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Joe Corroney's Comics 101
Art tips and techniques and some reviews by illustrator Joe Corroney.

Current Comics 101 >> Comics 101 Archives | About Joe | Books by Joe | General Forum

COMICS 101 for 09/05/2013
TeeKay-421 Magazine #65: A Star Wars Interview
I was recently interviewed by Tim Veekhoven from the Belgian Star Wars Fan Club for issue #65 of TeeKay-421 Magazine. You can check out their website right here. I enjoyed answering his questions and talking about my Star Wars art and other projects so I hope you enjoy the following interview too (trasnlated here in English from the published Dutch presentation).

Klingons 1 Cover

Q: When did you first realize that you had the talent to become a professional artist?

Corroney: That's an interesting question. I started drawing at a very early age, younger than I can remember really, so I grew up always assuming I'd be an artist some day. I couldn't imagine being anything else because I just loved drawing all the time and comic books, cartoons and movies inspired my imagination every day. I think when I had the confidence that I knew for certain I could do this professionally was probably sometime early in college, my sophomore year. That's when I got some of my very first freelance work for a comic book publisher and a role-playing game publisher that same year. Drawing comic books was something I always wanted to do my whole life so I just went after that work once I started hitting the convention circuit early on.

Q: How and when did you first get in touch with Lucasfilm and what part had Star Wars played in your life up to that moment?

Corroney: Well, my first official, published Star Wars art work was for West End Games who published the Star Wars Role-Playing Game for Lucasfilm. I worked for West End Games for a few years from 1996 until the summer of 1998 when they declared bankruptcy and lost the license. I continued to illustrate Star Wars for Wizards of the Coast's new Star Wars RPG a few years later and eventually worked with Lucasfilm directly on some Star Wars projects soon after that.

Star Wars was always a huge influence in my life and it was the main reason I pursued illustration work with West End Games at the time. I saw Episode IV when it was released in 1977, I was only three years old at the time, going on four that Summer, but I remember the experience of seeing the movie for the first time vividly. It just felt so visceral to my young impressionable mind. I grew up with all the Kenner Star Wars toys too of course and I was collecting anything and everything Star Wars I could all the time well into high school and college. I also collected the Star Wars comics from Marvel and in those days before VHS the only way to relive the movie as a kid was to read the comics and play with the toys. I did that all the time but I was also drawing the characters and scenes from the movies using my imagination and of course the comic books as inspiration too. So Star Wars was very instrumental in my development and desire or maybe even my need to become an artist.

Q: One of your first assignments for Lucasfilm was working with West End Games. What do you remember about working for West End Games?

Corroney: It was really exciting actually and felt all too brief unfortunately. It was a real dream come true when I got the phone call from one of the editors there after they had received my portfolio samples in the mail. I remember my knees were shaking in nervousness and excitement when they asked me to illustrate for their next Star Wars book. I couldn't believe it, I felt like I really achieved something special, a lifelong dream really. I think I ended up illustrating for about eleven books for them over those few years, a few of them went unpublished due to WEG's financial problems but the experience allowed me to get my professional career going with Star Wars very early on and I'll always be grateful for that.

Q: You also created artwork for 'Wizards of the Coast'. Was there any difference between working for WEG and Wizards?

Corroney:I think the difference between WEG and Wizards was the overall professionalism and production value they brought to the Star Wars line once they acquired the license after WEG's bankruptcy. Wizards was probably five or tens times the size of a smaller publisher like WEG so they had much more resources and a bigger budget where they could really pour a lot more production value into the their books and game products. This was of course due to the huge success from their Magic: The Gathering franchise so they were able to go all out with the new Star Wars RPG. One of my favorite experiences in working with Wizards was getting to illustrate for their bi-monthly magazine, Star Wars Gamer. That was really fun and I really enjoyed the freedom my art directors and editors at Wizards game me working on my Star Wars material. And working on Star Wars Gamer magazine just about every issue led right into me getting to illustrate for Star Wars Insider magazine too.

Q: As an artist who illustrates many EU stories for Insider, how much source/EU do you read? How do you research for art, especially when depicting a new character for the first time?

Corroney: Honestly, most of my EU knowledge comes from the comic books and Wookieepedia since I only have read a handful of novels over the years. I love the EU, I'm a huge advocate for it and I always enjoy getting to play in it as a Star Wars artist but because I often work on other properties like Star Trek, True Blood, The X-Files, and so on, I just can't devote enough time and resources for keeping up with all of the great EU novels out there. I wish I had time to read more of them but I have friends at Lucasfilm and elsewhere in the Star Wars community who come to my aide when I'm needing information or reference for one of my Expanded Universe projects. I also have a ton of reference books and CD's which I refer to every time I start a new project if there's anything in particular I'm looking for or needing to illustrate.

When it comes to creating a new character for the first time, it's not that hard for me really. Star Wars is it's own special language and it has a certain feel and style which makes it unique from all other mythologies but it's a language I've pretty much been speaking my entire life already so I can usually whip up something on the fly that fits the style or theme of whatever story or illustration I'm creating.

Q: Another great project that you were involved in was 'HoloNet News' (online and in the Insider). I guess that must have been a fun project because it also had a lot of neat artwork about everyday life in the SW universe.

Corroney: Holonet News was really fun! It was a huge project. I was responsible for creating a lot of artwork for an in-universe news source designed as a viral marketing website to get hardcore fans excited for the upcoming Episode II: Attack of the Clones which was coming out that Summer in 2002. It was also my very first Star Wars project that I worked on for Lucasfilm directly and for their next huge, top secret Star Wars prequel no less. It was a very exciting time for me early on in my Star Wars career to be a part of something so huge like that.

Q: You're also a comic artist and illustrated 'Empire' comics. What do you remember about those comics?

Corroney: That was a lot of fun too. It was another dream come true getting to draw Star Wars comic books for Dark Horse, especially with stories featuring some of my favorite characters like Darth Vader and Han Solo. It was a real collaborative process with the Dark Horse team and I really enjoyed that aspect of the job working with some great editors and writers. It would be great if the opportunity came up to do more Star Wars art for Dark Horse again in the near future.

Q: What does Star Wars mean to you? What/Who do you like to draw most? Who did you not draw yet but would like to in the future?

Corroney:Star Wars means everything to me. I'm not just saying that lightly or trying to sound like a super fan. It's been a part of my every day life from such a very early age. I can't imagine a time when I wasn't drawing Star Wars let alone thinking about it, talking about it, watching it or reading it. It's pretty much part of my DNA, not just as a fan but as an artist, creator and storyteller too.

I enjoy drawing Darth Vader the most because his story to me is the most layered, tragic and compelling. There's so much drama and conflict and contrast with the character that it makes him fun to work with not just as an artist but also as a storyteller in my illustration work. I find him really fascinating as a character on so many levels.

I'm not sure if there are any Star Wars characters I haven't drawn yet, I think I've drawn them all at some point, or at least all the major and side characters I find interesting and compelling. I mean I've probably drawn thousands of sketch cards over the last ten years even and many, many of those feature just about any character you could think of from the movies, comics, novels, cartoons and elsewhere in the Expanded Universe. I suppose if there's one character I would like to work with more it would probably be Starkiller from The Force Unleashed video games. I've gotten to know Sam Witwer over the years at conventions and other events and it would be fun to work with his character more in some Star Wars story at some point. And those were some great games by LucasArts so to honor them with some more Starkiller art sometime would be pretty cool.

Q: As a SW artist you're probably often privy to classified information. Isn't it difficult sometimes to keep that info under wraps from all your friends and fellow fans?

Corroney: It's not really as hard as you think it is. Even though I'm a fan like everyone else I've been working in Star Wars professionally for many years now so I do realize the importance and the fun and excitement in keeping secrets until they're announced officially. I don't like spoilers, well not the major ones anyway, so I know how disappointing it feels when there are no surprises to be had. But even though I have access to information when I'm working on certain projects I still don't feel spoiled, I feel more lucky than anything to be a part of something special like Star Wars and knowing what it means to millions of fans all over the world. I would never ruin that. And my friends at Lucasfilm and friends who are fellow artists are sometimes working on the same projects so I get to share my excitement about certain aspects our job with them so it all works out.

Q: What can you tell us about the history of the creation of the cover of our Magazine (Shmi & Anakin)?

Corroney: The idea for this scene came from a friend of mine and it was so good I couldn't pass up the opportunity to sketch it up. Luckily Topps and Lucasfilm liked my concept a lot and I was approved to illustrate it for the Star Wars Galaxy 7 trading card series last year. There are just so many religious analogies and influences, not just from western culture but other cultures and countries as well, that underline the story of the Star Wars saga. Some are more overt than others and with this piece, The Sorrowful Pity of Darth Vader, I went the more overt route by doing my "Star Wars" version of the Piet sculpture by Michelangelo. That's the famous statue which depicts the Virgin Mary cradling her son Jesus as he lays dying in her arms after he's been removed from the cross. The Christ-like analogies between Mary and Jesus and Anakin and Shmi were pretty obvious in Episode I but I thought it would make for some compelling artwork to revisit that theme in an Episode III scene, kind of bringing the Prequel Trilogy full circle in another way with my art and playing up the religious allegory that George Lucas does well in the films too. I'm not necessary a very religious person at all but the idea for the art was too good to pass up and I thought it made for a nice companion piece to my previous artwork, The Great Remorse of Darth Vader, which I illustrated a few years earlier.

Q: Next to Star Wars, what's your favorite franchise that you have worked for or would like to work for?

Hmmm, I guess probably Star Trek would be the next best thing and I've been illustrating for that franchise almost just as long. Everything I learned while illustrating Star Wars I would take and apply to my Star Trek art and it seemed to work out for me. I do have to shift some gears mentally but stylistically I'm able to transition back and forth between the two properties pretty well.

As for other franchises or characters I would love to work with my first choice would be Batman since I've been such a huge fan since I was very little, just like with Star Wars. I also work in comic books quite a bit but most of my work usually centers around movie and TV properties. Still, it would be great to work on some Batman art or comic books for DC Comics officially eventually.

Q: If you could create the art for any book or any imaginary project about SW, what would that book or project be?

I'd love to illustrate more comic books about Darth Vader if Dark Horse were interested or illustrate a Boba Fett story. Maybe if the Boba Fett spin-off movie comes to light in the next few years I could illustrate an adaptation for it or even an original Boba Fett adventure. This is just me dreaming of course but that would be pretty spectacular.

Q: What projects are you working on right now?

I'm working on new Star Wars art for Topps' upcoming Star Wars Illustrated which is based off the A New Hope radio drama by Brian Daley. Let's see, I recently did some artwork for Disney on an upcoming Star Wars video game along with providing some artwork for the new book "The Bounty Hunter Code" which is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. I also illustrated 25 new sketch cards for Star Wars Galactic Files Series 2 trading card series from Topps. As for non Star Wars projects, I did some cover work recently for IDW Publishing's new X-Files comic book series which picks up where the TV show and the movies left off and Boom! Studios also hired me to illustrate some new covers for their Steed and Mrs. Peel comic book series based off The Avengers TV show from the 60's. Those were some really fun projects, especially because I'm a pretty big X-Files fan.

Q: How do you feel about the upcoming Star Wars movies?

I was just talking with my friend Chris Trevas about the new movies earlier this evening and we were both discussing how this is an exciting time for us in our careers as Star Wars illustrators. We're entering in the big unknown with this new movie series, new stories, new characters, new locations, the whole Star Wars universe is about to be explode wide open and to be a part of that creatively in some small way is a huge thrill and honor for lifelong fans like us. I can't wait to see what's coming up on the horizon for all of us, I know it's going to be so great!


I hope you enjoyed this week's Comics 101 and I'll see you here next time for another new feature!


<< 12/29/2011 | 09/05/2013

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board
and visit my website at www.joecorroney.com.

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