Exclusive: ZODIAC STARFORCE creators mash together 'Sailor Moon' and 'Mean Girls'
With comics and feminism at the forefront of the industry — along with a generation of kids who grew up on “Sailor Moon” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” now functional adults with disposable income (in theory) — the time is nigh for the return of the Magical Girl™.
There is something very appealing about average girls who just also happen to transform into world-saving superheroes in their spare time. The real secret of these groups' success though is how they open up the “superhero group” dynamic. This removes the burden of the “token” female, saving The Girl™ from having to be all things to all women. You can have the ultra-feminine chick, the tomboy, the technophile, the introvert, the extrovert, the girls who span the LGBTQA spectrum. Plus, Magical Girls™ focus on female friendship and the perils of navigating the volatile teen years.
Basically, Magical Girls™ are magical.
Dark Horse Comics know this. That’s why starting August 26, a whole new generation will get to experience the struggle of balancing school and fighting evil with ZODIAC STARFORCE #1.
An elite group of teenage girls with magical powers have sworn to protect our planet against dark creatures . . . as long as they can get out of class! These high-school girls aren’t just combating math tests. They’re also battling monsters! But when an evil force infects leader Emma, she must work with her team to save herself — and the world.
HITFIX HARPY got an exclusive look at Babs Tarr’s cover for ZODIAC STARFORCE #4. We also interviewed the series creators Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau over email about what readers can expect from the first story arc and beyond!
Image Credit: Dark Horse Comics. Art by Babs Tarr.
HITFIX HARPY: Where and when did this idea first take shape?
KEVIN PANETTA: We were working on an idea for a webcomic called CADETS, and we had this TV show inside the comic called ZODIAC STARFORCE. It was like, a silly anime that existed within this world we were creating. But Cadets never really came together, so we ended up fleshing out Zodiac Starforce into a webcomic of its own!
PAULINA GANUCHEAU: Our first actual Zodiac Starforce anything was an ad for Big Planet Comics, a local comic book store. It felt more like a Hanna-Barbera version of ZS, hahah.
KEVIN: They were rock stars who solved paranormal mysteries. Like Scooby-Doo, Jem and Sailor Moon all smushed together. I always have to overdo things, though, so we started turning Zodiac Starforce into a bigger story.
PAULINA: I honestly wanted to do something bigger more anyway and I LOVE ittttt.
KEVIN: So it became a webcomic and that became a pitch and that pitch became a comic from Dark Horse!
Can you tell us a little more about the concept and the main characters?
KEVIN: Sure! Zodiac Starforce are four friends in high school with magical powers given to them by ASTRA, the Goddess of Light. They can protect the Earth from the forces of darkness. When issue one starts, though, there’s nothing left to fight. They beat all the monsters a couple years ago and now they’re just back to leading their normal-ish lives.
PAULINA: It’s not so normal though cause a huge monsters shows up out of nowhere and attacks our lead character, Emma (Gemini)!
KEVIN: And Emma is reluctant at first to get back into the monster fighting game. She’s basically the opposite of Kim (Taurus), who has been looking for an excuse to get the team back together.
PAULINA: Soon after they’re all at a party where we meet up with our other two girls Molly (Aries) and Savanna (Pisces). They’re both super cute.
KEVIN: Since the team has been apart, all these friends have drifted away from each other, so it takes some convincing from Kim to get them to work together again. Oh, and the party is full of evil mean girls.
I need to know what Mean-Girl Minions are, like, immediately.
PAULINA: They’re basically the most popular girls in high school that you feared because they could destroy you with one look, but they also have dark powers rooted in ancient evil.
KEVIN: They are terrifying.
How big of a fan of Sailor Moon are you exactly?
PAULINA: Um, so big. Maybe too big? Hahaha, naw, but I SUPER love it. It’s obviously an influence on Zodiac Starforce, but where would any magical girl anything be without the glorious musings of Naoko Takeuchi?
KEVIN: I love Sailor Moon, but my Sailor Moon levels are nothing compared to Paulina’s. I swear she has 800 Sailor Moon gifs at her disposal at all times.
PAULINA: The literal actual number is 246.
KEVIN: Is that true?!
At what point did you decide the girls should be in pants? (Bless you).
PAULINA: Not so much pants as they are shorts, but yeah! I really really love tiny skirts on magical girls too, but it’s so impractical. So why not shorts!
KEVIN: We wanted them to have their own look, too. I feel like we had some long conversations about shorts and sneakers and just their costumes in general. That’s mostly Paulina, though. My biggest design contribution was Kim’s hair haha.
PAULINA: So true. There are versions of Kim with EYES, if you can believe it.
KEVIN: If you look into Kim’s eyes, you will see the true meaning of the universe, so we covered them up.
Will there eventually be 12 girls? One for each Zodiac sign?
KEVIN: Definitely! So the main team at the beginning of the story is Gemini, Aries, Taurus and Pisces, but there is a whole world and history of Zodiac Starforce that we plan on exploring in the future.
PAULINA: I think people are really going to love the expanded universe of ZS. It’s so interesting. It makes me want to go off on tangents and draw fanart. But I guess that wouldn’t be fanart, would it…
Which member of the team do you relate to the most?
KEVIN: Kim. Kim is me. I am Kim. We both love Godzilla, MST3K, wrestling and horror movies. I want to be friends with Kim in real life haha.
PAULINA: I can vouch for that, he is definitely Kim. I relate super closely to Emma so often. We have a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses, but the more I draw and learn about these characters the more I realize a piece of me is pretty much in all of these girls.
KEVIN: Also, Paulina and Emma both have huge hair.