Author Archives: Jim Zub - Page 3

Zub at Calgary Expo 2024!

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

BIG FOUR BUILDING – ARTIST ALLEY TABLE P-58

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

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

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

Long Time Coming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Zubby Newsletter #59: Semesters

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

My life has been defined by semesters.

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

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

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

It was a great night
End of an era.


Free Comic Book Day in Japan!

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

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

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


Telling Tales With a Stygian Dog

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


A Savage Sneak Peek


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

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


Ginny Di Gets Our Guide

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

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


Upcoming Appearances

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


Links and Other Things

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

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

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

Have a great week!
Jim

Zub Comics Arriving June 2024


CONAN THE BARBARIAN #12
story – JIM ZUB
art – ROBERTO DE LA TORRE
cover A – JEFFREY ALAN LOVE
cover B – STUART SAYGER
cover C – GREG BROADMORE

BEYOND FLESH. BEYOND DEATH. BEYOND TIME.

Conan has travelled far and seen much in his legendary journeys, but nothing he has experienced thus far can prepare him for a quest to lands beyond to answer dark riddles of the past.

Unexpected allies await, fierce enemies loom, and the strange power of the Black Stone stirs in THE AGE UNCONQUERED!
In Shops: June 26, 2024
SRP: $3.99


SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #3
story – FRANK TIERI, PATCH ZIRCHER, JOHN C. HOCKING, JIM ZUB
art – CARY NORD, ALAN QUAH, PATCH ZIRCHER
cover A – ALEX HORLEY
cover B – CARY NORD

THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN continues its triumphant return from Heroic Signatures and Titan Comics!

Featuring a chilling CONAN tale from writer Frank Tieri and artist Cary Nord, the exciting conclusion of writer/artist Patch Zircher’s SOLOMON KANE epic, a silent Conan story from writer/artist Alan Quah, a tantalizing sneak peak of John C Hocking’s novel CONAN: CITY OF THE DEAD, jaw-dropping covers from Alex Horley and Cary Nord, incredible art pin-ups, and more!
In Shops: June 26, 2024
SRP: $6.99

Zubby Newsletter #58: Blood, Sweat, and Probably More Blood


CONAN.com has been on an updating spree with new material (and some exclusive merch as well), including this recent article all about my work on the monthly Conan comic series and our big plans for the future.

Speaking of Conan, Superhero Hype has preview pages up for Conan the Barbarian #10. Part 2 of The Age Unconquered is jam-packed with intense adventure aplenty and you’ll be able to get your copy in stores or online on April 24th.


A Down To Earth Discussion With a Stygian Dog

I finally had a chance to chat with Stygian Dogs about CONAN, and the 2-part interview is a really fun one that covers a lot of ground. In this first part we talk about:

• The convention circuit and my upcoming trip to Howard Days
• The Conan relaunch, including pitching the new series and large scale storytelling
• Discovering Conan when I was a kid
• Writing a prose short story for the new Savage Sword magazine
• Working on Conan at Marvel and assumptions some current readers have about my first run
• The comic production pipeline and unsung heroes on the creative team


Life Of Wolverine Arrives in July


Announced by Marvel on Friday, the 10-part digital LIFE OF WOLVERINE story I wrote and Ramon Bachs illustrated back in 2022 is finally arriving in a one-shot print issue.

Editor Mark Basso asked if I was up for a challenge – Threading together dozens of Wolverine stories in historical order to act as a proper timeline and introduction for readers. To pull it all together I read literally hundreds of Wolverine comics for research and it was intense.

Life of Wolverine involves Jean Grey doing a deep dive into Logan’s mind. She experiences his past and is able to contextualize it with things we know now to see larger patterns around what he’s been through. If you didn’t get a chance to read it on Marvel Unlimited or if you did and want a physical copy, you’ll get your chance on July 3rd. Pre-order now.


Grad Films Next Week


On Thursday, April 18th at 4:30pm EST the new Seneca 2D Animation grad films will stream online, but you can check out past films and see grad portfolio sites NOW at the Seneca 2D website and YouTube channel.

I am so proud of my students. Putting together these films is an incredible effort, the crucial final step as they push their drawing and animation skills from assignments to actual production.


Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

A pair of Fan Expo shows were officially added to my schedule this week: Chicago and Toronto, both happening in August.

Apr 25-28, 2024 Calgary Expo Calgary, AB, CANADA
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

• The Beat has a solid rundown of the recent chatter around the terms of the WEBTOON Originals contract, with boilerplate text that is extremely unfavorable for hard working creators trying to make a living in digital comics on their platform. It’s hard to advocate for yourself, especially at the start of your creative career, so try to stay on top of information like this as best you can so you know what to look out for.

Michael Spicer‘s latest video called Nothing Has Changed Since 1999 feels pretty accurate. The differences between 1960 and 1980 or 1980 and 2000 seem vast in comparison to 2000 and 2020. Entertainment, fashion, and culture in general have been atomized in a way that’s hard to wrap our heads around.

Seth Skorkowsky has a great rundown of tips for tabletop RPG players to get into the right mindset and make a positive impact at the table.

Doug Gilford compiled an alphabetical list of every weird sound effect used by Don Martin, the classic MAD Magazine cartoonist. It’s a delightful archive for lovers of Onomatopoeia.

Have a great weekend!
Jim

Zubby Newsletter #57: Crafting Something Magical

ARTIFICERS & ALCHEMY, the latest Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide, launches on April 16th. It’s incredible to me that the original 2-book proposal I developed with Adam Lee at Wizards of the Coast and the team at Ten Speed Press is now up to book eight (and that doesn’t even include reprint volumes like the Creature Compendium), with hopefully many more to come.

Stacy has been doing a lot of heavy lifting on our latest volumes, Andrew Wheeler has been an integral part of our writing process and both of them have upcoming solo-written D&D books of their own that should also be on your radar – Stacy’s DUNGEONS & DRAGONS POCKET EXPERT and Andrew’s PUNCHEONS & FLAGONS books both arrive in August – Pre-order now!

The number of people who have reached out to let us know how helpful the D&D Young Adventurer’s Guides have been in demystifying the way TTRPG narratives work, generating character and adventure ideas, and bringing new people into the hobby has been so, so heartwarming. If you’ve never seen the YAG’s before, I go through how they work in this Frequently Asked Questions post.

Our latest book is all about making magic items and constructs. Here’s the official summary:
Featuring amazing illustrations and expert insights, Artificers & Alchemy explores peculiar phenomena, sentient weapons, guardian gear, and the artificers who create these enchanted objects. If you’re eager to start your own D&D adventures, this guidebook provides the perfect starting point to creating worlds of fantasy and weaving an epic story all your own.


Marvel By The Month – Conan in the 1970’s

On the latest Marvel by the Month podcast episode, Brian and Jamie dig into CONAN THE BARBARIAN comics from the ’70’s and I guest starred to add historical context and trivia to the mix. We cover three classic comics:
#1 The Coming Of Conan
#4 The Tower of the Elephant
#16 The Frost Giant’s Daughter

We also dig into:
• Conan as a character and the Hyborian Age.
• How Marvel first got the Conan license to make the comics.
• The literary and comic book origins of Red Sonya/Red Sonja.
• Working with Gail Simone and Dan Panosian on the Conan-Red Sonja crossover mini-series in 2015.
Give it a listen!


In the Archive – Serpent War


Now on my Patreon – The full script for CONAN: SERPENT WAR #1 from 2019.

Battle of the Black Stone, our upcoming 2024 Conan event, is a different take on a Robert E. Howard character crossover adventure, but it would not have been possible without everything I learned on Serpent War and the hard work of our creative team here under the guidance of Marvel editor Mark Basso.

Learn how comics are made for the price of a fancy coffee. There are now over 300 scripts (plus pitches, Q&A’s and more) in my Patreon archive.


Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

This week I settled plans to attend San Diego Comic Con again this year and, keeping the D&D 50th anniversary momentum going, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be at Gen Con in August and Gamehole Con in October.

Apr 25-28, 2024 Calgary Expo Calgary, AB, Canada
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
Oct 17-20, 2024 Gamehole Con Madison, WI, USA


Links and Other Things

• My friend Miguel Sternberg is getting a limited physical release of his video game Russian Subway Dogs on PS4 thanks to Limited Run! Pre-order now!

• My friend Cecil Castellucci has a new crowdfunding campaign for a comic and performance art piece collaborating with 25 artists on a project called I Am The Comic. Check it out!

• My friend John Barber‘s sci-fi comic series Signa crowdfund campaign is underway and zooming toward its goal.

• My friend Paul Cornell is funding a fun graphic novel on Zoop called Who Killed Nessie? and it’s got a great pitch – “Every year, legendary creatures from all over the world gather for an annual convention. But never has there been a murder.”

• Chaosium is funding an impressive looking Lovecraftian board game based on Horror On The Orient Express and it’s already smashing funding goals.

• I’m enjoying watching episodes of the Anti-Chef Youtube Channel as he goes through Julia Child’s famous cookbooks to learn new techniques. Inspiring and amusing.

Have a great weekend!
Jim

Conan the Barbarian #9 Reviews

Our third story arc begins, The Age Unconquered! What did critics think of this bold new chapter that picks up after last issue’s wild cliffhanger?

Comic Book.com: 8/10 “Zub knows what was so enjoyable about the Conan of the past and continues to find ways to tell new stories with the character.”

Comic Book University: “Beautiful book, incredible story. I love what Zub is doing…This one blew my mind.”

Comic Culture: “I love this issue…I’m glad we’re back to basics right now. Conan is a great read.”

Comical Opinions: 9.5/10 “-an enthralling tale of adventure, mystery, and intrigue…this issue is a must-read for fans of Conan and classic sword-and-sorcery tales.”

Comicon.com: 10/10 “It may be my favorite issue of the series so far. It burns with life. I love it, it slays, and I am content.”

Deciptisean77: “I really recommend this, it’s really great. Good art, good pacing, lots of callbacks to other characters.”

Gary B The Casual Comic Guy: “This issue really cemented for me why Titan Comics is a good home for Conan the Barbarian…This title is going great and I can’t wait to see where this is going to continue.”

Goodreads: “…we are still going strong with this series. Each character is well realized and I enjoy what’s on offer here in terms of storytelling, art and overall presentation. “

Grimdark Magazine: “…delivers the thrills, plunging Conan into a desperate new situation in a vibrant and exciting setting.”

Hobbies of a Man: “This was an awesome, awesome issue. It was phenomenal. I had a really fun time with this issue.”

League of Comic Geeks: “Zub’s writing is excellent and De La Torre on pencils just brings back all the nostalgia of the past with a story that keeps true to the Conan character.”

Pop Culture Philosophers: “Jim Zub and La Torre and company – they’ve been killing it in the pages of Conan the Barbarian. I loved this issue. Really excited to see how this develops.”

Sci-Fi Pulse: 9.8/10 “…a strong issue with some bloody brilliant plot developments and twists.”

Stygian Dogs: “Zub has given himself room to play in Howard’s sandbox and he has a demonstrated a knack for doing so in a way that pays meaningful and lyrical homage to Howard’s creations…another must read experience, one that heralds a triumphant close to the series’ first year.”

Thinking Critical: “This was my pick of the week…The linework, the colors, the lettering, everything is top notch and setting the bar as to how a comic book should be produced.”

Todd Luck: “I wish I’d recorded my reactions while reading the issue, because even knowing that this was the premise of this plotline, I was still geeking out while reading it.”

Two Guys and a Stack of Comics: “It’s really cool to see a book that has art and writing so good that it will appeal to non-fans, but if you’re a fan of Howard’s work it honors that as well…This is what comic books should be.”

Void City Reviews: “Much like the first arc, the writing and the art combine into something that elevates them both…The art is just incredible.”

Wakizashi’s Teahouse: 8/10 “De la Torre gives you those chills, those flashbacks, the nostalgia buzz…I haven’t read a bad issue yet so far.”

Zubby Newsletter #56: Preparation and Advice


A fellow writer asked how I prepped for writing Sacrifice in the Sand, the prose short story in SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #1 (and the advice I sent applies to writing the new Conan comic series as well), so I thought I’d share that here:

Glad you enjoyed my story in Savage Sword. It was certainly a challenge, but I’m glad I was able to contribute something a bit different to the relaunch of a series that means so much to so many readers, myself included.

Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan and many other literary characters, wrote over 300 short stories, with just over 20 of them centered on Conan. Before I sat down to try and write a new Conan short story, I re-read all the original Conan tales (and quite a few of his other short stories as well) with a pad of paper and pencil close at hand so I could quickly jot down specific lines of narration or dialogue that spoke to me – the way Howard used language and created flow in his sentences, the lyrical and poetic quality of his words. I didn’t copy any of them in my own story, but I wanted to better understand what made them read the way they did to try and emulate that while writing an original tale.

By listing unexpected or unusual words Howard used to paint a scene and highlighting bits of action I felt were effective at generating momentum and noting down other aspects of structure and pacing, I was able to use that as a baseline of inspiration to build on in my own work.

If I was writing a longer prose story I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to focus on each and every sentence quite as much, but with a short story like this I could really pore over each piece to try and summon that pulpy feel as much as possible. With a bit of luck I’ll get the chance to create more down the road.

Reading for research is different from reading for pleasure and it’s a crucial part of getting ready for any project, especially when I’m building on existing work and well-established worlds.

Two other useful bits of writing advice:
1) Read your writing out loud.

Hearing writing spoken aloud can work wonders for catching mistakes, adding clarity, finding unwanted repetition, giving characters distinct voices, and improving flow.

2) Get an editor and/or trusted reader.

An editor is there to enhance what works and help fix what doesn’t – copyedits, advice, cheerleading. Big picture and small details. A pre-release reader may catch mistakes, but their role tends to be first impression and overall clarity.

If you’re just starting out or losing steam while trying to build up your writing skills, finding (or founding) a ‘creative circle’ to act as trusted readers for each other can be extremely helpful. Set creative goals and motivate each other to meet them. Read work from your peers to help them out and learn from them at the same time.


Starting Your Journey In The Hyborian Age

Speaking of source material, with all the excitement around Conan right now, quite a few people have asked me where to start when it comes to Conan prose stories, since there are 90 years worth of published stories by dozens of authors to choose from.

The original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard are the foundational bedrock of the Hyborian Age and the sword & sorcery genre. Since those tales were written for Weird Tales magazine, almost all of them are short stories that can be read in one sitting. They’re quick and engaging bursts of action and atmosphere.

I quite like the Del Rey three book Conan collection (in print or e-book) that includes every short story and story fragment along with in-depth annotations and some great art. That said, I’m not an ‘edition collector’ and don’t have exhaustive knowledge of Conan books in print, so if there are other great editions currently available, please let me (and other people here) know.

If you want to start reading Conan stories, don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed by the amount of material out there. The character and world is incredibly easy to jump into because the core premise is so straight forward:
Conan is a wandering warrior in a pre-historic time of swords, sorcery, danger and mystery. Wherever he goes, adventure and excitement is sure to follow.

There are all kinds of other details that I and other people working on the property keep track of, but you as the reader don’t need to know or memorize any of it, especially when starting out. Just dive in and enjoy.

When it comes to writing the new Conan comics, the original REH prose stories are the only absolute canon. Everything else, from additional novels, comics, games, movies or other media, are ‘in play’ if we want, but not required. Using material from them is an Easter Egg or knowing nods for the fandom, not pillars of continuity.


Nods To The Past

Speaking of knowing nods (and with slight spoilers for Conan the Barbarian #9), Conan the Cimmerian and Kull the Conqueror duke it out in our latest issue and I couldn’t let such a momentous clash pass by without tipping my hat to writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema who did it first in Conan the Barbarian #68 from 1976.

The whys and wherefores around the two confrontations are totally different, but I managed to weave a couple narrative parallels in for my own amusement.


Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

April 25-28, 2024 Calgary Expo Calgary, AB, Canada
June 7-8, 2024 Howard Days Cross Plains, TX, USA
August 1-4, 2024 Gen Con Indy Indianapolis, IN, USA


Links and Other Things

Secret of NIMH is one of my favorite animated films, but I had no idea that Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, and the crew sourced action from other films. It’s not rotoscoped (traced), but you can see that the shot choices and timing are tightly referenced from live action sources, almost certainly films they enjoyed in their youth.

Ian Livingstone announced a new Fighting Fantasy sequel to Deathtrap Dungeon! That book was one of my absolute favorites when I was a kid.

• I like this digital painting video from artist Hardy Fowler. Some great techniques in there and good chatter about deciding who a painting is for and staying motivated.

J. Kenji Lopez shows the difference between baking soda and baking powder when it comes to pancakes and other recipes. The more I cook, the more this kind of stuff intrigues me.

Have a great week!
Jim

Zubby Newsletter #55: Ever Rolling Onward

Three days after getting back from the Founders & Legends-Gary Con 9 day gaming event marathon, I’m still recovering. There are mountains of emails to catch up on and deadlines galore. The next four weeks is looking to be an absolute sprint, but that’s okay because I had a fantastic time at both shows.

Old friends and new. Old games and new.
So much enthusiasm. So many amazing people.

What an absolute joy it was to be part of the big celebration.

I’ve got dozens of amazing anecdotes and trying to summarize it all means I’ll definitely miss some key things, but here are a few of the many high points:

• I playtested my new AD&D 1st edition adventure called “The Crucible” four times over the week, three times with strangers who signed up to play and once with an all-star adventuring party of friends. It was an honor and a blast watching these groups puzzle their way through the tricks and traps I put together. I definitely want to keep building on this foundation and run it again at future tabletop gaming events.

• Playing a cursed marine named Private Zoob in a wonderfully tragic one-shot session of the Mothership RPG, a twisted scenario called Moonbase Blues.

• Trying out Keith Baker‘s upcoming strategic card game called Glim.

• Sketching a first edition-style Rust Monster as part of the Gary Con Artist Jam.

• Late night chatter with The Dungeon Dudes all about the good old-bad old days of tabletop RPGs, before smartphones and social media.

• Making Chris Perkins cackle and get verklempt in the same conversation as we waxed nostalgic.

• Playing a deranged dilettante named Chancellor Longbottle in a spirited game of The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

• Gossip and good times with Erik Mona, Jeff Richards, and Joshua Dinges, nightcaps before we crashed and started it all over again, day after day, game after game.


A History Unfathomed


CONAN THE BARBARIAN #9, the first part of THE AGE UNCONQUERED, arrived today at comic shops nationwide.

Surprises and action aplenty, my friends. Get your copy today! Cannot wait for you to see how it all plays out, with line art by Rob De La Torre, colors by Dean White, and letters by Richard Starkings.

In many ways, this is the biggest issue since our launch, using momentum built in Conan #0-8 to propel us to the end of our first year.

And yes, that says “first year”. We’re not hitting the reset button after issue 12 or anything like that. I have many more stories to tell in the Hyborian Age and our crew is already deep into work on arc 4 and beyond, plus Savage Sword magazine and Conan: Battle of the Black Stone.

If wonderful fans like you keep buying, reading and sharing your excitement, this new era of Conan will keep conquering!


Art of Storytelling Interview Clips

Proko has posted up some new clips from footage I filmed as part of Marvel’s The Art of Storytelling comic creation course. Watch and share:

What makes comics so special as a medium?

Why do I like Spider-Man and Doctor Strange so much?


Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

April 25-28, 2024 Calgary Expo Calgary, AB, Canada
June 7-8, 2024 Howard Days Cross Plains, TX, USA
August 1-4, 2024 Gen Con Indy Indianapolis, IN, USA


Links and Other Things

• I made this Chicken Scallopini recipe and it turned out great. I normally use thighs for most chicken recipes, but chicken breast worked really well with this one.

The Comicstorian did a spirited narrative run through of Bound in Black Stone, our first arc on the new Conan series.

Jim

Zubby Newsletter #54: Couldn’t Even See The Bucket


I’m in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for Founders & Legends and Gary Con, celebrating 50 years of Dungeons & Dragons and tabletop roleplaying games alongside a slew of writers and artists who helped build a hobby from the ground up. Two days in and it’s already been a pretty amazing and surreal experience.

Last night someone asked me if getting to write Dungeons & Dragons and Conan the Barbarian and be a guest at events like this were on my “Bucket List” – life goals/dreams someone hopes to achieve.

And, I had to be honest, the answer was a resounding “No”.

These kinds of things weren’t on my bucket list when I was younger because I couldn’t even see the bucket.

I would read comic books, absorb the names of those artists and writers, and wonder if it might be possible to meet those amazing people some day. My brother and I would pore over RPG books, see that an adventure was originally run as a tournament at a convention and dream about maybe someday going to that convention and playing in one of those tournaments. Just getting a bit closer to the people who made the stuff we enjoyed. That was the extent of my nerdy dreams.

The idea that I would ever get to create that stuff, have my name on the cover of a book, be well regarded in that field or be friends and peers with any of those creators would have seemed ridiculously impossible to me as a kid.

Right now, my creative career is so cosmically beyond any bucket I could have perceived that I can’t fully wrap my head around it. It’s special and wonderful even when it can be stressful and difficult and a bit exhausting.

I said something to that effect to the person who asked me and he said “Well, I’m kind of having that experience right now getting to chat with you.”

So yeah, it’s all a bit mind blowing…


The Crucible Welcomes Its First Victims

Speaking of gaming tournaments, this week at the shows I’m playtesting an original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition adventure I put together for fun.

The Crucible is a dungeon crawl tournament-style AD&D adventure for six 3rd level characters. It’s filled with dangerous traps, puzzles, and unusual combat encounters in the tradition of the Tomb of Horrors and Deathtrap Dungeon.

I built the riddles and puzzles so a group can “brute force” their way through if needed, but solving them either nullifies or severely weakens an encounter, giving the party a much better chance of surviving the whole adventure.
The adventure is named after an arc of Conan I wrote at Marvel, a story where our Cimmerian is tricked into competing in a similar deathtrap-laden tournament.

I ran the adventure for the first time yesterday and the playtest crew did really well. Over the course of 3 hours these six strangers came together to overcome five major encounter areas and reach the last puzzle, while roleplaying and laughing all the way. The team made some smart strategic decisions in combat and exhausted all their healing magic to bring two characters back from the brink of death. I’m curious how the other groups fare later this week.

A few people here and online have already asked if I’m going to publish the adventure. Right now it’s a pet project I put together so I’d have something original to run at TTRPG shows and in its current state it’s a series of scrappy notes, handouts and other pieces, not a properly written and edited manuscript. That said, it would be fun to formalize it up at some point and bring things full circle by having an adventure playtested at a game event become “real”.


Coffee & Heroes – Part 3

A few weeks ago I had a wonderful time talking with the owners of Coffee & Heroes in Ireland all about my career in comics. It was a great chat and covered so much ground that they’ve split it into 3 parts.

Here’s part 3, where we dive deep on CONAN THE BARBARIAN, including writing an icon, working on Conan at Marvel during the pandemic, pitching the relaunch to Heroic Signatures, working on the new monthly series, the new Savage Sword of Conan magazine, and more!

(And here’s Part 1 and Part 2, if you missed them.)


Talking AI Art on NPR

I was one of the comic creators who spoke to Jason Burrows at Emerald City Comic Con all about generative AI artwork and the changing industry.

“I’m confused about the desire to have computers make the fun things, and make sure that people are continuing to do the drudgery.”


Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

March 21-24, 2024 Gary Con Lake Geneva, WI, USA
April 25-28, 2024 Calgary Expo Calgary, AB, Canada
June 7-8, 2024 Howard Days Cross Plains, TX, USA
August 1-4, 2024 Gen Con Indy Indianapolis, IN, USA


Links and Other Things

Leila del Duca has a Kickstarter running for a beautiful collection of her Sleepless story and, to no one’s surprise, it’s looking incredible.

Kyodokan‘s technique for cooking Teriyaki Chicken is simple and effective. I made it last week following their technique and it turned out wonderfully.

Jim