Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our twenty-sixth guest is a noted artist famed for his Star Wars and Star Trek artwork – Joe Corroney.
Lightsabre – Joe, welcome to Lightsabre.
JC – Thanks for having me.
Lightsabre – It’s perfectly clear to anyone who has seen your art that Star Wars isn’t just a job for you, it’s a passion. How do you feel about being invited to portray so many key Star Wars moments through your art?
JC – Every time I get a Star Wars project to illustrate I feel very, very lucky. I realize making a living doing what you love doesn’t come easy for everyone so I always feel fortunate when I get to contribute anything for the saga with my artwork. It really is a passion for me. I try to pour my heart into every project I get. There’s just not that many things that resonate with me personally and inspire me like Star Wars does.
JC – I’ve been making a living as a freelance artist drawing Star Wars since around 1996 or 1997. Before that I actually started out getting published in independent comic books and role-playing games while I was still in Art College back in 1992. But pretty much my whole life I’ve been drawing Star Wars, ever since I first saw it in the theater in 1977 when I was four years old. My parents had taken me to see the first film, probably three or four times I think during its initial release, and then my mom bought me the Marvel Comics adaptation of the movie that summer for my birthday. I used to draw the characters from the comic books and then later from movie magazines I used to collect like Starlog and such.
It was definitely three things, Star Wars, my parents and comics books that were big influences for me at an early age to end up becoming an artist. I grew up on a steady diet of comics, movies and toys that constantly fuelled my imagination. I had really supportive, loving parents too so I’m really grateful for that. I knew ever since I was about four years old that I wanted to draw Star Wars and comic books someday and they’ve been behind me the whole way.
Lightsabre – Star Wars is filled with colourful characters and situations, many of which you have drawn. Which character, situation and location attracts you the most from the six movies, or indeed the wider Expanded Universe?
JC – Darth Vader hands down is my favorite character to work with. He’s probably one of the most complex characters in the entire saga, which makes him fun to work with as a creator and he’s one of the most visually striking characters an artist could illustrate too. He works really well with my graphic style since he’s dark and is costumed in black head to toe. He’s fun to draw in the comic books too since as a visual storyteller I can allow the reader to project certain emotions onto the character by drawing him in specific angles or using the right body language. That’s one of the advantages to drawing masked characters.
I like drawing in the Classic Trilogy era too, that’s my favorite area to work in probably because two of my favorite characters are Darth Vader and Boba Fett, another visually striking character. His costume is full of awesome details that make him one of my favorites to draw. I love all three of the Prequels and the Expanded Universe too so I never turn down an opportunity to work in those areas either.
One of my favorite aspects about working in the Expanded Universe is being able to create new characters, aliens, vehicles and environments and such. A few years ago I used my friend Justin, webmaster of my official site and creator of www.WorldFamousComics.com, as the real life model for my Expanded Universe Jedi Knight character Kai Justiss. I’ve been able to work Kai into my various assignments for Star Wars Gamer, the Role-Playing game, HoloNet News and he even appeared in Jedi: Dooku from Dark Horse Comics by Jan Duursema and John Ostrander. He’s actually one of the few handful of Jedi to survive Order 66 from Episode III according to HoloNet News in Star Wars Insider#84 so that’s really cool.
Some of my favorite things to draw are the blaster fights, lightsaber battles and dog fights in space. Pretty much all of the dynamic action-oriented situations that make Star Wars so fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love drawing the quiet character moments and exploring more melodramatic scenes too but my heart always yearns for those action sequences. I’m not sure if I have a favorite location that I like to draw but anyplace with lots of aliens always makes my day. I like using the obscure background aliens and droids from the films and game sourcebooks in my artwork whenever I can since I like pleasing the hardcore fans like me out there.
I feel really blessed and try not to take it for granted because I know it could all end tomorrow. I’m just a very small part of the phenomenon as one of many, many talented artists working on the saga in comic books, magazines, games, trading cards, etc. I mean you have superior artists like Jan Duursema, Doug Wheatley, Dave Dorman, Al Williamson, Chris Trevas, David Michael Beck and so on so just following in their footsteps as part of a long tradition of amazing Star Wars illustration and comic book art is a real honor. Getting to draw for Dark Horse Comics and contributing to their line of Star Wars comic books has been the highlight of my career. Star Wars is probably the biggest franchise and multi-media phenomenon on the planet so I take every assignment I get very seriously and try to have as much fun with it as possible and hope the fans catch on to some of that love and excitement through my work too.
Lightsabre – You drew Crimson Dynamo, an Iron Man series, for Marvel. How exciting is it to also be a part of the rich and varied Marvel Universe?
JC – That was very exciting! I grew up on Marvel Comics and most of my artistic influences were artists from the Marvel stable like Mike Zeck, John Byrne, Frank Miller, John Romita Jr., Walt Simonson and so on. I hope I get the chance to eventually draw for Marvel again someday and work with some other favorite, iconic characters too. I love the gritty, more realistic, down to earth characters like Daredevil, Punisher and Spider-Man. I’m also a big time Batman fan.
Lightsabre – One of your most visually striking pieces is printed in Vader – The Ultimate Guide, an image depicting Anakin in his chamber with Padme above. What was your inspiration for this piece, showing Vader as he would appear in Empire?
JC – At Celebration III earlier this year my art director for Star Wars Insider asked me to contribute to the upcoming Vader guide project. His only request was to depict Vader in an unseen moment, like a cut scene from the films or maybe an untold Expanded Universe story. I came up with a few different ideas but the one my art director liked the most was a rough sketch of a sullen Vader in his meditation chamber while a ghostly vision of Padme hovered just above his head. I actually had him holding his helmet on his knee in the rough sketch but Lucasfilm wanted me to change it and have the helmet in the apparatus above him. I had just seen Revenge of the Sith in the theatre the week before I started submitting my sketches? for the project and I was impressed with how the film allowed the audience to sympathize with Darth Vader. Since Episode III tied the Prequels into the Classic Trilogy so well I was inspired to draw something for the project that would capture elements of both trilogies. I love Chris Trevas’ and Jan Duursema’s artwork for the Vader guide too. Those were two of the best illustrated pieces in there I thought.
Lightsabre – What were your feelings on Revenge of the Sith? Now that we know what we know about Anakin’s turn, how differently do you view the original trilogy?
JC – I loved it. I’ve seen it about five times in the theatre so far. Definitely the best and most powerful of the Prequels. It’s a slow build from Episode I to Episode III but the pay-off is so worth it. I really enjoyed Hayden Christensen’s performance and the extra layers he brought to the character of Anakin and Vader. We know now that Vader wasn’t just pure, obsessed evil like A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back had made him out to be but he’s a tragic, tortured soul who made mistakes in his life which made him even more appealing and interesting to me.
Different lines of dialogue or different scenes resonate with me now in a new way after seeing the entire saga complete. I really do picture Hayden as Darth Vader in the suit now, walking around choking Imperial officers and shaking his fist at Luke. And Obi-Wan is just way more of a powerful, complex character now in the Classic Trilogy after Ewan’s performance. He nailed the sly wit and noble dignity that Sir Alec Guinness portrayed in the character but Ewan also took the character new levels. When I see Guinness now in the Classic Trilogy I think if Luke only knew that this is the guy that dispatched Darth Maul, General Grievous and even the Chosen One himself. I would worship this guy and hang on his every word if he was my teacher!
Lightsabre – What would your ultimate Star Wars project be? Looking through your site it’s very clear that you were and still are a huge fan of the Marvel Star Wars comic, with image of Zeltrons and Nagai in your sketchbook collection.
JC – I’d really love to draw an entire series or story arc for Dark Horse Comics on Star Wars if given the opportunity. So far I’ve only drawn for them as a fill-in artist but to be able to contribute to something substantial as a multi-part story arc would be incredibly exciting for me. It would give me lots of opportunity to stretch my legs as a penciler and hopefully give readers a memorable, exciting adventure to read too.
Since I grew up on the Marvel Star Wars series I do have a certain affinity for the characters and stories from those books. A few years ago I actually provided the artwork for an article on the Marvel series aliens in Star Wars Gamer magazine so that was a fun project for me to be able to revisit those characters from my youth.
Lightsabre – Your Celebration 3 programme art and poster was a visual feast. Were you pleased with the way it came out, and how far in advance did you have the images you required to complete the work?
JC – I’m glad you enjoyed it! I was very pleased with how the artwork came out. I had a great collaboration on that project with Star Wars artist Jeff Carlisle who helped me with the colors for the poster. It was probably the most intense Star Wars illustration I ever created. It’s probably one of my favorite compositions and one of the most rewarding for me personally. I had been working on other Episode III-related projects long before the film was released to the public so I had plenty of reference on hand to work with already. I started the artwork in mid-February I believe and the convention was in the middle of April but I had to have it completed a few weeks before then to have it approved by Lucasfilm and so they could get it printed. So I really only had a little over a month to complete that artwork with Jeff. It came down to the wire for us and there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears in that artwork but it was well worth it. I really campaigned for that assignment long in advance since I knew this was going to be a huge event and a sort of home-coming for me. I was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana where they held Celebration III and my mom and other family and friends who still live there were coming to see me at the show so I really wanted to make everyone proud. I want to thank Lucasfilm and Dark Horse Comics again for the opportunities they gave me at the show to promote my work and participate with the fans in the capacity I was able to. That was an amazing experience.
JC – Always! I love talking Star Wars anytime with anyone but since I work pretty much alone as a self-employed freelance illustrator the only time I really get to let loose chatting about Star Wars is at conventions with fans and other friends who I don’t get to see very often. I relish those convention experiences and love meeting fans at shows. Most of my best and most important friendships have been made through my involvement with Star Wars so I’m really grateful for having that as a common, lifelong interest.
Lightsabre – You’ve had artwork appear all through the Star Wars universe these past few years. How swift an artist are you and what is your usual method of taking an initial idea and working it through to the completed art?
JC – I’m definitely not as fast as i like to be but the execution always depends on the project since some take longer than other and require different techniques. For example, to pencil a Star Wars comic book it takes me around five weeks, maybe six if I’m juggling other work at the same time but that’s kind of pushing it. Usually, the standard deadline is about a month or so from when I receive a script or text for an assignment like Insider or the role-playing game. For full color art I sometimes get about two weeks or so to do sketches and another week or two to crank out the final full color work if I plan it right.
Lightsabre – What lies ahead for you in the future?
JC – Always in motion the future is. Actually, I’m not sure, maybe the dark side has clouded my vision. I’d really love to draw more Star Wars comics for Dark Horse and create more full color illustrations for Lucasfilm and their licensees. I’m hoping a few of my proposals for Insider will pan out since I enjoying working with that team so much. It’s an interesting time right now since the film saga is complete and certain areas of Star Wars are in flux or in a holding pattern as the stage is being set by Lucasfilm and publishers to create new series, adventures and games. The Expanded Universe is definitely going to be taking off in a big way soon so I’m hoping there will be more opportunities for me to contribute to the saga again as an artist.
In the meantime, I just started pencilling a few projects for IDW Publishing and recently created a new cover for their Angel series. There are a few different film related projects I’m illustrating for including Zombie Prom, which is an independent horror musical feature produced by Wes Craven that will be premiering at the Sundance Film Festival soon. I’m a big time horror buff so getting to participate in that project was really exciting.
JC – It’s an impressive and informative fan site! I’ve been visiting Lightsabre for a few years now and I take notice whenever you put up a new interview so I was really honored to be contacted by you for this. I’ve seen a bunch of other Star Wars fan sites come and go over the years so I’m glad to see yours is still going strong.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question. Anakin Skywalker and Iron Man are going head-to-head in a contest to reach an orbital base. Anakin has a speeder and Iron Man his armour. Given that both aren’t adverse to playing dirty tricks, which one would get there first?
JC – It depends on which speeder Anakin is using. If it has a hyperdrive and if Artoo is on board then Iron-Man doesn’t stand a chance.
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 30th October 2005.