I’m a guest on the latest Guys With Pencils.
We talk up a storm about breaking into the business, animation, comics, storytelling, and finding your groove in the creative working world. Lots of good stuff. Give it a listen.
Li’l Sonja, the one-shot comic story of a young Red Sonja written for younger readers, came out on Wednesday. Here’s what critics thought of it…
• Comics Bulletin: 5/5 “The character Li’l Sonja is cute, and fun, and feisty, and at the same time, like her older model, strong, independent, and smart.”
• Unleash The Fanboy: 5/5 ” she may be cute but she is still pretty bad ass”
• What’cha Reading?: 5/5 “Li’l Sonja is adorable and yet every bit the bad ass her more grown-up counterpart is, but yet child-friendly enough that I can hand this book over to my younger/tween comic fans”
• Fandom Post: B+ “Li’l Sonja is plucky, courageous, and clever, and the quality of the art and writing are straightforward enough for children to enjoy, and cute enough for adults as well.”
• Comic Book Therapy: 7/10 “Zub writes a cute and fast-paced story. It’s a witty yarn that gives us a very different version of the character we know and love.”
When I was 15 years old my brother introduced me to anime.
I’d grown up watching shows like Star Blazers and Robotech but didn’t know much about the original source material behind them. Joe was attending the University of Waterloo and gravitated towards the anime club that had formed there. When he came home to visit he brought a slew of fan-subtitled animation filled to the brim with stories and characters like I’d never seen before. I was hooked.
In the years that followed I collected fan-subs and original Japanese manga, helped run an anime club, ordered anime stock for a local comic shop, edited anime music videos and sent them to conventions, created an anime lending library at my college residence, and started a fan page for one of my favorite manga creators.
When I went to school for animation I met Omar Dogan and we broke bread over our shared love of Japanese art and culture. I knew deep down that I’d never be able to work in the Japanese animation industry and I kept my focus solidly centered on the North American market. I hoped to work at Disney, or Pixar, or Blizzard.
8 years later, after lots of freelancing/life ups and downs, I joined the UDON studio and, over the next 10 years, had the chance to work with both Japanese and North American clients on an incredible variety of different projects.
If my 15 year old self could only have known…
Yesterday in Tokyo, Bandai-Namco held a special event to unveil a new generation of Wonder Momo with a new anime mini-series and video game sequel to the original 1987 adventure game.
The story for the anime and game are adapted from the Wonder Momo comic strip I wrote that’s been running on Bandai-Namco’s portal site ShiftyLook for the past two years. Erik Ko (head of UDON) and I came up with the concepts, characters, and plot and then I scripted the comic, illustrated beautifully by, you guessed it, Omar Dogan.
Everything has kind of come full circle. It feels totally surreal.
Samurai Jack #4 arrived in comic shops last Wednesday, so let’s see what critics thought of it…
• IGN:8.5/10 “We may not have the cartoon series, but we have a pretty awesome comic series to warm our hearts.”
• Comic Vine: “If you’ve been enjoying the book, there’s pretty much no reason why you won’t enjoy this one as well.”
• The Outhousers: “Andy Suriano’s character design work for secondary characters is exceptionally strong; the lithe, graceful bodies of the musket-knights counteracts their brutish nature, while the queen’s beauty contrasts the villagers’ homeliness.”
• Comic Book Therapy: “Samurai Jack is a thoroughly enjoyable series that pays a lot of respect to everything that came before it.”
• Rock! Shock! Pop!: “This is all very much in keeping with the spirit of the show, finding that interesting balance of honor, mysticism, action and humor.”
• Shadowhawk’s Shade:9.5/10 “Another stellar issue from Jim, Andy, Josh and Shawn. I really hope that these guys all stick together on this series for a good long while.”
• Multiversity: “Those of you that are or were fans of the character – this should be on your pull list already. Rectify that, if it’s not.”
Josie Campbell at Comic Book Resources interviewed me about the Suicide Squad: Amanda Waller One-Shot story I have coming out in March. Click on through and give it a read.
I was interviewed by Geeked Out Nation all about Samurai Jack, writing comics, and more. Click on through to give it a read.
Arriving in April…
story: JIM ZUB
art: EDWIN HUANG & MISTY COATS
cover: JAMES GHIO
APRIL 23 / 32 PAGES / FC / T / $3.50
“A DOZEN COUSINS AND A CRUMPLED CROWN,” Part Two
In this special issue (they’re all special, but whatever): The HISTORY of DWARVES (The ‘Short’ Version). Pre-order yours today.
Arriving in April…
While Gail Simone’s Red Sonja series is scorching hot, Dynamite is presenting a Red Sonja one-shot done as a manga style book! In April of 2014, Red Sonja and Cub will be offered, written by Jim Zub (Pathfinder), drawn by Jonathan Lau, with a cover by Jeffery “Chamba” Cruz! This oversized issue will be available in April from Dynamite Entertainment in comic stores and digital.
In Red Sonja and Cub, blood will rain down upon the snowy ground as the She-Devil With A Sword battles her way across the Asiatic lands of Khitai. In a land of complex family loyalties and death before dishonor, will sharpened steel and the muscle to wield it be enough?
“Getting the chance to write a samurai-style story of savage combat and sacrifice with Red Sonja, one of the heavyweight characters of fantasy, is a real thrill,” says Red Sonja and Cub writer Jim Zub. “I’m stoked for people to see the big action-big emotion ride Jonathan and I are putting together for this.”
Red Sonja and Cub will be solicited in Diamond Comic Distributors’ February Previews catalog, the premiere source of merchandise for the comic book specialty market, and slated for release on April 2nd, 2014. Comic book fans are encouraged to reserve copies of Red Sonja and Cub with their local comic book retailers. Red Sonja and Cub will also be available for individual customer purchase through digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, iVerse, and Dark Horse Digital.
Arriving in April…
Samurai Jack #7
Jim Zub (w) • Brittney Williams (a) • Andy Suriano (c)
Samurai Jacqueline and the Scotswoman fight giants and wee folk alike as they struggle to free themselves from the gender-bending curse of the leprechauns. Cartoon Network’s hit animated series continues at IDW!
FC • 32 pages • $3.99
“If you miss Jack and his samurai ways, go pick this up. If you never watched the show, buy the book anyway because it’s just plain fun.” –Reading Pictures
Samurai Jack #7—Subscription Variant
Jim Zub (w) • Brittney Williams (a) • Agnes Garbowska (c)
For subscription customers only… enlist at your local comic shop! A variant cover by Agnes Garbowska!
FC • 32 pages • $3.99
After my previous post about my output in 2013 and some thoughts on writer’s block, I received a lot of wonderful comments and messages. Quite a few people asked about ways to be more productive/save time while they work, so I thought I’d cover a few things that have worked for me in case they’d be helpful to a wider readership.
Although creativity and writing can be driven by inspiration and there are more/less productive cycles, there’s also a lot of repetition that can take up undue amounts of time if you let it. Whenever I notice I’m doing the same kind of thing again and again during my work process I look for ways to automate parts of it to save myself time later on.
TEMPLATES and BOILERPLATES
When you’re constantly communicating with clients, publishers, other freelancers, and conventions you’ll notice that the same information is required over and over. Do it once, do it right, and save it so you never have to put that information together from scratch again. It’s easy to update and adjust once you have the foundation in place.
• I use a script template (It’s based on Fred Van Lente’s killer script format and the latest version was put together by the incredible Rob Marland, which you can download right HERE) that auto formats and auto numbers pages, panels, and dialogue lines so I don’t have to waste time doing it myself. It sounds silly and unnecessary but, trust me, when you have hundreds of pages of script and multiple panels per page it’s really helpful to just hit Enter→ and immediately roll into the next sequence without hitting Tab>Bold>and typing “Page” and “Panel” over, and over, and over again. The other nice thing with auto numbering is that if I take a line or panel out of a script, it cascade renumbers everything to match the new sequence, which is a real sanity saver. The technology is there, so I might as well use it to my advantage.
• I put together a standard intro paragraph about myself and my work so I can easily cut and paste it into an email and then customize it from there for introducing myself to new clients. The same goes for review copies and press contacts.
• I have a short 50-80 word bio and a longer 100-150 word one along with a recent photo of myself (both print and web-sized) so I always have them for conventions, signings, whatever.
• Publishers always need mailing information and that info tends to get lost so, as soon as I start working on a new creator-owned project, I get everyone’s updated contact info and put them in a text file ready to go. It’s also helpful for sending people I work with little surprise gifts or Christmas cards.
Basically, whenever I’m typing up information that seems generic enough that I may need it again, I’ll save it to my cloud storage with a self-explanatory title so I have easy access to it later. Speaking of which…
I used to walk around with 3 or 4 USB thumb drives with iterations of my latest work and was in a constant state of ‘version madness’ trying to remember where I’d saved the latest document or cursing myself if I forgot to back-up a copy somewhere safe.
Now I have a set of organized folders on Google Drive (Dropbox or any other comparable service should work just as well) that automatically uploads the file I’m working on to my desktop computer, my laptop, my office computer at the college where I teach, and online to my Drive account. It’s goddamn magic. I no longer have to worry about losing my work or wondering if I’m working on the latest version of a story. All of them are current, all of them are safe.
Even if I do some writing on a plane or somewhere else without an internet connection, the minute I hook up to the internet again (at a hotel or a coffee shop while I’m on the road) it propagates the newest save and every version is up to date again. With small files like documents the process is practically instantaneous and, since they don’t take up much space, I can keep a full archive of every script I’ve ever written in the cloud so it’s easy for me to access old or new work wherever I am, whenever I need it. The same goes for pitches, outlines, contracts, logos, and key reference documents I use all the time.
I even have my email signature in a text file in the cloud with every email program (software or online) pointing to it, so if I ever need to change my signature all of them are the exact same and up to date. Anal, yes, but also very convenient.
Photoshop has a wondrous feature not enough people use – Actions.
When you’re producing 20+ page stories month after month you’ll end up doing the same things to art files time and time again. With Photoshop Actions you can set it to Record you doing the sequence once, then do it as many times as you want by clicking on the new Action you’ve created. You can even point an Action towards a folder and Batch Process the whole damn thing. Set it up and walk away while Photoshop chugs through the files. It’s glorious.
• Publisher needs cover art in 3 different sizes/formats for solicitation? One-click Action.
• I need to resize page art to a standard size and create a ‘floating’ line art layer before sending it to the color flatter? One-click Action.
• I need low rez pages with a watermark for reviewers? One-click Action.
• I need differently sized page files for the letterer? One-click Action.
• One of the colorists I work with has consistently dim colors? One-click Action.
Any time I can see that I’m going to end up doing something more than a couple times in Photoshop, I build an Action for it and automate that bastard. There’s no reason not to.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Funny enough, these tutorial posts here on my site are also, in part, a time saving measure. When people started asking me about how to break into the business, or how I write comics, I realized it would be something that would probably come up a lot. I decided to really hunker down and write up an extensive answer for each of those questions so I could easily point people towards it and not worry about brushing them off.
Everyone gets equal attention and a detailed answer instead of me ignoring the question or writing something vague and unhelpful because I don’t have time to deal with it when they ask. It’s a resource people can use and, if it’s helpful to them – great. If not – at least it didn’t take any more of my time.
Work time can be fleeting, especially when you’re trying to fit it in alongside a day job or other responsibilities. Working smarter with templates and automation can help you maximize your time and let you focus on the fun stuff – story building, art, and creativity.
Now, please enjoy the boilerplate finish to my tutorials below…
Feel free to share your own time-saving methods in the comments so other people can find and make use of them too!