By Mike Federali
One day while going through my news feed I saw a great piece of fan art. It was The Flash with a rockabilly look. A few clicks later I found their new comic book project on France's version of Kickstarter. Lucky for me, and now you, that Elsa Charretier speaks English and was eager to talk about her project.
Mike Federali: Tell us a little bit about your book The Infinite Loop.
Elsa Charretier: The Infinite Loop is a science-fiction comic book Pierrick Colinet (the writer) and I are currently crowfunding. It will be 6 issues, and we are funding the first three as a TPB. The project launched 12 days ago, and we already got 146% of our goal!
The book tells the story of Teddy and Ano. Teddy is a young woman who lives in a faraway future where time traveling is a common thing. Her job is to correct time paradoxes and prevent their consequences. One day, one of these paradoxes takes on a human form, and a young woman named Ano appears. Teddy can't imagine being without her and decides to run away with Ano.
This story sprang up with the desire to express ourselves about inequalities towards same sex couples. To give our point of view on the struggle to blossom when you are forbidden to love freely, and the adversity you must face.
Pretty early in the development we felt that this book would benefit from crowdfunding. For the main reasons: first of all, we'd need a complete artistic freedom on this. We need to be able to fully express ourselves and create a book closely to our readers. And second of all, community spirit in comics is so strong that crowdfunding felt very natural. More than that, and because it's an activist project, it's important that people share with us and with each other.
EC: Pierrick and I have known each other for a long time, and we used to work in the entertainment industry (I was an actress and he was a writer). But we both felt like we were going in the wrong direction. I was feeling miserable and I know I had to make big changes. I've always been interested in art, but couldn't find the right media to express myself. And I think Pierrick was feeling the same. Around that same time, he discovered comics and starting to work on a story, on his own. Until he met Charlie Adlard at a convention in France. Charlie didn't have much time to chat but he gave him his email. Pierrick emailed him, without much hope… But a few weeks later, Charlie got back to him, and said he'd be in France in a couple of weeks and that he'd love to have a look at his project.
It was only Pierrick at this time, he didn't have a project! No artist, not pages done, just a plot. And so, he asked me – me, who had never drawn, me, who didn't really know comics yet- "Do you think you can learn how to draw in two weeks ?". I had nothing to lose so I said yes ! I thought that, at the worst, Charlie would just laugh at us! And laugh, he certainly did not. Although the pages looked terrible, he took almost an hour with us, explaining how I could improve the pages, how to learn anatomy, how to properly tell a story…
That day, Pierrick and I sealed our new destiny: comic books! We've been working as a duo so far, and The Infinite Loop is our third book.
So really, it was Charlie that gave us the push. We exchanged weekly emails during the process of our first book, and he even wrote the preface.
MF: People can donate on Ulule. A French Kickstarter or "Indie-HoHo" if you will. What does Ulule mean?
EC: Ulule's logo is an owl, and in french "Hululer" it actually the sound an owl makes. I guess they took out the H so that everyone can know how to say it ;)
MF: What is your goal for the book?
EC: We reached our main goal, 5000€ ($7000), in just 6 days, so now we know we can publish the book, which is, in itself, amazing. We are now very close to reaching our 7500€ ($11300) stretch goal, which will allow us to add 16 pages to the book, and have Stéphanie Hans (Marvel, Boom, Dark Horse) for our cover. Which is also amazing ! We adore her work and we feel really honored that she will join us on this project. We still have 32 days to go, so there's still time for other strech goals. The next one will probably include an english translation. The ultimate goal for this book is to submit it to the american market.
MF: Can Americans pledge?
EC: Yes, they can ! Although the book will be in french (at least for now!). But we already got American readers who backed us, for the art, and to support us. And the bigger the success, the most likely we'll be to get picked up by an American publisher.
MF : Who are your favorite French artists and American artists?
EC: There are very few comic book artists in France – of American type comics I mean- it's still a growing industry here. But on the top of my head, I'd say Gérald Parel. His mastery of light is brilliant and he is a fantastic character designer. His art style is very different from what I usually love, but there's just something to it. It's sensual, smooth, and very powerful.
As for American artists, well, Bruce Timm and his work on Batman: The Animated Series had a huge impact on me when I was a kid. And I know it still does.
MF: What is the most popular book in France right now?
EC : Definitely The Walking Dead. And I'm not just saying it because of Charlie! They are everywhere!
MF: How long have you been an artist?
EC: Since three years ago, when Pierrick asked me to join him.
MF: The preview images I have seen are wonderful. Who are your biggest influences?
EC: My style used to be a lot more realistic. But a few months ago, I realized I needed to get back to pure lines, energy, and dynamism. That's actually what I've always loved, as a reader : clean linework, "animation-like". I love artists such as Sean Galloway with strong designing skills, Ryan Ottley and his fantastic shapes, and a lot of others!
MF: Tell us about your work with Image.
EC: It happened very naturally. Fabrice Sapolsky, who is french and co-created Spider-Man Noir, had just got his new series picked up by Image. And he wanted to give French artists a chance to get published in the US, by working on 2 bonus pages. A different artist for every issue. When he asked me, I was thrilled. I've been wanting to work with Image comics for a long time, and this was definitelly a great opportunity. Although it's only 2 pages, it's still a dream come true!
MF: You are crowd funding the book. What is your favorite reward you are offering backers?
EC: I like the fact that for 15 euros (shipping included) people gets to read our story and discover our characters. Since getting our book out there is our main goal, I'd say it's my favorite reward.
But I must also admit that the 450€ reward (1 book and an 16.5 X 23.3 commission with 6 characters+background) is special to me. I started to work on big pieces earlier this year, and I really love it. I get to draw big epic super heroes scenes ! The latest I did was a Green Lantern one. So fun to do!
MF: What advice would you give to comic creators looking to crowd source their projects?
EC: First, plan ahead ! Give yourself the time to build your project thoroughly. Do not rush yourself. Read everything you can find on crowdfunding, and try to apply it to your project. We read advice for three whole days before we could understand what we were getting ourselves into.
Second, attractive content and rewards: Tee shirt and badges are fine, but if you can find rewards that are really exclusive, and appealing, that's where you can make a difference. We'd always ask ourselves: Would someone actually buy this, if it wasn't for the crowfunding campaign ? That's why we went for quality prints, exclusive behind the scenes sketchbooks, exclusive deluxe editions…
There are of course lots of other things that will make your project a success, but those two are the key if you ask me.
There are fantastic websites on the internet that give great advice. My main source was this website. Jamey Steigmaier has succesfully run a few kickstarter campaigns and wrote an entire blog about it.
MF: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. Good Luck with the project!
EC: Thank very much Mike for taking an interest in our project and allowing us to present it to american readers
You can find The Infinite Loop's Kickstarter page here.
Mike Federali is a comic book writer, convention organizer and podcast host. Got a creator owned book you'd like to suggest ? Reach him on Twitter @mikefederali