Smash Pages Q&A: Joe Corallo

The comics writer and editor discusses his latest anthology ‘Dead Beats,’ the miniseries ‘She Said Destroy’ and more.

Joe Corallo is a comics writer and editor, who some might know for his journalism on the website ComicMix.com. He co-edited the award-winning anthology Mine! and this year saw the release of She Said Destroy, an ambitious miniseries made with artist Liana Kangas that comes out in trade next month.

This week, Dead Beats, the anthology he co-edited with Eric Palicki, arrives in stores from A Wave Blue World. A horror anthology centered around music, the book has an incredible lineup of talent including Vita Ayala, Eva Cabrera, Cameron DeOrdio, Jen Hickman, Kwanza Osajyefo and Nadia Shammas. It also features a story written by Rachel Pollack, drawn by Richard Case and lettered by John Workman, reuniting years after their acclaimed run on Doom Patrol.

To mark a year with an anthology and a series that feature the best work he’s done so far in his career, I wanted to ask Corallo about the two projects, building teams and what he’s thinking about next.

How do you describe She Said, Destroy?

It’s a fantasy that just so happens to be a space opera. It’s about the last two gods having a final confrontation in the far future and basically Final Fantasy meets Sailor Moon by way of Star Wars, which were all major influences into this particular story.

The fact that this is the last stand for the Goddess of Death and so we’re cheering for Death is something I’m sure you enjoyed.

Yeah, I enjoyed flipping that. It sparked from a conversation I had with a friend of mine, Beth, about The Wicked and The Divine. She was bringing up how the Morrigan tends to be portrayed as a two-dimensional villain when she shows up in pop culture. I find that a bit silly especially with so many things like The Sandman where Death is this much more complicated character. That was part of the driving factor. I looked over the other gods in that particular pantheon, seeing who would make the most sense to be an antagonist in a situation like this. I knew out the gate that I wanted it to be final confrontation between the last two gods and Brigid just made the most sense.

Why did Brigid make the most sense?

Because of the whole light and dark element on the surface, but in addition Brigid had more easily been co-opted into Catholicism and things like that, whereas the Morrigan never really got in and stayed on the fringes of other religions. I thought that the idea that Brigid did everything she had to do to survive and the Morrigan was more interested in serving people who worshiped her regardless was an interesting dynamic to dive into.

It’s a great concept and I’m curious about the process because how do you find and develop the characters that would work?

The process was figuring out that the Morrigan is the underdog here so its about the last group of her worshipers. And then there’s Brigid’s army which is vast, but for the purposes of the scope of this story we focus on just a few key members. You have Winona serving as a kind of avatar of the Morrigan and then Vrixton doing that for Brigid. Beyond them we have other characters like Iris who is trying to be the level headed one for the Morrigan and Captain Orak having that role serving Brigid. I wanted to have characters serving as parallels on both sides of the conflict.

As you were developing this comic, at what point did you and Liana [Kangas] start working together?

I started talking to her about this in February or March of 2018 and worked on a few character concepts. Then we started the comic in earnest in late 2018 after the contracts were signed. We only really just wrapped up, so we were seriously working on it more or less for ten months in some capacity.

When you were working on the character designs and Liana came onboard, how did that influence the writing?

I had certain visions in my head. Minimalistic costumes, but futuristic. Some of the prompts I gave Liana were I wanted something based on Turkish fashion for the Witches of Fey. The Light Knights were basically wanting a mix between a knight and a biker. Liana added a lot of her own ideas into that. We setup a Pinterest and I shared a lot of images. We were looking at a lot of classic designs for the Morrigan, but adding elements to make it cosmic – like the star cape, which was Liana’s idea. She really leaned into making sure that the Morrigan’s color scheme was cool colors, like blues and purples, and Brigid has orange hair and bright blue dress, a reflection of the sun and the sky just in her outfit.

You also have Rebecca Nalty coloring the book, and she’s really been doing some great work recently.

She’s incredible. We were so lucky to get to work with her. Shortly after she took this job she was announced on Xena at Dynamite, she was doing Glow at IDW. She’s really been raising her profile quite a bit and her pastel colors really make this book work.

The big project you have coming out this month is Dead Beats.

Dead Beats was an idea I had around Halloween last year. I had previously written a story in This Nightmare Kills Fascists that was published by A Wave Blue World. I reached out to them about this idea and Eric Palicki was available and interested. We had worked previously together. He had done a story in Mine! so we ended up partnering on this. It ran really smoothly. I couldn’t have been happier. Mine! was a larger book, about 304 while this is 168 pages, so it was a much more manageable project. We had a lot of rising stars in comics that we were able to get together for this book. There were a couple of other things I wanted to accomplish too. I wanted to do a Rachel Pollack-Richard Case reunion. I wanted John Workman involved. He had done the logo for Mine! so I reached out to see if he’d be interested in lettering that story and doing a really proper Doom Patrol reunion. He was not only interested, he went on to tell me that it reminded him of when he got to letter a reunion between Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers on Batman. That was very sweet. Getting Lisa Sterle for the cover and the interstitial pages was great too. I’ve been such a fan of hers since her comic Long Lost at Scout Comics with Matthew Erman. She hadn’t done a smaller project like this and happened to have just enough time in her schedule that she could fit this in between gigs, so we were really lucky.

For people who aren’t familiar with Dead Beats, it’s a Tales from the Crypt-like concept with a host who runs this record/music shop. All the stories have to do with music-themed horror. We had a lot of fun with it. People really knocked their stories out of the park. There’s a few stories that are surprisingly sentimental as well as a variety of genres despite the fact that it’s such a specific concept. Having this sort of Doom Patrol reunion was like an anchor around all these all other stories. The Doom Patrol live action show was coming out as the campaign was going on Kickstarter. Hopefully that helped. We reached our goal fairly quickly. Other fun things I really enjoyed doing was having the Kim & Kim team, but with Kwanza writing a story for Eva Cabrera, Claudia Aguirre and Zakk Saam this time as Mags wrote a story that, well, I don’t want to spoil it, but it both does and doesn’t break the fourth wall. It’s out there. Getting people like Sweeney Boo whose doing the Captain Marvel comic for younger readers at IDW was a big deal for me and Eric. Getting Daniel Kibblesmith was fantastic too. I’m a big fan of his. He did a great story illustrated by Rafer Roberts and lettered by Matt Krotzer. There was a lot of positive stuff behind the scenes that I hope will translate off the page and make this book feel special to our readers.

Let’s be honest, an anthology with contributions from either Rachel Pollack or Richard Case would be a big deal.

Absolutely. And John Workman, too. He’s just so sweet. John lettered that entire run from Grant’s first issue to Rachel’s last issue. I feel like he’s one of the more unsung heroes in the Doom Patrol canon. I wish he was lettering Doom Patrol now. I understand when it first came back and Todd Klein was lettering it; you don’t turn down Todd Klein lettering anything. But at the same time, it would have been nice to see DC hire John again for Doom Patrol specifically. I’m hoping having Rachel and Richard out there will get some attention and Doom Patrol has had a lot of guest artists and co-writers so if anyone at DC is listening to this, I’m sure Rachel would co-wrote an issue and I’m sure Richard would draw a fill-in issue.

Comics needs more from both of them.

We absolutely do. We need Coagula. She’s such a great character. I’d love to see her back. I’d love to see Dorothy. Rachel did amazing work with Dorothy. I don’t want to throw out too many ideas, but having Coagula and Dorothy show up in a Doom Patrol comic is something I think people would like.

You mentioned a broad range of approaches that people brought to Dead Beats. It is a very different kind of project than Mine! and I’m curious, what kind of editor are you?

With an anthology like this, people mostly had their own ideas. With Mine! there were more people who were interested, but wanted guidance. It was bigger and we wanted to touch on certain things like doing stories about all three founding members of Planned Parenthood, some of the different Presidents, some of the different services they provide. When you’re curating an anthology like Dead Beats, you kind of know who you’re getting and the kind of stories you know you’re going to get. You don’t have to do as much guidance. People basically knew what they wanted to do. In this situation people might offer a few ideas and Eric and I would say, go with that one. We got to be fairly hands off in terms of scripting and art. We didn’t have to do too much in terms of fixing up anything. People gave us some pretty solid scripts. There were little corrections needed, but for the most part, people gave us really solid stuff out the gate. Some things got changed in the lettering and design phase; there were some color corrections, but nothing drastic. Honestly there were some stories that we knew were going to work, but the difference between seeing the script and seeing the finished product was so vast that they blew our expectations out of the water.

So by the end of this year you’ll have had a big miniseries come out, you had an anthology come out, what are you thinking about next? What do you want to do next?

I have a couple of things I can’t announce yet. Liana and I are doing another project together. I am editing another series – that hasn’t been announced yet either. I’ve written some other shorts in anthologies. This year Everything Is Going Wrong came out. I have a four page story that I worked on with Liana Kangas. It’s really Liana’s story, but I came in to write it with her. The Dates: Volume 3 anthology just came out last month and I have a story in that with artist Robby Barrett. For people who aren’t familiar, it’s a queer romance anthology and the theme was adventure. I wrote a story about Japanese immigration to Brazil in the early 20th Century and a couple meeting coming over to Brazil and it’s a story I’m glad I got to tell.

With Dead Beats about to come out are you thinking, “I really want to edit another anthology,” or, this is enough for now?

I’d like to do another anthology. I’ve talked to a couple people about co-editing something. I just want to keep doing different things. I think Mine! and Dead Beats are pretty drastically different and I’d like to keep doing more anthologies that are different in tone with different kinds of stories.

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