I did a Q&A all about the upcoming Conan-Red Sonja mini-series starting in January from Dark Horse Comics. Find out how this titanic team-up came about and what readers can expect when swords clash in the new year.
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• Ain’t It Cool News: “Zub’s writing allows us to imagine Minsc’s voice in our heads; it sounds just right, and the lines he gives Minsc are hilarious.”
• Brain Freeze: “Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1 reads well, is full of humor and feels like a real Dungeons & Dragons adventure.”
• Comic Bastards: 4/5 “No knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons or Baldur’s Gate is needed. Just a fun book with action and interesting characters.”
• Comic Book Bin: “I want to try the next one or two issues in order to see where this goes.”
• Deadshirt: “This issue is a breathless roller coaster ride that promises intriguing follow-ups, and perfectly captures Minsc’s trademark bizarre grammar and daffy heroism.”
• Fanboy Nation: “Jim Zub clearly loves the D&D world and has produced an enjoyable comic about everyone’s favorite Rashemen ranger.”
• Fellowship of the Geeks: “This issue is an adventurous romp from start to finish, with equal parts combat and comedy.”
• Fangirl Nation: “One issue alone and I’m ready to follow Minsc’s adventures anywhere.”
• Geek Retreat: “It has the look and feel of Baldur’s Gate games, with its specific brand of humour and dialogue, so luckily they haven’t messed with the formula”
• Geeks Of Doom: “if you’re looking for a good fantasy story, want to get in on some D&D action, or even just want to read a funny comic book, you can find it all right here.”
• Geeks With Wives: “If you haven’t experienced Dungeons and Dragons, this comic is a great way to see the source material come to life in an artful comic.”
• Kastor’s Korner: “Never fear! Jim Zub’s mastery over medieval fantasy storytelling is here!”
• Merric’s Musings: “it’s a nice, entertaining start to the series, and I look forward to reading the next issue.”
• Nerdy-But-Flirty: “I’m very excited that this comic exists, and my only complaint is that I wish it was longer! “
• Ominicomic: “Zub’s script is an appropriate blend of action and light humor, keeping things moving well and not really getting bogged down by heavy politics.”
• Outhousers: “From the first panel (maybe the second), this comic will grab you and hold on with its stone claws.”
• Reading With A Flight Ring: “Max’s interior artwork here is stellar and really does suit this story to a T. He manages to give us these wonderful unique characters that are full of life and emotion.”
• Shadowhawk’s Shade: 9.5/10 “I wasn’t sure what to expect from this title when I picked it up to read, but it has definitely been a blast to read”
• Sound On Sight: “Zub uses Minsc’s lack of intelligence to make many wordplay jokes, and Dunbar shows his skill with the blade as he impales everything in sight and then some.”
• Unleash The Fanboy: 8.5/10 “the kind of fun, exciting comic that any fanboy will love”
• IGN: 9.3/10 “This comic is worthy of the source material in every way.”…”An actual TV continuation would be hard-pressed to outdo this comic.”
• Comic Bastards: 5/5 “…with the action and themes of each issue, Samurai Jack is something anyone can enjoy.”
• Infinite Comix: 8/10 “The combination of the trials of Jack’s warrior integrity and Robo-Merc and Aku’s stellar dialogue deliver an issue of Samurai Jack that is as Steel-tastic as Robo-Merc’s armor.”
• Outhousers: “Samurai Jack #13 is a blending of genres including the spy-like hiding of Jack, his Japanese-tinged flashbacks and high fantasy and mythology seeing the gods.”
• Rock! Shock! Pop!: “The saga of Jack and the broken sword continues as things intensify once again in this third chapter.”
• Shadowhawk’s Shade: 9.5/10 “These two are getting better by each issue, and this one isn’t an exception.”
I’ve gone on at length about my love of tabletop role-playing games and how I feel they’re the best entertainment money can buy. Sitting down to create a new interactive tale with a group of friends is a joyous experience that few other things can match. Playing RPGs strengthened my storytelling skills and lead me down the creative path to becoming a comic writer.
I want to talk about one game in particular that stands out among the dozens and dozens I’ve played over the years: FENG SHUI.
Feng Shui is an Action Movie Role-Playing Game written by Robin Laws. It takes the heightened intensity of Hong Kong-style action films and, in a simple and cohesive way, creates a storytelling framework that encourages everyone playing to have a great time. It changed the way I played games and, for many designers and players alike, it was a milestone in the way that it injected storytelling ideas into the mechanical components of gaming.
Here’s the thing: In practically every tabletop RPG that came before Feng Shui, there was a distinct divide between narration and action. You could “role play” all you wanted as the story progressed but, once the action kicked into gear, it was time to break out the dice and hope for the best. No matter what you envisioned in your mind as weapons clashed, the rules alone would dictate who hits, how much damage they take, and the end result therein. The narrative component was completely pushed out in favor of cold numbers and probabilities.
What Robin did with Feng Shui was to weave the narrative back into the heart of the action and make it integral to how the game is played. Describing what you’re doing during combat, how you’re doing it, and making it as entertaining as possible grants you bonuses to achieve the very thing you’re describing. Instead of the rules working against your wildest imagination, it propels it forward and makes action scenes a bombastic rollicking part of the story instead of a number crunching speed bump. It’s no longer about min-maxing the stats and hoping the dice play your way, it’s about entertaining the whole table as the Game Master rewards your inventiveness and creativity.
That critical shift in focus made a massive difference in how our group played RPGs. It pushed Feng Shui to the top of the pile whenever we wanted to pull together a game or teach new players what RPGs were all about. It made the mechanical part of the game fun and encouraged everyone at the table to contribute in a way I’d never experienced before.
Feng Shui effortlessly codifies the ridiculous entertainment of action movies and empowers everyone playing to throw down in an over-the-top thrill ride with an infinite production budget. It rewards involvement, energizes storytelling, and never fails to surprise.
Our college gaming group ran a Mission Impossible-style episodic campaign called Agents of Intrigue. It started off as a simple throw-together format to run games when we weren’t sure who would be available from week to week and, over dozens of wild sessions and years of play, it evolved into a sprawling cast of colorful characters and weaving plot lines punctuated with wry humor and bone-crunching action. To this day that campaign is one of my favorite gaming memories.
The Feng Shui 2nd Edition Kickstarter is currently running down its last day of fundraising and I heartily encourage everyone I know who loves games to contribute. Beyond the PDF or physical book of rules, you’re helping support one of the best RPG games of all time while receiving a toolkit for creating new heart-pounding stories of ultimate ass-kickery.
DO IT and tell ‘em I sent ya.
Announced over the weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, I’m co-writing Conan-Red Sonja, the first team-up of these two fantasy legends in 15 years, with the equally legendary Gail Simone!
Unleash the Fanboy has the first interview with me about what we have planned.
Dan Panosian is on board for art and, if you check out his online gallery, you can see that he’s perfect for this savage saga of sword & sorcery.
More details and previews will be coming as we head into the Fall. Look for the first issue to arrive in comic stores in December/January. Pre-order now to make sure to you don’t miss out!
The new Exalted one-shot comic story I wrote for White Wolf/Onyx Path for the Exalted 3rd Edition Kickstarter is now available to non-backers via DriveThru RPG.
The young warrior known as Visiting Flare wanders Vaneha in search of the answers to the jumbled broken puzzle that is his past.
In times of stress he catches fleeting glimpses of a time when his power reshaped history, but he does not know whether those visions are real or what they mean. When the truth is revealed to him, his past and present will collide and legends will come alive once more.
I’m pretty damn happy with how it all turned out. Hanzo and Melissa did a wonderful job on the artwork and Marshall delivered the goods on the lettering, as always.
The Exalted mini-series for UDON was my first “pro” writing (well, co-writing actually) gig back in 2005. It was fun to dip my toe back in the Exalted waters again 9 years later.
If you’re an old school tabletop RPG player you’ll be delighted by Jason Thompson’s incredibly detailed and delightfully well thought out Walkthrough Maps on the official D&D website. Here’s a run through of all the ones he’s done so far:
I need to get this down before I forget the details…
Eating lunch over at the mall and the young student sitting next to me has a thousand yard stare as she picks at her food, swirling her french fries in ketchup but not even really eating them.
I glance over briefly at the motion and there’s that awkward moment as we both see each other and pause as one of us has to decide if it’s been too long an interaction to leave it without saying something.
I start to look back at my newspaper but she stammers out the start of the conversation.
“Hey… uh, can I ask you something? I mean, if you’re not busy.”
“Okay, I guess. Ask away.”
“You know guys, right? I mean, you’re a guy, so is it okay if I ask you about a guy… about what he’s doing?”
“Tell me what’s going on and I’ll try, sure.”
She thinks about it for a sec.
“There’s this guy. We’re not going out or anything but he calls me up every couple weeks for… I guess like a hook-up or whatever. It’s fun sometimes and other times it’s weird.”
“I bet that would be.”
“So I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore and I told him in December, so he stopped calling.”
“I know, right! I like him though. He’s nice to me when we’re together and stuff but then just nothing. Nothing.”
“That sounds manipulative, not nice.”
“But here’s the thing. So I saw him on the weekend with other friends of ours and I just said ‘Hi’ and walked on and it would’ve been okay, but then he runs up after me and says ‘Is it okay if I call you? We need to talk about stuff. I want to see you more.’”
“It’s brutal. It’s brutal ‘cause I like him and think maybe he’s done some thinking or whatever. So part of me was excited that he was going to call and we could work things out.”
“He didn’t call?”
“He didn’t! And I’m stupid and I texted him and he texted right back and said he’d call and he still didn’t! What’s that?!”
“I think you’ve got your answer right there. If he can’t even communicate then you can’t work with that…”
She eats a few fries and takes a big bite of her hamburger.
“I don’t even eat this stuff normally. I don’t eat burgers. I don’t know… I’m just being impulsive and dumb.”
She glances over and sees my wedding ring.
“Holy shit, you’re married! That’s so cool.”
“Heh. It is actually.”
“Almost four years. It’s great. She’s wonderful and supportive. Nothing’s perfect but we make it all work.”
“Cool… I’m Nadia, by the way.”
She just shakes her head and sighs as she takes another bite of her burger. I decide to keep the conversation rolling.
“How old are you?”
“Already 21… almost 22 though. You?”
“How old do you think I am?”
She’s looking at me and I can tell she’s embarrassed as she tries to figure it out.
“Oh god, I don’t know… 35?”
“Good guess. 37.”
“Ha! What’s your wife’s name?”
“Jim and Stacy…”
“I met Stacy in college but we didn’t get together until later on. We both had to grow up and figure out who we were going to be before we were right for each other.”
“Yeah. I don’t know this guy and I don’t know you, but I do know that communication is the least you should expect in a good relationship. It’s the ground floor. If that’s not happening then it’s not a relationship and you’re not going to be happy.”
“Yeah… you’re right. I kind of know that, but it’s good to hear it I guess. It’s hard to figure out people, y’know?”
“Yeah, I do.”
I turn to face her more directly now because I want to make sure this point sticks.
“I know it feels like time is vanishing but you’re young. You’re good. Don’t settle for that.”
“Okay, I won’t.”
She takes a long drag on her soft drink.
“It’s hard to figure out people, right?”
“It is, but you’re here at the University meeting tons of people every day so you’ll find better people to spend your time with… I mean, what’s your major?”
She pauses for a second and, even as she’s saying it, she starts to turn red with embarrassment.
“…Oh, you know… Psychology.”
We both laugh so hard that tears roll down our faces.
2013 has been an incredible year, but it sure as heck didn’t start out that way.
Wrapping up 2012 I thought I had a firm sense of where ’13 was heading. I’d accepted a contract to take over DC’s Birds of Prey with issue #18 and was working away on scripts, excited about my first writing gig for the “Big Two” of comics. When the new year began and the whole thing fell apart, I did my best to bow out gracefully and retreated for a while.
I haven’t spoken publicly about it before but, honestly, the whole thing shook my self confidence to the core. January and February were a slog of frustration and nervousness. I dreaded convention season and people asking questions about it or wondering if I’d screwed the whole thing up. I didn’t want to dwell on it, but I couldn’t stop thinking – What if I’d somehow missed my shot and that was it?
I wanted to burrow and hide. I felt like the year was going to waste as I watched friends and colleagues kick ass and take names on new projects. I’ve had setbacks before, but this one pushed a bunch of unexpected emotional buttons and brought me low in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. A lot of those feelings of frustration informed the post I wrote last month about jealousy.
Stacy was my rock through all of this. She listened, she advised, she kept me going. She knew other opportunities would present themselves and helped me look towards those instead of beating myself up over things I had no control over.
I’d turned down a project with IDW in November so I could focus fully on Birds of Prey, but thankfully had kept close ties with the editor. Even though the original project we talked about was already spoken for, he asked if I’d be interested in pitching on something else they had coming down the pipe – Samurai Jack.
Between Jack and Skullkickers I started to regain my focus. I knew I could do the work and wasn’t going to give up. Each month got a bit better and my productivity kicked back into gear-
Skullkickers, Samurai Jack, Pathfinder, Legends of the Dark Knight, Makeshift Miracle, Shadowman, ShiftyLook, and a whole lot more. I’ll talk about this in more detail in another post but, in brief, in 2013 I scripted 1000 comic pages while still working my full time day job. If I was compensating for feeling like a failure, then I think that did the trick.
Last year I said I finally felt like a writer and that 2013 would hopefully be the year I become a good one. In many ways that came true. I learned a lot about what it takes to be a professional, in both word and deed.
2014 is looking incredibly exciting, with great things happening at Seneca College where I teach and new comic projects coming down the pipe, both creator-owned and work for hire. I’m not making any predictions about how it’ll all go, but I think I have a better understanding about how to stay focused and keep plugging away.
I know it may sound corny but I’m serious when I say this – Don’t give up. There will be lost opportunities and frustrations, regrets and anxieties. Do everything you can to focus on what you can control and keep your integrity intact. Do all you can with what you have. That’s what the year represents to me.
Thanks for sticking with me. I hope 2013 was a good year for you and yours and that 2014 is looking bright.
Comic writer Ron Marz is doing his annual ‘Toys For Tots’ Christmas charity fundraiser and I sent him four items that are now up on ebay as part of it. If you want to get a unique gift and to support a great cause at the same time, please consider bidding:
Samurai Jack #1 Sketch Cover – Jack