Zubby Newsletter #5: So Much Sword & Sorcery

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Lots of fantasy fun this week, gang

We’ve Got It Covered

Conan dominates the cover of the Diamond PREVIEWS catalogue this month, showing off Dan Panosian’s rockin’ cover for CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1.

This is the second time in my career I’ve had a book on the cover of PREVIEWS (the first was with Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons in 2020) and each time it feels pretty surreal and amazing.

The ad on the inside gives you a Hyborian-charged glimpse at the art our creative team is putting together:

Stunning stuff, right? Hard to believe, but the interior story pages are just as awesome.

Rob De La Torre is drawing career-making artwork and I’m doing everything in my power to deliver soaring stories and dialogue to match. Everybody’s cooking on this one and I hope you’re excited to check it out.

Titan Comics and Heroic Signatures had the chance to snag this plum spot in the catalogue because they have so much confidence in this ongoing series, but the actual pre-order form arrives next month, so please keep an eye out for that.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #0: Free Comic Book Day in May.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1: Arriving in July. Get ready.

Dragons at the Movies

I had a wonderful time watching Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves with my family! There’s a true spark of adventure, comradery and joy that makes it all work. Congrats to the whole team.

My parents enjoyed the movie and they’re not fantasy fans in the slightest, so that tells you how wide a net they were able to cast with this film. As strange as it got, they were able to follow along with the characters and plot.

The comparisons I’ve heard to the first Guardians of the Galaxy film are pretty apt. It’s not the exact same, of course, but there’s a similar charm and momentum that carries the D&D movie, keeping it clipping along well through its 2 hour runtime.

Of course there are nitpicks I could make, but they fall to the wayside because the crew on this film kept their eye on the prize – good characters and fun adventure.

My only genuine disappointment during the D&D movie is that they didn’t give the original creators their due. “Hasbro” didn’t create Dungeons & Dragons or the Forgotten RealmsGary Gygax, Dave Arneson, and my friend Ed Greenwood deserved at least a Special Thanks.

That said, I hope the movie continues to have momentum and generates another huge wave of new players excited to join the hobby and build incredible memories with friends and family. That’s why we do what we do.

Speaking Of Dragons

All this talk around the Dungeons & Dragons movie reminded me how much things have changed in the past nine years.

Back in 2014 I begged IDW to try publishing Dungeons & Dragons comics again and they were skeptical because, even though they had the license as part of their Hasbro deal, their previous efforts around D&D hadn’t really taken off.

Ted Adams, head of IDW at that time, really liked the Samurai Jack comic series I was writing and asked what else I was interested in that they had access to. I said “Dungeons & Dragons or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles“.

Kevin Eastman was coming back to TMNT so that wasn’t an option but Ted didn’t think D&D had legs anymore. IDW had previously tried an ongoing and some mini-series but retailers and readers hadn’t jumped in the way they hoped.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition had strayed too far from key aspects of the game for many fans and Pathfinder had risen up to take quite a bit of D&D’s thunder at that time. Funny enough, I’d just finished writing a three-arc run of Pathfinder comics for Dynamite…

A new edition of Dungeons & Dragons was in development. Launching a new comic alongside 5th edition was the best shot they had for making it work.

We set up a conference call with reps from Wizards of the Coast and it went… honestly? Not great.

Tyranny of Dragons was the big adventure launching with D&D 5e and WotC wanted the new comic to adapt that story – an epic Lord of the Rings-esque adventure with Tiamat’s return, armies clashing, and the fate of the world on the line.

What I love about D&D is a tight-knit group of found family getting into danger. Scrappy, troublemaking, fun fantasy. A pack of well-meaning fools get in way over their heads and have to fight their way out.

Tyranny seemed completely at odds with my favorite aspects of the game and a lore-dense epic would be hard to deliver effectively in the format we were looking at: a 5 issue mini-series with 20 pages of story each issue.

Everyone was upbeat on the call, but I wasn’t feeling it at all. I even told my wife I was going to turn down the gig I’d stirred up in the first place. I wasn’t the right fit for what they envisioned and didn’t want to deliver a half-hearted D&D book.

Since I was going to bow out anyway, I sent a message to IDW and WotC expressing my concerns that I was the wrong fit and also sent them PDFs of Skullkickers, my creator-owned action-comedy sword & sorcery comic series.

To WotC’s credit, they 100% got what I was saying and pivoted completely. It would be far better if I was on board and enthusiastic than just pumping something out or stepping away. How could we make a fun new reader friendly D&D comic series instead?

Internally there was talk at WotC that doing a new video game set in Baldur’s Gate would be great. They wanted to establish a couple key things in the Murder in Baldur’s Gate adventure and then leave the city alone for a while.

I clearly enjoyed the action-comedy stuff, so we struck upon the idea of bringing back cult favorite characters Minsc and Boo from the video games. I came up with a way to bring Minsc and Boo into the present Forgotten Realms timeline with some wild magic and created a smaller stakes character-driven story that ran alongside Tyranny of Dragons.

Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate launched in 2014 and I’ve been writing D&D comics ever since.

The first three Baldur’s Gate comic stories are collected in the Days of Endless Adventure omnibus: Legends of Baldur’s Gate, Shadows of the Vampire, and Frost Giant’s Fury:

The next three stories are still available in trade: Evil at Baldur’s Gate, Infernal Tides, and MindbreakerMindbreaker also acts as a prequel to the Baldur’s Gate 3 video game launching later this year.

Writing the official D&D comics had me regularly in contact with Adam Lee, head of narrative for the D&D team at that time. He advocated for me to get more involved with other projects in development, including consulting on the D&D sourcebook that would eventually be called Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus.

The time I spent in the office working on Descent Into Avernus generated discussions that turned into the D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series (7 books and counting).

And that all led to the ridiculously incredible chance to attend D&D Live in 2019 and play Dungeons & Dragons on stage on my birthday with Dungeon Master Chris Perkins (D&D) and players Matt Mercer (Critical Role)Deborah Ann Woll (Daredevil)Mica Burton (Star Trek: Picard)B. Dave Walters (Invitation To Party), and Anna Prosser (Acquisitions Incorporated).

Rick and Morty VS Dungeons & Dragons with Pat Rothfuss and Troy Little (two mini-series and a game set), Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons with Jody Houser and Diego Galindo, a bunch of other consulting, the upcoming deluxe pop up book

…It’s honestly quite mind bending when I think about it.

Dungeons & Dragons changed my life when I was a kid and continues to change my life as an adult and creator.

So much joy and so many friendships. May the adventure continue ever onward.

Would You Believe There’s Also a Bundle?

With the D&D movie kicking butt at the box office, IDW and Humble Bundle decided now would be a perfect time to team up on a digital comic bundle.

You still have two weeks left to get in on this: 29 different D&D comic collected editions (including 7 of mine) for a fraction of their retail price, with money going to support the Hasbro Foundation charity.

If you haven’t read my D&D comics before, this is the perfect time to dive in and help a great cause at the same time. Please share the link far and wide.

Links and Other Things

If you’re an animation fan, I’m sure you’ve already seen the Lackadaisy animated pilot, based on the delightful webcomic by Tracy J. Butler and produced by Spike Trotman.

It’s a stunning achievement, especially for an independent animated production. Make sure you check it out-

Okay, that’s more than enough for this week. Thanks for reading this super-sized post. Next time, more non-fantasy stuff, I promise!

Jim

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