream.
“My first illustration commission was drawing comicbook characters for my friends in the school playground for 10p or a bag of crisps!”
His love of comic book illustration began, he recalls, when he was around 10 years old and he had drawn the Ghostbusters logo during a rain-soaked school lunchtime.
“An obviously enamoured (or utterly bored) girl offered to finish colouring it in so I could watch the Transformers animated movie being shown in the hall,” he remembers.
“Although I was entirely polite about it at the time she did, in fact, ruin the picture despite her best efforts.
“I also have very vivid memories of sitting with my cousin with stacks of comics in the 1990s with these crazy vibrant colours and I can’t help but think that’s what inspired me.
“There’s a little cult cinema off Leicester Square that hosts all-night marathons and we braved all the Phase 1 movies back to back after The Avengers came out.
“My flat is full of comics and memorabilia so yes, you could say, I’m a fan!”
After completing a National Diploma in General Art & Design at Southend College of Art and Design, Liam specialised in illustration and completed a BA at the Kent Institute of Art and Design.
He has never looked back. As well as Disney, his portfolio includes a stellar cast of clients ranging from John Carpenter to Casio, and from the BBC to Queens Of The Stone Age. He’s even worked for the French team at the Tour de France.
His work has been seen and exhibited all over the globe, with Disney just the latest commission, although the Marvel request has been one of those closest to his fanboy heart.
“Spider-Man is always a very cool character to draw,” he says. “He’s so athletic and dynamic and my work is generally about shapes and angles, so that was really key for me to try to capture.
“It also allowed me to show off some of that New York skyline, which is very key to the hotel and tied so closely to the character of Spider-Man himself.
“It’s all about trying to capture something iconic that sums up the Marvel heroes somehow. They all have this immense power. There are things like Captain America’s determination or Hulk’s rage.
“Then there are links to the backstory like the city in Spider-Man, and the planes that I drew flanking Captain Marvel for one of the Presidential Suites.
“It’s all that stuff balanced with my method of working, which is drawing one shape and then building it up like a massive puzzle, then throwing as much colour as I can at the piece!”
When he first started out, Liam would painstakingly cut each shape out with a scalpel, using different coloured papers to construct a final piece. Today, he does it digitally, drawing and colouring his shapes in software.
“I am also a fan of strong saturated colours, often using them to suggest depth. Overall each piece becomes a giant puzzle I create, and piece together, and see complete as a work,” he explains.
“It’s absolutely incredibly exciting that guests at the hotel are going to be immersed in my artwork. I’m a fan first and foremost, and a Disney kid at heart. This has been a bucket list thing for me.
“There’s an immense amount of Marvel artwork in display. It may be a hotel first and foremost but it’s also an art gallery, and it’s a huge privilege and incredibly humbling to be included among these artists. I’m gutted that I haven’t been able to visit in person yet.”
With over 350 pieces of artwork on display spanning both comics and movies, more than 110 artists from Europe and beyond have been involved in the transformation.
As the MCU develops so, too, will the collection, adding new character pieces as they are introduced in the comics and films.
Artwork runs from the lobby, through all the public rooms – even the elevators – along the corridors and in to the 471 Superior Rooms, 65 Empire State Club rooms and 25 Suites.
There’s also a space dedicated to limited run art exhibitions. The Jack Kirby Legacy Gallery also houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to Kirby himself with 21 of his comicbook covers.
Guests eager to learn more about the stories behind the artwork displayed in the hotel lobby and Jack Kirby Legacy Gallery are invited to call upon Art Guardians, a selection of specially trained Cast Members with expert art knowledge.
The hotel offers a Manhattan-style, four-star service, including food and beverage menus inspired by New York specialties and a full range of Marvel-themed meals and drinks.
When he is not working Liam can be found enjoying life with his wife and cats, or looking into the middle-distance thinking about Star Wars, for which he also has a lifelong love.
Which character would he like to share a weekend with? “The Hulk,” he smiles. “Because they’d have to give me a bigger room!