The creative team behind the critically-acclaimed new comic talk Hoth, tauntauns, and their love of Leia.
When Star Wars: Forces of Destiny debuted last year, the animated micro-series put the galaxy's heroines in the spotlight to show the big impact of small acts of bravery and kindness.
Now a new five-issue series from IDW Publishing is connecting directly to these small screen animated tales in a whole new media, giving Leia, Rey, and the rest a starring role in their own comic book written and illustrated by a rotating cast of talented creators.
Throughout January, we'll sit down with the forces behind the collection to get a behind-the-scenes look at each one. We couldn't wait to get our hands on the first installment, Star Wars Forces of Destiny: Leia this week. Artist Elsa Charretier and her co-writer Pierrick Colinet e-mailed with StarWars.com about putting a personal touch on her worshipfulness, finding inspiration in The Empire Strikes Back, and constantly dreaming about Hoth's snow lizards.
StarWars.com: What's your creative process like when you sat down to collaborate as co-writers on this comic? Can you walk us through how you decided to write together and how you fold ideas from both of you into the finished work?
Elsa Charretier: The idea of co-writing together came pretty naturally when we were doing the first volume of The Infinite Loop. I was drawing the interiors, and this book required so much synergy between script and art -- we used the time-travel set up to play with storytelling -- that we began to develop the scenes together. Later on, as I started working on other books, we still felt the need to collaborate and decided to stick together on the writing part!
Pierrick Colinet: We’ve been working together for a few years so by now it’s a pretty well-oiled machine. Usually, I’ll have the spark of an idea, a concept or even simply a character. From there we talk about it a lot, pulling the idea apart, developing, and making sure there’s a book there. What are the characters’ goals and needs, what or who comes in the way of said goals… It’s a lot of staring at a post-its-covered wall, really. When that step is finished, I’ll handle the first draft while Elsa will draw interior for another book, and we go back at it together to do a second draft. And a third, and a fourth... As many needed to get the voices right and make sure we/the characters get their point across.
StarWars.com: Did you have any input on what character you would focus on?
Pierrick Colinet: If I remember right, IDW approached us to ask if we’d like to work on Forces of Destiny. We didn’t know which character we’d focus on at that time, but we kind of hoped it’d be Leia. I guess the Force was with us on that one.
StarWars.com: What does Star Wars mean to you?
Pierrick Colinet: What does Star Wars mean to me? Well, I’m a writer because of Star Wars, so I guess I can say it means a lot?
Elsa Charretier: It means a lot, for many different reasons, but it’s extremely inspiring as a creator to see that it’s possible to create a universe that will go on and develop for decades, make a huge impact on the world, and literally change lives. People got married thanks to Star Wars, Star Wars babies were born, people found friends they could connect with thanks to these characters. It’s pretty incredible when you think about it.
StarWars.com: How would you describe this mini adventure in your own words? What made you decide to tackle this particular point in time in Leia's life, when the rebels are based on Hoth?
Pierrick Colinet: “The greatest teacher, failure is.” Okay, not my own words, but you get the idea. When IDW told us the story had to be on Hoth, I went back to the Empire Strikes Back script. The first line of the opening crawl, “It is a dark time for the Rebellion”, basically told us what themes we had to develop. How the Rebellion was able to rebuild after huge losses, how they have each other, but mostly, what inspires them. That makes Leia an incredible leader, her ability to inspire hope. It’s a story about courage, friendship, and being stronger together.
StarWars.com: I love that this introduces the concept of Leia interacting with the tauntauns, in part because they're such a delightful Star Wars creature creation! When you're working with a character as iconic as Leia, how do you make it your own while still making sure the characters, creatures, and other essential details are still recognizable?
Elsa Charretier: What is really enjoyable about working with Lucasfilm is that they are really open, in terms of art styles. They will allow you to bring your personal touch, your sensibility, as long as you respect key things like hairdos, costumes, and ship designs. That's also what makes Star Wars' universe so easily "cartoonable" -- the designs are so strong and so iconic that they are recognizable even if the artist's style is not realistic.
StarWars.com: The whole Forces of Destiny animated series has focused on small acts of kindness and bravery as essential building blocks of a person's character. But here we also see Leia struggle with being imperfect and her patience and hope pushed to their limits. Why was it important to you to dig into these aspects of her character?
Elsa Charretier: Characters' flaws and struggles are just as important, if not more important than their successes. No one wants to follow the journey of someone on the highway to success. You want to see the bumps in the road, you want to be able to root for them, encourage them when the stakes are high. As for her flaws, well, Leia's exceptional leadership qualities have to come with a price. She's impatient because she needs this to work and she is as hard on others as she is on herself.
Pierrick Colinet: Our idea was to focus this book on Leia’s resilience. Leia is unbreakable. Despite every possible horrible thing thrown her way, the obstacles, the challenges, she keeps going and never loses sight of the goal. But she is human and has doubts like all of us. What makes her unique is her ability to use those doubts to push through and her failures to move forward.
StarWars.com: And as a bonus, Hera, Han, and Threepio all make an appearance! How did you decide which characters to include beyond Leia herself?
Pierrick Colinet: I really couldn’t miss the chance of writing Leia and Han together, so that was a no-brainer. Ultimately, their dynamic also helped us figure out how the tauntaun could fit in. Basically, the tauntaun is pretty similar to Han and that’s precisely why Leia is having so much trouble with it -- she wants him to behave, and nothing works until, just like with Han, she has to take the tauntaun for who it is. We also needed a character to counter-balance Leia’s impatience, and Han’s cockiness, while still being strong and charismatic. Hera was perfect in that role.
Elsa Charretier: Initially, we wanted a small scene with Threepio and Artoo, but the script didn't allow it. But we did manage to have them in the hangar scene. Hoth wouldn't really be Hoth without those two!
StarWars.com: Elsa, as both writer and artist on the project, which came first for you, the text or the sketches?
Elsa Charretier: Aside from Echo base, Hoth is pretty much a frozen rock with nothing on it but tauntauns. How can we not make this issue a succession of outdoor scenes in a background that offers very little variety? We decided early on to play with the snow and its visual "nothingness," basically using it as negative space. It's a trick that is often used on illustrations and covers because it's really powerful and forces you to really think your design through. But including it in a whole story was a great challenge. So the visual idea came first, at least to me. And Pierrick was a little worried about how this would work out, but -- and that's pretty unusual for me -- it was extremely clear in my head.
Pierrick Colinet: The moment I had the concept, I asked Elsa to start sketching and figure out how best we could use Hoth. I knew the way she’d chose to handle the snow would influence how I’d approach the first draft. Some sequences were written the Marvel way -- just a short description of what should happen on the page before we rewrote the pages and dialog once Elsa had figured out the storytelling. That’s something I rarely do, but I knew that her work would only make rewrites better. That’s why I call her Princess Layout.
StarWars.com: Pierrick, can you tell us a little about your creative process?
Pierrick Colinet: My process on Star Wars is a lot different than my usual process. I do a lot of research -- characters, locations, vehicles, and ships. It’s such a vast universe that I like to know as much as possible what’s been done in books, games, and cartoons. And I listen to the movie soundtracks. Nothing beats music to get in the right mood. I love being a part of a universe and a team that’s much bigger than us, the back and forths we have with our editor at IDW or Lucasfilm’s Story Group are always productive and help us produce the best story possible. That being said, there is one downside: I dream constantly, and I mean CONSTANTLY, of tauntauns.
StarWars.com: You really perfectly captured the banter between Han and Leia in just a few short pages. ("I'm talking about the tauntaun, Han.") What were you using for inspiration? And how do you know when you have the dialogue just right for these characters?
Pierrick Colinet: Mostly, it’s watching the movies over and over again, along with the scripts. Before finding the right words, we also had to find the right pace. Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford have a way of acting together that’s like a tango with tap dancing shoes. It’s burn after burn, in the most musical way. Once we figured out how they should sound, it was a lot easier to write the dialogue. But let’s be honest, we rewrote those lines A LOT.
Elsa Charretier: Buying screenplays is a personal passion of mine. And they come in handy when it comes to dissecting characters’ language and dialog. Seeing and hearing a movie is one thing, but I always feel that reading the words helps a lot to get the feeling of a character. Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford's interpretations of the characters also have to be taken into consideration, obviously, because they brought so much to the written words. Ultimately, it's also about instinct -- we play the scenes out, and see if they work.
StarWars.com: There's a lot of pastel hues in the coloring here. Why did you decide on this color palette in particular?
Elsa Charretier: All the credit for the beautiful colors goes to Sarah Stern, who instantly got what I had in mind. To make the best use of the snow, I didn't draw panel borders -- it allows panels to bleed into each other, and the color had to reflect that. Besides that, it's all her!
StarWars.com: And when you look at the finished comic now, what are you most proud of?
Elsa Charretier: We wanted to make a book that had its own playful visual identity. Compelling storytelling that wouldn't get in the way of the story itself, but would serve it. It has its flaws and there are things I didn't quite nail as I wanted to, but I think we succeeded in making this issue a playful experience.
Pierrick Colinet: Now that the book is out, I’d say the feedback from the readers. I’ve been extremely touched by their support and enthusiasm. We tried our best to respect Star Wars' legacy and of course crafting a Leia book that would be worthy of Carrie Fisher.
Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them!