Elsa Charretier Recreates a Star Panel from Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four Comics
Watch the artist Elsa Charretier re-interpret one of Jack Kirby’s pages for Marvel's 'FANTASTIC FOUR ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE #1'!
When it comes to talking about her work, Elsa Charretier is every bit an expert on screen as she is on paper. With her partner Pierrick Colinet, the director of their YouTube channel, they have produced a series of videos in which they discuss the art of making comics, touching on everything from content to style and structure in sequential storytelling. When she was invited to draw a page for FANTASTIC FOUR ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE (2021) #1, Charretier found an opportunity to closely examine the work of one of the greatest masters in comics: Jack Kirby! For the project, she chose page 16 of FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL (1963) #3 and not only found what elements made the page so dynamic, but found a way to draw inspiration from Kirby and re-interpret the page in her own distinctive style.
Watch her break down the layout of a classic Jack Kirby page in a 10-minute explainer video above. Then check out both pages below, along with our exclusive interview with Elsa and Pierrick!
Do you often breakdown comic pages by other creators?
ELSA: I do! I’ve got a passion for storytelling, as you can imagine, so I embrace any occasion I can get to deep dive into other artists' work. That’s why we developed this YouTube channel in the first place. For years I’ve been trying to enrich my work by understanding the mechanics behind some of my favorite pages- I originally did that for fun, on the weekends—but I realized that dedicating more time to it would help me get a lot better, faster. We have a series of Case Studies on our channel that dissect pages by masters of the medium (David Mazzucchelli, Mike Mignola, Wes Craig, and David Aja so far) and the response from fans has been fantastic. It’s always a great pleasure to understand, and help others understand why certain pages have such a deep impact on us readers.
PIERRICK: I started this practice pretty early in my professional career. My background is in film and screenwriting, and the transition to sequential art was much harder than I thought it would be. While I was writing our first creator-owned comic, I was lucky enough to cross paths with Matt Fraction who gave me some of the best advice on comic book writing I’ve ever gotten, one of them being to reverse-engineer my favorite stories. That’s when I started dissecting just about every major comic: identifying the story beats, their number per issue, where they fall, balloon count, word count per balloon, etc. It’s an incredibly simple and efficient practice that every aspiring writer should get into the habit of doing.
Which aspects of Jack Kirby's work attracted you to this particular page?
ELSA: As I show in detail in our video, I quickly realized that Kirby’s bombastic shapes on that page (explosions, Iceman’s ramp, various layers, and rays…) could be used to my advantage. They would allow me to completely re-interpret the storytelling while still maintaining a visual connection to Kirby’s original work if I based my redraw on them. In a way, it made it much easier!
Is it fun to emulate his style and add your spin on it?
ELSA: Most definitely. I used to print out Kirby’s pencils and ink them for practice when I was starting out—this felt like an interesting extension of that exercise!
Do you prefer drawing digitally or traditionally?
ELSA: Working on paper is really where I feel more comfortable right now. Moving away from computers has been a slow process, and I still use my Cintiq to clean up pencils and correct mistakes, but the feeling of jotting ideas down in a notebook is the closest to doing things for fun rather than as a job. Somehow, the minute I pick up a stylus, it feels like (enjoyable) work.
What projects are you currently working on?
ELSA: For many months now I have been working on an unannounced creator-owned series with Tom King. I wish I could go into more details because it truly is a one-of-a-kind book. There’s nothing like it on the shelves. I feel excited when I wake up in the morning, which is really a luxury and luck I cherish every day.
PIERRICK: I inadvertently switched to working full-time on our YouTube channel. We created this channel to keep busy during the early days of the pandemic and to keep a connection with our readers while conventions were out. After a while I realized that I was having an incredible time working on those videos- it’s a craft that completely fulfills me creatively, and I can’t see myself doing anything else at this time!
Pierrick, can you tell us about your collaboration with Elsa?
PIERRICK: It’s a very intuitive process made easier by the fact that we’ve known and have been working together for a very long time. In the case of our YouTube videos, we had long talks months before we even filmed our first video. Talks about the goal of our channel (exploring the craft of sequential storytelling), about the how and why. Once we were clear on what we wanted, well, we had to practice a lot and throw away a lot of footage that wasn’t up to par with the quality we wanted for our videos. I wrote comics for a few years, but I originally came from short movies. I kind of felt like I had to put out and make this thing as beautiful and visually pleasing as possible. So I handle the whole production, directing, and editing aspect while Elsa researches, writes and delivers her own texts. We’re both very comfortable in our respective roles and I think that’s why it’s worked so well so far.
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