If you grew up in the late 90s, you probably watched Sailor Moon. If not, you at least knew who they were thanks to the infamous line in the 1998 Barenaked Ladies ‘One Week’ single: “Gotta get in tune with Sailor Moon / ’Cause that cartoon has got the boom anime babes / That make me think the wrong thing.”

One thing that was sorely missing from the most popular Magical Girl anime to hit American shores? Fighting. The Sailor Scouts did a lot of things, but physical life-and-death combat was rarely one of them. Flash forward to today. Jen Bartel and Tyler Bartel have teamed up with the burgeoning Stela Comics app to fix this previous oversight with CHAOS ARENA: CRYSTAL FIGHTERS. Why should the boys get to have all the fun with Dragonball Z and Full Metal Alchemist, and Fight Club? Girls want to beat each other up for fun and profit, too!

HitFix Harpy spoke with the creative team via email about their new project. We also got our hands on the first few pages of Issue #1!

Image Credit: Stela Comics

HITFIX HARPY: Can you tell us a little about Crystal Fighters?
JEN BARTEL: Chaos Arena: Crystal Fighters centers around a young girl named Stella, who accidentally discovers an underground magical fight club within a virtual reality game.  She has to prove herself to the club's members while navigating the new friendships and rivalries that arise.


What was the inspiration for Crystal Fighters?
JEN: We knew we wanted to create a story that was light-hearted, appealing to all ages, and drew upon the media that meant a lot to us as kids: Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, TRON, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, etc.  So we began discussing what we liked and what we felt was missing from these properties and the story evolved from there.


How much of the comic takes place in the game world vs. the real world?
JEN: Most of the story progresses within the virtual world, but we do occasionally drop back into real life to give the reader more insight into the characters that are introduced in-game.


Favorite Sailor Moon character?
JEN: Sailor Mars, no contest!
TYLER BARTEL: I love how menacing Queen Metaria looks in the manga, so either her or any of the cats.


How much fun was it to design the costumes and powers?
JEN: It was awesome to be able to design freely without any real guidelines—all the costumes sort of follow a similar design sensibility, but they are all unique, though the flip side of that is that it’s pretty challenging to keep thinking up new designs! As for the powers, the best part was sitting down and re-watching/re-playing a lot of our childhood favorites, like Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, and Final Fantasy (7 and 9 mostly) to pull inspiration from.


For the characters that DO like the “vanilla” version of Magical Girls, will you ever touch on how that’s okay, too?”
JEN: Given the short run of this initial arc (five chapters), the story stays focused on Stella's journey within the club.  With that being said, we introduce several characters briefly in later chapters who sport a more “traditional” magical girl look, because that’s totally ok too, and we’d love to expand on them in future chapters.


If you could mod any game to add in magical girls, which one would it be?
JEN: Honestly, the irony here is that I’m pretty much the worst at fighting games, but I’d love to see some classic magical girls in Super Smash Bros because I’m pretty sure they’d be highly coveted secret characters, and they’d kick major butt.

TYLER: Something really dark and gritty like Quake (laughs).  I'd love to win a deathmatch using the rules in Crystal Fighters: convert your enemies to friends using your unwavering resolve and a pure heart.


Would you ever Kickstart this as an app or game? Who do we kidnap to develop it?
JEN: We’d definitely be open to the idea under the right circumstances!! We’d love to see Crystal Fighters as an actual video game, complete with a character designer and multiplayer options!


Exactly how much of the game rules have you developed?
JEN: We have the basic structure for how the fight club operates, but they're more guidelines than they are a rigid set of mechanics.  Because the fight club operates on a clandestine server made by a group of hackers, there is a lot of potential for rule-bending as you would see in modded games.


What would you tell girls who aren’t sure if comics (or this comic) is right for them?
JEN: Although comics have traditionally been marketed at boys, the industry has made a lot of progress in creating diverse stories that appeal to all audiences.  Comics are finally maturing to the same level as mediums like TV, movies, and books, where almost anyone can find a niche they enjoy. Although Chaos Arena: Crystal Fighters centers around female characters, it’s not made just for girls—comics are for everyone, and we’d encourage anyone to give it a shot. Plus, the first chapter is free, so what is there to lose?


Below, check out the first few pages from CHAOS ARENA: CRYSTAL FIGHTER then head over to iTunes to download the Stela App for when the issue hits digital stands on May 4, 2016.

    Photo Credit: Stela Comics
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    By: Jen and Tyler Bartel


Mom. Wife. Geek. Gamer. Feminist. Writer. Sarcastic. Succinct. Donna has been writing snark for the Internet in one form or another for almost a decade. She has a lot of opinions, mostly on science-fiction, fantasy, feminism, and Sailor Moon. Follow her on Twitter (@MildlyAmused) for more of all these things.