Elsa Charretier is best-known for her work on DC's Starfire and Marvel's The Unstoppable Wasp, but she got her start with the creator-owned The Infinite Loop - and her ultimate goal is an infinite loop back into more creator-owned work... but with a few stops at the Big Two, some Star Wars stories, and adaptating a series of classic George R.R. Martin novellas.
This week, Charretier is finishing up the OGN adaptation of Martin and Lisa Tuttle's Windhaven novellas for Bantam, while balancing co-writing The Infinite Loop sequel at IDW Publishing, and co-writing/drawing part of the Star Wars: Forces of Destiny.
That sounds like a big workload, huh? Charretier would agree with you, but she took time out to talk with Newsarama about her work, her time-management, and her long-term goals in the industry.
Newsarama: Elsa, first question - what's on your drawing board right this moment?
Elsa Charretier: Chris, today I’m pencilling a couple pages from Windhaven, from the epilogue actually. It’s mostly talking heads, but the dialogue is really moving and there’s a lot to do with body language and facial expression.
Nrama: You recently finished up The Unstoppable Wasp at Marvel, and you're doing several projects - co-writing The Infinite Loop 2, writing some Star Wars stories, and also drawingthe aforementioned Windhaven for George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle. Did I miss anything?
Charretier: That’s pretty much it. I did co-write another creator-owned mini-series that should be announced very soon, but we’ve recently finished the run. We still have another issue of The Infinite Loop 2 to write, and that’ll be the end of this volume, but right now, I’m knee-deep into Star Wars. Which is the best thing ever, as you can imagine.
Nrama: How do you juggle all these projects, in a time-management sense?
Charretier: It’s a balance I’m still trying to figure out. Admittedly, I pushed myself a little too much these past few months and I’m glad to be back at a level that’s more reasonable, and that makes the creative process much more enjoyable.
But to go a bit more into depth about the management of this all : basically, when I have a script in, I know that I need about 15 days to complete it- I did do 11 days on a couple Starfire issues, because I had so much work, but I was completely wiped by the end of it.
My Google Calendar is always open and I keep a constant eye on it. So what I’ll do is take the due date for the issue, subtract two or threedays to give myself some leg room and because editors are extra happy if you turn in a day or two early, and write it down. I back up 15 days and put down my starting date. When that day comes, the project gets my full attention, I don’t let anything come in the way, otherwise I get distracted and it shows on the work. From 7:30a.m.to 5:30p.m., that’s all I do. Then I work out, and back to work at about 7p.m., and that’s when I’ll do the other stuff : layouts, cover thumbnails, interviews, emails, pack up the Etsy store orders, making sure everything’s on track for the various projects…
When that issue is finished, that still leaves me about 12 days to focus on other stuff: writing, and developing new projects, ideally. But this past couple years, with projects overlapping, I had to do two issues a month which didn’t leave a lot of time for anything else.
I’m about fivepages away from finishing Windhaven, the 217-page book that’s been following me for three years, and I’m hoping things will settle down a bit after that!
Nrama: I first came to know you from The Infinite Loop, and you're back at it. Being so in-demand for work-for-hire projects, how did you make the decision to come back to The Infinite Loop?
Charretier: Pierrick and I had been pitching new books to publishers, and the last two had been turned down (one of them ended up being picked up, but we didn’t know that back then). We were about to start developing a new one when Pierrick said “Why don’t we do another volume of The Infinite Loop?” Strangely enough, it just hadn’t crossed our minds before. I think that book was so intense to produce, and so emotionally draining that it took us some time to find the energy to get back to it. Then came the matter of who would draw it. Of course, my first instinct was to do it myself, but that was not an option because of the work for hire I had committed to. We began looking for artists and shortly thereafter, Daniele joined us on the project. We actually kept the entire Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink art team- Daniele, colorist Sarah Stern, and letterer Ed Dukeshire.
My credit on this new volume would be co-writer, which I had never done before. I was absolutely terrified I wouldn’t be able to do it. Luckily, Pierrick and I know each other very well and he helped me tremendously.
Nrama: Do you have a big picture plan for The Infinite Loop past this second volume?
Charretier: Like I said before, this book is emotionally draining, so we’ll probably take some time away from it before thinking of a new volume. But ideally, we’d like to keep that idea of stand-alone stories that allow readers to jump in whenever they want.
Nrama: You're also working with IDW on Star Wars: Forces of Destiny. What can you tellus about your story?
Charretier: Not a lot, I’m afraid, besides what was revealed on the cover. We focus on Leia, we’re on Hoth, and there’s gonna be some Tauntauns fun!
Forces of Destiny focuses on moments that shaped the female characters of Star Wars - adventures which made them who they are. That allows a lot of potential really interesting stories, and I’m absolutely thrilled we get to write Leia.
Nrama: So you’re co-writing The Infinite Loop 2 and co-writing (and drawing) Star Wars: Forces of Destiny. You mentioned before being “absolutely terrified” of writing, but obviously you’re doing it.
Charretier: I never really planned I would be writing. But after The Infinite Loop, which was such a close collaborative process with Pierrick, we missed working together. I got more and more work for hire projects, which was fantastic, but also meant that we wouldn’t be for the near future. And rather naturally, we decided to start pitching books together, as co-writers. I’m still frustrated sometimes that I don’t actually get to draw these pages, but it stretches a new muscle. It’s an incredibly hard challenge, which I think (hope!) will make me a better artist in the long run.
Nrama: And while we're talking about all of this, there is - for me at least - this big looming shadow of you drawing Windhaven. How did you get involved with this project?
Charretier: Well, that’s the most insane story. I was at my first New York Comic Con, pitching the original The Infinite Loop. I had spent what was left of my money on this trip, and it was clearly a hit or miss. I think I had something like $50 on my bank account, and absolutely zero back-up plan if this was to fail. Which tells you a little bit of where I was, mentally and emotionally speaking. Anyway, I’m out there in the Javits Center, running from one publisher’s booth to another, showing everyone the preview we had printed out, when, I get back to the table and Pierrick was all worked-up . He could barely talk and I got something like “Editor! Random House! Games of Thrones! He just left! David!”. So I rushed up the alley, basically tapping everyone on the back asking “Hi, are you David from Random House?” I was freaking out, because it felt like my one opportunity would just vanish if I didn’t catch him- which was ridiculous, I mean, he had my email…
Anyway, I finally find him and he explains that George R.R.Martin would like me to draw his latest graphic novel. Out of the blue. I was stunned, and frankly, didn’t really believe him. I went back to the table and felt something like “Someone’s pulling a terrible prank on me!” I genuinely didn’t believe him, and didn’t tell anyone until I got a contract in my inbox a couple weeks after. It was completely surreal.
Nrama: Are you adapting it yourself straight from the prose, or did someone write a script?
Charretier: Co-writer Lisa Tuttle did the adaptation herself. I exchanged a lot with her at the beginning, making sure I was translating what they had in mind when they wrote the book.
Nrama: You mentioned earlier having to do about five more pages. Will you be completely done with it then?
Charretier: Yes. Less than a week from being done! I have to thank my editor on this book, Anne Groell, who has been incredibly patient with me on that one.
Nrama: After doing issues for so long, what's it like having a 100+ pages before you can show it to the world?
Charretier: That’s a weird feeling, especially since it took me a few years to finish. I look back at the early pages, and it’s like a journal of my own career. I was less than a year in when I started drawing this book, and every page was such a struggle. I thought drawing would be hard forever. It is still hard, but I think three years later, I’m finally able to enjoy the process. I don’t have to fight the figures anymore -or less often. Drawing a good page is still hard, but in a different way, a much more enjoyable way. I’m a bit anxious for this book to come out, it feels a bit like having a big part of myself on the shelves.
Nrama: Looking past this and into the future - what are your big goals for comics?
Charretier: I’m not sure if they are big goals per say, but I do have goals.
Artistically, of course, I want to get better at my craft, and go beyond what I’ve learned so far. I want to get back to inking on paper, but not before I can learn to use a brush. That could take a while, but I’m in no rush. I would like to learn colors, not necessarily to color my own pages, but thinking in terms of colors and values can’t hurt, even if you’re not handling that part yourself. I’d like to push my storytelling further as well. There is a world of incredible books out there, an infinite library for us artists from which to learn, and there’s not enough time in the day!
Career-wise, I’m riding that creator-owned train! The entertainment industry and comics readers have opened to it a lot this part couple years, and although just a few creators can make a living exclusively off of it, it is a unequalled way to tell your stories the way you want to tell them. Creator-owned puts you in the driver’s seat, makes you accountable for the project, and I both absolutely love and hate that.
That, and of course, I’d like to keep working on Star Wars books.
Nrama: And how do you want to see the comics medium grow, change, or improve on in the future?
Charretier: Comics has done a good job at reaching out to new readers, that’s a big step. There’s still a long way to go in terms of inclusiveness, but a lot of effort has been made on that front. What I would love to see is that effort being spread out to books that don’t necessarily target a younger or female audience. Diversity on all sorts of books would be the next step. Women don’t necessarily have to draw/write exclusively female characters - just like POC creators can work on other titles than Black Panther.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for comics, for readers, and for comics creators.