ZODIAC STARFORCE Brings Magical Girl Action & Comedy To DARK HORSE

ECCC Dark Horse covers
Credit: Dark Horse Comics
Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Hot from Emerald City Comic-Con, Dark Horse comics announced a new “Magical Teen Girl Action Comedy” miniseries, Zodiac Starforce, from creators Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganuchau (Bravest Warriors). You can check out the early versions of these colorful characters at this website.  We got an exclusive first chat with the creators about these teens who are ready to save the world…as long as they can get out of class.

Newsarama: Kevin, Paulina – Zodiac Starforce! Tell us who they are and what they do.

Kevin Panetta: They’re magical girls! They all have Zodiac-based powers and they fight evil together!

Paulina Ganucheau: Strong badass high schoolers that smash monsters into the ground with cool weapons and awesome outfits!

Nrama: Who are the members of the Zodiac Starforce, and what role does each play in the team?

Panetta: Let’s see. We’ve got Emma (Gemini). She’s the leader. Emma is a little bit of a nervous wreck, to be honest, but she’s also very strong. She loves her family and her friends and she just wants to protect them.

Ganucheau: I love Emma. Okay next we have Molly (Aries)! The muscle of the team and a total babe – although they’re all babes.

Panetta: There’s Kim (Taurus). Kim is the heart of the team. At the beginning of issue one, Zodiac Starforce is broken up and she’s the one that really wants to get the team back together. I think Kim is my favorite. She likes all the same stuff as me. Godzilla, wrestling, horror movies…

Ganucheau: Basically I’m Emma and you’re Kim.  

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Panetta: And nobody is Molly because Molly is cooler than anybody I know.

Ganucheau: She’s who everyone dreams they could be. Just ultimate cool. Okay who’s next… Savanna (Pisces)!

Panetta: Savanna is the friend that everyone can lean on. She’s kind of the mom of the team haha. She always wants to make sure everyone is okay. She also has a cool hat.

Ganucheau: Can we have hats like hers made? I need that hat.

Nrama: And tell us about Diana and her Mean-Girl army.

Panetta: Diana is the “queen bee” of La Reina High School. All of her friends are a bunch of little jerks and when the story starts they are taking mean-girl-ness to the next level.

Diana is also Molly’s worst enemy. Diana thinks she runs the school and Molly is convinced there is something much more evil going on with her.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Nrama: How did the idea for this come about?

Ganucheau: Originally, Zodiac Starforce was supposed to be a break from another much larger comic we were working on. Kevin was like, “Let’s do something fun and simple, instead!” so we threw together a teaser image for Tumblr and it got a bit more attention than we expected.  

Panetta: So we started putting up pages on Tumblr and as I wrote the script the story kept getting bigger and bigger. It got to the point where putting up a page a week wasn’t going to let us tell the story we wanted to.

Ganucheau: Yeah. It’s like we both realized, oh, this is the comic we want/need to make and it has to be awesome. This is my dream comic, by the way. No big deal. Thank you, Kevin.

Nrama: Tell us a bit about the designs and such of this universe.

Ganucheau: This is a hard question! The visual designs of Zodiac Starforce are obviously rooted heavily in the magical girl genre, but we really wanted it be more of a westernized take. More modernized lines in their costumes, bright colors, not too many frills. Utilitarian in a lot of ways, but still fun and young and feminine. They’re ready for anything and they look great.

Just doing the designs in general for Zodiac Starforce has been incredibly fun. I got to design transformation brooches, goddesses and monsters. It’s a cool job.

Nrama: What's it like working together on this?

Panetta: We’ve been working together on this for such a long time and it’s been awesome. The story of Zodiac Starforce has gone through a lot of changes along the way, but one constant has always been Paulina’s amazing art.

Her designs and colors and love of magical girls really makes Zodiac Starforce what it is.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Ganucheau: Aw man, you’re gonna make me cry! Well, ditto.

I can’t imagine working on this with another writer. Kevin’s writing is so punchy and funny. Then he really gets you when he hits the serious sides of the story. The depth is really fantastic and the more he writes these characters we developed, the more I fall in love with them.

When I got the final draft to Issue One, I was blown away. It’s really good y’all.

Nrama: What makes Dark Horse a good fit for this book?

Panetta: I think Dark Horse has really taken a chance on us. When you think of Dark Horse, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t “magical teen girl action comedy”, but they’ve been so supportive. This is my first longer comic story and my editor, Jim Gibbons, has been a godsend.

Ganucheau: Definitely. Dark Horse letting us lead the way on this new endeavor is such an honor. Also yeah, Jim is amazing.

Nrama: Describe your ideal space vehicle and/or giant robot designed for you personally.

Ganucheau: Oh man! Can I have both? Okay, no wait. I want a giant robot. A lady mech. Pink and white. With giant laser swords. And a laser canon. And we would be best friends. Hang out on giant grassy knolls together.

Panetta: Yeah. Definitely a giant robot for me, too. Basically, Jet Jaguar, but instead of his weird Jack Nicholson head he can have a Ninja Turtle head. Stock that bad boy with chips and Mexican Coke and I will just live in it forever.

Nrama: Give us the hard sell on this.

Panetta: Okay, I’m gonna G” you guys into buying this book. Do you like Sailor Moon? Do you like Buffy? Hey, me too. Let’s be friends. Please buy my comic, new friend.

Nrama: What are some other books you're currently reading and enjoying?

Ganucheau: Comics are awesome right now. I’m probably reading more monthlies now than I ever have. My favorites though are The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Spider-Gwen, Silk, Teen Dog, Batgirl, Help Us Great Warrior, etc etc ETC.

 I’m also rebuying all the new editions of the Sailor Moon manga. If you follow my twitter you know I live and breathe Sailor Moon.

Panetta: So many good comics. For monthlies, I’m loving Alex + Ada, Lumberjanes, Effigy, Ms. Marvel, Teen Dog and The UnbeatableSquirrel Girl. I’ve read some great graphic novels recently, too. Through the Woods, Beauty, and This One Summer all blew me away. Seriously, read This One Summer. It’s the best comic of my whole life.

Nrama: What's next for both of you?

Panetta: I am laser-focused on Zodiac Starforce right now. Honestly, once this first mini-series finishes I hope to do more Zodiac Starforce. I’m loving these characters and I have many more Zodiac Starforce stories to tell.

Ganucheau: Zodiac Starforce is my world right now, as well. I’m so excited for it’s future and would love to just keep on doing it. Dream project. Remember. I do have one other book in production right now too that I’m really excited about, but I can’t talk about it. SHHH!

Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?

Panetta: I just want to say thanks to everyone who supported us when we were doing the webcomic! You guys are awesome. Also, thanks to all the amazing artists doing our covers. Marguerite Sauvage’s cover is the background on my phone right now and I freak out a little bit every time I see it.

Ganucheau: Mine is too!! You’re copying me…

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