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DF Interview: J. Torres saves the stars in The Mighty Zodiac
By Byron Brewer
Coming soon from Oni Press and written by J. Torres and illustrated by Corin Howell, The Mighty Zodiac follows Master Long and his students, the Zodiac Clan, as they set out to retrieve six stars that have fallen from the heavens and return them to their base. But they are not the only group eager to get their hands on the stars.
Dynamic Forces sat down with Torres to understand the wonderment of this fantastical adventure.
Dynamic Forces: You have been nominated for both the Eisner and Harvey awards as well as other industry kudos. How does that feel?
J. Torres: Well, you know what they say, “It's nice to be nominated.” And it's true, any kind of recognition for your work is nice. It means someone is paying attention, someone is reading, and they like what you're doing.
DF: Tell us what first brought you into comics.
J. Torres: I've been reading comics for as long as I can remember. My dad read comics so we always had comics around the house. As a kid I liked to draw so I'd make my own comics. My first published work was a comic strip in the school paper written and drawn when I was in the third grade.
When I was in college, in Montreal, there was a really vibrant mini comics and zine scene. I thought that was a good place to start so I teamed with artist Tim Levins and produced a mini comic called Copybook Tales, and that actually launched both our careers. About a year or so later, we did a miniseries for Image called Siren. About a year or so after that, Tim started
working on Gotham Adventures for DC. I did some stuff for Oni and eventually landed the Teen Titans Go writing gig. Some 10 years later ...
DF: Describe for us the world in which The Mighty Zodiac takes place.
J. Torres: Kaya is a cross between Avatar: The Last Airbender, Skylanders, Ninja Turtles, Disney's Robin Hood, and Aesop's Fables. It's populated by tribes of animals, some of which are at odds with each other. There's magic and mythology come to life all over this world which is usually protected by the four god-like Guardians of the Sky: the Blue Dragon, White Tiger, Red Phoenix and Black Turtle. And in the guardians' absence, the tribes can rely on the Mighty Zodiac.
DF: Who are Master Long and the Zodiac Clan?
J. Torres: Twelve warriors representing the “circle of animals” in the Chinese zodiac, and the twelve tribes who answered a call to arms when Kaya was in trouble many moons ago. Master Long the dragon leads the clan which includes Kane the dog, Ko the ninja cat, Tan the rooster, Mal the horse, Ho the tiger, Rang the rat, Mar the ram, Yaya the monkey, Buta the boar, and Tox the ox. Each warrior has their own fighting style, weapons and personality similar to those described in the Chinese zodiac, but they’re also diverse in the sense that each one comes from a tribe that has influences and similarities to real world cultures. For example, Tan fights with escrima-like sticks from the Philippines where the rooster is a cultural symbol. Kane is a shiba inu, a Japanese breed of dog, and he wields a samurai sword.
DF: What makes them heroes in your eyes?
J. Torres: Like their tribal ancestors who first heeded the Sky Guardians’ call for help when the Moon Rabbit Army invaded, they too answered Master Long’s call to be part of the Zodiac Clan who are peacekeepers and protectors of the land. They don’t get paid to do it, but they’ve voluntarily given up their lives to train and be part of the clan.
DF: Tell us about the Moon Rabbit Army.
J. Torres: Once upon a time, there was peace in the Garden. But the rabbits disrupted that peace and were banished to the moon. There they evolved into shadow-like creatures who live in darkness and prefer the night, so the rabbits are to destroy the stars. In our opening story, stars fall out of the sky, which both the rabbits and the Mighty Zodiac seek out, knowing they could use the power of the stars to tip the balance between good/evil, light/darkness in their favor.
DF: Why is Corin Howell the right artist for this book?
J. Torres: She’s fantastic! She got the concept and what I was looking for right away, a mix of anime and Disney for the design of things. She’s also fast and works hard, and I like her process which includes rough pencils, which are pretty tight if you ask me, that really help me and our editor Robin finesse the story. Add to this our colorist Maarta Laiho whose work on Lumberjanes I love love love and I couldn’t be happier about the art.
DF: So what is next from the talented pen of J. Torres?
J. Torres: The Mighty Zodiac launches in April from Oni Press. In the meantime, people can follow the book’s progress on Twitter via @themightyzodiac. I’ve also got a robot book for kids at Oni with artist Sean Dove that hasn’t been announced yet but it looks like that’ll be out in May. The Twitter account for that is @brobotscmx. Other than those projects, I’m doing some development in animation that will hopefully lead to more exciting announcements in the near future, which you might read about on my main Twitter account, @jtorrescomics.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank J. Torres for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The Mighty Zodiac #1 from Oni Press hits stores in April!
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