By the Power of Astra: GWW Interviews the Team Behind Zodiac Starforce

zodiac cover1Earlier this month, Geeks with Wives had the chance to bring you an advance review of one of Dark Horse Comics’ most anticipated new titles: Zodiac Starforce. In advance of this week’s issue #1 premiere, we’re thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with the creative team behind Zodiac Starforce, Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau!

Originally developed as a webcomic by writer Kevin Panetta (The Amazing World of Gumball, Bravest Warriors, Regular Show) and artist Paulina Ganucheau (Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, TMNT: New Animated Adventures, Bravest Warriors), Zodiac Starforce is a new ongoing series focusing on a team of “retired” magical girls trying to get their ‘normal’ lives back on track after defeating the villainous Cimmeria.

Check out C.K. and J. Galette’s interview with the Zodiac Starforce team, and be sure to pick up the first issue at your local comic shop this Wednesday.

Geeks with Wives: Firstly: congratulations on the upcoming premiere of Zodiac Starforce! I have been eagerly awaiting issue one for months, and was so excited when my colleague Julian’s stellar review went up on GWW in July. Does the waiting for the first print issue get harder, or easier, the closer August 26th gets?

Paulina Ganucheau: I would say it gets harder. We’re at a week away right now and I’m pretty much losing my mind. Also, thank you!!

Kevin Panetta: I’m looking at a print copy of issue one RIGHT NOW, though, so that makes things a LITTLE easier.

PG: Oh right I forgot I had that. But I think waiting for the REST of the world to get it is still making me lose my mind.

KP: Yeah. We are both basically insane from excitement.

Geeks with Wives: I remember reading in your interview with Comics Alliance earlier this year that you two initially developed Zodiac Starforce as a webcomic. How complicated was it to move ZS from that format to a traditional print comic?

KP: We were kind of struggling with the webcomic format. It’s so different than what you can do in a 22 page comic. You need a hook at the end of each page to keep people reading, and that’s REALLY hard to do.

PG: Yeah honestly from the beginning us trying to pigeonhole this into a webcomic was the weird part. Getting this into a print format was exactly what we really wanted from the start.

Geeks with Wives: These characters might have worked in any number of genres – why transform them into a magical girl team? Kevin, what do you think it is about the genre that makes it such a compelling vehicle for storytelling?

KP: I love the themes of friendship and togetherness that run through the magical girl genre. Usually the teams all get their powers at the same time so they have this shared experience that bonds them together. It was fun to explore that and see how it would affect their friendships and other aspects of their real lives.

PG: Also I love magical girls. That had a little to do with it.

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Geeks with Wives: From the get-go, with the introduction of Astra and the glimpses at the Cadets’ history as a team, it’s clear you put a great deal of detail in crafting the team’s backstory and the foundations of their relationships. Has moving to a print comic given you some extra room to expand the mythos of the Zodiac Starforce team?

KP: Definitely! I’ll admit we were kind of winging it when we were doing the webcomic haha. We had a general story in mind, but it was very loose. Once we got the opportunity to turn it into something longer, we really fleshed out the universe a LOT.

PG: We really took it and ran too, cause it goes on for a while. We could expand on so much. The mythos gets me excited. It’s so rad.

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KP: It’s probably a little ambitious, but I have this story planned out now to about the 5 year mark haha so I hope people like it!

Geeks with Wives: The Cadets are based in Alexandria, VA. Why go with a fictional version of a real city rather than a totally fictional one? Is there a personal connection there? (And do they ever have to deal with the government, with DC so close?)

KP: I wish I had a really smart answer for this, but the truth is I used to live in Alexandria, close to an area called “Del Rey” which means “The King”. I just thought it would be cool to change it to “La Reina”, or “The Queen”. (and I don’t wanna give too much away, but the proximity of the government/military definitely plays a part in the story later on)

Geeks with Wives: The tone of this first issue reminds me a bit of second season Sailor Moon – Usagi being re-awakened by Luna after a very traumatic final battle, and struggling with being ‘stuck’ as a magical girl again. What made you want to go with exploring this ‘reluctant reunion’ dynamic with an established team, rather than starting a new team?

KP: From the very beginning we knew we didn’t want to do an origin story. It’s the way most magical girl stories start and I wasn’t sure I had much to add to that. So I decided to jump into the story two years AFTER they had their big moment of world saving glory and see how that changed their lives.

PG: And I thought that choice was mega cool. Kevin is cool.

Geeks with Wives: ZS has kind of a Madoka Magica vibe as well, a serious perspective on the strain superheroing puts on both the team and their civilian relationships. Often when we drop in on characters after their triumphant ‘final boss battles,’ we see how happily-ever-afters get shaken up, but with ZS it seems like we may see that maybe things weren’t that great before the big victory either. Will that rocky dynamic play a big part in the quest to save Emma?zodiac SF1 (640x154)

KP: For sure. Even though these girls have a bond they are still all very different people. Their earlier adventures affected them all in different ways. This first arc is very focused on Emma and how being a hero has changed her life, but as the series goes on we’ll find out more about all of their backstories.

Geeks with Wives: Kim in particular really struck me — here’s someone who can’t seem to distinguish between the relationships she had with the Cadets as a Cadet, or grasp that fighting evil together doesn’t really mean you know who someone is in their ‘normal’ identity. Will we get to see more perspectives on this from the other Cadets?

KP: Out of everybody, Kim is the one who has romanticized their past the most. She misses the camaraderie that came with being a super team and she wants that back more than anyone. She thinks the girls were all better versions of themselves when they were together. I don’t think she’s delusional or anything though hahaha. She might even be right! She just has a much more optimistic worldview than any of the other girls. A lot of Zodiac Starforce is about that team dynamic and the friendship between these girls, so as we move forward through the series, we’ll see how being a part of this group affects them all differently.

Geeks with Wives: On a lighter note: there are so many fun visual easter eggs to spot here, including a few cameos during a party scene that made me giddy. Do you both conspire together about what kinds of things you want to sneak in? Or are you still surprising each other (especially Paulina with her art)?

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PG: Mostly just surprising each other I think, haha. All the easter eggs at the party was all me and my extreme love for Sailor Moon.

KP: There are so many cameos and little easter eggs in this issue I don’t even think I know what they all are haha.

PG: There will be a quiz after the 4th issue is released.

KP: Having my magical girl knowledge compared to Paulina’s is literally my greatest fear.

PG: Cause I’m a magical girl monster with my knowledge.

ZS_promotional_mockup_Paulina_ver (428x640)
Geeks with Wives:
Paulina – what are your biggest inspirations for the ZS “aesthetic” so to speak? I see some very Jem and the Holograms hair here and there! And the costumes for the team are amazing — a really cool, modern take on traditional magical girl outfits.

PG: Everyone says that to me! The Jem and the Holograms comment. I’m happy that they do. What a property to be compared to! It’s not intentional it just comes out naturally in my style, haha. I think it was growing up with all the glorious 80s/90s anime heroines with all their flowing tresses. But on aesthetic in general, I wanted to pull away from the average frills and hyper feminine style that usually accompanies magical girls. Absolutely not saying those things are bad either. I adore all that as well. Just wanted to go at it from a different angle. Something more utilitarian. A uniform that’s easier for the girls to punch monsters into tar in.

KP: I asked to put Savi in a snapback. That’s my only contribution.

PG: But what an amazing contribution it was. She’s friggin adorable.

Geeks with Wives: What process did you both use while putting this team together – did you want to lean more on magical girl team archetypes, or lovably breakfast club-esque personalities?

KP: The girls are mostly a combination of people I know with some astrological traits mixed in. Kim is just me but a Taurus haha and the rest are based on friends from now and friends I had in high school.

PG: There’s no real mold we had set for them. Which I think is why they all work so well.

Geeks with Wives: Is there the potential to introduce more Starforce Cadets down the line? It feels like we may have a reveal coming up, but there are twelve Western Zodiac signs after all …

PG: Can you tell I’m quietly giggling right now? I’m giggling right now. There will definitely be more Cadets. I wish I could tell you what we have in store.

KP: I think some of the other signs may surprise people! That’s all I’m gonna say for now.

PG: I’m giggling louder.

Geeks with Wives: And because ‘favorite magical girl show’ may be a little overplayed, let’s close with this: what show has the best transformation sequences of all time?

KP: I’m gonna cheat a little bit here. My favorite transformation-y things are the fusion dances in Steven Universe. I absolutely love how they are dances that represent the characters relationships and they 100% blow my mind every time.

PG: That’s not cheating. That’s totally valid! Ugh Steven Universe is amazing. But Sailor Moon is still the tops for me. Sorry. I’m predictable. AND I DON’T CARE.

KP: I just can’t believe that’s only the second time you’ve mentioned Sailor Moon in this interview! And I didn’t even mention Buffy or Avatar AT ALL!

PG: Sailor Moon Sailor Moon Sailor Moon Sailor Moon. A few more for good measure.

KP: OK. Thank you. That’s better.

With a fantastic story and stunning art, Zodiac Starforce is a must-read comic for fans of the magical girl genre, or anyone who loves dynamic, slightly dysfunctional team-up titles. Read J. Galette’s advance review, grab issue #1 this week, and make sure to add Zodiac Starforce to your pull list!

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