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SWORDS & FOOTBALL: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOE CORALLO

Fresh from Emerald City Comic Con, Comic Book Yeti contributor Alex Breen corresponded on the convention floor with Joe Corallo, writer of King Arthur & the Knights of Justice, to discuss his creative influences, along with his approach to writing dialogue and advice on breaking into the comics industry.


Pre-Order Issue One of King Arthur & the Knights of Justice HERE.

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Okay, I'm joined by writer Joe Corallo. Joe, thank you for joining me today.



JOE CORALLO: Thank you for wanting me to join.



CBY: Yeah, you provided the venue for this, so I appreciate it. (Laughs)



JC: (Laughs) Fair.



CBY: The first question I've been asking everyone for this show is when were you first introduced to comics?



JC: I was first introduced to comics directly at a friend of mine's birthday party when we were in third grade. He was giving party favors or whatever, to the different guests, tailored to the different kids. And one of his friends got a Sonic the Hedgehog comic book, and I was like, "I love Sonic. There's comics? There's more to the story of this?" Because I enjoyed the games and also the two different cartoons (in particular, the one that was based more on the Archie Comics). So I was like, "Oh, this is really interesting."


And I got into it from there. The next time I was at a Kmart with my mom, Sonic Number 28 came out, or that was the one that Kmart was selling at the time. And I picked that up, and I went back and did a lot of back issue diving, having my parents drive me around all these different shops on Long Island for back issues of Sonic the Hedgehog comics, to start filling that out. And that's really what got me into comics in that way.


"...dialogue is very important, not just what's being said, but what's not being said, because it's also important what characters don't say. And understanding that, having to look at it and make those sort of decisions."

CBY: Were there any particular creators or stories that you would say most influenced your style as a writer?



JC: Oh, it's always tough, but James Robinson in particular on Starman - it's one of my absolute favorites. I feel like if you ever want to write a superhero comic or these sort of serialized long-form epics, it should be absolutely required, because he does it perfectly, or about as perfectly as anyone can do it. So that definitely informs it. This idea of making interesting characters, having this reverence for continuity, and this interest in history, and building up a story. That's something that's really stayed with me.


I think Peter David's another one who, especially the X-Factor investigation stuff, but I've also read The Hulk, and his first run at X-Factor, and all that. But again, very similar, this really long run. People like Jim Shooter, Paul Levitz, on Legion of Superheroes, what they were able to build with that. I could probably go on forever, so I guess I'll stop there.



CBY: That's a good amount. How would you describe your current process as a comic book writer?



JC: My current process, the way I handle everything for the most part is coming up with the brainstorming or the breakdowns of an idea. And then once I get it ready, I always do a very thorough outline that works into page breakdowns, so I describe what happens on every page. And from there, I take those page breakdowns and then come up with the panel breakdowns, and then I dialogue it out. So I more or less write in order. If there's a particular scene or sequence that's going to be a little more difficult, I might do the panel breakdowns and then go back later to dialogue it out, because some things require more research than others, to get it exactly where I want it. But that's more or less how I do it.



CBY: Is the dialoguing usually more difficult than the paneling for you, or is that just project-dependent?


JC: It's project-dependent, so it really depends, because I think dialogue is very important, not just what's being said, but what's not being said, because it's also important what characters don't say. And understanding that, having to look at it and make those sort of decisions, "Would someone say this?" I mean, it's easy to get into your head with some of that stuff in terms of like, "Oh, is this person just sounding like everybody else? Am I writing multiple characters that are just the same character, or is what I'm doing just people, how they normally talk?"

Not all dialogue is supposed to be flashy. It's okay to just have people talk like people. And I think sometimes you can kind of get lost in that, being like, "Oh, is this engaging enough? Is this interesting enough? Does this have to be more fun?" Or sometimes it's like, "Just have people talk, it's okay."



CBY: Agreed. So for the book that we talked about going into this interview, King Arthur and the Knights of Justice, now, I'll admit I wasn't familiar with the animated series prior to this. So I suppose my first question is were you familiar with that property going into this project?



JC: Yes. It's really funny, actually, because I remember a conversation with Chas of Mad Cave fame - editor and letterer there - a couple of Baltimore Comic Cons ago, we were talking about different potential projects coming up, and he had asked me like, "Oh, did you ever see or are familiar with Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders?" And I said, "You know, I didn't watch that one, but I used to watch King Arthur and the Knights of Justice." So I had said that without knowing that they had that license and what they were going to do. That sort of set things up, and I was able to keep the conversation going, and we were able to make it happen.



CBY: For people like me who aren't as familiar with that property, how would you describe the comic version of that?



JC: This is very close to the cartoon in a lot of ways, while also being different. You don't have to have watched the cartoon, although you can, I believe. It's on Peacock, and the first season I think is also on Tubi. So especially if you have Tubi, very accessible, it's just a free streaming service. So you get, like, the first 13 episodes there. But we establish all the characters, the lore, everything that happened. Changes to the comic are mostly done in a way that's designed to be more of a self-contained story in a graphic novel format and not designed to be an ongoing syndicated cartoon, where you set up other pieces to stretch out the story. Because in the cartoon, they had to get these different keys for each of the knights so they could get back home, which is a great plot device for when you're looking to do a lot of episodes of a cartoon. It's not conducive to telling a story in, like, 124 pages.


So we made adjustments there. I worked directly with Lauren, my editor, and then she was the one in touch with the licenser. But we were able to put this together in a way that the licenser was happy, and Mad Cave was happy. So as a result, I too was happy. But to kind of answer your actual question, this is a story about, basically, Queen Morgana has defeated King Arthur and his Knights of Justice, which is the Knights of the Round Table, for people who might not be completely familiar with this. And then it's up to Merlin to find a placeholder, basically, like a new King Arthur and Knights of Justice to help him defeat Morgana and restore the original King Arthur and his knights, and save Camelot from the impending disaster that would be Queen Morgana. And in doing so, he ends up going to more or less present day, to find 12 men who can work as one to then help him in Camelot.



CBY: When you're plotting out an OGN, how do you break that up in comparison to a monthly comic?



JC:  Well, with this, which has been nice, the way deadlines sort of worked is, I had to do the page breakdowns for the whole thing beforehand, but then we more or less treated the deadlines for the script like it was a monthly comic, having to get in anywhere from 20 to 24 pages a month, so break it up that way. So it ended up working out perfectly. It was doing an OGN in a way that, work-wise, felt very similar to doing a monthly comic.


CBY: How would you describe your collaborative process with artist Gaia Cardinali?



JC: Oh, Gaia was great. It was very easy to work with her. There were really only a couple of panels where we had to figure out, "Oh, what are we going to do?" But for 124 pages, that's absolutely nothing. I mean, she did a fantastic job with the designs out of the gate. There was very little in terms of notes. We really kept all the designs very close to the show. And yeah, I mean, she did a great job with a lot of the dynamic action. I tried to have as much action happening in this comic as possible, and I think she delivered on a lot of that sort of kinetic energy for that.



CBY: Absolutely. Especially, this is more of a side note, but even the football sequences I thought were really impressive for a comic. I could see that being very difficult to convey. But that was, and I know that's not the main selling point for a King Arthur comic, but I thought that was really impressive.



JC: No, absolutely. I mean it's such a... Overall, it's a smaller part of the show, but we still wanted to make sure we had a couple of sequences of it to really hammer home that's where they're from and what they were doing.



CBY: Exactly. So when will the comic be available for people to pick up?



JC: They'll be out on April 24th. You could already pre-order it through Maverick's website, could also pre-order it through Amazon and other similar services.


CBY: Excellent. And if people enjoy that comic, what other comics of yours should they track down?


JC: Well, if they like that, just in terms of other comics I've done, I mean, I'm still very proud of Becstar. I'd love people to check that out. Dahlia in the Dark, too. I think King Arthur and Becstar are probably a little closer, because Dahlia is a bit of a darker, noirish kind of story. But no, I mean, ideally, they'll buy it all.


I mean, a lot of the other stuff I've done has been a little more for more mature readers, but I think Becstar would be, in particular, something good for people that maybe like this and want another sort of story with some fantasy elements and all that.


CBY: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring creatives in the comics field, what would you say?


JC: You never stop breaking in. You always have to break in, and your next project is to break in. There's no stopping with that, you have to just keep going, you have to keep understanding that. If you get complacent, it's not conducive to a career in comics. If your goal is to have a career, you're constantly trying to break in. And I think approaching it with that kind of hunger is going to be more helpful in the long run.


CBY: Where can people find you on social media?


JC: Well, I'm on Twitter and Blue Sky @JoeCorallo and on Instagram @CoralloJoe.


CBY: Excellent. Well, Joe, thank you so much for your time.


JC: Thank you.




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