I recently got the opportunity of befriending Joe Corroney, a great artist known for his work on Star Wars comics. Lately, Joe’s been in the limelight for some newer ventures of his – delving into the quirky and catchy world that is True Blood. For newbies to the Truebie universe, True Blood is an award-winning television drama series on HBO, created by Alan Ball and based off of the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. It’s jumped up in popularity, owing to the originality of the series, and thanks to unaffiliated fans dominating social networks, such as Twitter’s @Sookie_BT, @WilliamTCompton, and @Eric_ofArea5. Thanks to the enormous successes of True Blood everywhere, Alan Ball and the creators of the hit series decided to dabble in the comic book industry. The result: a collection of brand-new comic books with original storylines never-before-seen in the television show or books.
Joe Corroney agreed to have a sit-down with me for an interview exclusively with Comic Booked. Here’s what he had to say about the behind-the-scenes process that led into True Blood.
Aparna: How long have you been doing comic book artwork?
Joe: I’ve been drawing for comic books professionally since about 1992. My first published comic book work was for a title called “Dead Kid” published by Knight Press, which later became Blue Line Pro. The comic was about a teenage zombie skateboarder and was written by Tom and Mary Bierbaum (who wrote for DC Comics‘ Legion of Super Heroes series!). Since then I’ve done work for other comic book publishers like Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, Moonstone and I’m currently illustrating Star Trek and True Blood for IDW Publishing and Farscape for BOOM! Studios. I’ve also illustrated for other major licenses like Star Wars, Indiana Jones and The Lord of the Rings over the years as well.
Aparna: That’s pretty impressive! How did the process of the True Blood comic books begin?
Joe: I was actually asked by IDW to produce a dynamic True Blood cover illustration for a pitch they were putting together for HBO last year. It was for a quick turnaround, I only had a weekend to knock it out for their meeting the following week but my colorist partner, Brian Miller, and I cranked out the artwork as fast as we could for them. Fortunately, everyone seemed really happy with it and once IDW acquired the license the artwork was actually used for the first issue cover of the new series. Though there was one request from HBO to switch out Sophie-Anne in my original cover art with Lafayette since she didn’t figure into this first story line I believe.
Aparna: Who is your favorite True Blood character? And which one do you like drawing the best?
Joe: My favorite character from the HBO series is probably Bill Compton. His tragic story, his rejection of his true nature and his love story with Sookie really is the foundation of the series. He got somewhat overshadowed by Eric Northman in season two, but I feel they’re really giving his character proper emphasis again so far in season three. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Eric’s duplicitous nature as a character too – and there’s so many great characters and compelling storylines on the show to get wrapped up in.
As far as my favorite to draw though, Sookie is a lot of fun and so is Jessica. I don’t get to work with strong, sexy female characters too often in my other projects so I enjoy getting to draw them whenever I can.
Aparna: I can’t wait to see more of Sookie and Jessica. How many True Blood comic covers are you going to be doing?
Joe: I’m really excited to be producing the cover art for the rest of the first series. Beyond that, all I can really say right now is that there is the possibility of doing more True Blood art if everything works out for me after I wrap up this first batch of covers.
Aparna: I seriously hope we’ll be able to see more of your work. Everything I’ve seen is gorgeous! Now, I’m a little curious. If you don’t mind… a bit on the creative process that’s behind the True Blood comics. How does it all work?
Joe: Since I’m only involved in illustrating for the covers I can only give you details on that part of the process. I can speculate on the comics though since I’ve illustrated covers and interiors for other licensed comic book projects before. I know that my editor and the writers on the series are working very closely with the producers for the HBO show in developing the story for the comic book. Once a script is written and finally approved it’s given to the artists to translate visually on the page. At that point the artwork is sent back to the publisher for approval and in this case to HBO too I’m sure. Usually once an artist receives a script he’s given about a month to draw about 22 pages of story.
As far as covers go, I’m usually given some direction by my editor as to what characters he’d like to see featured on the cover and whether he and the writers feel the cover should be story specific or not. I gather the photo reference I need for my design after doing some small, layout sketches in my sketchbook. Sometimes though it’s the specific photo reference I find that inspires and dictates the design of the cover for me. I work in Photoshop for my design process, compositing my reference into a full color design which I give to my editor for concept approval. From there, I translate my design in pencil on 11″ by 17″ inch Bristol Board. The drawing is scanned into the computer and is completed and rendered digitally in Photoshop with my collaborator Brian Miller. The final art is sent back to my editor who then sends it in to HBO for their approval. Sometimes there are revisions we are asked to do and the likenesses might need to be tweaked here and there but it’s been a really smooth, successful process and collaboration for me so far and I’ve really been enjoying it.
Aparna: What is your focus when you’re drawing the characters in specific scenes?
Joe: I have the first two seasons of the series on DVD so I’ll actually watch them or catch reruns on HBO while I’m drawing sometimes to get in the right mindset or mood. Since I’m a big fan of the show it’s not that hard for me to get really excited about starting a new illustration for the book. I also work from a lot of photo reference from the show, screenshots from the episodes, cast pictures or behind the scenes shots I can find online so that gives me the focus or direction I need too.
Aparna: How does your experience with the virtual True Blood community affect your work? That is, if it does at all.
Joe: I’m enjoying the interaction with the virtual community online a lot. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback for my True Blood art from fans through my website, www.JoeCorroney.com, or on Facebook and Twitter too. I’ve had so much positive experience sharing my Star Wars, Star Trek and comic book art with the online community for years now and the True Blood fans are just as informed and as passionate. I think they’ve really been embracing the work I’ve done they’ve seen so far for the most part. If a particular fan doesn’t like your work, or your style or the way you may have interpreted a certain character they love then they won’t pull any punches about letting you know either.
But I understand as a fan myself how passionate other fans can be and why they are so passionate too. I’ve also come to terms many years ago knowing art is relative and you can’t please everyone all the time. It’s always my intention to be as true to the characters and their stories in my artwork as I can be. I try to transport the viewer to a place that is unique, alive and colorful as it is comfortable, familiar and faithful to the source material. All I can hope for is to do the best job I can, have as much fun drawing True Blood as possible and hope it connects with the fan base in the end.
Aparna: I’m sure it will. After all, your work is simply gorgeous. Last, but not least, what’s your favorite part about working on the True Blood comics?
Joe: The best part for me comes from pleasing the huge fan I am myself when I finish drawing a cover and I feel completely satisfied with it along with pleasing the fans too. It’s great getting positive feedback for something I put my whole heart into, and with True Blood so far I feel like I’ve been doing just that. Also, it’s exciting to be a part of something so big, even just as a comic book artist, that is so well received by audiences everywhere because of its highly imaginative storytelling and incredible characters. As a storyteller myself working in comic books for many years now it’s very satisfying to me when I get to contribute to material and a series that is this great.
Other works by Joe Corroney (click for the full-size images):
You can catch Joe on Twitter @Joe_Corroney. Joe will also be at Comic Con for those attending!
A big thank you to Joe for doing this interview!