Interview: Jimmy Palmiotti Goes (Key) West with STARFIRE

Very few characters have inspired as much debate over the last four years as Starfire! Princess Koriand’r has been a feature character in Red Hood and the Outlaws since the start of the New 52, but for the very first time, she is now embarking on her own solo title, written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, with art by Emanuela Lupacchino. Palmiotti sat down with Comicosity at this year’s C2E2 to talk all about how he came to co-write the Starfire book, what fans can expect from the new series, and why Key West is THE perfect location for the orange-skinned super-heroine.

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Cover art by Amanda Conner

MSG: Time to talk Starfire! Why was Kory a character you and Amanda wanted to take on, Jimmy?

JP: We didn’t want to take on Starfire. [laughs] What happened was: we didn’t ask for Starfire. They called us and said, “What do you think of Starfire?” Amanda was like, “Oh! I remember the Wolfman/Perez run!” She had a good memory of her. I was like, “She was the orange girl who flies around.”

We were both talking about it, and they said, “Well, would you be interested in doing a Starfire series?” We needed to think about it, because we need to think about who she is and if she’d be right for us. Amanda already knew everything about Starfire, which was an advantage for us. I started reading the old stuff, which, as it turns out, I had read when it first came out.

And then we both read the New 52 stuff, and decided yeah, if we’re going to do it, we should do an amalgam of who Starfire is. Not necessarily follow any of it right down to the letter, but get to the heart and soul of who she is, which is an alien coming to earth trying to blend in. Once we figured that out, and how we could package it to DC, we pitched it and they liked it. We got lucky!

MSG: One big change right off the bat is moving Kory to an entirely different locale with a new cast of characters. What was the attraction to Key West?

JP: We used to travel down to Key West all the time. We were looking for a setting where a hedonistic-type character like Starfire would be comfortable walking around with whatever little clothing she has.

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Interior art by Emanuela Lupacchino

And at the same time, what a great cast of characters Key West has! You have every kind of lifestyle, every kind of background. People from all over go there. Granted now, it’s a very expensive place to live, but there are still the locals, who are very entertaining. It’s near the water. Part of our supporting cast is the coast guard and the cops, and the people in the town. It’s a great little city!

We don’t know of any other comic set in Key West, and they always say: write what you know. We know Key West pretty well. It’s sort of why we put Harley Quinn in Brooklyn. We know the area well. I think a lot of times, it’s the little details that make a place ring true. When somebody reads it then, it feels like a real place and not a made-up city.

MSG: You’ve mentioned the cast of characters. Can you tease one character that will be coming into Kory’s life?

JP: Stella Gomez is the sheriff of the town. Kory just walks into the police department and says, “I want to live here. What do I have to do?”

She kind of grabs Kory and protects her a little bit. Kory explains who she is, and Stella is like, “Well, you are orange.” They become friends really quickly, and is a really good yin to Kory’s yang. Stella’s seen it all, she’s the Sheriff, and she needs to deal with everyone for her job. And with Kory, even though she’s really smart, there’s a bit of innocence about her. So, the two of them are funny to watch together. Every scene they’re in together, they see things so differently. Kory will be like, “Oh, how wonderful!” and Stella will be saying, “I’m going to shoot that guy.”

Stella’s one of the main characters. Her brother is another. I don’t want to give away too much, but her temporary housing has a cast of characters. Then something happens and it’s an entirely new cast of characters. [laughs]

STARF-950-dyluxlo-res-crop-Page-5-2048-554a4218911829-97285553-afe85I will give a heads up: it’s not a super-hero comic. Starfire is an adventure, fun, bizarre comics. It’s a sitcom/adventures of Starfire comic. So, I don’t know if it’s going to appeal to the people who love reading super-characters punching each other all the time. It’s probably not going to appeal to that crowd. But, if you like Harley Quinn and you liked our old Power Girl series, which it’s pretty close to in tone, you’ll like this. It can be really serious, but it can also be pretty light in tone.

MSG: Speaking of serious, will there be villains finding their way to Key West?

JP: Yes, there will be villains! There will be unusual ones, maybe a known one or two down the line. It will be interesting because in the third issue, we bring a character in that people familiar with my and Amanda’s work should readily recognize.

Yes, there are bad guys, and they have reasons for being bad. But then there’s also nature. The first two issues, a hurricane hits while Kory’s there. That’s a force of nature that even someone with her powers can’t battle. It sort of grounds her a little bit. Even with your powers, it shows you’re still nothing compared to that.

MSG: In regard to the cast, it seems like you’re focusing a lot on women, as opposed to the last few years where Starfire was mostly surrounded by men. What are your thoughts on developing female friendships for Kory?

JP: It’s not so much a conscious thing. I know Amanda and I know her friendships with other women. I just feel, in this situation, Kory would feel safer with other women around. It’s not really in our heads, exactly. But because she’s been surrounded by men, it’s good to balance the cast out.

STARF-950-dyluxlo-res-crop-Page-6-2048-554a425d0fa029-09755930-097dbAnd Starfire has been surrounded by a certain kind of man. The people that she’ll have in her life here are not those men. They’re not super-heroes. They’re regular people, and I think it’s infinitely more interesting to me. They’re not trying to one-up each other in front of her. They’re just being themselves.

The fun of that is watching Kory trying to blend in with people who are just what they are. Sometimes they’re victims, sometimes they’re aggressors. Sometimes they’re funny and sweet, and sometimes they’re not. And Kory has to decipher really who means what. When you have that charm and innocence like she does, it brings out the good in other people who might not quite have it on the surface.

MSG: How’s the process been working with Emanuela Lupacchino on the book?

JP: She’s terrific. Emanuela has never been to Key West, so we need to send her a ton of reference. At first she was drawing tall buildings, and we were like, “No no no. Six stories is like, it.” Then she started using Google Maps and she’s been going down the streets and getting a feel of town. We’re saying if the book is successful, we’re going to have our first conference in Key West. [laughs]

Emanuela’s an artist that I know, from issue 1 to 5, is going to improve every month. She’s already great, but since she’s drawing something that’s not super-heroes fighting, I think it’s going to bring out something different from her.

Cover Art by Amanda Conner

Cover Art by Amanda Conner

MSG: And with Starfire’s costume change, was that Emanuela or Amanda, or both?

JP: It was Amanda. Amanda wanted to make something that was… I think she used the term, less porny. And Emanuela went in and did her thing on it and it turned out just beautiful. We get pages in and it’s just amazing. Hi-Fi is coloring it, and Emanuela has worked with him before. We have a real dream team on it.

It’s a really colorful book, not a grey or drab book. With Key West being the setting, it’s got to be really tropical and colorful. Plus, Kory is orange, so yeah. It’s a pretty book.

MSG: Anything else you want to share with the fans, maybe those specifically who haven’t been back to the character in a few years?

JP: If you like the animated Starfire, you’re going to love this. There are some nods to her. And if you like the character any time, we’re handling it like an amalgam of all of them. I think we’re going to make each set of fans happy, yet at the same time create something brand new.

And we’re taking you in from the ground up. If you’ve never read Starfire before, you’ll be able to pick this up and get it. The most important thing for us is that everybody can find something they like.

If you missed the Starfire sneak peek story that arrived last week in Convergence: The Question #2, you can still read it for FREE online at Comixology! Starfire #1 arrives in comic shops from DC Comics on June 1o.

 

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