Zubby Newsletter #71: Look, a Light in the Sky…

Artwork by Rob De La Torre and Diego Rodriguez.

I mentioned the pre-convention sprint in my previous newsletter and it’s definitely getting intense now. I’m plugging away on writing deadlines and finalizing my schedule for meetings, signings, and panels while trying to leave enough room for all the weird and wonderful things that happen each year at the big show.

If you’re headed to San Diego Comic-Con or Gen Con and want to talk business or you’re a friend and want to hang out, now is the time to reach out and find a good time for it instead of leaving it to chance.

Who will I see at the shows?
Are you ready for impact?


I’m a Poet and Didn’t Even Realize…

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #3 arrived in stores this week!

My contribution this issue is small in terms of page count, but big for me in terms of flexing new creative muscles. Check out more info here:

Big thanks to Chris Butera and Fredrik Malmberg for the suggestion and encouragement, and Rob De La Torre for the incredible art that accompanies my piece in the magazine.


Nominate These Dragons

The nomination form for the 2024 Dragon Awards is now open and anyone can submit books that were released from July 1st 2023 to June 30th 2024 for consideration…which means that CONAN THE BARBARIAN: BOUND IN BLACK STONE is eligible in the ‘Best Comic Book or Graphic Novel’ category.

Want to help us out? Fill out the form with your fantasy, sci-fi, or other genre favorites and let’s see if we can move to the nomination stage, by Crom!


Listen To These Dragons

Speaking of dragons, I had a great chat with Erin M. Evans, B. Dave Walters, and Treavor Bettis on their wonderful podcast Writing About Dragons and Sh*t.

We cover graphic novels versus prose, working with artists, writing a short story, the eb and flow of nerd culture, working on Conan the Barbarian, structuring stories for serialized storytelling, and more!
Give it a listen.


And, while you’re at it, Collect These Dragons


The D&D Young Adventurer’s Collection 2 arrives in stores on Sept 24th, 2024!

Books 5-8 of the series collected together in a great looking box set that makes a perfect gift for new players or dungeon masters.

If you want more information on the D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series and how they bring new people into tabletop RPGs, check out the Frequently Asked Questions page I put together HERE.


Got a Question? – Ask Here

I’m continually impressed by the number of questions that Tom Brevoort answers in each installment of his newsletter. It’s clearly a lot of work, but he’s also able to maintain a great sense of back and forth with his readers.

I’ve done extensive Q&As before, and am happy to answer more here if people pose questions in the comments.

Got questions about current or old projects I’ve done? Want to know more about working in the industry or attending conventions? Other queries about other things? Ask away and we’ll see if it gets some traction.


Current + Upcoming Releases

  • Conan the Barbarian #12 – released July 3rd.
  • Life of Wolverine – One Shot – released July 3rd.
  • Savage Sword of Conan #3 – released July 10th.
  • Conan the Barbarian Vol.2: Thrice Marked For Death – TPB releases July 16th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #13 – releases July 24th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #14 – releases August 21st.
  • Savage Sword of Conan #4 – releases August 28th.

  • Upcoming Appearances

    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

    • I read an advance of the first issue of The Power Fantasy, a new creator-owned comic series by Kieron Gillen and Caspar Wijngaard, and it’s really sharp stuff. Make sure you pre-order to get on board this rocket before it launches to the stratosphere.

    • My friend Shelly Mazzanoble has a new book coming out in November called How to Dungeon Master Parenting: A Guidebook for Gamifying the Child Rearing Quest, Leveling Up Your Skills, and Raising Future Adventurers. That title is a mouthful, but it also tells you exactly what you’re going to get, and it’s great stuff all around.

    • My friend Phil Rickaby is crowdfunding a Christmas horror stage play called It Sees You When You’re Sleeping about terrors that lie beneath the holiday season, embodied by that damn elf-doll. If you’re in the Toronto area or want to support an independent theater production, check it out.

    • I made Sam Zien‘s Saucy Pasta recipe on Friday night and it cooked up fast and turned out really tasty. It’s also a simple base to build other pasta recipes around, so I’m definitely going to make it again in the future.

    Jim

    Zubby Newsletter #70: Summer Sprint

    July has already burst from the starting blocks and is moving into quite the sprint. I’ve got an aggressive writing schedule going right now, trying to get as much done as I can before the back-to-back blitz that is San Diego Comic Con and Gen Con this year. I’m chipping away at my To-Do List while also carving out time for walks with Stacy, seeing family and friends, exercise, cooking fun meals, and a little bit of gaming. It’s a busy time, but also feels good all around.

    The response to Conan the Barbarian #12 has been amazing. After so much planning and hard work, seeing it finally out there in the world getting such positive feedback from readers and retailers is an absolute thrill.

    I know I say this a lot, but it still bears repeating – Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing your enthusiasm with other readers, in person and online. It means so much to all of us on the team.

    So…after that epic finale to The Age Unconquered, what comes next?

    In our first issue there was a flashback montage that shows Conan fighting at the Battle of Venarium that also included these two panels-

    Artwork from Conan the Barbarian #1 by Rob De La Torre. Colors by José Villarrubia.

    The narration drops hints about a young Conan challenging himself on his early journeys and that was by design. Like the original Conan short stories published in Weird Tales, we’re hopping around the timeline to build larger thematic arcs, not just telling Conan’s story in chronological order.

    Our fourth story arc, called Frozen Faith, chronologically takes place between issue #0 and issue #1. It will show Conan traveling north after leaving Cimmeria and issue #13 includes that fateful bear hunt and its meaning to our Cimmerian hero. After a wild year of dark magic, time travel and cosmic horror, this is very much a back to basics man vs nature-style survival story, but with twists and turns along the way and important tethers to The Frost-Giant’s Daughter, one of Robert E. Howard’s finest Conan tales.

    In a similar fashion, I’ve already planted seeds for our fifth story arc, crucial moments and thrilling adventures we’ll fill in as they become important to the big picture. Building this kind of non-linear story structure is obviously a lot more challenging than just going in order, but it also gives us a lot more flexibility and keeps readers on their toes.


    Look Inside Battle of the Black Stone #1

    Alongside Frozen Faith, the mysteries of the Black Stone also carry onward this Fall-

    Artwork from Conan: Battle of the Black Stone #1 by Jonas Scharf. Colors by Jão Canola.

    Popverse has an exclusive full color look at interior pages from CONAN: BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE #1, the first of a four-issue mini-series that brings together characters from Robert E. Howard’s incredible cast of pulp-tastic protagonists.

    Jonas Scharf‘s line work is sublime and Jão Canola‘s colors punch up every scene. Like with Rob De La Torre, I’m writing plot-style on this mini-series, letting Jonas define the page composition and panel count in ways that works best with his art, then writing a separate lettering script after page art comes in. It’s incredibly collaborative and keeps me inspired at every turn. I think this mini-series is going to be one for the ages, my friends. Make sure you get on board.

    CONAN: BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE #1 (of 4)
    Story – Jim Zub
    Artist – Jonas Scharf
    Colors – Jao Canola
    Cover A – Gerardo Zaffino

    CONAN OF CIMMERIA IS HAUNTED BY SHADOWS, LIVING NIGHTMARES CONNECTED TO A MYSTERIOUS EYE SYMBOL ETCHED IN BLACK STONE.

    An unspeakable evil looms over the Hyborian Age and every age connected to it… and it will take more than a lone barbarian to stop its relentless march upon time, space, and sanity.

    BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE, an epic new CONAN EVENT from Heroic Signatures and Titan Comics, begins HERE, from Jim Zub (Conan the Barbarian, Dungeons & Dragons) and artist Jonas Scharf (Dark X-Men, Basilisk)!

    In Shops: Sept 4th, 2024


    The Corner Box – Part 2

    Here’s part 2 of my chat with my friends John Barber and David Hedgecock on their podcast.

    In this second half, we cover the evolution of my comic career – webcomics, joining the UDON studio, my first published comic credit, working with editors, my oldest pitch, Conan the Barbarian, channeling the source material, and more. Make sure you give it a listen.


    Slay the Hydra

    I read an advance digital copy of the upcoming graphic novel Gamemasters, a history of roleplaying games told by my friends Fred Van Lente and Tom Fowler. I enjoyed it so much I gave them a blurb, which you can see above.

    The crowdfunding pre-launch page is already up, so make sure you have this one on your radar.


    Current + Upcoming Releases

  • Conan the Barbarian #12 – released July 3rd.
  • Life of Wolverine – One Shot – released July 3rd.
  • Savage Sword of Conan #3 – releases July 10th (previously July 3rd).
  • Conan the Barbarian Vol.2: Thrice Marked For Death – TPB releases July 16th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #13 – releases July 24th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #14 – releases August 21st.
  • Savage Sword of Conan #4 – releases August 28th.

  • Upcoming Appearances

    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

    Jay Deitcher has a fascinating article on Rolling Stone all about Steve Ditko’s personal life, giving a glimpse at the very private man and his world. Well worth reading.

    7-11 wants to change its businesses in the U.S. to more closely match their Japanese counterparts. If you’ve ever been to Japan and experienced the amazing food and value at a konbini, you know how awesome that would be.

    Lindsay Ellis has a new video essay on Yoko Ono and the Beatles that twists and turns its way through pop culture in an impressively compelling way, illuminating aspects of fame, friendship, relationships and more. It’s feature documentary length, but worth the watch.

    Jim

    Conan the Barbarian #12 Reviews

    Comic Culture: “This was a great, great story…I’m super energized, I cannot wait to read more.”

    Comical Opinions: 10/10 “a pristine, pitch-perfect end to another fantastic Conan adventure for Jim Zub and Titan Comics. Zub is channeling Robert E. Howard, with a clear reverence to the source material, and Robert De La Torre’s art is astounding.”

    DC Patrol: “This is amazing, I love absolutely every single thing about this. I will be buying the trade.”

    Deceptisean77: “I love the art, I love the action, and all the sword & sorcery sensibilities…It is an incredible book.”

    Goodreads: “This is a moment they have been building toward this entire time, and finally culminates in a powerful conclusion. Jam-packed with vicious action and unrelenting fury, the recent episode of Conan’s journey is powerfully-written, beautifully organized, and unfolds like magic on the page.”

    Grimdark Magazine: “With issue #12, Titan Comics’ Conan the Barbarian ends its first year on a high note…the artwork remains fantastic and the stories engaging.”

    League of Comic Geeks: 10/10 “What a dream team working in perfect harmony. I want to tear the book apart and frame every page to put on my walls. Fantastic finish to the arc.”

    Pop Culture Philosophers: “This is my favorite modern Conan run – period. I love what they’re building up to. I love how they’re widening the scale and scope of this world. I freakin’ love it!”

    Professor Frenzy: “I think this was a great mesh between writer and artist with Zub and De La Torre. It has gorgeous artwork…All in all, I was very satisfied and pleased with this issue. It delivered a lot more than I expected…I thought this was a masterpiece.”

    Stygian Dogs: “What a year and what an issue!…The final product is thoroughly satisfying. All of it a thrill, ending with a palate-cleansing promise of future adventure.”

    Thinking Critical: “The best new comic book we got this week…This thing ended on the highest of high notes. This is may be the best issue of Conan the Barbarian thus far…Conan has never been better. It represents the very best of the industry right now.”

    Todd Luck: “I’m completely satisfied with this final battle. It’s incredibly bad ass…A perfectly solid, entertaining Conan comic that is worth picking up.”

    Weird Science Comics: “The best book of the week. The art’s great and if you’re not reading it, you should just start from the beginning.”

    Zubby Newsletter #69: Nice~!

    Conan the Barbarian #12 art by Rob De La Torre and Diego Rodriguez.

    This week, CONAN THE BARBARIAN #12 arrives in comic shops.

    Man oh man, I’m proud of this issue, this run, this ride.

    When we were building the original publishing schedule for the relaunch, Titan asked if we could do 10 issues in 12 months to try and reinvigorate the readership. 4 issue arcs with a break month between each arc.

    I said “No”, we’d do 12 issues in 12 months because I really wanted the readership to get back into the habit of reading a Conan book every month. Momentum matters.

    And here we are, one year later with 12 issues delivered, plus a new Free Comic Book Day teaser and the triumphant return of Savage Sword magazine. Year two production is deep underway and the long term plan for the series is solid thanks to reader and retailer support across six languages (with more to come).

    These foreign edition covers feel like Conan is charging right at us!

    Our whole crew, artistic and editorial, has been incredible.

    Artists Rob De La Torre, Doug Braithwaite, Jonas Scharf, Richard Pace, Patch Zircher, Fernando Dagnino, Dean Kotz, Dan Panosian, Joe Jusko, and variant cover artists aplenty.
    Colorists José Villarrubia, Dean White, Diego Rodriguez, and Jão Canola.
    Letterers Richard Starkings and Tyler Smith.
    Editors Matt Murray, Joakim Zetterberg, and Chris Butera.
    Loremaster and Scholar Jeffrey Shanks.
    The rest of the team at Heroic Signatures and Titan, including Fred Malmberg, Ashley Hodgkins, Marcos Cronander, Shawn Curley, Nick Landau, John Dziewiatkowski, Will O’Mullane, Ricky Claydon, Alexandra Iciek, and so many more.

    They’re delivering their best, page after page, issue after issue, and I am so damn happy with how it’s turning out. This is where I want to be – building exciting long term stories with a passionate crew. It’s the kind of consistent project I’ve been wanting to sink my teeth into for years, the kind of run that can happen when creative and business interests push in the same direction and it’s the most fun I’ve had on a commercial project since Avengers. This team has enthusiasm, good communication, and professionalism all around.

    Heading to San Diego in a few weeks and celebrating the momentum we’ve got is going to be such a rush.

    But, now it’ll be in the hands of our readers, so-
    Did we stick the landing on issue #12 and our first year?
    Is it worthy of the world’s greatest sword & sorcery hero?
    Read CONAN THE BARBARIAN #12 on JULY 3rd and let me know!


    Make Stories in the Mighty Marvel Manner

    New on my YouTube Channel, a FREE lesson from Marvel’s The Art of Storytelling course, in partnership with Proko.

    If you want to start writing stories for comics, understanding the basic three-act structure is the ideal way to begin:

    Start by establishing key characters, their abilities, and the setting. Introduce an inciting incident to propel the story into conflict, where characters face both external and internal challenges. Build tension and excitement leading to a climax, then resolve the core conflict while leaving room for future developments. This timeless structure helps keep your story clear, engaging, and impactful.

    Get the premium course and learn Marvel Storytelling:
    proko.com/marvel

    Check out another lesson from the course HERE on the Proko YouTube channel.


    Your New Hyborian Adventures Begin Here!


    Monolith, the game company behind the incredibly successful Conan Board Game, have been hard at work on a brand new tabletop RPG called CONAN: THE HYBORIAN AGE and on Thursday they released a FREE Quickstart PDF that outlines the core mechanics, includes pre-generated characters, and a sample adventure so anyone can easily get a handle on how it works.

    From Left: Me, John C. Hocking, Jeb Boyt, Mark Finn, Jeff Shanks, Howard Andrew Jones.

    I had a chance to run the Quickstart a few weeks ago at Robert E. Howard Days with a wonderful crew of players well known for their contributions to Hyborian adventure. We had a lot of fun kicking the tires on the rules and seeing how easy it was to get rolling, literally, and bust out some fun sword & sorcery action.

    All this to say, go get that download and share the link far and wide, but if you’re a player don’t spoil the adventure ahead of time – Grab a Game Master and let them run it for you!


    Current + Upcoming Releases

  • Dungeons & Dragons: Fortune Finder – TPB released June 5th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #12 – releases July 3rd (previously June 26th).
  • Life of Wolverine – One Shot – releases July 3rd.
  • Savage Sword of Conan #3 – releases July 10th (previously July 3rd).
  • Conan the Barbarian Vol.2: Thrice Marked For Death – TPB releases July 16th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #13 – releases July 24th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #14 – releases August 21st.
  • Savage Sword of Conan #4 – releases August 28th.

  • Upcoming Appearances


    I’ve added a store signing to my schedule – Heroes World comic shop in Richmond Hill (just north of Toronto) is celebrating 23 years in business with a weekend full of events and giveaways.

    I’ll be there this Saturday, July 6th from 1pm-3pm.

    Heroes World received permission to sell Conan the Barbarian Vol. 2: Thrice Marked For Death 10 days early, so if you’re in the area pick up an advance copy there, buy other books at the shop (they’ll be well stocked), or bring other Zub comics you want signed.

    This and Fan Expo Canada will probably be my only local signings this year, so don’t miss out!

    July 6, 2024 Heroes World Richmond Hill, ONT, CANADA
    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

    • Last week I mentioned Raina Telgemeier appearing on TV and this week, she and Scott McCloud have announced that they’ve collaborated on a new graphic novel coming out Spring 2025 called The Cartoonists Club. People Magazine has the scoop. This is going to be huge and could usher in a whole new generation of cartoonists.

    • The upcoming Batman: Caped Crusader animated series is looking great, a fun fusion of the classic animated series style with a pulpy throwback feel inspired by the original comic run that kicked off in 1939. I’m excited to check it out in August.

    • My friend Matt John, who is helping develop the Conan tabletop RPG I linked earlier in this newsletter, has a new prose anthology out now called To Walk On Worlds. It has eleven short stories that cover a fantastic range of pulp action-adventure.

    I hope your summer is going well and, for all my fellow Canadians – HAPPY CANADA DAY!
    Jim

    Zub Comics in September 2024



    CONAN THE BARBARIAN: BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE #1 (OF 4)
    Story – Jim Zub
    Artist – Jonas Scharf
    Colors – Jao Canola
    Cover A – Gerardo Zaffino
    Cover B – Sedat Oezgen
    Cover C – Stuart Sayger
    Cover D – Samwise Didier
    Cover E – Tony Fleecs
    Cover F – Sketch Blank

    CONAN OF CIMMERIA IS HAUNTED BY SHADOWS, LIVING NIGHTMARES CONNECTED TO A MYSTERIOUS EYE SYMBOL ETCHED IN BLACK STONE.

    An unspeakable evil looms over the Hyborian Age and every age connected to it… and it will take more than a lone barbarian to stop its relentless march upon time, space, and sanity.

    BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE, an epic new CONAN EVENT from Heroic Signatures and Titan Comics, begins HERE, from Jim Zub (Conan the Barbarian, Dungeons & Dragons) and artist Jonas Scharf (Dark X-Men, Basilisk)!

    In Shops: Sep 04, 2024



    CONAN BARBARIAN #15
    Story – Jim Zub
    Artist – Doug Braithwaite
    Colors – Diego Rodriguez
    Cover A – Mahmud Asrar
    Cover B – Jessica Fong
    Cover C – Doug Braithwaite
    Cover D – Fernando Dagnino

    After leaving Cimmeria filled with wanderlust, a young Conan heads north in search of glory.

    What he finds in that cold climate will change his outlook forever, setting him on the path that will make him a legend.

    The triumphant new era of Conan continues in this tale of brutal heroic adventure from acclaimed creators Jim Zub (Avengers, Dungeons & Dragons) and Doug Braithwaite (Punisher, Justice)!

    In Shops: Sep 25, 2024

    Zubby Newsletter #68: Battles On The Horizon

    Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree launches today! I was originally going to immediately dive into expansion content, then realized two days ago that the character I used to Platinum the game is on New Game +3, they haven’t slain the correct boss to get to the expansion on this current playthrough, and the new content cranked up to +3 would almost certainly smash me to bits, so over the next week or two I’ll be power leveling a new character build to play Erdtree, which is already garnering intense praise.

    I also want to get ahead on writing, enjoy summer weather, and see family and friends…
    What I’m trying to say is that it’s hard to ‘git gud’ and also be a responsible adult.

    (If you missed my previous newsletter where I raved all about why I enjoy Souls Games and the particular qualities that grabbed my attention, give it a read right HERE.)


    In September – Battle of the Black Stone #1

    Conan: Battle of the Black Stone #1 cover art by Sedat Oezgen.

    Comic Book Resources has an exclusive first look at the solicit and covers for CONAN: BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE #1, arriving in September! This four issue mini-series, running parallel to the monthly Conan series, unleashes an epic across the ages, with stunning art by Jonas Scharf and Jão Canola.

    Battle of the Black Stone uses story threads we’ve been weaving in right from the start, from last year’s Conan the Barbarian #0 Free Comic Day issue and our entire first year of stories. The mysteries and powers of the Black Stone are one of the pillars I put into my proposal for the series and, now that we have momentum, we can really go all out in telling this epic tale of pulp-inspired adventure across the ages.

    Black Stone is a mysterious material that showed up in multiple Robert E. Howard prose stories, including the titular Black Stone horror story from 1931, and we’re using it to link not just Conan’s Hyborian age to Kull’s Thurian age, but other points in time and characters from those eras as well.

    The art on Battle of the Black Stone is so damn good. Every time Jonas and Jão send pages in I’m ecstatic. Don’t tell anyone that I showed you this teaser of Solomon Kane-

    Conan: Battle of the Black Stone #1 interior art by Jonas Scharf.


    Thrice Marked, One Volume

    I spoke to David Brooke at AIPT all about Thrice Marked For Death, the second arc of Conan the Barbarian, arriving in trade paperback on July 16th. This interview covers the Hyborian Age, the nature of Conan, and my favorite era of the character. Give it a read!


    Talking To The Corner Box

    I had a great time talking to my friends John Barber and David Hedgecock on their podcast.

    In this first part, we cover my nerdy origin story – reading and collecting comics, comic universe continuity, tabletop RPGs, bringing new people into gaming, the D&D Satanic Panic, gaming during the pandemic, making comics, the early internet, webcomics, and more! Such a fun and nostalgic chat. Make sure you give it a listen.


    Deep Script Archives – How Deep?

    How many scripts are in my Patreon writing archive?
    Currently 318!

    That doesn’t even count outlines, tutorials, Q&A’s and more. The latest scripts posted are CONAN: SERPENT WAR #4 and DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: FORTUNE FINDER #5.

    You can learn how comics are made for the price of a coffee.


    Current + Upcoming Releases

  • Conan the Barbarian #11 – released May 22nd.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Fortune Finder – TPB released June 5th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #12 – releases July 3rd(previously June 26th).
  • Life of Wolverine – One Shot – releases July 3rd.
  • Savage Sword of Conan #3 – releases July 3rd.
  • Conan the Barbarian Vol.2: Thrice Marked For Death – TPB releases July 16th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #13 – releases July 24th.

  • Upcoming Appearances

    I’ll back be at San Diego this year and am currently getting my schedule figured out for Wednesday through Sunday. I’m really looking forward to seeing friends and celebrating another exciting year. Same goes for Gen Con in Indianapolis, which is the following weekend. Man oh man, two of the biggest conventions back-to-back…It’s going to be a ride.

    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

    • My friends Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen are crowdfunding a deluxe artbook for the cover illustrations for The Wicked + The Divine. Well worth investing in.

    • My friends Marcus To, David Brothers, and Chip Zdarsky have a new creator-owned series coming out called Time Waits that sounds fantastic.

    • My friend Raina Telgemeier was recently on PBS News talking about her graphic novels. I’ve known Raina since I was working on my original Makeshift Miracle webcomic in the early 2000’s. Seeing her phenomenal success and acclaim has been such a pleasure.

    • A bunch of my friends have contributed to the new Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebooks, but I want to call special attention to Mike Schley‘s amazing new Greyhawk Map that is part of the revised Dungeons Master’s Guide. Gorgeous cartography work, as always.

    John C. Hocking, who I just met a couple weeks ago at Howard Days, has a great interview talking about the nearly 30 year journey to see his second Conan the Barbarian novel published. Conan: City of the Dead is now available wherever fine books are sold, and it includes new illustrations by my friend Richard Pace. Read it!

    • A Brazilian publisher is crowdfunding the Portuguese version of Mark Finn‘s Robert E. Howard biography Blood and Thunder. I know a lot of foreign Conan fans follow this newsletter, so if you want this in Portuguese, don’t miss out.

    Otherwise, I hope you’re looking forward to the weekend!
    Jim

    Zubby Newsletter #67: Beneath the Spam

    Conan the Barbarian #13 art by Doug Braithwaite and Diego Rodriguez.

    Over on Facebook Messenger I clicked through to ‘Message Requests’ and saw dozens of messages from readers and retailers who have enjoyed my work, artists wanting feedback, and writers looking for advice. It was awkward realizing that these people assume I’ve just ignored them all this time.

    I don’t have time to mentor people one-on-one on their creative career or give extensive feedback (that’s why I put together 40+ free tutorial articles on my website), but getting a message to that effect is way better than someone sending material and feeling completely ignored. I remember what sending notes out into the void felt like and do everything I can to avoid doing it to other people.

    Then, on a whim, I clicked the dreaded ‘Spam’ tab…

    As expected, there were hundreds of useless ad messages and sex chat garbage, easy to spot with a half dozen or more people tagged on each one, but there were dozens of legitimate messages too, filtered there for reasons unknown.

    • International fans excited about Conan.
    • A convention runner asking if I wanted to be a guest at a show from over a year ago.
    • Readers asking questions about Marvel continuity.
    • Creators asking for signal boosts on their crowdfunding campaigns.
    • Artist portfolios.
    • Old friends touching base.

    It’s humbling to see so many people reaching out, but also a bit overwhelming, especially finding them all at once. How is anyone supposed to keep track of all these outlets? How much time do I spend sending out little ‘sorry I missed this’ messages vs just plowing ahead on current projects/deadlines/commitments? I don’t know.

    Anyways, if you’ve reached out to someone online and they didn’t get back to you – it might not be intentional. The algorithms that dictate so many of our online interactions may have just siloed it elsewhere.


    For Your Consideration


    If you’re part of the Harvey Awards Nomination Committee
    CONAN THE BARBARIAN: BOUND IN BLACK STONE is eligible to be nominated for Book of the Year.

    Our team put everything they have into this relaunch and I want to make sure people know that Harvey-eligible titles are for books released from August 1, 2023-July 31, 2024, not just 2023 books.


    Killer Covers From Mars

    Legendary artist Joe Jusko has posted up the first three stunning covers for the upcoming release of the Barsoom Saga, the official reprint of the John Carter of Mars series being put out by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. They have a 20% off preorder promotion running now, so if those covers grab your eye, make sure you get on board while you can save.

    Also, while I was at Howard Days last weekend I met Henry Franke, editor of The Burroughs Bulletin, and his excitement for pulp stories was infectious so if you’re a Burroughs fan make sure you check that out too.


    Current + Upcoming Releases

  • Conan the Barbarian #11 – released May 22nd.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Fortune Finder – TPB released June 5th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #12 – releases June 26th.
  • Life of Wolverine – One Shot – releases July 3rd.
  • Savage Sword of Conan #3 – releases July 3rd.
  • Conan the Barbarian Vol.2: Thrice Marked For Death – TPB releases July 16th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #13 – releases July 24th.

  • Upcoming Appearances

    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

    Artificers & Alchemy gets a shout out on Forbes in A Father’s Day Gift Guide For Dungeon Master Dads. Comicon also reviewed the book and gave it a 10/10!

    • In a few days, my friend Sandra Tayler is launching a crowdfunding campaign for her new book Structuring Life to Support Creativity, a much-needed guide to project management and avoiding burnout. Definitely check this one out.

    Jordan Sorcery has a great video run through on the initial development of Warhammer 40,000. When I was a kid I thought the game looked incredible, but the price point of metal miniatures and daunting work involved in painting figures and assembling terrain kept me from playing until I was older, but it looked amazing right from the start.

    • Legendary anime studio Gainax has filed for bankruptcy after financial mismanagement and controversy. Gainax was an anime studio built from convention fan films that evolved into auteur-centric work and a pop culture juggernaut. It’s strange to think of the studio not being around anymore, but we’ll always have the the Ballad of the Otaking to remind us of their greatness.

    Jim

    Zubby Newsletter #66: Howard Days

    The Howard Museum in Cross Plains, Texas.

    I’m home from four days in Texas – three in Cross Plains for Howard Days, the annual Robert E. Howard celebration at his home, and a quick half day stop at Fan Expo Dallas.

    Howard Days was an informal gathering that began in 1986 with ten fans making a pilgrimage to Robert E. Howard’s home and is now an official two day event deeply tied into the town with several hundred attendees. There’s a small pavilion set up near the home for barbecues and hanging out, a dozen vendors selling books and other merchandise, tours of the house (which is now a museum) and local sites, discussion panels and signings at the community center, original manuscripts on display at the local library, gaming, poetry readings, a banquet, a silent auction, and more.

    Each piece of the festival was quite small but when you put it all together it made the whole thing feel expansive, especially considering that Cross Plains itself has a population of less than a thousand people. Dozens of regulars return to spend time together, year after year, alongside a host of new people like me making the trek for the first time. I thought coming down from Canada would make me the furthest visitor for the event, but I was wrong – there were people who came in from France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, and Norway.

    Jeff Shanks, the Howard expert who writes the essays in the back of each issue of Conan the Barbarian, told me it was a family reunion and I was part of the family, and I joked that I was more like a long lost cousin who showed up out of nowhere carrying a deed for an important tract of land. That said, the Howard Days core made me feel incredibly welcome and their excitement for the future of the fandom came through in every interaction.

    This year, Robert E. Howard’s original writing desk had been restored and replaced the stand-in they’d been using for decades at the museum. I was one of the first people to stand at the desk returned to its rightful spot and, as you might imagine, it all felt pretty surreal. Honestly, the whole week was surreal, as I chatted with literary scholars, locals, friends, and fans.

    Jeff Shanks, John C. Hocking, Howard Andrew Jones, and me.

    I filmed interviews and signed hundreds of comics while walking around the small town grounds where the sword & sorcery genre came to life. Shawn Curley from Heroic Signatures was there filming material for the official Conan the Barbarian YouTube channel and, as it all gets compiled, edited, and posted, I’ll be sure to share it in future newsletter installments. The legacy and gravity of it all washed over me a few times, but then a few minutes later we’d all just be laughing and hanging out, looking for respite from the intense Texas heat or hunting for bug spray to handle the mosquitos.

    Fan Expo Dallas on Sunday was a breakneck pace, especially in contrast to the previous three days. I woke up at dawn and drove almost 3 hours from Cross Plains to Dallas, arrived at the convention center, signed for two hours, hosted a Conan panel, signed for another hour and then had to dash so I could return my rental car and head to the airport. Lots of Conan, Dungeons & Dragons, and Marvel fans there and it was really nice even though it was so short and rapid fire.

    I’m finally home and spending today unpacking, reorganizing, and decompressing. The whole week was really special but I don’t know if all of it has really sunk in yet.



    CONAN THE BARBARIAN: BOUND IN BLACK STONE won this year’s Costigan Award at Howard Days!

    “Awarded for original creative writing that carries on the spirit and tradition of Robert E. Howard, to better recognize and celebrate his influence on future generations of writers.”

    Comics are rarely nominated and an original one based on a Robert E. Howard property has never been nominated in the literary category before.

    Rob De La Torre and José Villarrubia also won the Rankin Award for Artistic Achievement, so Bound in Black Stone won in both categories we were nominated in.

    I know for people on the outside it may seem obvious that a Conan book wins a Robert E. Howard-related award, but the Foundation is not directly tied to the company that owns Conan, it’s an independent panel of scholars and archivists focused on the legacy and literary merit of Howard’s works. I’ve been writing Conan-related comic stories since 2015 and this is the first time the Foundation has given my work any kind of acknowledgement, both with the nomination and now the award.

    Bill Cavalier, one of the Foundation board members and a key organizer of the festival, handed me the award and said-
    “Congrats! We don’t normally give ’em to the funny books, but you and the boys did a fine job. Keep it up.”

    Thank you to the Foundation and our readers. It’s an honor.


    Doom Is Coming…and It’s Going To Be Great

    Shawn Curley has posted a Conan News video on the official Conan the Barbarian Youtube channel and it’s packed with exclusive sneak peeks at artwork from CONAN THE BARBARIAN #12, the next Conan prose novel, Savage Sword, a sneak peek of the Heroic Signatures office, and more. I also make a brief appearance at the 5:40 mark to help hype the end of our first year on the relaunch.


    Jim Zub – Voice Actor?

    The latest grad films from Seneca Animation are starting to get posted online and first out of the gate is Fly Away, Froggy Boy, a wild and weird noir story about an anthropomorphic fly seeking revenge against the frog mob.

    I lent my voice to the Frogfather, the main villain of the cartoon and it was a lot of fun snarling, grunting and screaming my way through the script. Give it a watch and let me know what you think of my performance and the hard work of my students.


    Back In School With Teachers In The Dungeon


    Stacy and I returned to the Teachers in the Dungeon podcast, chatting with Tom Gross and Dan Reem all about ARTIFICERS & ALCHEMY, the latest Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide, discussing what goes into making the books, igniting the imagination of new gamers, fun details, future plans, and more!

    You can listen to this episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.


    Current + Upcoming Releases

  • Conan: Battle of the Black Stone #0 – released May 4th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #11 – released May 22nd.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Fortune Finder – TPB released June 5th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #12 – releases June 26th.
  • Life of Wolverine – One Shot – releases July 3rd.
  • Savage Sword of Conan #3 – releases July 3rd.
  • Conan the Barbarian Vol.2: Thrice Marked For Death – TPB releases July 16th.

  • Upcoming Appearances

    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

    • Conan scholar Jeff Shanks is chatting up a storm lately, and his latest interview with Stygian Dogs is fantastic, covering many different aspects of Robert E. Howard literary and fandom circles.

    • Literary Hub has an excerpt from Ursula K. Le Guin‘s book The Language of the Night that may strike a chord with writers and would-be writers I know.

    Chris Broad stops at every station on Tokyo’s famous Yamanote subway line in one day and shows off interesting or obscure things at each one. Seeing familiar spots from my recent Tokyo trip and learning about new places to check out was enjoyable.

    Asa Wheatley is crowdfunding the next volume of Sagas of the Shield Maiden. I’ve enjoyed the previous anthology volumes and am looking forward to this one.

    Have a wonderful week!
    Jim

    Zubby Newsletter #65: No Coasting

    While we were in Japan, Stacy and I went to a cafe where they had the menu available via QR code on coasters at each table and I thought the same kind of thing could work well at conventions, be durable and also be easy to pack in with luggage. This morning I picked up these spiffy laser cut wood coasters from a shop near our place and they turned out great!

    I’m looking forward to using them at my upcoming signings.


    Signing at Fan Expo Dallas


    Speaking of signings, since I’m flying in and out of Dallas for Robert E. Howard Days on June 7-8, I figured I might as well stop by Fan Expo Dallas at the same time.

    If you’re heading to the show, I’ll be there only on Sunday, June 9th from 11am-3pm at the Comic Sketch Art area in Artist Alley (Tables P-00 to P-11). We’ll have a limited number of books and variants for sale and I’ll of course be signing any comics or other books people bring by.


    A Critical Eye


    On my website I just put up a new tutorial post. It’s an unvarnished rundown on problems with a pitch, and hopefully some helpful reminders for new creators trying to organize their ideas and get attention from a producer/publisher.

    Give it a read and, if you find it helpful, share far and wide.


    August Arrivals in the Hyborian Age

    Comic Book Movie has the exclusive first look at solicitation info and covers for CONAN THE BARBARIAN #14 and SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #4, both arriving in August.

    CONAN THE BARBARIAN #14 continues Frozen Faith, the fourth story arc in our relaunch. With this arc we’re celebrating the 90th anniversary of the classic Robert E. Howard story The Frost-Giant’s Daughter by looking at it and surrounding events in a different light and I’m excited for readers to see it all come together.

    Doug Braithwaite is drawing the best damn pages of his career on this one. About a week ago, Doug sent us a beautiful finished two-page spread and then, a few days later, he sent a completely new version redrawn from scratch that was even better. Just stunning dedication and and amazing artwork coming from the whole team.

    SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #4 is a special Battle of the Black Stone tie-in issue with six different short stories that set up key plotlines for-

  • CONAN – story by me, art by Fernando Dagnino
  • BRISSA – story by me, art by Dean Kotz
  • CONRAD & KIROWAN – story by Jeff Shanks, art by Eryk Donovan
  • DARK AGNES – story by Fred Kennedy, art by Andy Belanger
  • EL BORAK – story by Ron Marz, art by Mike Perkins
  • SOLOMON KANE – story and art by Patch Zircher
  • It’s been a blast coordinating with this crew in and around the upcoming event mini-series. Can’t wait for you to see this one.


    Eisner Nominations for Conan


    Thrilled to see that letterer Richard Starkings and colorist Dean White received Eisner Award nominations this year for their amazing contributions to Conan the Barbarian.

    Congrats, gents! You both helped make the new series a stunner that has won over old fans and new readers alike.

    If you’re an industry professional or comic retailer, make sure you vote and help our Hyborians bring home the gold!


    Current + Upcoming Releases

  • Savage Sword of Conan #2 – released May 1st.
  • Conan: Battle of the Black Stone #0 – released May 4th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #11 – released May 22nd.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Fortune Finder – TPB released May 29th.
  • Conan the Barbarian Vol.2: Thrice Marked For Death – TPB releases June 11th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #12 – releases June 26th.
  • Life of Wolverine – One Shot – releases July 3rd.
  • Savage Sword of Conan #3 – releases July 3rd.

  • Upcoming Appearances

    June 7-8, 2024 Howard Days Cross Plains, TX, USA
    June 9, 2024 Fan Expo Dallas Dallas, 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

    Matthew Li has an interesting rundown on the origin of “Yoshoku”, Japan’s western-inspired cuisine and how it ties into the country’s history and values. Really neat stuff, especially for someone who is a big fan of Japanese cooking.

    Tony Diterlizzi, one of my favorite fantasy artists, has been doing a dive into his past work on the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual release in 1993 and it’s a fascinating look at his work history and process at that time – PART 1 and PART 2 are up so far.

    Ernie Smith has put together an alternate home page for AI-free Google searching called &UDM=14. Here’s hoping it keeps working and that the tidal wave of generated garbage data gets swept aside in the future.

    I hope your June is starting strong – Happy Pride Month to all my friends and fans!
    Jim

    Pitch Package Critique

    Almost 12 years ago, I posted up a critique I gave someone on a pitch package I was sent because I felt that the feedback covered a lot of common mistakes I see and could help other people as well.

    Recently, one of my former students reached out to get feedback on an animated series pitch concept they’d been working on and, in a similar vein, asked for unvarnished critique. I don’t normally have time for one-on-one feedback, but they’re a former student and, as soon as I looked over the presentation they’d put together, I could see a lot of fundamental issues and they needed a wake up call.

    So…here’s what I sent them, with story and character specifics removed, so people who read my blog here can benefit from it too:


    First impressions are extremely important. The first slide of this presentation needs a logo that reinforces your story. That logo needs to stand out along with a piece of art that immediately engages the viewer. A bland font and a rough character head sketch is not the first impression you want to make.

    • When coming up with a title, you need to do research and make sure it isn’t already being used elsewhere. [Specifics about how their title is too close to something that already exists], and a studio will not want a story that is only one letter different from that.

    Your core idea is quite generic and has been done many times before. A great story twist or an extremely engaging art style could help elevate it beyond that generic foundation and grab some attention, but you don’t have either of those things in your pitch package right now.

    The stakes in your summary are much too vague. The “fate of humanity” sounds dramatic, but also feels impossible to measure. In many ways, smaller and clearer stakes can work better than vast “the world is in danger” stuff, especially at the start of a story.

    • Do not try to pitch multiple seasons right from the start, especially as someone with no prior experience running a show. Make an incredibly compelling first season concept that works on its own and generate interesting story threads that can be pursued for a possible second season.

    • Your description of technology doesn’t make sense and isn’t consistent. You need to be much clearer in terms of the tech level involved and how this setting is similar or different from our modern world.

    • What is the name of this place? Is it an existing city we know or a completely fictional world? “A massive city” is not good enough and doesn’t feel interesting. It’s too vague.

    • Something that can “change the course of history and the fate of humanity” might be a secret for your audience, but it’s not something you can hide from the people you want to approve and bankroll your show. If you have a really cool story twist, you need to tell us right in the pitch, otherwise it’s just hollow promises. A producer will see right through it and call you on your BS or reject the pitch outright.

    • Again, the stakes feel much too vague. What are the main character’s goals, short term or long term? Is the main character doing this for their family or just for their own ego? Is there an immediate need for this fame or money that makes any of this interesting or compelling right now?

    • Why do you have concept designs for secondary characters before designs for the main character? These slides need to be presented in a logical order.

    The sizing and silhouettes on most of the characters are too similar, especially when we see them all together in the line up. Their standing poses do not convey any sense of personality. Most of the clothing is quite generic and does not visually stand out.

    • The character expressions look okay, but the body posing is extremely bland. Characters just standing around tells the people you’re pitching to that characters in the show are just going to be standing around a lot.

    Your section write ups need to be shorter and more focused. Imagine an executive sees these slides projected on screen during a live pitch session. Are they going to spend time reading a bunch of tiny text? Not a chance.

    • You have some sentences in present tense and others in past tense. Also, there should not be any spelling or grammatical errors. Your writing needs to be completely professional to help convince the executives you pitch to that this idea is worth investing in.

    Ideally, the writing should also give us a sense of personality and draw us into this fictional world. Your writing is not clear enough and doesn’t convey any feeling about the world or the characters.

    • You are pitching an entire season of a show but only have a synopsis of the first episode? That will not cut it. You describe the start of the episode in too much moment-to-moment detail and then rush through the second half instead of describing it all in a compelling and consistent way.

    What is the inciting incident that makes the beginning feel important and amazing? What kind of compelling surprise or cliffhanger can you create that pushes the audience to need to see episode 2 and beyond? There is nothing that happens in this first episode that your main character can’t just back out of and go back to their regular life. There is nothing special about this day or moment to grab our attention.

    • Your biography is too long and doesn’t come across as confident or focused. You can’t just tell a company you have a lot of ideas, you have to prove that those ideas are better than anything they could come up with on their own. Do you have a website with a portfolio of other work? Do you have experience on other projects or films?

    None of the concept art is finished so, in turn, the concept doesn’t feel properly fleshed out. Why should a company spend thousands, possibly millions of dollars, when you can’t even give them a clear vision of what this story might look like?

    I know the above points are harsh, but I need you to understand that this isn’t just about getting a passing grade on an assignment anymore. If you want to compete in a professional environment, especially if you are looking to lead a production, expectations are way, way higher.

    In its current form, none of this pitch package is ready. If you want to make a stronger impression, you need to reevaluate and overhaul every aspect of it.


    Transitioning from student work to professional output can be extremely tough, especially when you’re trying to jump into a leadership role by pitching a brand new project.

    The only way to get better is to build things, finish them, learn from the experience, and then keep building, over and over.

    If you found this post helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share the post with your friends, check out other tutorial posts I’ve written (including a whole series of articles on pitching), or sign up for my email newsletter.