Search Results for: Freelance

FREELANCE Interview on Newsarama


Read on to discover what Andrew Wheeler, Vaneda Vireak, and I have planned for the new version of FREELANCE, one of Canada’s oldest original comic book heroes. The first issue arrives in January. Pre-order now!

FREELANCE Arrives in January!


In January Andrew Wheeler, Vaneda Vireak, and I are bringing back one of Canada’s oldest original comic heroes – Freelance!

Chapterhouse Comics is expanding their publishing line with the Chapterverse, a line of comics that work on their own as complete stories but also expand the shared setting from Captain Canuck.

Freelance is a globe-trotting action-packed adventure story set in the modern world but delivered with a pulpy flare. Andrew and I have been developing the characters and their story for several months now and we’re pumped for readers to see what we have in store. Below is a link to our first interview about the series and the order solicitation info:


The CHAPTERVERSE launches with this brand new series!

Lance Valiant, John Cabot, and Tasha Kolchak are fearless explorers who delve into hidden secrets of our world and protect us from threats beyond imagination, but the greatest secret of all may be Lance’s own mysterious past…

Pulse-pounding action, wit, intrigue, and globe-trotting romance – One of Canada’s original heroes is reborn for the Chapterhouse era by writers Andrew Wheeler (Another Castle) and Jim Zub (Thunderbolts), and artist Vineda Vireak (51Hundred)!

Cover A – Alex Perkins | Cover B – Blank Sketch
Written by Jim Zub & Andrew Wheeler | Illustrated by Vaneda Vireak |
32 pages, 6.25/10.18 | Full Color | $3.99
Diamond Order# Cover A: NOV161365 | Cover B: NOV161365

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!

Zubby Newsletter #44: Pull the Ripcord

Late last week I walked away from an unannounced and unfinished project. I’m pretty sure that’s a first for me.

(No, I won’t publicly say what it was and probably never will. I’m not here to sling mud. There are a lot of wonderful people involved who did great work and they don’t deserve any more stress than they’ve already got.)

In some ways, it’s a good thing – a signal to myself that there is actually a limit in terms of how much I’m willing to be yanked around before the time-money-hassle equation no longer adds up.

Of course, my pragmatic freelancer-fueled brain tried to fight me every step of the way. I had a hard enough time convincing it that I could turn down work from time to time even if a project wasn’t a good fit, the schedule was too tight, or the pay involved was insultingly low, but this…this was different – it was a great fit, the original schedule worked fine, and the pay was in my range…but then the whole thing slid into chaos.

When you contribute to licensed properties, obviously, the licensor gets approval. I know the drill and I work damn hard doing the research and bringing the things I do well into the mix while fitting within the confines of an existing IP. I’ve done it dozens of times on plenty of well known properties.

I’ve also done my fair share of revisions and rewrites. I don’t think my words are sacrosanct or unchangeable, by any means. I deeply appreciate editorial and licensor feedback to make sure we all have something we’re proud of when the finished project is out there in the world.

But, in this case – I was almost done writing, multiple scripts were approved, and there was finished art well underway when we were suddenly told that everything our team had done was now “unapproved” and we needed to start from scratch – That’s just unnecessary, unprofessional, and I can’t trust anything you tell me going forward.

Why even have ‘approvals’ if they don’t mean anything?

It became pretty clear that the people reviewing the work had changed and the licensor no longer wanted this project to exist at all. It was a vestigial limb hopelessly dragging behind a previously agreed upon deal. I had to decide if I was going to pull it all back to the starting blocks and bitterly try to figure out the moving target of their expectations or step away and use my time and effort more productively. I chose the latter and, despite some twinges of freelancer guilt, I’m glad I did. The Zub of 5 or 6 years ago might have made a different decision and it would have been ulcer-inducing.

I don’t know if this is a sign of success, but it’s certainly a sign that I know what I bring to a project and that I’m willing to communicate that more clearly, in any case. Every creative career has highs and lows (and lows, and lows…), and I’m thankful that, at this moment, I have the freedom to make this choice and lean into other projects that engage and challenge me without breaking my brain.

Cover art by Joe Jusko. Logo by Dan Panosian. Pre-order now!

A Savage Story

Speaking of challenges, this week I finalized my prose piece for Savage Sword of Conan #1. Marinating in Robert E. Howard’s famous fiction before I tried to rock out a short story of my own for the Cimmerian was suitably humbling, in all kinds of good ways. Summoning a scene without an artist to make me look good is a much different prospect and flexes a whole different set of creative muscles.

I have never taken any formal writing classes. I did a swack of Creative Writing in high school and learned some script writing when I took a year of Film & Multimedia before I started Classical Animation, but the rest of my ‘training’ has been reading about the craft and putting my own work out into the world; improving story by story and project by project. With my art background, the visual rhythm of animation and comics make the most sense to me. They’re where I feel most comfortable. I love the visual medium and love collaborating with artists.

Stripping everything back to the primacy of prose exposes a lot more of my imposter syndrome. I struggle to quiet that inner critic because I can’t point at the great art and tell it to shut up. It’s just my words sitting out there exposed on the page and either it grabs the reader’s imagination or it doesn’t.

I can write emails, blogposts, tutorials, curriculum, critique, pitches, ad copy, art notes, informal descriptions, and dialogue aplenty but, you know, that’s not ‘real’ writing. That’s not the power of the written word to weave worlds of wonder.

I wrote a Conan short story and, this time, it’s just me.

It’s very pulpy and punchy and I like it, even though it felt strange as a process. (Not bad, mind you, just strange.) People who edit this stuff for a living have read it and liked it and I’m being paid for it, so either they’re all lying because they don’t want to hurt my feelings, or I did okay.

It’s called “Sacrifice in the Sand”, it’s based on Joe Jusko’s gorgeous cover art and, when the big first issue of our mighty magazine hits stores in late February, readers get to decide if it hit the mark or not.

Either way, let me know.

And Yet, More Advice

Despite me exposing my fiction fears, I’m still out here writing advice to people who want to pursue a comic writing career. Ridiculous!

The latest tutorial, added to the pile of over 50 free tutorial posts on my website, is all about starting with “No Experience.

Give it a read and, if you find it helpful, feel free to share it around.

We Sold Out – Again!

Conan the Barbarian #6 arrived in stores last week. Readers seemed to really like it and the pent up demand (it had been delayed two weeks after shipping problems) blew reorders past the overprint, which means there’s a 2nd print coming at the end of the month, with a line art version of the stunning cover art by Jae Lee.

We’re now in the rare position of having sales rise as the series continues, which is an incredible vote of confidence for our team’s hard work. Thank you once again and please keep reading!

More Shenanigans

Despite the fact that I’m a quitter, a sham, quite ridiculous, and a sellout, I also can’t shut up when it comes to talking about my work and the craft.

On the latest episode of the Comic Shenanigans podcast, I spoke to Adam Chapman all about working with Tom Brevoort at Marvel, the comic writing process, and relaunching Conan the Barbarian at Titan.

For Conan fans, the Hyborian chatter starts at around the 22 minute mark. At the 37 minute mark I talk about my Marvel run of Conan issues and reflect on what I did well, things I still needed to learn, and things that were out of our control.

It’s always a pleasure talking with Adam. He’s enthusiastic, well researched, and subtly moves the conversation into some great places. Give it a listen and feel free to check out past interview episodes I link to below-

Episode 368: Thunderbolts and More
Episode 794: Agents of Wakanda, Conan the Barbarian, and More
Episode 986: Conan, Thunderbolts, and Life Of Wolverine

Current + Upcoming Releases

Links and Other Things

• Chaosium has a Humble Bundle going for a huge PDF collection of Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG material at a fraction of its normal cover price. If you’ve ever wanted to run or play a Lovecraftian RPG, this might be the right time to dig in.
• I can get behind Jon Purkis’ list of 50 Rules For Board Game Etiquette. Lots of great stuff in there.

That should do it for this week.

Zubby Newsletter #26: Back to School

Hanging with movie-style Thulsa Doom in Atlanta.

After back-to-back four-day conventions, Fan Expo Canada in Toronto and Dragon Con in Atlanta, I immediately rocketed into the Fall term at Seneca. It’s my 19th year teaching in Seneca’s Animation program and the consistency of that schedule, semester after semester and year after year, creates a season-centric structure I enjoy. Each Fall there’s a brand-new set of students stepping into the program, bringing their enthusiasm and energy into the wing, reminding us why we do this and why it’s so satisfying.

At least a half-dozen current professors in the Animation program are also alumni, former students I taught many years ago, which feels extra-surreal even while my heart swells with pride that they’re back with us and excited to bring their knowledge and skills into the classroom to teach a new generation of animators, storytellers, and designers how it’s done.

I don’t talk a heck of a lot about my teaching career in interviews or other comic book press because most of that time gets spent promoting current projects or talking about the writing process. I also don’t talk a heck of a lot about my creative projects in the classroom. It’s not because I’m trying to hide it or anything, it’s just that my job at the college is focused on teaching  structural drawing (usually perspective drawing and environmental design) or film development (helping final year students put together their story pitches and film production teams), not promoting my work. The students pay tuition to learn specific skills, not be advertised to. Don’t get me wrong, when I have an anecdote or reference material that’s relevant I’m happy include it, I just try to make sure it’s appropriate to the lesson we’re covering or is after we’ve covered the school-centric lecture first.

Back on campus at York University, home of Seneca@York.

The start of the 2023 Fall term feels familiar, but in a way that’s far more reminiscent of 2019 than recent years of pandemic and transition. The halls and classrooms are once again packed with students just like the packed aisles of the comic conventions I’ve been attending all summer. Things aren’t 100% ‘normal’, but they feel closer now than at any other time in the past four years.

At one point on Tuesday there were so many new students chatting with each other, excitedly talking about movies, games, and comics before class that I had to use the authoritative “Okay, gang. Let’s calm down and get class started!” voice I haven’t used in years. The chatter was intense, but also oddly comforting compared to tiny Zoom postage stamp screens with muted mics and half the cameras turned off. I can hold my own in a loud room and it energizes me a heck of a lot more than the eerie silence of remote learning.

Two years ago, I had to complete a “Faculty Portfolio” that organized my thoughts and approach to teaching so the college would have access to it for future instructors. Here’s a small excerpt from that portfolio write-up:

Teamwork and community fulfill important roles in the animation industry. Very few animated productions are created by individuals working in complete isolation. Almost every production is the result of a robust team coming together to build films through a production pipeline – concept and story development, visual development, character and environmental design, storyboarding, rough animation, final animation, editing, compositing, and postproduction.

I strongly believe that even though students will choose one or two of these areas to focus their skills and portfolio when they graduate, they need to understand the holistic whole of how a production works, not only to make an informed choice about their future career path but also to better support people in other departments.

In a similar respect, I work to create a strong sense of community with students to remind them that their peers in the classroom will similarly become their peers out in the industry and that having a productive and positive environment in both areas will be needed for success.

Individual achievement is important, of course, but just as important is a shared learning environment.

respectfulencouraging, and engaging classroom is the ideal I strive for.

Creative Development

Most assignments in the Animation program are focused on deliverables – concreate drawing or animation output that demonstrates application of theory covered in the lectures. Discussion is valuable, but skill building through demonstration is how students internalize the learning process, taking these lessons from theoretical practices to instinctive approaches that become a regular part of their creative toolkit.

That said, teaching students any specific drawing method can easily lead to them not wanting to deviate from what they’re shown for fear of doing it ‘wrong’. Templates and demonstrations can feel like strict limits that funnel students toward an extremely homogenized output that has a veneer of learning but doesn’t encourage them to apply those theories outside of the confines of the assignment.

With that in mind, I try to give wider ranging ‘themes’ for assignments and show copious examples of student work that deviates from my demonstration, so students understand that they need to bring their own creativity into the mix.

Professional Examples

As mentioned previously, I’ve kept up with my freelance work while teaching at Seneca, which provides two types of professional examples in my classroom environment:

Quality: Students see exactly what is required on high profile projects working with intellectual properties they recognize and admire. The theory we cover in the classroom is directly linked to the deliverables I show in my own professional work.

Organization: The frenetic pace of the entertainment industry is reflected in my own work and travel schedule. When students see that I maintain a series of cascading project deadlines and industry events alongside teaching and grading expectations in the classroom, it gives them a greater appreciation for the organization and communication required to keep up that pace. I try to be as open and honest as I can about the highs and lows of it all – the pride I have in my work and respect I have for my collaborators along with the stresses that come from ongoing projects with a variety of clients.

Storytelling and Setbacks

Character and storytelling are fundamental to what we teach in Seneca’s Animation program, but also central to how we learn from each other and contextualize information. Reinforcing the theories covered in my lectures with stories – a quick joke, an aside, or an industry anecdote – has a huge effect on the way students engage with and remember the material covered. It makes the entire teaching process more personable, engaging, and meaningful.

This same concept works for both success and failure. When I’m honest with my students about struggles I had in school or if I discuss common pitfalls I have experienced in the industry, it humanizes the learning process and reminds them that it’s okay to make mistakes. What’s most important is the ability to keep going and keep trying rather than give up on a problem that in the moment seems insurmountable.

Professionalism and best practices must show a full range of experiences and include setbacks as well as successes. Yes, meeting deadlines and delivering on all fronts is what we should strive for, but even out in the industry there are times when schedules slip and situations spin out of everyone’s control. Normalizing those problems, stressing the importance of keeping communication going throughout, and showcasing that success can be found on the other side gives students more confidence to overcome issues that come up during their creative development.

As much as most of the above may seem obvious, in practice in the actual classroom it can be quite different. I’ve met quite a few people who are extremely skilled in terms of drawing ability and have extensive production experience but were unable to communicate most of that effectively to a class or mentor and encourage their students. Raw skill and experience are crucial components in teaching, but far from the complete package.

Links and Other Things

Since we’re on a roll this time talking about teaching art and animation, here are some rock-solid resources for drawing and art you can add to your reference pool-

  • I just discovered that Francis Manapul has a YouTube channel jam-packed with great material. He covers art techniques and career advice in a really appealing and effective way.
  • I’ve mentioned them before, but the Etherington Brothers have one of the most eclectic and useful art blogs on the internet. Their pool of drawing advice is vast and they’re always updating with new lessons.
  • The Proko team has some of the highest quality and most consistently professional art training advice you can find online. I worked with them on their recent Marvel Storytelling courses, but beyond that you can also find hundreds of other great free or paid resources on their site.
  • Another site I’ve mentioned previously is Love Life Drawing – their videos are brimming with classic art training tips that will change the way you visualize the human form.
  • Speaking of Life Drawing, my figure drawing instructor Werner Zimmermann is on Instagram right HERE.
  • VZA has a slew of great close-up videos where you can watch professional artists draw. Analyzing how artists make marks on the page can bolster your understanding of tool control and technique.

Okay, that should cover things this week. I hope September looks bright where you are!

Zubby Newsletter #15: Comics Kintsugi

One of the Greats Has Left the Building

John Romita Sr. passed away yesterday.

He was an absolute legend, with iconic imagery that defined generations. A giant even amongst his peers.

When I close my eyes and imagine Spider-Man, it’s almost always a piece drawn by ‘Jazzy’ John. Thank you for so many great memories, sir.

Comics Almost Broke Me

Quite a few people in and out of the industry have asked if I’ve read posts from the #ComicsBrokeMe hashtag that’s been trending on Twitter.


Unfortunately, barring a few extreme cases, a lot of this is not surprising to people who work in comics. I have a few stories of my own, just about everyone in the business does, and have managed to come out the other side with a career, so I have some advice but also need to stress that it’s deeply tempered with Survivor Bias

A lottery winner telling people to buy lottery tickets is tainted by their good fortune. It’s easy to tell people not to give up on dreams when yours is happening.

A creative career isn’t as random as the lottery, but luck plays a part, so take everything I say with that in mind.

• Treat others the way you want to be treated. Heck, be better than that if you can.

Kindness, patience, and clarity won’t always be reflected back your way, but it does matter and will benefit you far more over the long haul compared to diva behavior, anger, or greed.

Being kind, patient and clear does not mean you should take bad gigs for substandard pay. Part of that clarity has to include understanding what your time and effort is worth.

• When you’re starting out and unproven, the effort VS pay equation will be badly out of whack, especially when you’re competing directly with so many other hopeful freelancers willing to work for less than what they should.

With that in mind, having a day job and starting slow is not something to be ashamed of. Your chances of success increase the longer you keep creating and having stable income is a big, big part of how you can keep at it.

Putting all your chips (effort, health, financial well-being) down on a career filled with so much uncertainty is a bad idea. I know it’s frustrating because you want things to happen as quickly as possible, but the risks outweigh the rewards.

Trust me – Slow but steady is far better.

I’ve watched quite a few creators rocket past me (and, of course, felt a flash of jealousy in the moment) only to see them quickly crash because they risked too much, burned themselves out, or treated others like shit and it caught up with them.

Your future in a creative field will almost certainly be built over time with occasional bursts forward. It does not come down to one roll of the dice, one opportunity, or one failure. If you treat it that way, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

• There have been quite a few times where I felt my comic writing career might come to an end.

Opportunities drying up. Editors not responding to messages.

You can’t control those things. All you can control is your response to it and build safety nets to carry on despite it.

There are times when you need to push yourself and deliver under duress, but you can’t sprint all the time. You are the only one who can properly gauge your limits and communicate them accordingly.

• Having stable income outside of comic freelance work means I’ve been juggling two careers for a long time. That can be tough at times and absolutely leads to some late nights working, but it also means I am never cornered into terrible gigs or contracts that would screw me over.

I am very, very fortunate in that way and I know that, but I also made distinct choices in terms of work and savings to maximize my options and bolster my ability to keep creating over the long haul. Contrary to the romanticized version you may have internalized, being a starving artist sucks. Desperation leads to terrible decisions, stupid working hours, and long term career damage far more often than it turns into success.

• Underlying all of this are also extremes in terms of skill and quality levels.

A lot of people who aren’t professional quality cannot see the gap they still need to clear to be viable.

A lot of very skilled people undervalue their abilities.

• Being a skilled writer or artist doesn’t mean you’re a strong negotiator, good communicator, capable self-promoter, intelligent with your finances, or well organized. In fact, the more focus you have on creative refinement, the more those other areas tend to suffer

If a person or company offers terms you don’t like, figure out your threshold and when the pay/opportunity isn’t worth the effort.

If a person or company offers an opportunity too good to be true, it probably is and that means they can also take it away in an instant. Plan accordingly.

• Companies aren’t loyal. People can be.

Pay attention to good people you work with. Cultivate great working relationships. Celebrate successes. Commiserate over setbacks.

Be patient. Be kind. Be careful.

Build up your work, bit by bit. Slow and steady.

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Comics almost broke me a few times over the years, but I’m not done yet.

The Shadow-Spider Returns!

Back in 2018, Sean Izaakse and I convinced the Powers That Be at Marvel to let us take the Champions to Weirdworld and, in the process, redesign each team member with a sword & sorcery-themed variant.

Champions #25 kicked off the storyline and it was a ton of fun.

Last week, Insomniac Games announced a Collector’s Edition of their upcoming Spider-Man 2 PS5 game and, lo and behold, our Miles Shadow-Spider outfit is one of the feature costumes. It looks so great!

If you want to read our Champions-fantasy tale with Shadow-Spider and friends, it was reprinted in the Champions: Weird War One trade paperback.

Links and Other Things

• Nathan Price did a deep dive review of Conan the Barbarian #0, analyzing the story structure, art, and broader themes. It’s nice and a bit humbling when someone really delves into your hard work like this.

• CBR has an exclusive look at our Conan the Barbarian #3 covers.

• Tom Brevoort’s latest newsletter here on Substack includes a ‘Welcome to Comics’ letter given to new freelance writers coming from other writing fields. Most of the advice in there is relatively obvious to experienced creators but if you’re just starting out it covers a lot of the basics quite well.

• Forgotten Realms creator Ed Greenwood has his own YouTube channel.

That should cover it for this time.

Making Comics – Creative Careers Are a Marathon

In this video, I talk about juggling freelance projects with a day job and the amount of time it took for me to get momentum as a comic writer.

These creative careers are a marathon, not a sprint.

How Skullkickers Began

Creativity is rarely a singular creator with an instantaneous idea. Concepts grow and change over time and, when new collaborators get brought into the mix, projects continue to evolve from initial idea hopefully through to finished work that gets released to great acclaim and fanfare.

It’s the 10th Anniversary of Skullkickers #1, the action-comedy sword & sorcery comic series that propelled my comic writing career forward in a big way. When I’m interviewed about the series I usually summarize it as “my love letter to Dungeons & Dragons and Conan the Barbarian” because that’s what it is for me, but I’m not the sole creator of Skullkickers.

So, here on our anniversary, I thought it would be appropriate to break down the timeline on how the series started and give extra context to the strange and winding road of a creative project. This is how real collaboration happens, how things change, and the way small decisions cause big adjustments later on.

Chris Stevens was a freelance artist doing work at the UDON studio and I worked at the studio as a Project Manager, soliciting work from a variety of clients and organizing art teams who delivered all kinds of different ad work, illustration, design and comic artwork. Chris and I got along quite well and, as a way to get him extra commission work between projects, I helped get him set up a DeviantArt page to show off his incredible work. Some of those pieces I posted up caught the eye of Joe Keatinge, who was working at Image Comics and co-editing an anthology series Image was putting out called Popgun and, in September of 2007, he offered Chris a spot in Popgun Volume 2.

Chris assumed Joe would pair him with a writer, but then he was told he could do whatever he wanted and emailed me about it to ask if I had any ideas for a story-

September 21, 2007:
Genre….well, I’d have to say fantasy is the way to go. You’d think I might be sick of it, but to be honest, it’s the most flexible genre to use and I’ve become a fan. I’ve got dick for ideas at the moment, but since it’s gonna be so short, the idea’s probably going to be the hardest part. I’ve tossed around a few ideas in my head but can’t seem to focus at the moment

It’s kinda tough to think of something. I mean, it’s really short and there’s no real rules. Not much to grab onto is there? Well, think about it when you can and let me know if you get any ideas.

I asked Chris about how things went from there-

“I was reluctant as usual, but you talked me into it and we started talking about what I’d be interested in doing. I decided on a D&D style high fantasy setting. I did this because I knew it would be fun and flexible and it was a setting I was familiar with through all of my UDON work.

I decided on a big human with a gun and a dwarf who were scumbags. People of low morality and character but still somehow likable. I chose that because I was loving Eric Powell’s The Goon and thought it would be fun to do a different take on the shady duo idea and I liked the visual of a big guy teaming with a small one. I also liked the idea of a guy with a firearm in a setting that doesn’t usually have guns. I designed them and gave them their weapons and armor. You were great and ran with all of my suggestions and since I’d never written before, I was grateful to have you take those criteria and create a first short story from that.”

October 5, 2007:
Chris sent the first sketch design of this duo while I organized the story.

Here’s how I responded to it-

The sketch looks pretty damn sweet, Chris. Probably my only suggestion is possibly to exaggerate their features a bit. Since we’re going for over the top violent it will probably work better if it’s a bit more Madureira than Charest, if you know what I mean. Imagine these characters up to their waists in zombies and entrail goo – YUM.

October 8, 2007:

From Chris-
Couple more sketches of our duo. Definitely a good call on the more exaggeration. I’m liking the vibe they have a lot more already and it fits a lot better. Didn’t make too many changes, but some things are a bit different. Mostly on our dwarf.

October 10, 2007:
Here’s my original outline for the story-

2 Copper Pieces
No Magic. No Problem

Story by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Chris Stevens

In a backwater fantasy world filled with all manners of magical beasts, poverty, disease and other horrifying threats, it’s a daily struggle to survive. Most people keep their head low, stay in the village they were born and eke out a life as a farmer or simple tradesperson. The only people strong enough to have anything else are protected by sorcerous powers or in the employ of the demonic.

Except for our two protagonists – They thrive by being stubborn and tough as Hell.

No one knows where this human and dwarf came from or how they’ve survived so long without using a speck of magic. They travel the land slaying every kind of beast in their path with sheer physical grit and vicious trickery. They’re not heroic or even nice – in fact they might be two of the most irritating and ornery assholes to ever heft a blade. No matter how obnoxious they may be, no one can argue with their results and the huge trail of corpses left in their wake. In world of the weak, they’re fighters.

Some folks despise them, others praise or even worship them – they don’t care.
They’d kill anything for 2 copper pieces.

2 Copper Pieces is a fantasy parody on steroids. It revels in the clichés of sword and sorcery while injecting them with an extra spark of sass and violence. It’s not deep and meaningful by any stretch, instead keeping the reader engaged with snappy dialogue and inventive use of monsters. Like Ash from Army of Darkness, our “heroes” are so full of themselves and capable that you like them, even when they’re being absolute jerks.

Anthology Story:
The Popgun Anthology story would be a short 8-10 page quest by our protagonists, dropping readers into the middle of their world and a “typical” day for our deadly duo. We follow along as they hunt down a gigantic zombified worm that decimated a village near a boggy marsh. Even against the massive monster, our pair buckles down and gets to work using its own size and weight against it as they out maneuver it and stab deeply time and time again.

Just as our heroes think they’ve finished it off and carved the big worm open, they’re confronted by something even worse – the now exposed decaying remains inside the beast have been marinated in zombie stomach goo and are now a rampaging army of corpse parts lurching towards them. The duo shrug and prepare to wade in to the fray, confident they’ll emerge triumphant no matter what.

Chris liked it and Joe approved the pitch.

October 19, 2007:
Chris sent a design sketch of the worm.

Over the next three and a half months, Chris would digitally paint up the 10-page anthology story in between his other freelance projects and the holidays. Marshall Dillon lettered the story and we handed in the finished files in late January.

The response from Joe and the rest of the Popgun team was really strong.

February 4, 2008:
Erik Larsen, Publisher at Image Comics at that time, reached out with praise for the artwork:

Joe fired over some of your pages and I was pretty much floored by what I saw! You’ve got some serious chops, fellow. I dunno how fast you are or how versatile you are but I think you have some real promise and I’d like to help line you up with some work once you’ve wrapped up your Popgun yarn. Is there a website where I can see some more of your stuff?

Joe asked if we wanted to do more for Popgun Volume 3, which was already in development even before Volume 2 arrived in stores. I was excited to do another story with the boys from 2 Copper Pieces, but Chris was worried about the amount of time it would take.

April 11, 2008:
I sent Chris a concept for a 3-page story called ‘Gotcha’, a short interlude with our 2 Copper Pieces boys and Chris illustrated it over the next four weeks.

April 18, 2008:
I attended New York Comic Con (which ran from April 18-20 that year) and chatted with Erik Larsen. He asked if we were interested in pitching 2 Copper Pieces as an Image series.

May 13, 2008:
I email Joe and Erik an update on our progress-

Chris has been on a tear after wrapping up that second short story for Popgun v3. We’re going to put together a full comic proposal for Image built off of the “2 Copper Pieces” characters, having them storm their way through fantasy scenarios with violence and verve. After talking with Erik at New York Comic Con about it, he mentioned that the title should be catchier, so we’ve also got a few new title ideas that we think convey the concept in a catchy way:

Scumbags (Simple and straight to the point. Having this in a flowing calligraphy font for the title would have some amusing contrast to it)
Less Than Legendary (Also quite descriptive)
Never Legendary (Similar Concept)
Good Samaritans (Which, of course, they are anything but)
Dwarf & Baldy (a bit like Sam & Twitch)

May 14, 2008
Email back from Joe:
I don’t like any of those titles, including “Dwarf & Baldy”. I don’t see the Sam & Twitch connection.

Think more along the lines of BATTLE CHASERS. Something exciting, dramatic, that is still fantasy oriented. Good Samaritans is just plain boring.

By early June I’d come up with “Skullkickers” and bought the URL, just in case.

June 13th, 2008:
I pitched Skullkickers via email and, a few hours later, Erik gave us the green light to go ahead with our first arc. I was absolutely blown away. We were two months from the first short story even coming out and we already had an Image series in the pipeline…or so I thought.

On August 12, 2008:
Popgun Volume 2 was released and the Skullkickers make their debut-

Between freelance work that had to take priority and family issues that had come up, Skullkickers #1 art production slowed to a crawl. By October, Chris had roughed out the full issue but only completed 11 pages of pencils. Over the next few months, he sent a few more pages of pencils, eventually getting up to page 15 completed, but it was clear we’d be too slow to make it a regular series so, before the end of the year I told Chris he could let it go. In all honesty, he sounded relieved.

I asked Chris about it recently-
“I’m very proud of my work on Skullkickers and the short stories. I worked hard on all of that and put everything I had into the shorts and concepts. My decision to step away from the comic was entirely financial. I had no way of assuring myself that I was going to make any money and the prospect of doing all that work with no guarantee was too much of a risk for me to take.”

April 8, 2009:
Popgun Volume 3 is released.

At that point, it looked like Skullkickers as a full blown series was dead, but 10 months later, things took an unexpected turn.

February 17, 2010
Edwin Huang reached out to me to send me his latest sequential portfolio after I’d seen his work the previous year. I reply-

Your sequential work is really looking nice. You’ve got some well paced pages and solidly put together sequences.

My only critique would be that the pages work well right now as portfolio pieces but if those same pages had dialogue and sound effects many of them would get pretty cramped and lose their flow. You need to make sure you leave more space for the text required alongside the art. It’s something easy to adjust depending on the amount of dialogue in the scripts you’re working with, but it is worth noting for future reference.

I’ll be totally up front with you. I don’t have any comic work right now at UDON that I could offer you, but I’m impressed with what I see. I may pass the link along to other people I know who are looking for artists.

We start emailing back and forth and I ask Edwin if he’s interested in a concept I’ve had on ice for almost a year.

Edwin checks out Chris’ page art for Skullkickers #1, is understandably impressed, and asks if he can ink the existing pages as practice. Once he finishes those inks, he uses Chris’ roughs as a guide to draw out the rest of the issue. By the time he’s done, I ask him if he’d be interested in taking over the series and he agrees.

By end of February I ask Chris if it’s okay for Edwin to pick up where he left off and Chris gives his blessing for us to go ahead, offering to illustrate covers for the series if it all works out.

March 2, 2010:
I re-pitch Skullkickers to Eric Stephenson, who had since taken over as Publisher at Image, and he gave us the go ahead.

By late March I hire Misty Coats to join us as colorist on the series after her friend Emily Warren recommend her work. Marshall Dillon agrees to continue lettering my creator-owned projects. Finally, we have our creative team locked down and we go into full production.

July 16, 2010:
Skullkickers #1 is listed in the Preview catalog for September release and featured as a ‘Gem of the Month’

July 22-25, 2010:
I’m at San Diego Comic-Con and, when I’m not working at the UDON booth, I hand out Skullkickers postcards trying to drum up more orders for the series.

September 22, 2010:
Our first issue arrives in comic shops and sells out quickly, leading to two more printings of issue #1, and two printings of issue #2 and 3.

Once Skullkickers launches, I start to back fill in the story, incorporating a bunch of my favorite sword & sorcery tropes and building out the world so I can tell funny fantasy yarns without just doing parody. The only thing I didn’t know how to square at first was Baldy’s gun.

Chris had added that in there as a way to mix things up from the typical sword and shield stuff, but now I had a fantasy book with a guy using a shooting iron, which felt more like something out of a western…so I took that to the next logical step and decided Rex was from a western, filling in his origin with Thool and all the cowboy and dimension-hopping stuff. Problem solving led to plot, and that little gun twist would define a lot of the series over the long haul.

Like I said at the start, collaboration is complicated. Ideas grow and change over time and with more input. At each stage of development the project that became Skullkickers could have gone a different direction. I poured a lot of my favorite things into the series, but it really all started with Chris – His artwork, his aesthetic and the weird ideas that made him laugh when we chatted on the phone.

More than a decade later, it’s weird and wonderful looking back at how it all started. I’m so incredibly fortunate to have worked with so many great people on so many amazing projects that have come from releasing Skullkickers. I’m also pumped for our 10th anniversary celebration project called Skullkickers: Caster Bastards and the Great Grotesque.


14 years.

That’s how long I’ve been coordinating Seneca’s 3-Year Animation Advanced Diploma program.

I’ve been teaching at Seneca for the past 16 years, and 14 of those have included managing curriculum development, student issues, instructor schedules, budget projections, and evaluating portfolios.

Being Coordinator might be the longest and most consistent thing I’ve done in my life. I worked at UDON as an artist and project manager for 9 years. I’ve been freelance comic writing for 11 years. When Stacy and I started dating in 2007 I was already Animation Program Coordinator, so it’s been a constant through our entire relationship and marriage.

Until now.

Juggling both teaching and writing, two full-time careers running in tandem, has been a challenge at times. I’ve earned a few grey hairs thanks to it, but also wouldn’t trade it for anything. The friends I’ve made, projects I’ve been a part of, and places I’ve traveled to, it’s been such an incredible ride.

At the end of last year, we finished our 5-year program review. Animation broke records for applications and portfolios for the fourth year in a row. Our student body is enthusiastic and focused. Our instructors are top notch. Our graduates are working for some of the biggest animation, game, and special effect companies in the world. Seeing all that laid out in black and white in front of me, it felt like a good place to evaluate my own progress as well.

As I looked ahead to 2020 and beyond, I realized how much more would be required, both with the creative projects I have lined up and the expanding needs of one of the college’s most popular and successful programs. Something had to change, otherwise I’d burn out trying to keep doing it all at the same time.

So, I spoke to Mark Jones, a dear friend and Seneca’s Chair of Creative Arts, and requested a professional leave from the college. My professional leave starts late April 2020 and continues through to end of August 2021 – 16 months to focus on my writing and other creative development, working away on some stuff that’s already public along with a couple secret projects I’m excited to see come to life.

When I return after my leave, I won’t be picking back up the Coordinator mantle. After 14 years of building and running the Animation program, it’s time for someone else to take charge. Sean Craig, current Coordinator of our post-grad 3D Animation program and the 3rd year Digital Animation stream, is stepping up to take over. He and I have been discussing this changeover for many months and he has a rock-solid vision for where the program needs to be in the years ahead.

So, that’s the news. After April 22nd, I’ll be focused on writing and other creative endeavors along with expanding my travel schedule so Stacy and I can go places we’ve never been and spend more time in the places we enjoy. I get to see what it’s like to have one crazy creative career instead of two and a half. 

I got into this business (art, animation, comics, games, teaching, all of it) because I love storytelling. Getting to work with so many skilled people who love it as much as I do has been a dream.

What comes next? Keep watching and we’ll find out together as the future unfolds.

Wish me luck,

Zub Marvel Comics Arriving in November!

Black Panther and his hand-picked team are our first line of defense on Earth, in space, or even in other realities. They’re operatives of the unimaginable – They’re Agents of Wakanda.
In this issue – a new mission begins! A disturbing galactic experiment has been waiting, growing…Can the Agents of Wakanda stop its encroaching danger before it’s too late?
Strap on your spacesuits, True Believers! This one’s shootin’ for the moon!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99
Arriving 11/13/19

Written by JIM ZUB
The future of the Champions hangs in the balance! The War of the Realms is over — but its effect on the Champions has shaken the team to its very core! Meanwhile, Sam Alexander’s mission in space takes an unexpected turn. Will he find redemption — or is this the last ride for the human rocket? Fear, doubt and deception — the Champions’ ideals are about to be tested, and not everyone will make the grade. And as tensions rise, the Freelancers return! But who has betrayed the Champions, and who can they trust? Miles Morales returns — but will it be in time to save his friends? The next generation of heroes made a vow to do better. Now they have to live up to it. Collecting CHAMPIONS (2019) #7-10.
112 PGS./Rated T+ …$15.99
ISBN: 978-1-302-91672-5
Arriving 12/04/19