Elsa Charretier: From Star Wars Novice, to Aphra, to Kickstarter

Elsa Charretier has become a well-known name to comic readers through her body of works on Star Wars Adventures series for IDW Publishing. In recent times, her reach has also expanded to Marvel Comics with her work on Doctor Aphra Annual #3, which is released today. She has also launched her very own Kickstarter campaign which has gone stratospheric.

Elsa was a guest alongside her regular partner in comics, Pierrick Colinet at Comics Salopia 2019 in Shrewsbury, UK over the summer. Mark Alders and I managed to talk to Elsa about being a late starter with Star Wars and her passion for Princess Leia.

We started the conversation off by asking Elsa about her first experience of the Star Wars Galaxy. “I have to admit this is going to be a little embarrassing! I didn’t start watching Star Wars until I asked to produce sample work for a pitch for Lucasfilm Publishing as they wanted a comic aimed at middle grade.”

“It was around 2 years before we go the go ahead, I assume this was down to the contracts being sorted. They didn’t keep any of the pitch samples we had submitted, but they liked our ideas and then we started to produce the new work.”

Being a late starter doesn’t seem to have had an adverse effect on Charretier’s work and in Mark’s opinion these are currently the most ‘trueStar Wars stories currently available.

“When I watched them for the first time, I asked myself ‘Why hadn’t I watched them sooner?’, I really fell hard for it, the galaxy and everything about it. It all now feels so very natural working on these characters and galaxy, and of course I have watched them many, many times now.”

Elsa then revealed the sometimes-controversial answer to a simple question on which order did she first watch the films.

“I started with A New Hope, viewed the original trilogy and then when back to the prequel trilogy. I did watch The Last Jedi before the The Force Awakens though. I love Episode 4 and 5 a lot, but Episode 4 is my favourite.”

The Forces of Destiny 5-part series was a big release to tie in with a series of Disney short cartoons and featured all female characters. So, there had to be an obvious answer as to who is her favourite character, didn’t there?

“Princess Leia has a special place for me, although I do like Rey a lot. I actually met Daisy Ridley in Chicago at Star Wars Celebration. I ran into her outside of the convention and I was like ‘Hi, I’ve been drawing you‘ all excited and she was really sweet.”

Star Wars Adventures is a series penned by many writers and artists, and the stories and themes can be as short as 4 or 5 pages. So, working on this title can be sporadic for some. The characterisation of the cast must be difficult to put across at times in such short bursts, in some areas this could lead to work being out of context, but this where the regular changeover of writers and artists helps.

“The chance to immerse yourself in this galaxy as a creator is wonderful! But at the same time there is a lot of pressure that comes with it. You have to be respectful and sure you get the characterisation right. In terms of how we do that is a lot of it down to research, to make sure we hit the right points for each character. Then from there it’s down to a gut feeling, how you feel the character and how you choose to translate it. The challenge of working on licenced character so that you must respect the character, but you also want to add bit of yourself and style in it, so there is a fine balance. Sometimes we get in wrong and Lucasfilm and IDW will say ‘This is not exactly as the characters would act’, so we correct course and go again.”

“It is a very fluid relationship and working with them is really great.”

After the success of her Star Wars work for IDW, Charretier has now started to spread her wings and dip her toes into other work. One of the latest has been working with Cavan Scott on his latest ‘Choose Your Destiny‘ books.

“I loved working with Cavan. I know we are meant to say these things, but I really mean it. I hadn’t read any of his work previously, so I was sent the script and decided to read a few pages to get the feel of it and ended up reading the whole script.

Even Though it is aimed at an audience younger than me I just love his writing. Although it is aimed at kids and young adults, his style does not dumb it down. I’m now a big fan of these books and getting the chance to do the artwork is wonderful. I’m having a blast working with him on these books.”

In such a short space of time, Charretier’s rise has been almost meteoric considering being such a late starter to Star Wars, but if all things considered, what would you she pitch as an idea for a future IDW release?

“I’ve never really thought about that, but it would probably have to be focused on Leia. I wouldn’t want to change too much from the Star Wars Adventures series, but it would have to be action packed. I love drawing action and it would have to centre of any story I created.

Leia is so fun to draw; she is smart first, her character is strong, witty and she is not afraid of anything. So, it gives me a feeling of freedom to draw her. If I could choose to be anywhere in time, I would choose to be by her side.”

We think that this is proof that you are never too young or old to start getting involved in the adventures in a galaxy far, far away! There is no doubting Elsa’s passion and enthusiasm for Princess Leia, but this is also true of the intensity you can sense that she has for Star Wars.

Her latest comic adventure is published today in the form Doctor Aphra Annual #3 from Marvel Comics. This is a big break for Charretier, and we contacted her to get her thoughts on working for a different publisher and not working with her main collaborator, Pierrick Colinet.

“In essence, it’s very similar, since publishers are tasked to uphold the Star Wars legacy and work closely with Lucasfilm. Of course, the editors differ and so does our relationship, but there isn’t much difference besides that. Pierrick and I have done most of our Star Wars work together, so it did feel a bit different, but I’m used to working with other writers as well. And I think as an artist, having regular collaborators but also discovering new writing styles is essential to keep pushing yourself and not settle into a routine. At least it is for me!”

Aphra has become a huge fan favourite with many Star Wars comic readers since her first appearance in 2015. So what does Elsa think of the rebellious Doctor?

“I do love a character with questionable moral standards, and I think it’s one of the things that have made her so popular. She’s witty, driven and is the embodiment of what we want to see more of in female characters. She’s complex, and most of all, unpredictable. You never know whether she’ll end up doing the right thing or not, and that always makes for compelling storytelling. For artists, characters like that are gold and I had an incredible time drawing her.”

The Literature Team here at Jedi News are waiting eagerly for their copies of today’s release to drop, but this week has been a busier than normal week for other reasons.

Last week, Charretier launched her very first Kickstarter campaign, with an initial target of €9000 and it reached that figure in just 5 hours. By the time she woke the next morning the total had rocketed to over €21000. So what can we expect from the artbook?

“In the artbook, in addition to a lot of Star Wars commission pieces I did these past two years, I have dedicated an entire chapter to my storytelling work on Star Wars (both Doctor Aphra Annual #3, and Forces of Destiny: Leia, which is one of the craziest pieces of storytelling I’ve ever done). I go from script to layouts, give readers tips and walk them through the entire process. And for art collectors, I have an original interior art tier on the Kickstarter – most of the pages being Star Wars work and all the original pages of the Doctor Aphra Annual #3!”

The total keeps creeping and it currently stands in excess of €33000, which sees 16 extra pages added to the book and an exclusive collaboration poster with the legendary Francesco Francavilla! If pledges reach €45000, yet another chapter will be added!

To get involved with this project, head over to Elsa’s Kickstarter page and you can pledge your interest.

The team at Jedi News would like to thank Elsa for her time and being so candid in her answers. Be sure to follow her on Twitter, Instagram and her website for sneak previews of her upcoming work and please remember to check out her Kickstarter venture.