Giallo, Starsonas, And Winter Break Adventures – Talking Zodiac Starforce With Kevin Panetta

by James Ferguson

Zodiac Starforce is midway through its second series, Cries of the Fire Prince from Dark Horse Comics. The series from writer Kevin Panetta and artist Paulina Ganucheau, follows a group of young women as they protect their town from very real monsters and otherworldly threats in matching costumes. Each has a special power from the signs of the zodiac. It’s a fun, positive series that’s full of heart.

I had a chance to speak with Panetta about the comic and the fan response to it during New York Comic Con.

James Ferguson: The characters in Zodiac Starforce seem very real and authentic. Are they based on any real people you know?

Kevin Panetta: We definitely deal with archetypes to a certain extent because we use traits of the zodiac signs as a base for each of the characters, but they’re also based on people I know. [Laughs] I thought of people I know that have those characteristics and based some of the voices on them.

JF: What I loved about the first series especially is that you made a conscious effort to start the comic after the team has come together. They’ve saved the world a few times already. What went into making that decision?

KP: I think I had just seen so many origin stories. When we were working on the first one, it was when so many super hero movies were coming out and they were all origin stories. It felt like a story where everyone knows how it’s going to go. You have to do so much work to put the group together that I wasn’t sure that work was that interesting to read. We knew we wanted to jump in later, and then the idea of having them be apart, and [then for there to be] something that brings them together, seemed like a good way to do that.

JF: Mission accomplished! I like that you hit the ground running.

KP: The funniest thing that has happened with that, though, is that people will constantly ask if they missed the first series. I think that’s great. It means I did a good job.

JF: How did the design for the characters and their costumes come about? The most recent issue had them in winter gear.

KP: Paulina [Ganucheau] is the brains behind the design stuff. She’s so good with fashion. The magical girl aesthetic was part of what she did before we ever did Zodiac Starforce. She basically does the designs and we’ll talk them over a little bit, but she usually just nails it. In this one, we specifically decided to have them in winter gear because it would be cute.

JF: If they were action figures, this would be the different variations.

KP: Exactly. I wanted to set the story during winter anyway, because I thought winter break was a good way to not have to do school stuff in the series. I thought the idea of the Fire Prince and the snow as these two forces going against each other would be cool.

JF: The Fire Prince dabbles in darker territory, dealing with human sacrifice and real danger, which contrasts nicely with the candy coated color of the Zodiac Starforce. How did that come together?

KP: We decided to just go for it with the second series. The first one was our first comic for both of us, so you put a lot of pressure on yourself to make it perfect. I almost overwrote it in a way. With the second one, we thought about what we both liked about this. I love horror movies and Giallo movies in particular so that’s part of the reason why it’s called Cries of the Fire Prince. That’s an homage to stuff like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage or Blood and Black Lace. If you’re going to do that, you have to have a sacrifice. [Laughs] It all worked out. It was our first murder in the series.

JF: It’s tasteful in that you don’t show everything. Your mind is filling in the blanks for some of it.

KP: At its heart, it’s still sort of a kids comic so we didn’t want to go to far with that stuff. It is fun to up the danger level a bit. We wanted to make things bigger, scarier, and a little more complicated with the second series.

JF: How has the fan reaction been to Zodiac Starforce? Have you seen any cosplayers yet?

KP: We’ve definitely had our share of cosplayers, which is pretty cool. Fan response has been great. We get tons of fan art. People were doing starsonas, drawing themselves as Zodiac Starforce characters. We put our everything into it, so it’s always cool when people really respond to it.

JF: Being that there are twelve signs of the zodiac, and there are five members of Zodiac Starforce, any plans to bring in other signs?

KP: Not to spoil it too much, but the end of the second issue of the new series, you get a hint of that. There was a little teaser at the end of the first volume. We’re going to see some characters, but there might be some that are suspiciously missing as well.

JF: We’re in the midst of the second series now. I don’t want to rush you, but what are your future plans for Zodiac Starforce?

KP: I have the series planned out through the end. I have a roadmap of where we want to go with it.

Thanks to Kevin Panetta for taking the time to speaking with us here at Comicon.com.

Zodiac Starforce: Volume 1 and the first two issues of Zodiac Starforce: Cries of the Fire Prince are currently available at your local comic shop or digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.