Category Archives: Skullkickers

Creator-Owned Economics: Wayward Oct 2015

Just over seven months ago I posted a financial/sales article letting people know how well Wayward launched in the current comic market using Skullkickers, my previous creator-owned series, as a comparative benchmark. Now that Wayward’s second story arc is complete and I have more sales data to look at I thought it would be good to post an update.

I’m happy to say that Wayward is doing well in a very, very competitive market. With both Marvel and DC putting out a ton of new #1 issues and Image on an incredible roll with new creator-owned series, the shelves at comic shops are absolutely jam-packed and it can be hard to stand out. Every series goes through periods of attrition, and that’s to be expected, but my biggest fear has been that we’d get completely lost in the shuffle and our readership would plummet.

Here’s how initial sales have held up through 10 issues:

Wayward arc 2 stabilized quite well and it looks like we may have found our ‘level’. The drop between issue 7 and issue 10 for Final Order Cut-Off (when comic retailers finalize their order numbers) was less than 500 copies and the gap between each one has gotten smaller and smaller. The variance between issue 9 and 10 was less than 50 copies. What doesn’t show up on that chart is that we’ve also been getting steady reorders on earlier issues and, once you factor those in, the series has even more stability at this point in time.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have any concerns. Creator-owned books are always vulnerable to market fluctuations and even small drops that accumulate over the long haul could push us into a situation where the series isn’t financially viable. Arc 2 was stable but we need to make sure we keep readers around through arc 3 and beyond. My fingers are crossed that we’ll get a small post-trade bump on Wayward #11 (have you pre-ordered your copy yet?) to keep us rolling.

Okay, so sales look good, but how does that translate into initial earnings:

You can see that even a slight variance in sales can have a larger effect on profits. Again, we’re seeing overall stability, but there is some drift there as it moves along.

By this point in its life cycle Skullkickers was already struggling to turn a profit in single issue print sales while Wayward is covering its production costs. What that means is that the art team (Steve, Tamra, and Ludwig) gets paid, our letterer (Marshall Dillon) gets paid, our back matter essay writer (Zack) gets paid, and Image gets their base fee without me having to dip into my personal savings to cover any of the bills. The small amount of profit leftover month to month isn’t much but that’s okay. I’m in for the long haul with convention book sales, digital/print accruals, and co-ownership. I was also able to sock away some money from our big first issue for my “future project war chest.”

Let’s look at the latest issue breakdown of who gets what:

As you can see, those percentages have moved around compared to Wayward #1 Cover A (which had a massive print run compared to issue #10, skewing the numbers quite a bit). With Image’s flat rate fees and the changing price of printing, shipping, storage, and distribution each issue will vary, but this seems to be a more “normal” breakdown for our series. It’s also a more of a balance as the creative team, distributor, and publisher have a stake in the series. As I mentioned before, being with the 3rd largest comic publisher in North America during their current renaissance has been a huge benefit. Image has been able to leverage their hit series to bring down printing costs and negotiate terms that leave more money for them and the creative team.

Let’s look at accrued sales and digital:

If you compare these to the first chart you’ll see that reorders have helped some of the issues level out. As an example, Wayward#2 has sold an additional 7% of its initial order numbers in reorder copies.
I was surprised to see that Wayward is primarily a print-heavy audience right now. Digital sales (the vast majority of which are through comiXology) only make up 9.1% of our current sales totals (and I didn’t count issues 8-10 in that calculation since I don’t have digital data for those issues yet). I was expecting a higher percentage of digital, but now that many of our early issues are sold out at Diamond that number will almost certainly increase.

Okay, so how about trade paperbacks?

In short, Wayward is kicking ass in trade. Image printed a very aggressive number of Wayward Vol. 1: String Theory books and in the past six months we’ve moved a big chunk of that stock thanks to great word of mouth and a $9.99 cover price. Although convention sales aren’t reflected in that chart, I can anecdotally say that Wayward Vol. 1 sells very well for me at shows. I usually just tell people “It’s like Buffy in Japan”, mention it’s only $10 and they’re in.

I know a few other creators I’ve spoken to have been wary of the $9.99 first volume price point, but so far on Wayward it’s working well. Image printed enough copies that our price per unit is incredibly small and that means it won’t take long to get that book into the black. Most importantly, the $9.99 pricing has paved the way for a lot of new readers to try it out. It’s a loss leader to build our overall audience, banking on the fact that they’ll come back for Volumes 2, 3, and beyond. I’ve been able to sell multiple copies to people to give as gifts or buy again even though they have the single issues. $10 feels like a reasonable price to spontaneously try something new, especially at a convention. I don’t think the value pricing is useful on a mini-series collection or short run, but for an ongoing series like Wayward it seems to be helping.

Skullkickers has always had a trade-waiter readership and I’ve been happy with our TPB sales but Wayward is gaining ground at a ridiculous rate. In six months Wayward Vol. 1 has sold about 90% of the lifetime sales of Skullkickers Vol. 1 from the past four and half years. Yeah, that’s kind of nuts. Initial orders on Wayward Vol. 2 were almost the same as volume 1, so I’m also curious to see how it’s selling in six months time.

Now that Skullkickers is complete it moves into new territory for me. Over the next year I’m going to see what the long tail sales are like for the six trade paperbacks and three deluxe hardcovers that encompass the series. Will more people try it out knowing they can read it all or does the finality of it and lack of new issues make it less visible? I genuinely don’t know.


On the deluxe book front, the first year of Wayward is being collected in a spiffy oversized hardcover called, appropriately enough, Wayward Deluxe. It’s a bit mind boggling for me to realize that in one year we put together enough material for a 320 page tome, but we did and I’m hopeful that it makes it onto some comic buying gift guides and sells well through the holidays.


As I mentioned in my previous article, I think Wayward’s success has been a combination of Image’s growth, my increased career visibility, and an engaging concept coupled with Steve and Tamra’s knockout artwork. The audience I’ve built up over the years through working on Pathfinder, Samurai Jack, Conan Red Sonja, Dungeons & Dragons, Street Fighter, and Figment have come together along with Skullkickers readers to give Wayward some wings. If we can keep that grassroots interest going I’m hopeful the series will have a long life.

If you’ve bought Skullkickers or Wayward, as a retailer or reader, you have my deepest thanks. In an industry with giant media companies and world-beating superhero brands I’m doing my best to carve out a little spot for my creations and I couldn’t do it without your help.

If you found this post interesting or helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter) and share the post with your friends. Please consider buying some of my comics online, from your local retailer or from me in person if you see me at a convention.

The End of Skullkickers


SKULLKICKERS #100 (aka. Skullkickers #34) arrives in comic shops today and I’ll be celebrating the end and signing at The Beguiling tonight from 6:30-8:30pm. Some thoughts about wrapping up the series:


Yeah, it feels really weird even typing that.

Five years ago Edwin, Misty, Marshall, Chris, and I launched SKULLKICKERS. Since then it feels like the entire world has changed and, at least for me, it really has. Back then I wanted to prove that I could write a professional-quality comic and show people my storytelling skills. That unleashed hundreds of pages of comics for Image and a host of other publishers, meeting readers, peers, and lifelong heroes, travelling the convention circuit in North America and abroad and a whole new career as a comic writer.

“Comic writer.”

Even just seeing that in front of me on the page, it seems impossible and surreal. People ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I’m a “comic writer.” For real.

It sounds dramatic, but Skullkickers has changed my life. It became my own creative Crucible where I learned how to open myself up to new ideas, push through my fears, and carry through on my professional commitments. It’s a rambling and childish yarn inspired by tabletop RPGs and the fantasy stories I grew up on but it’s also a representation of me in the here and now as a creator. My creative journey doesn’t end here, but this milestone is incredibly important to who I am as I look ahead to challenges still to come. Saying “thank you” for that kind of thing doesn’t seem adequate, but I’ll try.

Edwin Huang is one of the most professional and hard-working artists I know. His eagerness, energy, and dedication to this book that didn’t even start off as his is staggering. No matter what ridiculous visuals I asked for, Edwin hunkered down and found a way to deliver it. Watching his art grow issue by issue, arc by arc has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working on the series. Whatever he works on next, it’s going to be something special.

Misty Coats took Edwin’s line art and made it explode on the page. Her animated color sense was always on target and she delivered her best right up until the very last page. We couldn’t have done the book without her taking it to the next level each and every time.

Marshall Dillon is a rock. Solid, dependable, unflappable. His lettering took a whirlwind of disparate ideas and brought them together in a way that made even the most ludicrous things I wrote flow across each page. They say good lettering feels invisible because you’re too busy enjoying the story to realize how effortlessly the captions and balloons guide you across the page and that’s exactly what Marshall did. Great flow, unforgettable onomatopoeia.

The rest of the pitch hitters: Kevin, Ross, Mike, Espen, Chamba, Royce, and all the wonderful writers and artists who lent their talents to our Tavern Tales short stories – you rock. You made something fun even better and helped forge lasting friendships.

Thank you to Eric Stephenson and the rest of the Image Comics crew. Your unshakable support for this book has been wonderful. I can’t believe we were able to take it this far. Thank you for your expertise, your guidance, and good humor. I should probably also thank all the far-more profitable Image creators whose successes helped create Image’s stalwart cash flow reserves for printing and distribution.

The readers who stuck with us, the retailers who helped push the book, convention promoters who brought us out to shows, the people who have shared the book with their friends… There are too many people to thank and I wish I could high-five you all right now.

Chris Stevens asked me if I wanted to make a short comic story with him back in 2007. Eight years later it’s become the foundation of my creative career. Thank you, Chris. Your stunning artwork put this series on the map and I’m thrilled you were able to contribute the final cover to wrap it all up.

I hope that if we’ve all learned anything this issue, it’s that stories are eternal. We’re closing this particular book but I’d optimistically like to think that out across the infinite these characters and their foolishness will live on.

-Jim Zub


Skullkickers Treasure Trove 3 Arrives in October!


Arriving in October, pre-order now!

Skullkickers Treasure Trove, Vol. 3 HC
story: Jim Zub
art / cover: Edwin Huang & Misty Coats
October 14 / 302 pages / Full Color / 12+ / $34.99
The fan favorite SKULLKICKERS story concludes in this gorgeous oversized hardcover edition collecting the fifth and sixth story arcs along with lots of spiffy extras and rarities.
Collects SKULLKICKERS #24-33, and our ridiculous #100.

Skullkickers Treasure Trove 3
Deluxe Hardcover

(issues #24-33, 100, plus extras)

Beer, blood, and battle! The brawl to end it all! The Skullkickers are going out with an epic sword & sorcery war for the ages! The fan favorite Skullkickers story concludes in this gorgeous, oversized, hardcover edition collecting the fifth and sixth story arcs, along with lots of spiffy extras and rarities.
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Cheap GNs
Forbidden Planet

Wayward #7 and Skullkickers #32 Reviews


Wayward #7 arrived in stores last week. It’s my favorite issue of our series so far. Cover to cover content as our dramatic story continues. Let’s see what reviewers thought of it…

Big Glasgow Comic Page: 9/10 “The art is, as always, one of the strong points of this already brilliant series. Every character, every object, every frame has been brilliantly drawn, inked and coloured”

Black Ship Books: “Wayward remains a ‘must buy.’ It’s consistently been one of the most entertaining books to come out from Image over the last year and the art itself is worth more than the cover price.”

Comic Attack: “Cummings and Bonvillain have done excellent work in this series that has had fine attention to detail in both scenery are characters that transports you to Japan.”

Comic Book Bin: ” This seventh issue of Wayward is, so far, the best issue of the new story arc.”

Comics: The Gathering: 9/10 “Wayward has yet to slow down with seven excellent back to back issues. This is a story that could go down as one of the best if it keeps this consistency up.”

Comix I Read: 5/5 “I am heavily invested in the plot and characters and cannot wait for what’s to come. I 100% recommend this issue.”

Fandom Post: B+ “A very solid issue all around that again brings Japanese locales and cultural aspects in a great way to North American readers”

Geeks of Doom: “Wayward has quickly become one of my favorite comics, with its mix of exotic setting, interesting characters, and an unfolding mystery that makes me want to come back each issue to find out the next part of the story.”

Moar Powah: 5/5 “Wayward uses all of its pages to its advantage. The tantalizing ending seems to signal they’ll need all the new-found willpower they have.”

Nothing But Comics: “The art is outstanding, the characters are fun and the stakes are high.”

Omni Jer Bear: “One of the best storylines I’ve read in 2015. It’s like X-Men without the school.”

The Read Pile: “I love the characters and I love that they’re all kids in Japan.”

Shadowhawk’s Shade: 9.5/10 “The time away from the series doesn’t seem to have had any downsides for the art team, and all the supernatural stuff feels as vivid and engaging”

The Telltale Mind: 4.5/5 “Great dialogue, story and utterly captivating artwork help this book make its way to the top of the read-pile every month.”

We The Nerdy: 8/10 “…the comic looks stunning like always. I love how fluid Ohara’s powers are, how they move, and I’m impressed at these still images can convey their motion so well.”

TM Stash: 10/10 ” I find myself completely immersed in every issue, drawn in by Jim Zub’s script and amazed by the beautiful artwork by Steve Cummings (with colors by Tamra Bonvillain).”

Under the Comic Covers: “Steve Cummings art is really spectacular and this issue is no exception. I love the artwork and the story flows so well.”


Skullkickers #32 also hit stores the same day and the brawl to end it all continues.

Comix I Read: 8/10 “Writer Jim Zub ups the ante in this issue, bringing the Demon Lord of the Dwell onto the scene to fight Thool for supremacy.”

Inside Pulse: “Lots of characters from earlier in the series are showing up, as the bar gets more and more full, and the mayhem increases exponentially.”

Skullkickers Vol. 6 Solicitation

Arriving in July, pre-order now!


JULY 8 / 144 PAGES / FC / T / $16.99

In this volume the SKULLKICKERS story comes to an end, but it’s not going out without a fight!
Beer, blood, and battle collide in the ultimate brawl to end it all!

“If you like action or humor, no one is doing it better than these guys.” -The Weekly Crisis

Collects SKULLKICKERS #31-33 & #100.

Skullkickers Vol. 6
Infinite Icons of the Endless Epic

(issues #30-34)
Introduction by Joe Zub

The Skullkickers story comes to an end, but it’s not going out without a fight! Beer, blood, and battle collide in the ultimate brawl to end it all!
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Newsarama Interview About the End of Skullkickers


I talked to Chris Arrant over at Newsarama all about the impending end of Skullkickers and what it feels like to wrap up five years worth of work. Give it a read!

Wayward #6 and Skullkickers #31 Reviews!


Wayward #6 and Skullkickers #31, both the first part of their respective story arcs, arrived in stores last week and the response has been wonderful! Let’s see what reviewers thought…

All-Comic: 4/5 “…with the masterful art team of Steve Cummings and Tamra Bonvillain at the helm, the story couldn’t be in better hands.”

The Beat: “While there is a hefty amount of Japanese culture depicted in the story, there is also clean lines and bright coloring that move this story closer towards American comic book art standards.”

Big Glasgow: 9/10 “The detail in which Japanese culture is depicted in Wayward is fantastic.”

Black Ship Books: “Wayward #6 is the perfect jumping-on point for new readers, so if you have any interest in Japanese folklore or teens fighting the supernatural, this is the book for you.”

Brittlejules: “If you enjoy Japanese supernatural stories and monsters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ghosts, cats, and troubled teens with strange powers, then you should definitely check out Wayward.”

Comic Book Bin: “This comic book is like one big enchantment that draws me into the story. I guess I am not the only reader who wants to live in the world of this series.”

Comics the Gathering: 10/10 “This art team lays waste to so many other books. I can’t wrap my head around how they’re able to produce pages of this quality so quickly.”

Comix I Read: 4.5/5 “The new arc started very strong and I am very excited to conitnue reading WAYWARD for its Wayworld.”

Fandom Post: B+ “The book is definitely a welcome return to my reading schedule as Jim Zub handles the narration very well, making it engaging and interesting”

Horror Talk: 4/5 “Writer Jim Zub has an incredible talent for character development. Each of the students in Wayward feels like a real person.”

The Latest Pull: 8.5/10 “I went in to this book with a bit of cautious scepticism, but was pleasantly surprised by this new beginning and I expect good things in the future.”

Major Spoilers: 9/10 “Wayward #6, in particular, is a treat for readers of the series. We get to see the world, characters and magical elements we are familiar with, but through a fresh pair of eyes.”

Moar Powah: 4/5 “Wayward #6 brings in teases of what’s to come. We wonder what’s to become of our new and old protagonists.”

Outright Geekery: 10/10 ” So long as Jim Zub and Steve Cummings continue to deliver a great series, I will continue to recommend this series.”

Reading With a Flight Ring: “the characters and characterization is simply superb and demonstrates why I’ll follow Jim to whatever he writes”

Telltale Mind: 8/10 “With an ending to the story that can only be called mysterious, Zub and Cummings draw you back into this world and all that can be said is that it is good to be back.”

Third Eye Spotlight: “It’s great storytelling, great writing, and we can’t get enough.”

TM Stash: 9/10 “I have trouble deciding what impresses me more with this book – the exceptional script or the beautiful artwork”

Under the Comic Covers: “Another wonderfully paced issue. A great mix of mystery and action.”

We The Nerdy: 8.5/10 “The art too, is still fantastic. The battle at the end looks great, and some of the strange paranormal events that Ohara experiences are all great looking.”


Comic Bastards: 10/10 “You have no excuse why this book isn’t in your life.”

Comics Alliance: “Skullkickers has been one of the great dark horse stories of the last few years, and it’s fantastic to see that it’s been able to go so long and maintain the fun”

Comix I Read: 4.5/5 “Skullkickers #31 channels the energy of a drunken game of D&D with your friends. It takes everything you love about the fantasy genre but throws in a laugh every half a second.”

Newsarama: 8/10 “This issue of Skullkickers, like those before it, makes a great example of how comics can be just fun and still be completely successful.”

Panel Culture: “Edwin Huang is just fantastic on these fight scenes. They’re dynamic, they’re fun, and Misty Coats’ colors are vibrant.”

Unleash the Fanboy: 9/10 “Equal parts lore, story and fun, Skullkickers #31 is a well-rounded stable issue that eagerly kicks back into the swing of things.”

Mega-Zub Comic Release Day!

Thanks to the shipping strike that happened in California and a couple printing delays a bunch of my comic titles have synced up, leading to the craziest new comic book day of my career so far:
6 new books from 4 different publishers all arriving in comic shops TODAY!

Yeah, it’s ridiculous.

Click on any of the covers below to read preview pages from each of the books:


As always, thank you for your support!

Arriving in June: Skullkickers #100?!


In June, Skullkickers comes to an end with the wrap-up of our sixth and final story arc “Infinite icons of the Endless Epic”. We didn’t want this momentous occasion to go unnoticed, so we decided to do what the other comic publishers do when they want to celebrate a big story event – we bull$#@&ted a big number on the cover because we could.

Here’s the June ordering solicitation:

story: JIM ZUB
JUNE 24 / 40 PAGES / FC / T / $3.99


ISSUE 100?! Hey, if other publishers can just slap any old number on a cover and call it an anniversary, then we want in on that action for our final issue.

Yup, this is the big finish. All skulls must be kicked.

Join us in sending off the series in style with a big 3-digit number and tweet with the hashtag #SK100 to let us know what happened in the 66 issues in between. The best entries get a place in Skullkickers history.

That’s right, we’re jumping straight to #100 to finish the series and are letting our fans fill in the 66 issue gap with the Twitter hashtag #SK100. Tell us in 140 characters a summary of what happened in an unpublished issue of Skullkickers (from #34-99) and the best ones will be listed in the back of our final issue. Anyone could be one tweet from their first Twitter comic writing credit.

So few creator-owned comics ever have an issue 100. We’re feeling quite honored to share this rarified air with Spawn, Savage Dragon, Walking Dead, and Invincible. It’s a milestone for creator-owned comics and we couldn’t do it without Image Comics and our dedicated fanbase.

Thank you for 34 100 issues of love and support.

Forces of Geek Interview: Conan, SK, and D&D


The gang at Forces of Geek asked me all about Conan Red Sonja, Skullkickers, and Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate, so we talk fantasy fun.