Category Archives: Substack

Zubby Newsletter #63: Forty Eight

Today’s my birthday. 48.

Things are good!

Stacy and I are still in Japan, at least for a few more days. The friends we were traveling with headed home Thursday so it’s just the two of us now. Getting back here at last has been wonderful, but I can definitely feel a difference deep in my bones. Exploring all day wipes us out faster than it used to. There have been several days where we’ve run around in the morning and early afternoon, literally had a midday nap back at our hotel, and then rallied for more social stuff in the evening. We’re not in our twenties anymore.

That said, tons of walking and great food has also been good for us, even if my feet are sore and muscles ache. As always, there’s so much to see and do.

For my birthday we braved the line at Mutekiya, a famous no reservation restaurant and one of my favorite food spots in Tokyo. Incredible ramen and then cocktails at a nearby pub with the love of my life. A fine start to 48.

I posted up a gallery of photos from The Ghibli Park in Nagoya on Facebook and Twitter and will have other galleries for the Super Mario World theme park, Design Festa 59 and other locations once I have time to filter through the hundreds of photos we’ve taken.

Alien Gods and the Hyborian Age

Jeff Shanks, the Robert E. Howard scholar who writes the amazing essays in the back of each issue of the monthly Conan comic, talks up a storm about the literary and spiritual references that helped build the Hyborian Age, plus lots of interesting background on pulp writing in the 1920s and ’30s.

The official Conan the Barbarian YouTube channel is doing a great job creating original material for fans to dig into.

Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

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

• Five years ago on my birthday, I played Minsc the Mighty alongside an all-star cast at Dungeons & Dragons Live: The Descent. It was a milestone in so many wondrous ways, near and dear to my heart. If you haven’t watched the old liveplay video, it’s still on the official D&D YouTube channel.

• I mentioned playtesting and enjoying Keith Baker‘s GLIM game a couple months ago and it’s now on Kickstarter, so check it out.

• My buddy Ian Moss has designed a new board game called EVERBLOOM also worth checking out.

Veritasium‘s video all about game theory and the Prisoner’s Dilemma is well worth watching.

I hope the rest of your weekend is a blast!

Zubby Newsletter #62: Near and Deer

Greetings from Nara Park. The deer here are as friendly as ever.

Tokyo, Nagoya, Nara and Osaka. Our vacation in Japan continues. It’s been a great time to engage much-missed experiences and discover new ones. Our friends are on a 2-day temple retreat over the weekend while Stacy and I enjoy exploration and amazing meals in one of Japan’s most vibrant cities.

This whole trip has been a gift, but it’s time to give all of YOU a gift as well…

Battle of the Black Stone Prelude – FREE

Last weekend was Free Comic Book Day and Titan released our CONAN: BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE prelude issue to shops but, if you missed it, I’m happy to point you toward the FREE PDF DOWNLOAD now available from Titan’s website and Amazon Kindle!

Jonas Scharf‘s line art is sublime, Jao Canola‘s colors are intense, Richard Starkings‘ letters sing, Jeff Shanks‘ essay is enlightening…and the story is pretty good too. 😉

Please share that download link far and wide, my friends. I want to get it in the hands of as many people as possible as we ramp up for more Conan adventures through 2024 and beyond.

Nerd Chatter

During the Calgary Expo I chatted with Chris Doucher from GeekNerdNet and the interview is now available on his site. We cover Conan aplenty and conventions.

Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

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

Gale Force Nine is crowdfunding The Adventures of Conan with dice-rolling action and asymmetrical gameplay. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but the previews look solid and I’m eager to give it a try. There’s still 4 days left if you want to get in on the ground floor on this one.

Conan the Barbarian letterer and all-around amazing creator Richard Starkings is crowdfunding Elephantmen: Yvette, a new 48-page special issue and the campaign has some fun extras worth checking out. Richard talks more about Conan connections here in this Facebook post.

I hope your weekend is going well!

Zubby Newsletter #61: Back In Japan

I’m typing this little newsletter update from a Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) as we head to the second stop on our Japan vacation. The past four days have been a whirlwind of exploration and fantastic food. It feels so good to finally be back after six years. As always, there’s some jetlag and a bit of culture shock in terms of transit and geography, but it’s all coming back to us now and we’re having a blast.

The Free Comic Book Day signing at Verse Comics in Ikebukuro went really well. I’ve never started a signing before where the line-up clapped when I entered the room, which was an unexpected little surprise. Lots of great little conversations with Marvel fans, D&D players and, of course, Conan readers aplenty. With the time zone change, the people here in Japan were some of the first to get their hands on the CONAN: BATTLE OF THE BLACK STONE prelude issue and, when I told them that they were even more excited to dig in.

I hope that wherever you are, you managed to snag our freebie from your local comic retailer and that it’s whet your appetite for big adventures to come. Jonas Scharf and Jao Canola did a stellar job on the art and they will be continuing that excellence on the event mini-series that kicks off this Fall. The response I saw online was incredibly gratifying and I am so glad we have so much support and enthusiasm from readers everywhere.

Some other interesting stuff:
• Beyond the giveaway prelude, the books I signed the most at Verse were Avengers Tech-On, the Bandai-Marvel collaboration I worked on with Jeff ‘Chamba’ Cruz. I also managed to snag a copy of the Japanese language edition of the book for my collection.

• According to a game translator I met, Call of Cthulhu is the hottest tabletop RPG right now in Japan. I’ve been seeing the official translated books and unofficial fan material prominently displayed in every game shop we’ve been to.

• The funniest interaction I had with a reader at the signing was a guy who brought a bunch of my Champions comics and excitedly exclaimed “You are the first one to kill Ms. Marvel, even before Zeb Wells!”, which is true, but the way he excitedly said it made us all laugh. He genuinely enjoyed Champions: Beat The Devil and said the story was very emotional and one of his favorites.

Big Hyborian Energy

The official CONAN THE BARBARIAN YouTube channel kicks off with a great summary of the character and his legacy and I’m thrilled to be a part of it:

In addition, Shawn Curley and I did an extensive interview all about the Cimmerian himself – the books, the original movie, Conan’s pop culture footprint, my current comic writing and big plans for the future. If you haven’t subscribed to their channel, give this one a watch/listen and get all caught up:

Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

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

Have a wonderful week!

Zubby Newsletter #60: Summertime Chill

As expected, this year’s Calgary Expo was a wonderful time. The crowd in Alberta is always enthusiastic and it was a joy to see familiar faces and new fans at the show. Following the recent trend, there was a lot of Conan excitement and D&D buzz as well.

As I finish typing this, Stacy and I are staying at our friend’s place outside Calgary, slamming through work emails and finalizing a couple project hand-ins while we repack our bags and get ready to fly to Japan for vacation.

(Wait – vacation?! Jim doesn’t take vacations, does he? What strange times indeed…)

Frozen Faith Begins in July!

In July, CONAN THE BARBARIAN #13 kicks off the second year of our new era of Hyborian adventure. 90 years ago was the original publication of Gods of the North, also known as The Frost-Giant’s Daughter, one of the most famous and beloved Conan stories written by Robert E. Howard.

Frozen Faith, our fourth story arc, is a celebration of Frost-Giant’s Daughter, but it’s not just a direct adaptation of that seminal tale. I’ve been clear in interviews that I don’t want to just retread existing Hyborian canon because we’re not a cover band here to replay the hits. Keeping the world’s most famous sword & sorcery hero vibrant requires new and unexpected narratives. I didn’t want to explore Frost-Giant’s Daughter material unless there was something fresh and exciting we could bring to the mix and, thankfully, I found an approach I’m really excited about. No spoilers, especially at this early stage, just know that Doug Braithwaite is drawing the best damn pages of his career (along with four glorious connected covers) and I am ecstatic at how it’s all coming together. I think it’s going to be really special.

Superhero Hype has an exclusive first look at the cover art and solicit text for Conan the Barbarian #13.

Speaking of Frozen Faith, variant cover artist Gil Agudin has posted a breakdown of his Conan the Barbarian #13 cover illustration process on Artstation. It’s a combination of 3D model work in Zbrush and Photoshop digital painting.

Fighting Fantasy on My Phone

After doing a bunch of research while designing a new 1st edition D&D adventure I put together for Gary Con, I’ve been enjoying the Fighting Fantasy Classics app by Tin Man Games, reliving the wondrous DEATHTRAP DUNGEON and other old school gamebooks on my phone.

Now that I’ve been pulled back in, it got me thinking that some day it would be a ton of fun to write a Fighting Fantasy book and complete my full circle sword & sorcery triumvirate of inspiration – Dungeons & Dragons, Conan the Barbarian, and Fighting Fantasy made me the fantasy-flinging nerd I am today.

Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

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

Chris Cantwell passed me an advance look at the second arc of Briar, the fairytale fantasy epic he’s weaving with Germán García and Matheus Lopes. The art is perfect for the moody and tragic tale that unfolds on every page. Wonderful work.

• Another rockin’ fantasy comic coming up is Heartpiercer by Rich Douek and artist Gavin Smith. The first issue sets the stage for a premise full of potential.

Mark Evanier‘s rundown of the recent controversy around who created Wolverine is a multi-part series called Claws For Debate that is well worth catching up on, packed with information and context aplenty on issues around credit and legacy that creatives and the general public should be more aware of.

Spike Trotman recently posted a link to a 2008 Supinfocom animated short called Yankee Gal that I’d forgotten about. A great little piece worth revisiting or watching for the first time.

Have a great week. My next newsletter will be sent from Japan – the return of #GaiJim!

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 #58: Blood, Sweat, and Probably More Blood 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!

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!

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!

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.


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.