Publication Date: March 22, 2010
Yodasnews: You mentioned in our last discussion [IndianaJonesCollectors.com, 12/15/2008] that the art program in your freshman year at art college was ďparticularly roughĒ and that it motivated you to push yourself harder than ever. At what point did you realize you were going to make it through this trying period?
Joe Corroney: It really wasnít until late into my Sophomore year at the Columbus College of Art and Design when I felt like I was finally hitting my groove with my work, where I could see my ďvoiceĒ more consistently in my style and was getting over all the initial hurdles of the program there. I was much more focused and relaxed by the time I started my Junior year there.
YN: Your portfolio spans so many licenses and projects that seemingly everyone has seen your workóeven if they donít know you by name. What was the start of it all? What was your first professional assignment?
Corroney: My first published, professional work came when I was just a sophomore at CCAD. I took some of my comic book sample pages and some of my other portfolio work to Mid-Ohio Con - back when it was in Mansfield in 1992 I believe - and showed it around to different publishers there. One small press company, Sky Comics, which later became Blue Line Pro, hired me as a penciler for a comic book called ďDead KidĒ. The writers for it were Tom and Mary Bierbaum, who worked with some of my other favorite artists on Legion of Super Heroes for DC back in the day so I was really excited to be working with them. I was just really excited to be getting paid and being published drawing comics while still in college actually.
Right after that, that same year my roommate and I picked up freelance assignments doing work for the Champions Role-Playing Game for Iron Crown Enterprises. It was a super hero RPG that was a lot of fun to draw for and it gave me a lot of freedom designing characters.
I was really fortunate to get these breaks early on but I had part time jobs working at various movie theaters in the evenings and weekends throughout my years at school so that left me little free time for a social life let alone my freelance work. Some of my instructors were very understanding though and very excited for me since I was one of the few students there actually doing professional work while taking classes. Theyíd often let me work on my comic book pages during their classes and didnít seem to mind for the most part. Iím not sure if I could say the same about my Art History professors though.
All of this early work led to my first published Star Wars artwork right after I graduated college in 1996 for the Star Wars role-playing game from West End Games. I illustrated for many of their Star Wars RPG books over the next few years.
YN: We talked last time about your favorite characters to draw, butóto dateówhat stands out as your favorite contracted assignment for a publisher?
Corroney: Star Wars is my first love and my favorite license to work for. The first film [Episode IV] and the Marvel Comics adaptation was why I became an illustrator and wanted to become a comic book artist in the first place. So Iíd I have to say one of my favorite contracted assignments was getting to draw some Star Wars comics for Dark Horse Comics in 2004 to 2005. I really admired what Randy Stradley and his creators like Jan Duursema, Dave Dorman, Doug Wheatley and John Ostrander were doing with the Star Wars line over the years and was really honored and excited to be a part of thatóeven if it was only for a short time.
Another favorite project in my early career was working with Lucasfilm and the starwars.com crew to help establish the back story to Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones in early 2002. The project was called ďHolonet News.comĒ, and it was a sort of early viral marketing campaign website that offered fans clues and glimpses of what was to come in the next Star Wars movie that summer. It required a lot of artwork, but the fan anticipation for Episode II helped inspire me those late nights and long weekends. The website and the art I created for it was archived on the Episode II DVD, and Holonet News continued in Star Wars Insider where I kept illustrating for it for a few more years.
In more recent years, Iíve been really enjoying working on comic book covers for Star Trek for IDW Publishing and Farscape for BOOM! Studios. My love for these properties stems from my love of Star Wars of course and the material is all relative. Itís really fun and challenging to jump back and forth between all three properties on a regular basis and try to keep things fresh and interesting, but being a big fan first has been really helpful of course.
YN: Do you have any specific process for creating your artwork? Do you start with a pencil sketch? Any favorite music playing in the background to get the creative juices flowing?
Corroney: Usually, once I get the script or story specs from my editor or publisher, or if Iíve narrowed down the idea for one of my own concepts for an illustration assignment, I usually grab my sketchbook and start drawing. At the same time Iím gathering photo reference from my shelves, from online or on my CD-Rís. Since I work in a realistic, cinematic comic book style sometimes while Iím sketching I find the various reference that will fit nicely into the composition or sometimes itís the other way around and itís the reference that inspires me and will end up dictating the framework of the composition.
After Iíve sketched out the rough design as thumbnail drawings in my sketchbook and I have my reference nailed down I start composing and designing the layout using Photoshop. I wonít always draw everything straight from reference but thatís where my training as a cartoonist and comic book artist comes in and I can change up the poses or scenery on the fly. If itís not in the reference or if the specific shot Iím working from isnít exactly what I need then itís not hard for me to shift gears and start drawing from my own imagination more if I need to fill in holes or change things around in the final drawing.
Once the line art is done, Iíll scan the artwork into my computer and thatís where the color process begins and ends for the final art. If Iím working on a smaller illustration like a sketch card Iíll use traditional techniques for the color art like markers, watercolors, color pencils and acrylics
As far as favorite music playing in the background, itís usually everything from Nine Inch Nails to KMFDM to Zero 7 or even movie soundtracks. I like a lot of Motown and some classic rock stuff too of course. I love Yoko Kannoís music from Cowboy Bebop and the Ghost in the Shell anime series. Her music has a permanent place in my iTunes. I find that faster, heavier or more melodic music inspires me, helps me feel creative, and helps me draw faster sometimes too.
YN: What is your favorite medium with which to work?
Corroney: When it comes down to it, Iíd have to say penciling just because I really love to draw. Figure drawing is my favorite thing to doódrawing people and expressions and poses. I think thatís why I gravitated towards comic books so much early on. Itís what theyíre all about, and the medium gives me plenty of opportunity to work with those aspects in storytelling and in illustration.
YN: Are there any artists in the industry whom you consider an influence and/or inspiration to you?
Corroney: There are so many artists I look up toóitíd be really hard to list them all, but most of my favorite illustrators come from a comic book or film industry background: Drew Struzan, Ralph McQuarrie, Frank Miller, John Byrne, Bernie Wrightson, and Tim Bradstreet to name a few. I really look up to some of my artist friends too like Jan Duursema, Tom Mandrake, and Chris Trevas. I like being inspired by them and seeing the work they do.
A lot of filmmakers are big influences on my work and storytelling, especially directors like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher and James Cameron. I love Cameronís visual style when he uses extreme warm and cool lighting in his scenery to intensify action and mood. Fincherís work is incredibly atmospheric. His use of light and dark and the way he frames certain shots or moves the camera is just incredible.
YN: Have you had any celebrity encounters with the people youíve drawn that have resulted from your work?
Corroney: Definitely, one of the perks of being a Star Wars artist and also a fan over the years has been getting to meet different actors, filmmakers, crew and other artists associated with the films. One year after a really small and unsuccessful convention in New York, Jan Duursema, Justin Chung, David Prowse and I bugged out early and had a private barbeque in Janís backyard that afternoon. It was great. We spent the whole summer day and evening just chatting with Dave, getting to know him and hearing his stories about playing Darth Vader in the Star Wars films and his career in the industry. Heís an incredible storyteller actually.
Sometimes while sitting there and having casual conversation with him it would just hit me how surreal it all was. I mean this was the guy who played the character that most fascinated and terrified me as a small child when he came on board the Tantive IV in the first Star Wars movie during the opening scene. I grew up drawing Darth Vader, I was starting to make a living at it at that point and then all of a sudden there I was hanging out with him and my friends. It felt like it had all come full circle and I was on the right path. That was a really great day.
YN: Clearly you got to live out the fantasy of a great many Star Wars fans. Aside from that encounter, do you have any other favorite experiences that stand out from one of your con appearances?
Corroney: One of my favorite conventions ever was probably Celebration III in Indianapolis back in 2005. Iím from Indy originally. I was born and raised there, so going back there for that event was a sort of homecoming for me. I was also honored with doing the artwork for the official program cover and convention poster. I was doing some work for Dark Horse at the time too, so I was running around everywhere signing artwork at that show. And then there was the partying with my friends after the show every night of course. I was going a hundred miles per hour all week. I just remember feeling so incredibly exhausted on Sunday on the drive back home, but I didnít regret it because I had the time of my life.
My family in Indy came to see me at that convention, which is something they never really had the chance to do beforeÖto see me working and in my environment. They were really proud of me, and it was really special for me to share my accomplishments with them in person there.
YN: Many comic book artists have inkers or colorists that really compliment their style. John Byrne has Terry Austin. Frank Miller has Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley. Is there an inker or colorist that youíd like the opportunity to work with?
Corroney: Iím a huge fan of all those creators. John and Terryís work on X-Men was inspirational to me growing up, and Frank, Lynn and Klausís work on The Dark Knight was groundbreaking. Iíll never forget the first time I read that book. Iíd give my left arm to work with any of them.
Iím not sure if there any inkers or colorists out there I can think of that Iím dying to work with since I usually ink and color all my own work with my friend Brian Miller from Hi-Fi Color Design. We really refined our signature style over the years I believe, and I love our collaborative process. That said, Iím always open to working with other inkers, colorists and creators on projects when the opportunities arise.
YN: Do you have any plans to release a collection of your work?
Corroney: Iíve done a few convention sketchbooks. Thatís been it so far for collections of my work. Iíd love to do a real book someday though featuring my work over the years, but I kinda worry it would be a hefty task for me since so much of it work has involved properties for various licenses all over the place. It would be a legal and paperwork nightmare for me to pull off on my own if I self-published it. I would most likely need to pitch the idea to publisher or have them express interest in it to me so they could do all the heavy lifting. I just donít have the resources or time on my own to put something like that together. It feels like Iím always drawing and never looking back. Iím not complaining. I enjoy being so busy actually. Maybe sometime down the road when things slow down a bit, it would be fun and probably the right time to do a ďgreatest hitsĒÖto look back and put out a book then.
YN: What would you consider to be your dream project?
Corroney: Anything with Batman would be a dream come true. Iíve been such a huge Batman fan since I was kid and would love to do some covers for DC or draw some pages or a story for a Bat-book. Iíd love to do some more traditional super hero stuff again too. Itís how I started off in professional comics actually with Crimson Dynamo for Marvel years ago, and it would be fun to get back to that again sometime.
YN: Fill us in on some of your latest projects such as the work you contributed to Toppsí Star Wars Galaxy 5?
Corroney: I loved working on Star Wars Galaxy 5. Iíd always been a fan of Toppsí Star Wars Galaxy trading cards sets since back in college so getting to contribute to the series with Galaxy 4 was a real honor for me. Just like for the Galaxy 4 set, I got to illustrate the foil puzzle card set, and the new one commemorates The Empire Strikes Back for the 30th Anniversary this year. I also created three new base card illustrations as in-universe propaganda posters for Star Wars. Those were a break for me stylistically and were experimental pieces, but I feel really happy with how they turned out and think Brian and I pulled them off successfully. Iíve gotten a lot of good feedback on them from the fans. I also did thirty sketch cards for the series featuring various character portraits from Episode V. Doing so much artwork for one of my favorite films of all time was really great.
Iím currently illustrating brand new sketch cards for Toppsí upcoming The Empire Strikes Back 30th Anniversary Widevision trading card series. But since I said just about everything I wanted to say with Empire for the Galaxy 5 set with my foil cards and all the various character portraits, Iím just having fun drawing Boba Fett and Darth Vader on all my sketch cards for this new set. Theyíre my two favorite characters to draw and work with too, so Iím just turning this little sketch card project into a dream project for me and having a lot of fun with it.
Iím also currently handling cover chores on a new Star Trek series for IDW Publishing, and Iím the monthly cover artist for BOOM! Studiosí new Farscape series. I just wrapped up covers for a G.I. JOE series for IDW and might have some other projects in the works with them that I canít talk about yet. One project in particular Iím really excited about since Iím a big fan of the material, so Iím hoping it works out for me.
Star Wars Galaxy 6 will be coming soon from Topps too, and Iím really hoping to contribute as much artwork as possible for that new series coming up.
YN: And finally, with Celebration V on the horizon, do you have anything in store that you can share with us? A new print perhaps?
Corroney: Iím really excited for Celebration this summer. Iím planning on attending and being part of the Art Show there again pending an official invitation from Lucasfilm. I already have my new print artwork for the show planned out which commemorates the anniversary of Episode V. The artwork ties into my last Star Wars anniversary print for Episode IV: A New Hope, which debuted at Celebration IV and Celebration Europe. Iím anxious, ready to go, and hoping everything works out that I can attend. Iím really looking forward to another memorable experience with my friends and all the fans in Orlando.
YN: Thank you for your time, Joe!
For more information and artwork, visit Joe's official website at www.joecorroney.com