Zubby Newsletter #3: Humble Beginnings and Eldritch Ending

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Thank you again to everyone who has signed on to receive these emails and shared Zubstack with others. Greatly appreciated.

Now We’re Playing With Portals

Revealed on Friday, the next Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide is called PLACES & PORTALS and it arrives in bookstores on September 19th.

It’s a bit mind blowing that this is the seventh book in the series I originally proposed as just two books to Wizards of the Coast and Ten Speed Press. The response from gamers, old and new, has been incredible and we have even more in development.

Since the start, Stacy King and Andrew Wheeler have been an important part of development on the guides and Stacy, in particular, has taken on more of the workload as I juggle other writing projects and teaching. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve put built and it wouldn’t be possible without their hard work.

If you haven’t seen the D&D Young Adventurer’s Guides before, they’re the perfect entry point to the hobby. They’re built for readers age 8-12 but we’ve also heard from a bunch of Dungeon Masters that they also work incredibly well for introducing adult players to the game as well. More info on the series here in the FAQ I put together a while back.

A Blast from the Past: My First Comic Script

While digging through a bunch of old digital files I stumbled across CARGO, the first original comic script I ever wrote.

Back in 2002 I put this 12-page story together for a friend of mine working at the animation studio we were both at when he mentioned that he wanted to practice drawing comic pages in his spare time but didn’t have any story ideas. I asked what kind of thing he wanted to draw and he said “something Sci-Fi”, so this is what I came up with for him.

Obviously I’ve learned a lot since writing that first script, but I think the story still works well.

I thought it would be fun to post the full script up on my Patreon (with no paywall) so all of you can check it out and also so that if any artists or art students want to draw it as practice or a portfolio piece it’s easy to access. If you do illustrate it, just make sure you credit me for the story.

Another Blast From the Past: Skullkickers Stew

Thanks for the nice response to Grandma’s pierogi recipe I posted last time.

If you never saw the recipe for Skullkickers Stew and Dungeon Dumplings originally included as back matter in SKULLKICKERS #3 (way back in 2010), click on through HERE and snag the recipe.

A Blast From the Here and Now: R+M VS Cthulhu

And now, something new – This week sees the arrival of RICK AND MORTY VS CTHULHU #4 (of 4), the meta-mad chaotic conclusion of the mini-series Troy Little and I put together to tear a strip off ol’ H.P. Lovecraft, the Cthulhu Mythos, and the popularity of Rick and Morty all at the same time. Troy’s artwork (with Leonardo Ito and Nick Filardi on colors and Crank handling the lettering) elevated every scene, turning neat ideas I had for this tale into mind bending storytelling on a level I never could have imagined.

Even if you haven’t read any Lovecraft lore, there’s a lot to love here and I wrote a series of essays for each issue called Eldritch Endpapers that explains which stories and tropes we riff on and how it all links together.

The rocky ride Oni Press has had over the past year coupled with the PR bomb Adult Swim had to diffuse on Rick and Morty made the launch and release of this mini-series more difficult than any of us could have foreseen but, in the end, I am so damn thrilled with how well it all finally came together. We wove a lot of complex ideas and surreal visuals together while still delivering a story filled with humor and heart.

Big thanks to editors Sarah Gaydos, Chris Cerasi, Robert Meyers, and Bess Pallares for their support through thick and thin.

Check out preview pages for the final issue HERE.

Links and Other Things

  • The Etherington Brothers tutorial series How To Think When You Draw is a constant source of information and inspiration for my students and I. Their ability to summarize key concepts around perspective, structure, composition, design, and appeal in bite-size ways is really impressive and the subjects they cover run the gamut from the foundational to the fantastic. Their Twitter account also links to a bunch of other drawing and painting resources, so it’s well worth a follow.
  • My buddy Charles Soule has a new novel coming out called The Endless Vessel, but even cooler than that is the fact that he’s already written a second book expanding on the lore in it and is offering that expansion and a slew of other goodies (including an incredible map by cartographer Marco Bernardini) via Kickstarter right HERE.

That should cover it for this one.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know!


Arriving in September: Places & Portals

Arriving September 2023, PLACES & PORTALS, the seventh Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventure’s Guide!

Explore the geography, inhabitants, and legends of Dungeons & Dragons landscapes, from the challenges of the Forgotten Realms to spaces and places beyond, with this illustrated guide to adventurous travel.

In this illustrated guide for new players, you’ll be transported to the wondrous and magical realms of Dungeons & Dragons and given a one-of-a-kind course on all the places and portals adventurers can explore. Featuring fascinating lore and easy-to-follow explanations, young fans’ imaginations will ignite as they discover the unique quests, challenges, and magic that await in each destination.

With original, action-packed illustrations and advice on wilderness survival, creating overland maps, and the basics needed for any journey, this book provides the perfect introduction to young fans looking to traverse the worlds of D&D—and encourages them to create their own!

Adventure exists in incredible locations, and Places & Portals will help you explore it all!

D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide 7
Places & Portals

Explore the geography, inhabitants, and legends of Dungeons & Dragons landscapes, from the challenges of the Forgotten Realms to spaces and places beyond, with this illustrated guide to adventurous travel.
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Hudson Books

Zubby Newsletter #2: Legacy Number…132?

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Thank you to everyone who subscribed (zubscribed, I know, I know…) or shared the link to this newsletter with others. I deeply appreciate it.

Legacy Numbering?

For my own ridiculous bookkeeping, I counted up the old newsletter emails before I switched over to a blog format and it looks like there were 130 ‘Zubby Newsletter’ releases before this new version I’m calling Zubstack. So, welcome to #132.

When I collected comics as a kid I loved the idea of big numbers on the cover. Titles like Fantastic FourAvengers, or Detective Comics had 3-digits worth of issues and that just seemed incredible to me. Jumping into the midst of those universes felt more real because the timeline kept moving forward as their history stretched out behind them in a way that was easy to measure – month after month with the issue number on those long-running titles.

The first issue of Amazing Spider-Man I remember buying is #231. It wasn’t a ‘special’ issue or jumping on point, yet it hooked me so damn much.

I knew Spider-Man from the old Bakshi cartoon on Saturday mornings and seeing him in a kids magazine and TV show called the Electric Company. The cover of #231, with a villain called the Cobra trying to kill our hero as he’s perched precariously on a wall, was dark and exciting in ways I’d never seen in the cartoon. I couldn’t wait to dive in.

I collected Amazing Spider-Man from #231 through to #365 and bought a bunch of back issues and Marvel Tales reprint issues to try and fill-in as many gaps as I could afford. My brother and I collected every other Marvel super hero book we could get our hands on, especially Uncanny X-Men, Doctor Strange, Avengers, Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight, and Conan the Barbarian.

By 1992 my tastes had changed and I shifted over to black & white indie comics, Vertigo books, and manga (with only a handful of translated Japanese comics available in North America at that time). I eventually found my way back to collecting super hero comics in 2000 with Ultimate Spider-Man and The Authority.

I’ve still never had the pleasure of writing an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, but contributing to legacy issues of The Avengers (#675-690, 708-717), Invincible Iron Man (#609-611,614-616), and Conan the Barbarian (#288-300) is a huge honor.

Conan the Barbarian #0 – Free Comic Book Day

Speaking of Conan, I’m still deeply connected to the Hyborian Age and will be relaunching Conan the Barbarian this summer with Titan Comics and Heroic Signatures. This week I received advance copies of our Free Comic Book Day zero issue (which you’ll be able to pick up at your favorite local comic shop on Saturday, May 6th) and, honestly, I can’t believe how incredible it turned out.

Rob De La Torre delivers powerful pulpy line work reminiscent of the best who have ever portrayed the Cimmerian, José Villarrubia’s stirring colors add atmosphere to match, Richard Starkings brings brilliant lettering to make each page flow flawlessly, and editor Matt Murray somehow managed to keep us all on schedule! It’s genuinely a dream team on a dream book and I am so damn proud of what we’ve put together.

I’m not allowed to show interior pages yet, but once you see them I think you’ll agree that this book’s an absolute stunner. We’re pulling out all the stops. Do not miss it, my friends.

Conan the Barbarian #0 in May.

Conan the Barbarian #1 in July, and monthly onward from there.

Chez Zub’s

Quite a few people asked if I’d be including any recipes here in this newsletter. For those who don’t know, on Twitter I’ll post up the occasional photo of meals I put together for Stacy and I and people there seem to really enjoy it.

During the pandemic I made a concerted effort to learn how to cook new things and it became a surprisingly fun hobby. Without trying to sound too dramatic, when I’m cooking I push away a lot of the stresses of the outside world and just focus on the immediacy of what I’m doing in the kitchen – trying to make something taste great.

Learning to cook dishes we missed because we couldn’t travel or meals I’ve always wanted to wrap my head around has been both a stress reliever and confidence builder.

So, with that in mind, I hope you don’t mind if I include a recipe every so often. More value for your zubscription.

We’ll start with a classic from my Ukrainian grandmother – homemade cheese and potato pierogis. My grandma’s dough recipe is a bit different than other ones I’ve seen online and the way it tastes is a deep well of nostalgia for me.

Click through to this tweet thread I put together back in 2020 for a step-by-step breakdown of the process with photos. If you’ve only eaten factory-made pierogis you bought at the grocery store, you have no idea what you’ve been missing. These are comfort food on another level. Pure bliss.

If you get a chance to make a batch, send me photos!

Here’s a text-only version of grandma’s recipe:

Classic Pierogis (Cheese + Potato)

  • 3-4 large yellow potatoes
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 4 cups of all purpose flour
  • block of old cheddar cheese
  • sprig of chopped parsley
  • reserved potato water
  • salt
  • serve with sour cream, salt and pepper

Step 1: Peel a batch of yellow potatoes, chop them up, and boil them until very soft, then strain and mash the potatoes together with grated old cheddar and some chopped parsley.

Important – Save that potato water! Strain out any lumps and set it aside. The starchy water will be used later in the dough.

Step 2: Once the potato-cheese mixture has cooled, roll them into little balls and store them in the fridge. Each of these little cheese balls will be the filling for one pierogi.

You can do this whole process in one day, but getting the filling done the night before saves a bit of hassle juggling both parts (dough and filling) at once in the kitchen.

Step 3: The dough ingredients are simple-

  • All-purpose white flour (Grandma swears by Five Roses brand, but any all-purpose non-cake flour should work)
  • 2-3 eggs
  • Strained potato water
  • Pinch of salt

Beat the eggs. Add a bit of potato water.

Step 4: Put 4 cups of flour on your work surface. Make a well. Pour liquid in.

Step 5: Incorporate together and knead the dough. Too sticky? Add flour. Too dry? Add a bit of potato water.

Step 6: Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Throw the dough ball down on the counter a couple times to get out any air bubbles. If you cut the dough in half, you shouldn’t see any air bubbles.

Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 40-60 min.

Step 7: Separate the dough into manageable sections and roll out thin with a bit of extra flour so it doesn’t stick.

Step 8: Use a wide glass, mug, or circle template to cut circles.

Step 9: Flatten a filling ball a bit in the middle, then fold dough over it and pinch the dough closed.

If the dough doesn’t seal, use a bit of water along the edge and press together.

Step 10: Set the pierogis in rows on parchment paper and put those trays in the freezer. If you need to stack them, put a sheet of parchment paper between each set to keep them separated. Once the pierogis are frozen, you can put them in freezer bags all together or portioned out.

To prepare- Boil in salted water for 6-7 minutes. Strain and toss with butter. Serve with sour cream, salt, pepper and a bit of chopped dill (if you want to be extra fancy).

If you have any left over after boiling them (I don’t know how that could happen, but let’s pretend you didn’t scarf them all down in one go) the best way to reheat them is to fry them with some butter or bacon. The crispy outside and warm potato inside is unstoppable.

Links and Other Things

My students at Seneca are in the midst of a project where they’re drawing a street scene with buildings. Being able to quickly and accurately split surfaces into equal perspective sections is an absolute must when you’re building buildings (for plotting floors, doors, windows, or other repeated architectural features) and, when I looked on YouTube I couldn’t find a straight forward tutorial on the process I could refer them to after the lecture, so I made my own:

Also, one of my TAs pointed me toward the website of layout artist Steve Lowtwait. Steve has an exhaustive portfolio of professional background line art and some wonderful tutorials and step-by-step examples of how he translates storyboard panels into full backgrounds for production.

It’s a goldmine of reference for students or any other artists who want to improve their environmental art.

That should cover it for this time.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know!


Zubby Newsletter #1: Everything Old Is New Again

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Before social media or personal websites were a regular thing, I had a “Zubby Newsletter” I’d send to 20-30 of my friends/colleagues (those few who actually had email addresses back then) as a way to stay in touch when I moved to Calgary. The first one I sent was on March 27, 1999.

In February 2004 I migrated that newsletter over to Livejournal.

In May 2012, I moved all the newsletter and LJ posts to my personal website at www.jimzub.com

Starting up a newsletter again 24 years later feels both familiar and strange.

Zubstack will be promotional (but not spammy, I promise) and also a spot for me to talk about process – writing and drawing – links to articles and tutorials that have grabbed my attention and games, books, or other media on my mind…

…Which, funny enough, is almost exactly what the original newsletter did 24 years ago. The only difference now is that it’s open to anyone instead of just a handful of people I knew in ’99.

It’s all cycles. Wheels within wheels. 😉

Let’s get to it-


I assume if you’re on board this newsletter thing, you know what you’re getting into. It seems weird to do an introduction when people are actively choosing to sign up but, just to be on the safe side –

I’m Jim Zub (a pen name shortened from “Zubkavich”), a Canadian writer and artist probably best known for comics and TTRPG material I’ve been producing in various capacities since 2001.

Maybe you found my first webcomic during nascent internet days.

Maybe we met at a comic, anime, or gaming convention in the early 2000’s.

Maybe I popped up on your radar when I launched Skullkickers (2010) or Wayward (2014) during the Image Comics 2nd/3rd creator-owned wave.

Maybe you read one of my Making Comics/Economics of Comics tutorial posts around that same time.

Maybe you’ve enjoyed other comics or creative work I’ve done since then.

Whatever brought you on board, I’m thrilled you’re here.

Movie DNA

A couple weeks ago I was a guest on a podcast called Cinema Splash Page where host Michael Brodie and I went through key films from my youth that had a major influence on my storytelling sensibilities. Most of the interviews I do are about comics or RPGs, so this was a nice change of pace.

When I went back through those films, it was a bit surprising how deeply they drilled into my brain and still inform my work. If I had to summarize three key aspects-

  • Heading into the Unknown: Venturing forth to somewhere new, mysterious, and unexpected.
  • Swashbucklers, Underdogs, and Lucky Bastards: The protagonists I gravitate to tend to be caught off guard and in over their head. They’re doing the best they can, and will need to use everything in their arsenal to keep up with situations they find themselves in.
  • Adventure and Wonderment: Things move quickly and the stakes are worthy, but there’s always time for a touch of comedy or a moment of awe to break up the action.

Being able to see those broader patterns and understand my taste in fiction is valuable. It helps me make clearer creative choices that really click for me.

Murder, For Fun and Profit

Last week, Murderworld: Game Over was released at your favorite local comic shop. It was the final chapter of a 5-part story co-written by Ray Fawkes and I all about Arcade, the classic X-Men/Spider-Man villain. Since Arcade always loses to the super heroes he faces, we wanted to show how he actually keeps his whole Murderworld enterprise afloat, while making him a much more effective and sinister presence all around.

Ray and I originally pitched Murderworld to then Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada back in 2004, so this pitch was old enough to vote by the time it finally got the green light thanks to current Editor-In-Chief C.B. CebulskiX-Men editor Jordan White, and our own amazing editor Sarah Brunstad.

It’s now my go-to example on why you shouldn’t publicly blab about old storylines or other ones that got away. You never know when you may be able to take another shot or repurpose ideas down the road. I go more in-depth on how Murderworld finally came about in this video:

At each step of development, Sarah Brunstad championed Murderworld, encouraging us to tell the darkly twisted tale in our outline and made sure we didn’t have to sand down any sharp points. Every script I thought we were going to get push back, but she saw it through.

Our art teams – line artists Jethro Morales, Farid Karami, Carlos Nieto, Luca Pizzari, Lorenzo Tammetta, colorist Matt Mila and letterer Cory Petit – delivered the goods every issue.

Ray and I have known each other since college. We’ve watched each other navigate the highs and lows of the comic business. We’ve cheerleaded and commiserated on each success or setback. Finally getting the chance to work side-by-side with him on a project has been such a blast.

At the end of our Murderworld story, we sowed the seeds for a possible sequel and obviously we’d love to see that come to fruition but, whatever happens next, just having this story finally told after all this time feels like a huge win.

The trade paperback collection arrives in June and we hope people check it out if they missed the five interconnected single issues as they were released (Murderworld: Avengers, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Moon Knight, and Game Over).

Links and Other Things

This digital drawing tutorial about how to get clean ink lines in Photoshop posted by BaM Animation was a nice one to pass along to my students:

Questing Beast cracks the code on original Dungeons & Dragons worldbuilding and timekeeping. I grew up playing in the first edition era and yet the specifics of how it used to work in the rules as written (aka. RAW) still really surprised me here:

Also, my buddy Karl Kerschl’s new Kickstarter campaign is looking sweeeet. Go get it:

Death Transit Tanager

Okay, that’s enough for this time.

Thanks for your support and *ahem* zubscription.


Zub at Emerald City Comic Con 2023!

It’s wonderful to be back at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, Washington on March 2-5, 2023!
I’ll be set up with the Comic Sketch Art team at Artist Alley TABLE A-22.

In addition to signing at my table Thursday-Saturday, I’ll also be on a couple panels throughout the weekend:

FRIDAY March 3, 2023
2:15pm-3:15pm Convention Horror Stories, an ECCC Tradition – Room 342

Jim Zub (Conan the Barbarian, Rick and Morty VS Dungeons & Dragons) is back with the 11th annual fan-favorite con horror stories panel! What’s it like working as a pro in the business on the convention ‘circuit’? Ridiculous, embarrassing, and always entertaining. Some of these stories will make you laugh out loud, some will make you cringe! This panel is recommended for those 16+ due to coarse language.

SATURDAY March 4, 2023
12:45pm-1:45pm Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, from the Amazing to the Uncanny, Savage, and Strange – Room 323-325

Marvel creators return to Seattle to talk about their big projects – and the ones they made their name on. Join Zeb Wells (Amazing Spider-Man), David Pepose (Savage Avengers), and Jim Zub (Thunderbolts) as they talk about what’s to come. Moderated by Chris Arrant, Popverse Editor-In-Chief

Talking About the Movies That Influenced Me With Cinema Splash Page

I spoke to Michael Brodie at Cinema Splash Page all about movies that ignited my creativity when I was young and still factor into my work now, including Conan the Barbarian (1982), the animated Hobbit (1977), The Last Unicorn (1982), Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), The Secret of NIMH (1982), and games like Dungeons & Dragons.

It was fun breaking down some of that entertainment “DNA” to see the qualities that stuck with me and how much they factor into the kinds of stories I strive to create.

Dungeons & Dragons: The Ultimate Pop-Up Book

Stacy and I had the chance to work with award-winning paper engineer Matthew Reinhart, artist Claudio Pozas and the crew at Insight Editions to put together an incredible Dungeons & Dragons pop-up experience.

Trust me when I tell you that that modern pop-up books are way, way more elaborate and impressive compared to the kinds of books we had when I was a kid. Each spread in this deluxe book unfolds and stands up off the page with dozens of different interactive elements based on iconic locations and creatures from the Forgotten Realms.

It’s a stunning showpiece worthy of a place in your D&D library available for pre-order now and arriving in stores in May!

Dungeons & Dragons:
The Ultimate Pop-Up Book

See the world of Dungeons & Dragons come to life through the incredible craftwork of pop-up legend Matthew Reinhart! Traverse the land of Faerûn in an all-new way! Featuring innovative pop-up artistry and original illustrations, D&D: The Ultimate Pop-Up Book gives fans a unique experience of the world of D&D.
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Arriving in August- The Monsters & Creatures Compendium


Discover the terrifying monsters and fascinating beasts of Dungeons & Dragons with this A-to-Z illustrated guide to all the creatures you might encounter during your adventures.

In this single-volume collection of all the creature profiles from the first six books in the Young Adventurer’s Guide series, you’ll find the wild and wondrous creatures that populate the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Pore over profiles of dragons (from chromatic to metallic), owlbears, unicorns, and more, each accompanied by vivid illustrations. Narrative encounters and storytelling prompts help you strategize so you can make sure to best these beasts in your own campaigns.

With beautiful illustrations and advice on what to do should you come across these magical and terrifying creatures, The Monsters & Creatures Compendium provides the perfect guide for young fans and new players traversing the worlds of D&D.

D&D Young Adventurer’s
Monsters & Creatures Compendium

In this single-volume collection of all the creature profiles from the first six books in the Young Adventurer’s Guide series, you’ll find the wild and wondrous creatures that populate the world of Dungeons & Dragons.
Barnes & Noble
Hudson Books

Skullkickers Sale on DriveThruRPG

Over on DriveThruRPG, there’s a sale on Skullkickers vol. 1-6 and our new comic + TTRPG sourcebook Caster Bastards and the Great Grotesque.

It’s a perfect time to jump into the classic action-comedy sword & sorcery series!

Talking RPGs at the Corner of Story and Game

In the second part of our interview (Part 1 is HERE), I chat with Gerald at The Corner of Story and Game podcast all about growing up playing tabletop RPGs, how it’s influenced my writing, working on games and more. Give it a listen: