Category Archives: Interviews

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.


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.

Mass Movement Interview

In late May I spoke to Tim Cundle at Mass Movement all about Dungeons & Dragons, Disney Kingdoms and Figment, and the dream project that was and still is Conan the Barbarian.

It’s a really fun interview and we cover a lot of ground. Check it out!

Talking Conan…in Portuguese!

Here’s an interview with the Conan the Barbarian Forum, a vibrant Portuguese language Conan community. Host Marco Collares and translator Duda Ferreira chat with me about the upcoming relaunch, working with the incredible Rob De La Torre, editor Matt Murray and more.

If you don’t speak Portuguese, here are time-stamped links to my answers in English to their key questions:

What is the format of the new Conan the Barbarian comic series?

Do you have more creative freedom working on Conan at Titan compared to writing the series at Marvel? and some follow up thoughts.

Where does your version of Conan fall in and around the Frank Frazetta illustrations or John Buscema-drawn comics?

Will you be adapting famous Conan stories like Tower of the Elephant or Red Nails?

How violent or explicit will the new Conan the Barbarian comic be?

How is it working with artist Rob De La Torre? What’s the working process like? and some follow up thoughts.

Rob is clearly inspired by the Conan art of John Buscema. Do you worry that the style is too close to Big John’s work? and some follow up thoughts.

How far ahead are you in terms of writing and production?

What can you tell us about the first story arc?

• And, to wrap up, my thoughts on the passion of the Conan fandom.

Here’s the full video from the start:

Talking Sapphire Styx with Graymalkin Lane

Over on the Graymalkin Lane podcast, we talk about the strange history of Sapphire Styx and how she became a pivotal player in my plans for Betsy Braddock back in the MYSTERY IN MADRIPOOR mini-series from 2018.

Talking the CONAN Relaunch with the CROMCAST

I’m a guest on the latest episode of the CROMCAST, chatting up a storm about the Conan comic relaunch, the Hyborian Age, my love of sword & sorcery, TTRPGs, and more!

Give it a listen HERE!

Appreciation and Discussion With The Curiosity Project

Big questions about creative work, relationships, and appreciation in an interview I did with Tess Curious at The Curiosity Project podcast:

• What are the three things you value most in life?
• Tell me a memory that shaped you.
• Tell me in as much detail as you can about something that once existed, but now does not.
• What, if anything, is perfect?
• What do you suck at?
• What are you great at?
• Do you say “I love you” too much or too little?
• If you could name a hot sauce, what would you call it and why?
• What are you most proud of?
• How do you deal with failure?
• If you were on a starship, what position would you hold?
• If you could give just one piece of advice, what would that be?

Zub on Hypothetical Island

Rub a dub dub, it’s time for Jim Zub! Reilly and George welcome the prolific writer to the Hypothetic Isle for a wide-ranging talk on all things Conan, good dental care, inhabitants of the forest moon of Endor and the correct way to pronounce “Cimmerian”.

Talking Thunderbolts and Conan With Near Mint Condition

When I was at Lexington Comic Con I spoke to Near Mint Condition about working on titles like Thunderbolts, Wayward, and Conan the Barbarian.

The Marvelists: Thunderbolts, Red Sonja, and More!

I spoke to Peter and Eddie at The Marvelists all about my work in comics, deep-diving on continuity and working with long-running properties like Red Sonja, Thunderbolts, Cthulhu, tabletop gaming, and a whole lost more! Give it a listen.

The Marvelists · The Return of Jim Zub (Red Sonja, Thunderbolts, Conan The Barbarian, Rick & Morty and more)