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Year In Review

As I’ve done in years past, I try to sum up the year that was in a post here on my site. 2019 had some of the highest highs and lowest lows in recent memory, closing out the decade in ways I never could have imagined.

At the center of it all was one of the most difficult things Stacy or I have ever gone through – early in the year Stacy’s Mom discovered she had cancer and, through the spring and into summer it aggressively overtook her and she passed away on July 12th. Doreen, my second Mom, was an incredible woman filled with deep love for her family and a joy for making things and bringing happiness to others. Her loss struck us hard. Navigating the latter half of the year has been tough and we’re still finding our way through it, bit by bit.

School and writing are both going incredibly well even in the face of our family tragedy and the contrast between those two aspects of my life are surreal and, honestly, sometimes hard to ratify. Talking about comics, games and creative projects seems small at times given these tumultuous times.

So, I think that’s the lesson of 2019 – The work is important, but not as important as the people in my life and the bond between us. There’s joy to be had in writing, convention travel and the ridiculously nerdy things that define my career but they’re in service to love, family, and friendship. We have to help each other while appreciating the time we have and the experiences we get.

Dungeons & Dragons became a real focal point this year with comics, the Young Adventurer’s Guides, D&D Live in Los Angeles, and a TEDx Talk all about how D&D changed my life, but in the end it still filters down to creating and maintaining emotional connections. The same goes for my creator-owned projects, my Marvel work, and teaching at Seneca.

What lasts are the bonds built between us and the stories we create, so I’m trying to head into 2020 with hopes of strengthening those bonds even further and telling as many people as I can how much they mean to me.

I hope you do the same.

All the best to you and yours as we head into the new year.

BBC News Article on Comic Piracy

I know the recent BBC article on comic piracy was intended to be helpful, but it skims so lightly along the subject that the whole thing becomes anecdotal. The fact that I’m “quoted” twice, but just from tweets not an actual conversation with me, makes it even more awkward.

I wasn’t going to say anything about it, but since it’s on the BBC site it’s hitting a more mainstream audience than usual and now I’m getting a swath of messages praising/punching me for it.

The anecdotal nature of the article really annoyed me, but I also realize that it strikes at the heart of why the piracy conversation always goes sideways so fast:

Anecdotes are all we have because the actual help/hindrance of digital piracy is nearly impossible to accurately measure.

There are stats of a sort (page views, torrents, downloads) but we have no way to measure how that translates to sales lost or visibility gained.

Some readers justify why they do it or explain how it helped them and then project that experience across the whole thing. Equally, creators see their own struggles and the shakiness of the system and project those losses on to the whole. Neither is accurate, but neither is completely wrong, either.

I’m not a fool. I don’t think every illegal download is a lost sale. I know it’s complicated and everyone can point to themselves or others as reasonable/justified/worthy customers who pirate stuff for the “right” reasons. The complexity destroys any reasonable discourse.

The fact that it’s digital and a whole other segment can get pedantic and explain that it’s not actually “theft” because it’s a just a copy and nothing was physically stolen muddies the whole thing even more.

Piracy is a diffused mess of disparate data injected with enough anecdotes and frustration that none of us has to change our opinion or behavior.

Everyone sees what they want to see and keeps on screaming.
Which is online discourse in a nutshell right now.

The easy play is to just smile and nod and pretend it’s all good.
“Fuck you, I got mine” feels very 2019-appropriate.

There isn’t much else to say that hasn’t already been said-
Be good to each other.
Be honest with yourself.
Support creative work the best you can.

Thanks for reading (my work, not the social media vortex).

Talking Serpent War With CBR

I spoke with Dave Richards at CBR all about CONAN: SERPENT WAR, bringing together Conan, Moon Knight, Solomon Kane, Dark Agnes, and more in a swirling sword& sorcery spectacle.

Give it a read, check out the exclusive interior art preview, and get ready for a ride starting in December.

Indiebound Links Now Added to my Buy Page

I just added a whole slew of new links to Indiebound over on my BUY page, listing a variety of outlets where you can order my books. Indiebound represents a huge community of independent bookstores benefiting individual store owners and their local communities. If you want to buy comic collected editions (or really, any books at all) and support your local retailers, please consider using Indiebound!

Head on over to my BUY page and you’ll see Indiebound links for almost every book I’ve contributed to. It was a bit time consuming going through them all to add them to the database, but I think it’s important to have as many choices as possible so readers can easily find their next favorite book.

Thank you, as always, for your support!

DIE RPG Session at SDCC 2019

Shaun Manning at Comic Book Resources put together a write-up about the DIE tabletop RPG test game Kieron Gillen ran after this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Check it out to get a sense of how DIE’s meta game-within-a-game structure works and how our one-shot session played out.

15 Canadian Comic Book Creators You Should Know – on CBC

I’m thrilled to have been included in the CBC profile article on 15 Canadian comic book creators you should know. Thanks for the support!

Year in Review

I’ve been writing these ‘Year In Review’ posts since 2010, and each time I try to summarize what’s happening in my life and the gratitude I have for all these incredible experiences.

2018 was intense but saying that at this point feels redundant. They’ve all been intense. Intense is now normal, I think I’m just better capable of handling it.

That was kind of the theme this year – This is crazy but somehow, we press on and make it work.

At Seneca we’re lining up our Animation program review for 2019, and it looks like big changes will be happening again as part of that process. It’s hard to believe I’ve been coordinator of the program for 12 years. I’m proud that we keep innovating, making improvements to keep the courses relevant and make sure our grads are ready to go out and kick butt in the industry. I’ve been here long enough now that some of our grads are coming back to teach as well and that’s a surreal and gratifying experience.

The new subway stop at York University has completely changed how I get to school for teaching. Instead of grinding my way through traffic and worrying about parking, I start my days by reading my lecture notes or catching up on comics. It’s been transformative and cut down on stress that used to eat into my day.

Speaking of reducing stress, I started working out in late July and it’s helped me keep moving so my sedentary jobs don’t continue to wreck my neck and back. I feel better than I have in years and I’ve lost a bit of weight too, so that’s been exciting and unexpected.

Stacy and I did the regular convention circuit in North America and also traveled to Johannesburg and Vienna. Zipping around the world for comic conventions, balancing work and sightseeing, is becoming a reality and it’s something I hope we get to keep pursuing in 2019 and beyond.

Creatively, 2018 was mind-boggling:

Hey Jim, how would you like to co-write the world’s biggest superhero team while their new billion-dollar movie comes out? While that’s going on, how about co-writing a crossover between one of the hottest cartoons on TV and your favorite hobby, the one that inspired you to become a writer in the first place? Just for good measure, how about taking the reins on a new generation of young heroes to guide their formative years?

Yeah.

I look at that insane rundown of releases and I’d say I could hardly believe it, but I’ve got the gray hairs to prove that it all really happened. Between teaching and writing it really is two full-time jobs, with promotion and travel heaped on top. I love all of it, but the juggling has been wild at times.

I decided to cash in some of the creative credit I built up at Marvel and worked with Nyla Innusuk and Sean Izaakse to create a new Canadian superhero. The response to Amka, and the way readers from Canada and abroad have embraced her has absolutely blown me away. If we get any Snowguard cosplay in 2019 I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle it.

Wayward the comic series wrapped up in October, but we still have our final Deluxe Hardcover and the co-op board game (designed by Jon Gilmour) arriving in 2019. The animated series fell through and the rights have been returned to Steven and I, so my agent is now back on the attack looking to get it attached elsewhere. Fingers crossed.

Writing Evil at Baldur’s Gate and co-writing Rick and Morty VS Dungeons & Dragons made this year special, but I’ve got even more Dungeons & Dragons material coming in 2019. Comics and game stuff aplenty, but I’m sworn to secrecy for now. More details coming soon.

2019 is looking good. If things go the way we’re planning it could be another banner year.

If your 2018 was rough, I hope the new year brings better news and brighter days. If the year was good, let’s keep that momentum going!

2018 Joe Shuster Award!

Just found out I won the 2018 Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Award in the ‘Outstanding Writer’ category.

Thank you to Kevin Boyd and everyone else involved! I deeply appreciate the support.

Congrats to all the other winners, including my friends Andrew Wheeler, Djibril Morissette-Phan, Stuart Immonen, Gisele Lagace, Hope Nicholson and Mark Askwith!

Infinity Countdown: Champions #2 Reviews

Bleeding Cool: 8/10 “a surprisingly intense story that challenges its protagonists and shows them how small they are in this dangerous universe.”

Caped-Joel: 8/10 “I honestly wish more tie-in stories were written like this.”

Comic Book.com: 8/10 “The crime-fighting teens face off against their biggest opponent yet — literally — and prove that with teamwork, anything is possible. This issue has tremendous amounts of heart”

Comic Book University: “This is such a brilliantly done comic book.”

Comic-Watch: 9/10 “Jim Zub manages not only to tell a fun, easy, breezy event tie-in but also manages to give two of the Champions – Sam Alexander and Riri Williams – some excellent character development.”

Fortress Of Solitude: 7.5/10 “I like the twist of the good guys having to defend the bad guys.”

Heroes At The Summit: “This story takes a toll on each member of this team and I am very excited to see how that is addressed in Champions #22 and beyond. The story deserves a high recommendation and the art an even higher one.”

League of Comic Geeks: 8/10 “The Champions versus Thanos and the Chitauri. Can it get much better than this?”

Shoot The Breeze: 9.9/10 “equally enthralling and enjoyable, providing more character development for not only Nova, but also Ironheart as well.”

Year In Review

As I’ve done in years past, I try to sum up the year that was in a post here on my site. 2017 was a strong year for me on a personal level and that felt a bit odd compared to the tumultuous and difficult state of the world at large.

We celebrated 10 years at our house in Toronto. I can’t believe it’s been a decade living downtown at the same address. It’s our home base in the middle of the city and, now that the subway extension to York University is finally up and running, it’ll be even easier for me to get to school without worrying about traffic snarls and parking hassles.

Speaking of school, teaching at Seneca was unexpectedly rocky with the Ontario College Teacher’s Strike lasting five weeks, throwing our schedule and finances for a bit of a loop, and creating challenges for the many students I coordinate in Seneca’s Animation program. Keeping our facilities open with computer labs and life drawing sessions running helped give some semblance of structure to the strike period and that helped our students weather the worst of it, but there are still ripple effects to the curriculum and schedule that will make the Winter term more hectic than usual. Thankfully we have a wonderful staff and community of students working together to move things forward.

On the creative front, I made deeper strides at Marvel, wrapping up Uncanny Avengers and plugging away on Avengers: No Surrender, a special weekly story line that starts January 10th, co-written by industry superstars Mark Waid and Al Ewing, with art by Pepe Larraz, Kim Jacinto, and Paco Medina, with editors Tom Brevoort and Alanna Smith keeping the whole thing running smooth. It’s the biggest project of my career so far and, with the extra attention being shown to the Avengers leading up to the May release of the Avengers: Infinity War movie, I’m hoping No Surrender does well with new fans and old. Beyond that, I have a new monthly Marvel series I’m taking over in April that should be announced soon. Exciting times!

Wayward was optioned by Manga Entertainment for a possible animated or live-action series and is being turned into a co-op board game by Jon Gilmour and the crew at IDW Games. I don’t have any more official news on the show front, but everything seems to be moving forward bit by bit. All this media stuff takes time to get rolling, even in the best of scenarios, so I’ve learned to just let it happen at its own pace while Steven, Tamra, Marshall, and I stay focused on building the comic.

The Glitterbomb: The Fame Game mini-series just wrapped up this week and we’ll have a collection for it in the new year. With so much abuse and harassment in Hollywood finally coming to light we struck a chord with readers, but those collection sales will determine whether we’re able to come back for a third and final mini-series in the Fall of 2018. Whether or not we do, Djibril and I are talking about working together on future projects.

Working on the Dungeons & Dragons comic series has been a blast but getting the chance to spend a few days in the D&D offices brainstorming story material for an upcoming RPG product was an extra-surreal thrill. I’ve always felt closely connected to the RPG industry and having another chance to make new friends in that space and find like-minded storytellers passionate about what they do is always inspiring. There’s more good stuff coming on the D&D front in 2018 and I can’t wait for you to see what we have planned.

Stacy and I are in Japan for the holidays and that’s come with its own set of challenges. On the morning of December 24th she took a bad fall and injured her back and we’re still riding out the aftermath of that as we get ready to head into New Year’s Eve here in Tokyo. Stacy’s injury put a damper on part of our trip, but thankfully we’re here for each other and in the end that’s what matters most. Together I know we can overcome any of life’s many challenges.

On the whole, I’m heading into 2018 hopeful and thankful – Hopeful about where things will go and thankful for the wonderful opportunities and events happening in my life. I hope your holidays have been relaxing and prosperous and that the year ahead looks bright.