Category Archives: Interviews

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.
Jim

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)

Talking About the Movies That Influenced Me With Cinema Splash Page

I spoke to Michael Brodie at Cinema Splash Page all about movies that ignited my creativity when I was young and still factor into my work now, including Conan the Barbarian (1982), the animated Hobbit (1977), The Last Unicorn (1982), Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), The Secret of NIMH (1982), and games like Dungeons & Dragons.

It was fun breaking down some of that entertainment “DNA” to see the qualities that stuck with me and how much they factor into the kinds of stories I strive to create.