Conan: Battle of the Black Stone Prelude Reviews

The CONAN: BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE prelude issue arrived on Free Comic Book Day (and is now available for FREE online right HERE), kicking off an event mini-series that will run this Fall. What did critics think of this teaser issue?

Bottalk: 9/10 “If you’re a fan of Jack London’s The Star Rover you’ll love this comic and it’s free! Go get it! Download it! It is spectacular.”

Eternal Crusader: “It will be exciting to see how this Howardverse develops and how much it will be the focus of future Conan publications…The artwork is bold, flashy, and colorful.”

Gary B the Casual Comic Guy: “Just a fantastic start, certainly intriguing, and seeing all these characters being drawn in makes me anticipate the coming story.”

Grimdark Magazine: “The Jonas Scharf artwork in this issue appeals…Foreshadowing an exciting event, this issue is engaging for existing fans while simultaneously providing a gentle introduction to newcomers to Conan the Barbarian.”

Hobbies of a Man: “I really enjoyed how everything looked. I thought it was all cool…overall, very cool stuff, and I thought the WTF at the end there was really, really great.”

League of Comic Geeks: “Thoroughly enjoyed this, serves its purpose of both an introduction and kick off spot for new and existing readers alike. Exactly what a FCBD issue should be.”

Stygian Dogs: “Jonas Scharf’s art looks great. It’s something distinct from what Rob De La Torre and Doug Braithwaite have been giving us and Jao Canola’s seem bolder that we’ve seen in the ongoing monthly series.”

Todd Luck: “I think this is a really good comic to pick up if you are a Conan fan.”

Zubby Newsletter #63: Forty Eight

Today’s my birthday. 48.

Things are good!

Stacy and I are still in Japan, at least for a few more days. The friends we were traveling with headed home Thursday so it’s just the two of us now. Getting back here at last has been wonderful, but I can definitely feel a difference deep in my bones. Exploring all day wipes us out faster than it used to. There have been several days where we’ve run around in the morning and early afternoon, literally had a midday nap back at our hotel, and then rallied for more social stuff in the evening. We’re not in our twenties anymore.

That said, tons of walking and great food has also been good for us, even if my feet are sore and muscles ache. As always, there’s so much to see and do.

For my birthday we braved the line at Mutekiya, a famous no reservation restaurant and one of my favorite food spots in Tokyo. Incredible ramen and then cocktails at a nearby pub with the love of my life. A fine start to 48.

I posted up a gallery of photos from The Ghibli Park in Nagoya on Facebook and Twitter and will have other galleries for the Super Mario World theme park, Design Festa 59 and other locations once I have time to filter through the hundreds of photos we’ve taken.


Alien Gods and the Hyborian Age

Jeff Shanks, the Robert E. Howard scholar who writes the amazing essays in the back of each issue of the monthly Conan comic, talks up a storm about the literary and spiritual references that helped build the Hyborian Age, plus lots of interesting background on pulp writing in the 1920s and ’30s.

The official Conan the Barbarian YouTube channel is doing a great job creating original material for fans to dig into.


Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

Jun 7-8, 2024 Howard Days Cross Plains, TX, USA
July 25-28, 2024 San Diego Comic-Con San Diego, CA, USA
Aug 1-4, 2024 Gen Con Indy Indianapolis, IN, USA
Aug 16-18, 2024 Fan Expo Chicago Chicago, IL, USA
Aug 22-25, 2024 Fan Expo Canada Toronto, ONT, CANADA
Oct 17-20, 2024 Gamehole Con Madison, WI, USA


Links and Other Things


• Five years ago on my birthday, I played Minsc the Mighty alongside an all-star cast at Dungeons & Dragons Live: The Descent. It was a milestone in so many wondrous ways, near and dear to my heart. If you haven’t watched the old liveplay video, it’s still on the official D&D YouTube channel.

• I mentioned playtesting and enjoying Keith Baker‘s GLIM game a couple months ago and it’s now on Kickstarter, so check it out.

• My buddy Ian Moss has designed a new board game called EVERBLOOM also worth checking out.

Veritasium‘s video all about game theory and the Prisoner’s Dilemma is well worth watching.

I hope the rest of your weekend is a blast!
Jim

Zubby Newsletter #62: Near and Deer

Greetings from Nara Park. The deer here are as friendly as ever.

Tokyo, Nagoya, Nara and Osaka. Our vacation in Japan continues. It’s been a great time to engage much-missed experiences and discover new ones. Our friends are on a 2-day temple retreat over the weekend while Stacy and I enjoy exploration and amazing meals in one of Japan’s most vibrant cities.

This whole trip has been a gift, but it’s time to give all of YOU a gift as well…


Battle of the Black Stone Prelude – FREE


Last weekend was Free Comic Book Day and Titan released our CONAN: BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE prelude issue to shops but, if you missed it, I’m happy to point you toward the FREE PDF DOWNLOAD now available from Titan’s website and Amazon Kindle!

Jonas Scharf‘s line art is sublime, Jao Canola‘s colors are intense, Richard Starkings‘ letters sing, Jeff Shanks‘ essay is enlightening…and the story is pretty good too. 😉

Please share that download link far and wide, my friends. I want to get it in the hands of as many people as possible as we ramp up for more Conan adventures through 2024 and beyond.


Nerd Chatter


During the Calgary Expo I chatted with Chris Doucher from GeekNerdNet and the interview is now available on his site. We cover Conan aplenty and conventions.


Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

Jun 7-8, 2024 Howard Days Cross Plains, TX, USA
July 25-28, 2024 San Diego Comic-Con San Diego, CA, USA
Aug 1-4, 2024 Gen Con Indy Indianapolis, IN, USA
Aug 16-18, 2024 Fan Expo Chicago Chicago, IL, USA
Aug 22-25, 2024 Fan Expo Canada Toronto, ONT, CANADA
Oct 17-20, 2024 Gamehole Con Madison, WI, USA


Links and Other Things

Gale Force Nine is crowdfunding The Adventures of Conan with dice-rolling action and asymmetrical gameplay. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but the previews look solid and I’m eager to give it a try. There’s still 4 days left if you want to get in on the ground floor on this one.

Conan the Barbarian letterer and all-around amazing creator Richard Starkings is crowdfunding Elephantmen: Yvette, a new 48-page special issue and the campaign has some fun extras worth checking out. Richard talks more about Conan connections here in this Facebook post.

I hope your weekend is going well!
Jim

Zubby Newsletter #61: Back In Japan


I’m typing this little newsletter update from a Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) as we head to the second stop on our Japan vacation. The past four days have been a whirlwind of exploration and fantastic food. It feels so good to finally be back after six years. As always, there’s some jetlag and a bit of culture shock in terms of transit and geography, but it’s all coming back to us now and we’re having a blast.

The Free Comic Book Day signing at Verse Comics in Ikebukuro went really well. I’ve never started a signing before where the line-up clapped when I entered the room, which was an unexpected little surprise. Lots of great little conversations with Marvel fans, D&D players and, of course, Conan readers aplenty. With the time zone change, the people here in Japan were some of the first to get their hands on the CONAN: BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE prelude issue and, when I told them that they were even more excited to dig in.

I hope that wherever you are, you managed to snag our freebie from your local comic retailer and that it’s whet your appetite for big adventures to come. Jonas Scharf and Jao Canola did a stellar job on the art and they will be continuing that excellence on the event mini-series that kicks off this Fall. The response I saw online was incredibly gratifying and I am so glad we have so much support and enthusiasm from readers everywhere.

Some other interesting stuff:
• Beyond the giveaway prelude, the books I signed the most at Verse were Avengers Tech-On, the Bandai-Marvel collaboration I worked on with Jeff ‘Chamba’ Cruz. I also managed to snag a copy of the Japanese language edition of the book for my collection.

• According to a game translator I met, Call of Cthulhu is the hottest tabletop RPG right now in Japan. I’ve been seeing the official translated books and unofficial fan material prominently displayed in every game shop we’ve been to.

• The funniest interaction I had with a reader at the signing was a guy who brought a bunch of my Champions comics and excitedly exclaimed “You are the first one to kill Ms. Marvel, even before Zeb Wells!”, which is true, but the way he excitedly said it made us all laugh. He genuinely enjoyed Champions: Beat The Devil and said the story was very emotional and one of his favorites.


Big Hyborian Energy

The official CONAN THE BARBARIAN YouTube channel kicks off with a great summary of the character and his legacy and I’m thrilled to be a part of it:

In addition, Shawn Curley and I did an extensive interview all about the Cimmerian himself – the books, the original movie, Conan’s pop culture footprint, my current comic writing and big plans for the future. If you haven’t subscribed to their channel, give this one a watch/listen and get all caught up:


Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

Jun 7-8, 2024 Howard Days Cross Plains, TX, USA
July 25-28, 2024 San Diego Comic-Con San Diego, CA, USA
Aug 1-4, 2024 Gen Con Indy Indianapolis, IN, USA
Aug 16-18, 2024 Fan Expo Chicago Chicago, IL, USA
Aug 22-25, 2024 Fan Expo Canada Toronto, ONT, CANADA
Oct 17-20, 2024 Gamehole Con Madison, WI, USA


Have a wonderful week!
Jim

Savage Sword of Conan #2 Reviews

Amazon: “This is horror-themed, raw, provocative, and painful–in a good way…Not to be too morbid, but this takes Conan to a place we haven’t seen him in a while and it’s done well.”

Comic Book Dispatch: 9.2/10 “Richard Pace’s primitive art is as rough and brutal as the Hyborian Age. Furious slashes and angry lines show Conan’s battles with animals and monstrous warriors.”

Comic Culture: “Clearly the best book of the week…Every single page is beautiful. I just love it. What a blessing this book has been.”

Comical Opinions: 8.8/10 “Jim Zub and Patch Zircher are at the top of their game, building upon Robert E. Howard’s legacy…Savage Sword of Conan #2 is a dream for Robert E. Howard fans with two stories showcasing Howard’s greatest characters by creators who love them.”

Eternal Crusader: 9/10 “Jim Zub has consistently delivered authentic tales featuring the Cimmerian and ‘Leaving the Garden’ is no exception, blending originality with homage to Robert E. Howard’s character…Heroic Signatures and Titan Comics have spared no effort in elevating the series to new heights.”

Grimdark Magazine: “Dark and sketchy, Pace’s artwork has an almost expressionistic feel that suits the grim mood of the narrative. The thick blacks and contorted facial expressions are especially effective in the early panels as Conan struggles his way to the surface.”

Hobbies of a Man: 9/10 “I think they did a great job improving on the concept from last time. I think they did a great job in printing.”

Michael K. Vaughan: “It’s just really, really good and it’s also terrifying because it tells a horror story, and a really good one.”

Pop Culture Philosophers: “What a great issue of Conan…A classic nice, bold and savage Conan tale…A lot of bang for your buck.”

Stygian Dogs: “This feels like the best Conan story in years. In Zub’s story of dark horror, vengeance and a stubborn Cimmerian’s instincts for survival, artist Richard Pace pursues an almost primitive approach in the way he depicts these primal moments and, as the story addresses the innocence of childhood, Pace’s technique remains effective.”

Todd Luck: “Jim Zub does something with a character that I haven’t really seen before or, at least, not done in this way and I think that makes this a unique and memorable story, especially the scene with the wolves…I think Conan is in very good hands.”

Wakizashi’s Teahouse: 9/10 “You can tell the people making this comic are enjoying themselves. That’s good to see. It comes across on the pages.”

Zubby Newsletter #60: Summertime Chill

As expected, this year’s Calgary Expo was a wonderful time. The crowd in Alberta is always enthusiastic and it was a joy to see familiar faces and new fans at the show. Following the recent trend, there was a lot of Conan excitement and D&D buzz as well.

As I finish typing this, Stacy and I are staying at our friend’s place outside Calgary, slamming through work emails and finalizing a couple project hand-ins while we repack our bags and get ready to fly to Japan for vacation.

(Wait – vacation?! Jim doesn’t take vacations, does he? What strange times indeed…)


Frozen Faith Begins in July!

In July, CONAN THE BARBARIAN #13 kicks off the second year of our new era of Hyborian adventure. 90 years ago was the original publication of Gods of the North, also known as The Frost-Giant’s Daughter, one of the most famous and beloved Conan stories written by Robert E. Howard.

Frozen Faith, our fourth story arc, is a celebration of Frost-Giant’s Daughter, but it’s not just a direct adaptation of that seminal tale. I’ve been clear in interviews that I don’t want to just retread existing Hyborian canon because we’re not a cover band here to replay the hits. Keeping the world’s most famous sword & sorcery hero vibrant requires new and unexpected narratives. I didn’t want to explore Frost-Giant’s Daughter material unless there was something fresh and exciting we could bring to the mix and, thankfully, I found an approach I’m really excited about. No spoilers, especially at this early stage, just know that Doug Braithwaite is drawing the best damn pages of his career (along with four glorious connected covers) and I am ecstatic at how it’s all coming together. I think it’s going to be really special.

Superhero Hype has an exclusive first look at the cover art and solicit text for Conan the Barbarian #13.

Speaking of Frozen Faith, variant cover artist Gil Agudin has posted a breakdown of his Conan the Barbarian #13 cover illustration process on Artstation. It’s a combination of 3D model work in Zbrush and Photoshop digital painting.


Fighting Fantasy on My Phone


After doing a bunch of research while designing a new 1st edition D&D adventure I put together for Gary Con, I’ve been enjoying the Fighting Fantasy Classics app by Tin Man Games, reliving the wondrous DEATHTRAP DUNGEON and other old school gamebooks on my phone.

Now that I’ve been pulled back in, it got me thinking that some day it would be a ton of fun to write a Fighting Fantasy book and complete my full circle sword & sorcery triumvirate of inspiration – Dungeons & Dragons, Conan the Barbarian, and Fighting Fantasy made me the fantasy-flinging nerd I am today.


Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

May 4, 2024 Verse Comics Tokyo, JAPAN
Jun 7-8, 2024 Howard Days Cross Plains, TX, USA
July 25-28, 2024 San Diego Comic-Con San Diego, CA, USA
Aug 1-4, 2024 Gen Con Indy Indianapolis, IN, USA
Aug 16-18, 2024 Fan Expo Chicago Chicago, IL, USA
Aug 22-25, 2024 Fan Expo Canada Toronto, ONT, CANADA
Oct 17-20, 2024 Gamehole Con Madison, WI, USA


Links and Other Things

Chris Cantwell passed me an advance look at the second arc of Briar, the fairytale fantasy epic he’s weaving with Germán García and Matheus Lopes. The art is perfect for the moody and tragic tale that unfolds on every page. Wonderful work.

• Another rockin’ fantasy comic coming up is Heartpiercer by Rich Douek and artist Gavin Smith. The first issue sets the stage for a premise full of potential.

Mark Evanier‘s rundown of the recent controversy around who created Wolverine is a multi-part series called Claws For Debate that is well worth catching up on, packed with information and context aplenty on issues around credit and legacy that creatives and the general public should be more aware of.

Spike Trotman recently posted a link to a 2008 Supinfocom animated short called Yankee Gal that I’d forgotten about. A great little piece worth revisiting or watching for the first time.

Have a great week. My next newsletter will be sent from Japan – the return of #GaiJim!
Jim

Conan the Barbarian #10 Reviews

Our third story arc, The Age Unconquered continues! What did critics think? Let’s find out…

Amazon: “Rob De La Torre is back to lend his artistic mastery once again for several issues of the new CtB.”

Comic Book University: “There is no more consistently good comic out there…I don’t think anyone has carried the torch this well since Robert E. Howard.”

Comical Opinions: 9/10 “a comic with fantastic Bronze Age-styled art, grim, gritty barbarian action, and an authentic connection to Robert E. Howard’s storytelling style. If you want a Conan comic, this is as good as it’s going to get”

Deceptisean: “If you love sword & sorcery action adventure stuff, Conan is great, one of the best comics out there.”

League of Comic Geeks: “This book never disappoints. The art, the story and the variety of characters and mystery just continue to excite this reader month to month.”

Pop Culture Philosophers: “Jim Zub knows what old school Conan fans want, but he also knows how to craft a great modern comic that’s going to be pleasing to all fans today…Good classic Conan fun and I’m all here for it!”

Sci-Fi Pulse: 9.7/10 “Jim Zub continues to do a great job with these Conan books and remains true to the spirit of the characters and themes from the original stories by Robert E. Howard…A great story that is building to what will likely be a fantastic ending.”

Stygian Dogs: “With its rich narrative, excellent pacing and mature content, issue 10 of Conan the Barbarian does not disappoint. Roberto De La Torre and Jim Zub continue to soar the heights of Valusia’s majestic spires.”

Thinking Critical: “This is a great book. It’s really fun. It’s beautifully, beautifully illustrated…Roberto De La Torre is a superstar in the making.”

Todd Luck: “This is the exact type of brooding, metaphysical dream that I would expect in a Kull story. Very ominous stuff…It’s very, very good and it does nail Kull absolutely.”

Zub at Calgary Expo 2024!

After missing last year, I’m back at the Calgary Comics & Entertainment Expo on April 25-28, 2024!
If you’re headed to the show, I hope to see you there.

BIG FOUR BUILDING – ARTIST ALLEY TABLE P-58

In addition to being at my table, I’m also on a panel Saturday:

Saturday April 27th
6:00pm – CONAN vs DEAD ROMANS: JIM ZUB and FRED KENNEDY – BIG 4 COMIC STAGE

Writer Spotlight: Jim Zub is the acclaimed writer of Conan the Barbarian and Dungeons & Dragons, and Fred Kennedy’s first Image Comics mini-series Dead Romans, debuted in 2023.

Long Time Coming

Short version: Submitted my grades and my teaching sabbatical starts TODAY.

Long version: In 2018, I was co-writing Avengers, writing Champions and Dungeons & Dragons, and wrapping up Wayward.

Quite a few industry friends told me it was ridiculous that I kept my full-time teaching gig at the college. Clearly it was time to quit. I mean, damn, I was writing Avengers as the Infinity War movie hit theaters. There were project opportunities and conventions aplenty.

And yet, I couldn’t help but keep going with the pragmatic approach that got me to that point.

Juggling full-time teaching with a full-time writing slate has been stressful. Most evenings after school I have dinner with Stacy and then write until late at night. Most weekends are writing days instead of social time.

Even still, having both jobs has given me financial and creative freedom. Bills being covered by teaching income meant I couldn’t be forced to take a writing project I didn’t want or an insulting page rate.

Having creative projects kept teaching from feeling stagnant. Teaching kept my creative batteries charged with student enthusiasm and made me a better communicator.

In 2020, I finally had my finances set up so I could take an extended teaching sabbatical. One job instead of two. Better work-life balance and more travel for fun. The world spun off its axis and that didn’t happen.


When a bunch of projects crumbled and my regular writing gigs had ‘pencils down’ for 6 months during the pandemic, I was okay. Teaching came through. My pragmatic approach kept things steady despite the crunch.

I see so many creative people, incredible creators, sideswiped by layoffs or let go from dream projects and I am so, so thankful I’ve been able to weather the storm.

Starting today, I’m finally taking that teaching sabbatical, exactly 4 years after the original plan.
16 months away from teaching.

I know I’ve worked hard to get to this point, but it also feels strange. I have to keep telling pragmatic Jim that the plan is solid.

I feel happy, I feel a bit guilty, I feel relieved, and a bit paranoid.
It’s a maelstrom of feelings, if I’m being honest.

So few people get a career they love that fills them up and I have had two. It really is a blessing.
But I also need a break to make sure I don’t burn out.

Conan the Barbarian (and related Hyborian projects) charges forward for the foreseeable future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guides continue and a couple other fun projects are in the wings.


On the creative freelancing front, things are as solid as they’ve ever been.

There are so many factors out of our control, especially in creative careers where every part of the process (opportunity, execution, the market, the audience, timing) can make or break a project.

• Celebrate victories when they happen but don’t let them make you cocky.
• Shake off losses as best you can and don’t let them make you bitter.
If you figure out how to consistently do both those things, tell me your secret. 😉

11 years ago, I was unceremoniously dumped from writing Birds of Prey on the New 52 before a single issue saw print. At that moment, I was 100% convinced my career in comics was done.

But, I bounced back – Samurai Jack, Figment, D&D, Wayward, and a bunch of others.
Some amazing projects. Other deep disappointments.

At this moment, things are damn good.
Thank you for reading and helping me build this little dream. I try not to take any of it for granted.

Zubby Newsletter #59: Semesters

9 years of elementary school, 4 years of high school, 4 years of college, and 22 years of teaching.
Fall term, winter term, summer term…They’ve been like a drumbeat every year.

My life has been defined by semesters.

Back in 2020, I announced I was stepping away from teaching to start a 16 month sabbatical focused on writing and travel. When the pandemic flared up just a few weeks later, that ambitious change quickly fell to the wayside as projects went into stasis or crumbled completely and Seneca asked me to pause my plans to help with teaching online.

Four years later and now it’s really happening. I’m breaking free of the semester mold for the next 16 months and, honestly, when Fall rolls around I don’t even know how that’s going to feel.

On Thursday, we watched the 2D Animation grad films and then some of the profs grabbed dinner and a pint. Werner Zimmermann, one of my mentors and a dear friend, starts his retirement at the same time I’m starting my sabbatical, so we celebrated our wrap up together. When I was in charge of Seneca’s Animation program, I told Werner I needed to leave before he retired because I couldn’t imagine running the program without him, so it felt oddly appropriate to toast big changes and then grab the train with him at the end. On the way home, we talked about why we love teaching so much and our passion for stories.

It was a great night
End of an era.


Free Comic Book Day in Japan!

So yeah, that sabbatical thing I just mentioned…next month Stacy and I head back to Japan for the first time in six years! I won’t be working much on the road, but I did set up a signing-

Free Comic Book Day is Saturday, May 4th and I’ll be at Verse Comics in Tokyo from 1-3pm!

CONAN: BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE #0 is my free issue this year and I’ll sign copies as long as supplies last, along with any other books I’ve worked on (including Japanese language ones).


Telling Tales With a Stygian Dog

Here’s the second half of the interview I had with Stygian Dogs all about CONAN. This time, we cover:
• Free Comic Book Day 2024 and Battle of the Black Stone
• Conan the Barbarian Arc 4
• The brilliance of Doug Braithwaite
• Diego Rodriguez’s incredible colors
• Upcoming Savage Sword of Conan issues
• Gary Con anecdotes
• Conan fandom
and more!


A Savage Sneak Peek


Here’s a glimpse of atmospheric black & white page art by Richard Pace from our feature story coming in SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #2, arriving in stores May 1st.

In 2019, I pitched two different stories to Mark Basso, the Conan editor at Marvel at that time-
One of them was The Gambler, which ended up in Savage Sword of Conan (2019) #7-9.
The other one was Leaving The Garden, which finally comes to life in this new issue of Savage Sword.


Ginny Di Gets Our Guide

Thrilled to see D&D YouTuber extraordinaire Ginny Di cover ARTIFICERS & ALCHEMY, the new D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide, in her latest video!

She has tons of creative ideas about flavoring magic for RPGs, which we encourage in the series!


Upcoming Appearances

Apr 25-28, 2024 Calgary Expo Calgary, AB, CANADA
May 4, 2024 Verse Comics Tokyo, JAPAN
Jun 7-8, 2024 Howard Days Cross Plains, TX, USA
July 25-28, 2024 San Diego Comic-Con San Diego, CA, USA
Aug 1-4, 2024 Gen Con Indy Indianapolis, IN, USA
Aug 16-18, 2024 Fan Expo Chicago Chicago, IL, USA
Aug 22-25, 2024 Fan Expo Canada Toronto, ONT, CANADA
Oct 17-20, 2024 Gamehole Con Madison, WI, USA


Links and Other Things

Mike Monteiro‘s classic presentation on freelancer contracts called F*ck You, Pay Me should be required viewing for anyone in a creative field.

Chef John‘s recipe for Golden Butter Rice hit the spot.

Questing Beast talks about Braunstein, the first tabletop RPG, with some footage and chatter from Gary Con.

Have a great week!
Jim