Zubby Newsletter #47: Savage Stirrings

Superhero Hype has more preview artwork from SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #1, the magazine-sized black & white epic that launches in late February. I have a short prose story in the first issue and comic stories and more in upcoming installments.

Heroic Signatures and Titan are currently lining up six issues (released every other month) worth of content, but if sales numbers are solid they’ll keep it going, so make sure you get your pre-order in now.


Near Mint Condition

A week ago I had a great time chatting with the Uncanny Omar from Near Mint Condition and answering questions on their livestream. So many Conan fans popped by!

Anecdotes and answers aplenty HERE.


Fantasy Flourish

A slew of new fantasy comics have been announced recently. It really feels like we’re moving into a new era of sword & sorcery comic storytelling. A few notable ones that have popped up on my radar-

When the Blood Has Dried from writer Gary Moloney, artist Daniel Romero Ulloa, and letterer Becca Carey, with a main cover by Marco Rudy published by Mad Cave Studios arrives April 3rd.

Heartpiercer from writer Rich Douek and artist Gavin Smith published by Dark Horse Comics arrives May 15th.

• I’m also thoroughly enjoying The Hunger and the Dusk series by writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Christian Wildgoose published by IDW, which launched in 2023. Five issues are available so far.


Current + Upcoming Releases

Upcoming Appearances

Convention season 2024 is finally getting going! I’ll add more as events get confirmed, but here are 3 events to get things started-

Feb 29-Mar 3, 2024 Emerald City Comic-Con Guest Seattle, WA, USA
Mar 16-18, 2024 Founders & Legends Guest Lake Geneva, WI, USA
Mar 21-24, 2024 Gary Con Guest Lake Geneva, WI, USA


Links and Other Things

• Comic creator Rob Guillory has a new YouTube channel and it’s off to a solid start. Looking forward to seeing what he posts up next.
• Cartographer and artist Mike Schley has a Patreon called The Epic Atlas where he posts up incredible maps and fantasy art. Well worth checking out.
Snipe and Wib discuss the unusual origin of the Githyanki in Dungeons & Dragons.

Jim

Zubby Newsletter #46: Definitely On Board


Last week, the latest Kickstarter campaign for the Conan Board Game by Monolith launched, based on Red Nails, one of the finest Robert E. Howard Conan tales, and it’s been crushing its way through stretch goals aplenty. Although the campaign has a bunch of new material available, they also have a ‘New Recruit’ pledge so you can get the original game flush with extras as well.

Obviously, I have a vested interest in all things Conan right now but, honestly, I think the board game is great on its own merits, and I enjoyed playing the heck out of it even before I started writing Conan on a regular basis. This isn’t a sponsored thing. I’m not being paid for this and Monolith doesn’t know ahead of time that I’m putting this ramble together.

Let me tell you why I think it’s good stuff-

The Conan Board Game has a Rich Thematic Feel

Conan is a skirmish-style board game for 1-5 players. In the base game, one person takes on the role of the Overlord and controls the creatures, traps, and other trouble in the game. The other players are heroes of the Hyborian Age – usually Conan and his allies – on a mission to stop the Overlord’s machinations. After the initial release, Monolith released rules that can automate the Overlord role allowing full co-op and even solo play if that’s something that interests you.

The game design, rules, and different scenarios do a wonderful job at creating a proper atmosphere for big bloody adventures in a world where survival or slaughter are a sword stroke away.

Each turn, players have to decide if they’re going to store up their energy or go for broke with bold movement and attacks. Instead of being stuck with arbitrary turn order and sometimes not knowing what your allies are doing until after you get to go, player actions happen in any order. That means you can send a character into a dangerous situation, see how it goes, and then adjust strategy based on how the dice roll. This keeps everyone at the table engaged as they look for ways to play off each other and assist instead of players feeling disconnected as they take their turns.

The best defense tends to be a strong offense, but you also need to hold some energy back to protect yourself because damage taken equals energy lost. Getting hurt doesn’t just tick down a pool of hit points, it lowers the overall pool of energy your character has access to for the rest of the game (unless you find healing, which is few and far between). The push and pull of offense vs defense, when to unleash brutal attacks and when to back off or protect your allies, keeps things dynamic as each mission plays out.

The Game Variety is Fantastic

There are a bunch of different missions in the Conan base game, a lot more free ones online, and even more with expansion material released since the game launched in 2015. Some missions are assaults where the players attack the enemy in their lair. Others are defensive, with the players protecting a location from invading hordes, assassins, or creatures. There are escort quests, treasure hunts, creature ambushes, bar brawls, and a lot more.

The base game started with missions that were all done-in-one play session, but now there are also missions that link together to tell a larger story. I’ve run scenarios for board game enthusiasts and friends who aren’t into TTRPGs and they had an absolute blast kicking down doors, gathering items, and slaying evil.

The Components Look Great

The artwork is top notch, the boards and counters are evocative, and the multitude of miniatures are really high quality. I’m obviously crazy-busy right now, but I’m looking to carve out some time this summer to start painting the characters, creatures, and bad guys aplenty so my set has even more ‘table presence’.

That said, even if you’re not up for painting, the sculpts look sharp. When you put a Giant Snake or Dark Demon on the table, it gets a great reaction.

Alright, hopefully that overview gets you pumped for Hyborian Age adventures at the table. If you need more info on how the game plays and what it looks like, check out these videos – one and two. I’m excited to crack open the new set when it arrives.

There’s only one week left to back the campaign and get a Conanza of extra stuff.


Conan Previews Aplenty!

Speaking of Conan-
• Kabooooom has preview pages and an advance review of CONAN THE BARBARIAN #7 (and they gave it a 5/5!).

• Newsarama revealed advance artwork for CONAN THE BARBARIAN #8 with interior pages by Doug Braithwaite and covers by Ashleigh Izienicki, Patch Zircher and Greg Broadmore.

• Popverse revealed cover artwork for CONAN THE BARBARIAN #10 by Rob De La Torre, Alan Quah, Erik Gist, and David Aja.

Patch Zircher spoke to David Brooke at AIPT all about working on Solomon Kane as part of the new Savage Sword of Conan series, and in that same interview they revealed fantastic new cover art for SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #2 by Dave Dorman and Nick Marinkovich.


The Thief Many Things Arrives in April!


I thought Fortune Finder might be my last D&D comic for the foreseeable future, but in April there’s one more in the mix.

Ellen Boener (writer of the recent Feast of the Moon D&D movie tie-in story) and I came up with a wild one-shot story with D&D’s infamous Deck of Many Things, a magical artifact that can create or destroy in an instant. Ellen took that core and has scripted up a tale of bombastic adventure and breathtaking betrayal. Eduardo Mello, who absolutely crushed it on the D&D: Mindbreaker mini-series I wrote, is back illustrating this one and delivers the best pages of his career so far.

Look for it in April. Solicit info below-

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: THE THIEF OF MANY THINGS
STORY: ELLEN BOENER & JIM ZUB
ARTIST: EDUARDO MELLO
COVER A: MAX DUNBAR
COVER B: JESSE LONERGAN
68 Pages • $9.99 • APRIL 2024

The Deck of Many Things is the most infamous item in the Dungeons & Dragons canon. Any one of its cards could throw the world into chaos or, in the wrong hands, end it all together. This mega one-shot reveals fresh lore tied to the Book of Many Things Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook and brings the legends of the Deck to life.

Our quest follows two ex-romantic rivals who team up to steal the cards, risking everything for the chance to save the lover they lost.

Dungeons & Dragons icon Jim Zub (Rick & Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons, Uncanny Avengers, Conan) joins forces with up-and-coming writer Ellen Boener (Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves—The Feast of the Moon) and artist Eduardo Mello (Dungeons & Dragons: Mindbreaker, DC vs. Vampires: All-Out War) for this new Baldur’s Gate tale.


Oshawa is…Gone?

For years, Ed Brisson and I have joked about which of us was the more ‘famous’ comic creator from Oshawa, Ontario, “The City That Moto-vates Canada”. Ed’s now put his thumb on the scales in a way I can’t match by making Oshawa the core of his latest creator-owned series.

Well played, Brisson.

As always, Ed delivers a compelling story, grounded characters, and a killer hook, and the art by Luca Casalanguida and Dee Cunniffe looks great…I’m not jealous at all.

Pre-order cut-off on The Displaced #1 is Monday, January 22nd, so let your local shop know you want one…even if you’re not from Oshawa. 😉


Links and Other Stuff

• Who is the most popular American to ever work in comic books? Matttt has the answer and it’s ridiculously compelling. This guy’s YouTube Channel doesn’t have many videos, but every single one of them is a banger.

• This CBC News report on the ways food companies pass along costs to customers summarizes a lot of good info. With grocery costs on the rise, it’s good to keep an eye out for these manipulative changes so you can make more informed choices.

Have a wonderful week,
Jim

Zubby Newsletter #45: Get ‘Er Done

The above flowchart meme has been floating around and a lot of people empathize with it for good reason. It encompasses a common unhealthy cycle that creative people can get pulled into.

If something is a hobby or just experimentation, have fun exploring things without finishing them. Seriously– no worries or guilt required.

If you intend to make a career out of something – finishing is crucial.

Finishing things, releasing them out into the world, evaluating the results (of both the work and release), learning from it, and then doing more is the loop you need to look for. No one is perfect and there are times when you need to cut your losses and move on from a project, but wherever possible you want to complete the work to get the most from it.

I completely understand jokes about avoiding that step, and I’ve absolutely been there, but don’t let memes dictate your end result.

If you consistently struggle with completing the work, you may be starting too big. Make the scope smaller so you can see it through, and build up momentum for larger-longer projects.

At the start-
Short stories instead of novels.
Focused studies instead of large rendered images.

If it’s a collaboration with other people, this also gives you the chance to finish something together and evaluate how that worked – quality, communication, etc. It’s the equivalent of a couple dates before a long committed relationship.

If I want to be a marathon runner, I don’t buy running shoes and then immediately try to go 5km. People usually understand this when it comes to physical training, but rarely frame other skills, especially creative ones, in the same way.

Start small, build the habit and results, and then push forward with more ambition.

Sometimes the small thing becomes a ‘proof of concept’ for a bigger project. Other times you realize you just needed to get the small one out of your system and its fine on its own. Either way, you will benefit from a better creation cycle.


Transcribing The Process

That exact subject, building things and finishing them, is a big part of a discussion I had with Kieron Gillen a couple years ago. In the midst of lockdown I reached out to several comic professionals and chatted with them about their work and influences, and then posted those interviews to my YouTube channel along with other comic writing tutorials. The talk I had with Kieron is one of my favorites, but there’s always been a barrier for people when watching it – Between Kieron’s accent and the speed at which he talks, it can be dizzying at times trying to keep up.

Good news – over the past few weeks I painstakingly went through the auto-generated transcript for that video on YouTube and overhauled it so every comic, gaming or philosophy reference Kieron brings up is now clear in the closed captions.

We cover a LOT – the do-it-yourself culture of indie comics, getting started, the stresses of working on commercial properties, British comics, superhero books, the magic of tabletop RPGs, and I include samples of Kieron’s indie work no longer available and excerpts from some of his creator-owned comic scripts so you can see how he writes.

If you have some time, I highly recommend you give it a watch and, if Kieron’s going too fast, turn on the closed captions and enjoy-


The Ancestors’ Blessing

Over on my Patreon, I just posted the full script to Conan the Barbarian #21 (legacy #296), released in 2021. Part 3 of Land of the Lotus is jam-packed with action and supernatural fury, including this-

Learn how comics are made for the price of a coffee. There are over 300 scripts in my Patreon archive.


Ukrainian Comfort Food

In past newsletters I’ve included a few of my recipes. Click here and scroll down for –
Grandma’s Pierogies, Japanese Chicken Karaage, or Garlic Lemon Pasta with Salmon.

This time-

Cabbage Rolls (Holubtsi)

Over the weekend I went on a Ukrainian comfort food cooking binge. On Saturday, we made a huge batch of cheesy potato pierogis, and on Sunday, for the first time, I made cabbage rolls and they turned out really good! My pierogi recipe is pretty strict to my grandma’s method, while here on the cabbage rolls I went a bit rogue and amalgamated some techniques I saw in a few cooking videos into the mix.

Ingredients (14-16 rolls)

• 1 cabbage (Napa cabbage works really well, but any is fine)
• 3/4 lb. ground beef
• 1/4 lb. ground pork (or pork loin cut into tiny pieces)
• 1 and a half cups of white rice
• 3 cups of pureed tomatoes/tomato sauce
• Half a large white onion
• 3 cloves of garlic
• olive oil/butter
• spices: salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, paprika

1. Cook up a batch of rice and let it mostly cool off.
2. While that rice is cooking, chop up the half onion into a small dice and mince the garlic.
3. Sauté the onion in olive oil or butter in a non-stick pan for 4 minutes, then add the minced garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
4. If you’re using Napa cabbage, carefully peel off 16-18 outer leaves and blanch them in a pot of simmering water for 10 minutes. If you’re using regular cabbage, you’ll need to carefully cut the root-core out and dunk the cabbage top-down in a pot of boiling water and cover the top, simmering it for 10-12 minutes.
5. While the cabbage is steaming, mix together your cooked onion and garlic with the raw ground meat, cooked rice, a 1/4 cup of tomato sauce, and spices galore – pepper, salt, basil, oregano, thyme, paprika, and a big swack of chopped up parsley. If you’re worried about your ability to measure the filling equally, portion them out into mounds based on how many cabbage rolls you want to make.
6. Carefully pull the cabbage leaves from the water and shake off excess water. If it’s a regular cabbage, you’ll need to carefully peel the leaves off at this stage.
7. Pre-heat your oven to 350° F.
8. In a 9″ x 12″ baking dish (or any casserole dish/oven safe dish), ladle in 1/4 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom.
9. Lay a leaf out, add a mound of filling about 1/3 of the way into the cabbage leaf, then tuck in the sides and roll it toward the 2/3 section, like a very small burrito. For me, this is where the Napa cabbage leaves prove their worth because their long shape makes rolling very easy. Place that roll in your casserole dish and, as you finish each one, tuck it in next to the others until your dish is packed.
10. Ladle the rest of the tomato sauce over the assembled rolls.
11. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place it on a baking sheet (just in case it bubbles over) and then place it all in the 350° F oven.
12. Bake for 90 minutes.
13. Pull your baking dish out of the oven, remove foil, and let stand for 5 minutes or so before scooping each roll out and serving!

Leftovers can be wrapped in aluminum foil and frozen, so you can just pop the foil back in the oven to reheat and enjoy again.


Current + Upcoming Releases


Links and Other Stuff

• Colleen Doran continues to post all kinds of incredible advice in her newsletter, most of it framed through her experiences in the comic industry over decades of hard work. Her recent ones about the perils of fame and people’s assumptions are top notch.

• Samwise pointed me toward The Cybrarian, a YouTube channel with dramatic readings of pulp stories by Robert E. Howard. I’ve only had time to listen to a couple so far, and they were quite sharp.

Have a wonderful week,
Jim

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

Conan the Barbarian #6 Reviews

Our second story arc, Thrice Marked For Death continues as we hit the midpoint of our story.
What did the critics think? Let’s find out-

ComicBook.com: 8/10 “Mixing the old school, barbaric violence with green and ghoulish supernatural elements is just a killer combo for Conan.”

Comical Opinions: 9.5/10 “-a pitch-perfect example of a classic Conan adventure. Zub combines brutal action with supernatural evil for a rousing tale. Likewise, Braithwaite’s artistic style suits the Cimmerian and his exploits to a tee.”

Comicon: 10/10 “the saga unfolds with a brilliant narrative of the stoic Cimmerian navigating and triumphing over the forces of darkness and horrors from the strange beyond. Yet, amidst these epic struggles, Jim Zub skillfully emphasizes that the one constant our hero cannot elude is the haunting specter of his own past.”

Grimdark Magazine: “issue 6 answers some questions while raising several more. I’m excited to learn more about the black stone and its ghostly servants, and I hope to continue to see Conan’s past with Bêlit influence his current adventure.”

Hither Came Conan: “This issue was just brutal. Very violent, very bloody. There were boobies, and it really earned the ‘Mature Readers’ warning on the cover.”

Infinity Flux: “The art is fantastic. There’s some great action in here and the dialogue feels classic…Another great issue of a classic-feeling run.”

My Kind of Weird: “This isn’t just a comic book issue. This is a f**king experience…Conan the Barbarian #6 is an adrenalin-filled heist adventure that leaves us with a climax that will demand the purchase of issue #7.”

Pop Culture Philosophers: “If you are a Conan fan, this is the best Conan book in years, if not decades. This is awesome, awesome stuff.”

Sci-Fi Pulse: 9.8/10 “The writer works brilliantly well with the art team and goes all out to portray the real brutality and savagery of the Conan character.”

Set The Tape: 10/10 “This is by far the best comic in the series so far; a glorious read from start to finish. It cannot be recommended highly enough.”

Stygian Dogs: “I am decidedly enthusiastic about Doug Braithwaite and Diego Rodriguez’s work on this second arc. I can’t get enough…In many ways, issue #6 may be my favorite so far.”

Todd Luck: “The interior artwork continues to be amazing by Doug Braithwaite. He used to do comics like Thor and I thought he would be so perfect for Conan and boy, is he! I would be neglectful if I didn’t also mention the incredible coloring that enhances this line work by Diego Rodriguez. This is just one of the nicest looking comics you could possibly buy.”

We Have Issues: “Best Indie Book of 2023. It’s very much a classic Conan…What a book. It’s been really, really good.”

No Experience?

I received a comment here on my site that covers a common question I and many other writers get, one I want to answer and expand upon so I can point people toward it here in the future-


Hey Jim,

When one pitches a comic to a company (like UDON, IDW, Image, or something like that) is a four issue mini-series (like your Ibuki/Cammy comics) a fine request for someone with no experience?

Or would asking for something like a one-shot/issue comic be a lot more likely to be accepted?


Right from the start, you have the wrong idea about how this works-

A publisher will not look at any unsolicited pitch, one-shot or otherwise, for an established property and won’t ask you to submit one until you have creative work they can check out.

The key here is when you said you have “no experience”.

You need to gain experience by making your own comics (or at least other writing).

Create work, finish it, and then, if you feel it’s professional quality, send that work to publishers as a portfolio showing the quality you could bring to them.

A publisher is not going to approve a project proposal from someone with no credits to their name or portfolio to judge. Legally, they won’t even look at it, because if it’s similar to anything they’re developing it could open them up to legal hassles.

If you look at the long and rambling trail of my career, the vast majority of projects at the start were my own independent ones because no one would pay me for writing until I proved I could make writing worth paying for:

The shortest distance between the work you do and the work you want to do is key-

Create comics if you want to work in comics.
Create screenplays and make films if you want to work in film or TV.

Create work that exemplifies your best qualities so potential clients
will want to hire you to bring those qualities to their projects.

Quality work in another medium can bridge the gap if it’s a similar genre or has a similar mood.
Tom King wrote a superhero novel.
Brian K. Vaughan started with play and screenplay writing.

Most importantly, be honest with yourself-
If you were a comic editor and your job hung on hiring people who could hit the mark on a story and deadline, how much experience would you want to see to feel confident about giving them a job?

The smaller the publisher, the easier it will be to break in and gain more experience, but in most cases the pay from those smaller companies will also be low/non-existent. Expect that establishing yourself and your work will take time, effort, and there are no guarantees of success.

This is true for every creative career (and almost every non-creative one)-
The work almost always starts with independent creation – short film production, an indie band, indie game development, self publishing, local theater, you name it.

Finish stuff, release it, see if it gains traction, and then keep going.


If you found this post helpful, feel free to let me know here, share the post with your friends and consider buying some of my comics or donating to my Patreon to show your support for me writing this tutorial post instead of getting paying work done. 😛

Zubby Newsletter #43: The Future Unconquered

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I hope your holidays have been prosperous and that the new year is looking bright.

I haven’t updated my YouTube channel in quite some time, and with everything that’s been going it’s not something I’ve had time to concentrate on, but I put together a video on January 1st thanking fans for reading and teasing what comes next.

Please watch and share-

In my Year In Review message I mentioned how excited I am for 2024, and a solid part of that centers around-

The Age Unconquered Begins in March!

Comicbook.com has the exclusive announcement and cover art for the third arc of Conan the Barbarian and it’s going to be huge!

Rob De La Torre is back for Conan the Barbarian #9-12 and we’re absolutely blowing the doors off in terms of story and visuals. An epic adventure to cap off the first year of our relaunch!

Conan #0-12 is our mission statement for what classic pulp-inspired sword & sorcery can be in the modern era. You’ve made 2023 a winner for our team and I can’t wait to show you what we have planned for 2024 and beyond.

cover art by Rob De La Torre with colors by Dave McCaig.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #9

– Writer: Jim Zub
– Line Art: Roberto De La Torre
– Color: Dean White
– Letters: Richard Starkings
– On sale date: March 27th, 2024

BEYOND FLESH. BEYOND DEATH. BEYOND TIME.

Conan has traveled 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!

The triumphant new era of Conan continues in this brand-new tale of brutal heroic adventure from acclaimed creators Jim Zub (Avengers, Dungeons & Dragons) and Rob de la Torre (Invincible Iron Man, King-Size Conan)!

– Cover A: Mike Deodato
– Cover B: E.M. Gist
– Cover C: Roberto De La Torre
– Cover D: Chris Moreno
– Cover E: Blank Sketch Variant


Some Frequently Asked Questions I’ve been getting since that info went out to the public:

Wait a sec, is that Yag-Kosha?
You’ll have to read Conan #9 to find out.

Is this a new adaptation of Tower of the Elephant?
No. This is a new story that builds on the canon Robert E. Howard stories and elements introduced in Conan #1-8.

Will we see Doug Braithwaite and Diego Rodriguez return in the future?
Yes! I’m thrilled to confirm that Doug and Diego are working on Conan #13-16, our fourth story arc.

What is best in life?
Working on this series with this killer creative team.


Almost every page, especially the action scenes, have major story spoilers (seriously), so it’s hard for me to tease what’s coming up… Hmmm~ how ‘bout this?

That’ll have to do for now, my friends.


Land of the Lotus

Script sample for Conan the Barbarian #19 from 2021. Line art by Cory Smith. Inks by Roberto Poggi. Colors by Israel Silva. Letters by Travis Lanham.

Over on my Patreon, the full scripts for part 1 and part 2 of the Land of the Lotus storyline published in 2021 are now up. Learn how comics are made for the price of a fancy coffee. There are over 300 scripts in my Patreon archive.

I learned a lot on this arc and refined my ‘voice’ for Conan and the pulp-fueled narration that makes his comics feel quite distinct. At the time I was hopeful we’d be able to build momentum toward issue #25, (which was also legacy #300 for the series) and carry on from that anniversary issue. Obviously that didn’t end up happening, but all of it led to where I’m at now, which I’m thankful for.


Current + Upcoming Releases


Links and Other Things

Tegan O’Neil has a wonderful profile on Sergio Aragonés from last April I missed. Give it a read!

• I received a copy of Renegades & Rogues: The Life and Legacy of Robert E. Howard by Todd B. Vick for Christmas. It’s a quick read but I quite enjoyed it as it covered some aspects of his life I wasn’t aware of before.

Have a great week!
Jim

Zubby Newsletter #42: Year In Review, 2023

For the past 13 years I’ve been putting together a ‘Year In Review‘ post on my website as a way to summarize my thoughts and feelings on the year that was. It’s a nice way to measure highs and lows, and help jog my memory as things carry forward.

No pressure of course, but if you’re curious about what I was thinking in late December each year, here’s a complete link archive:

2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Jim and Stacy at Spitalfields in London – May 2023.

Stacy and I are plugging away on creative and personal projects aplenty and it feels extra-chaotic right now because there are towers of boxes stacked all over the house. Our basement is being refinished after we had to tear everything back to the foundation + studs to fix leaks that were getting worse, year by year. We had to haul a bunch of stuff into storage and even more stuff is temporarily piled high in almost every other room. It’s taken time, money, and a lot of hassle to get that foundation reinforced and leaks plugged, but when it’s all done that base will be solid and ready for what comes next.

Honestly, that’s a pretty good summary of 2023 for me as a whole-

Reevaluating, repairing, and reinforcing things that matter and trying to clear out the debris that doesn’t.

In July, I talked about slowing down to enjoy conventions more and I’m trying to carry that attitude through to other interactions as well – Deeper conversations and a greater appreciation for time spent with the people I care about, and making sure they know that every step of the way.

Last year I mentioned that 2022 felt transitional and I hoped 2023 could “finally arrive somewhere new and exciting”…and, on a creative level it did in a surprising way.

(Yes, this is the part where I talk about Conan the Barbarian. You knew this was coming.)

I had high hopes for the Heroic Signatures-Titan Comics relaunch on Conan, of course. I wanted to use this second chance to make my mark on a character and world that’s stirred so much of my imagination over the years. All those hopes and wants are great, but actually seeing it come through so damn strong, both in terms of sales and the response from readers, has been unbelievable.

How do you catch second struck lightning in a bottle? I don’t know, but I’m holding this one as tight as I can and using its energy and inspiration like a lantern to light my way as we head into an uncertain future.

Ten years ago, I was slowly climbing out of a creative crater from the asteroid impact that was working briefly on the DC New 52. Based on that baffling experience, I felt pretty sure my time in ‘mainstream’ comics was going to be brief. Instead, I managed to carve out a career for myself with creator-owned and commercial work that played to my strengths and am more excited about making stories than at almost any other point in my life.

There are so many factors involved that are out of our control. So many other projects where I felt like we had something special, and yet the market and readership did not respond the way I thought they would.

Sometimes you work hard and no one notices.

Sometimes you make big plans to take a big teaching sabbatical in 2020 and then a global pandemic comes along and everything changes…

(In theory I’m taking that 16-month teaching sabbatical starting late April 2024, but I’ll keep that here between brackets for now because I don’t want to jinx it. 😉 )

I know at some point the wild ride will end, but at this moment I’m feeling the rush and relishing every minute of it, because it is impermanent, fleeting, and hard work does not always equal success.

Starting up this newsletter again almost 25 years after my original email updates for friends and family was a way to cut through the noise of social media and rebuild a base of who I am and what I’m doing.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for your kind messages and support.

Here’s my writing output for 2023:

25 comics and 5 other books I contributed to.

I hope 2024 looks strong for you and your loved ones.

Be good to each other. In the end, that is the only legacy we have any control over.

Jim

Zubby Newsletter #41: Happy Holidays, By CROM!

CROM of the Mountain may not care about you or yours (or me…or anyone, really) this season, but I want to wish you and your family the happiest of holidays – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Whatever you celebrate, whoever it’s with, I hope it’s a good one!

Thank YOU for helping make 2023 one of the most exciting and creatively rewarding years I’ve ever had. It’s been an absolute rocket ride and I owe so much of that to people like you supporting my work and sharing it with others.

I hope that time with family, friends, and good cheer are coming your way.


Hearing From Readers

I’ve been getting messages like this every week since Conan launched in early August – emails, texts, Facebook messages, tweets, comments, you name it. Dozens and dozens of them. Most in English, of course, but many in Portuguese, Spanish and French as the foreign editions start to ramp up for release early next year.

It’s incredible hearing from so many lapsed fans and new readers. They tell me that they’ve been heading to their local comic shop on release day every month and have set up a pull file, many for the first time in well over a decade.

Getting this second chance with one of my favorite characters was an unexpected thrill. Having it do so damn well this time is both gratifying and humbling.

All of us on the creative team are doing everything we can to keep the excitement going in 2024 – our first trade paperback and the new Savage Sword of Conan magazine arrives in February, The Age Unconquered in March, and Free Comic Book Day in May will carry us into the summer.


Current + Upcoming Releases


Links and Other Things

Next time, I’ll have my annual Year In Review. Until then, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Jim

Zubby Newsletter #40: A Question of Pacing

A peek behind the scenes, with slight spoilers for the new Conan the Barbarian series-

In the epilogue at the end of Conan the Barbarian #4, we see a traveler from Asgard pick up a fragment of Black Stone, the strange eldritch material at the heart of several mysteries in Robert E. Howard’s pulp stories, most notably the titular horror story The Black Stone from 1931. This discovery is a classic set-up for a future tale, making our reader wonder when they might see it again, presumably at some future date…

…And then, just one month later at the end of Conan the Barbarian #5, we reveal that our second story arc ties back in with Black Stone.

Weird, right?

I saw a couple reviews where people felt we jumped the gun a bit by having two Black Stone-centered stories one after another and, under different circumstances, they’d be right. In a classic monthly comic run from the 1970’s or ’80’s this kind of set-up and payoff would have been many months apart, with unrelated 1 and 2-part stories between to clear the decks and focus readers elsewhere before we brought it back as a surprise. In an ideal scenario, that’s exactly what I would’ve done as well.

But~ you also have to understand the broader context involved.

Here and now, looking in the rearview mirror with six months of shockingly strong sales for the relaunch behind us, it seems obvious that the pacing could be/should be less frenetic and that we have lots of time to set up and pay off big ideas over a longer span, but when we planned this out more than 18 months ago there was absolutely no way we could have known how successful it would be.

Titan Comics is obviously a smaller comic publisher than Marvel or Dark Horse (the previous licensors for Conan comics). Direct market comic shop sales in North America have been shaky as of late and, while comic sales for Conan in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s were spectacular, that hasn’t always been the case in the modern era. Couple that with me at the center of this relaunch, the writer who quietly wrapped up the run at Marvel during the pandemic, and things looked even less certain.

We had to come out of the gate roaring like Hell and not hold anything back, otherwise readers wouldn’t see anything special they had to read and collect every month and we’d quickly sink. If Black Stone sets up big mythic storytelling and can make readers and retailers take notice, then, by Crom, it has to be Black Stone all the way! Back-to-back stories with a plot point that acts as a clear throughline for year one (issues #1-12) to build an epic saga of cannot miss comics!

That’s the plan, at least. So far, so good.

It reminds me of interviews I read with Robert Kirkman around Invincible where he originally planned to have the big twist for the series (a key character betraying our hero and turning the entire narrative on its head) arrive in issue #25. Like me, he grew up reading superhero comics in an era where that absolutely would have worked, a wonderful slow burn build up and pay off over two years, but the Publisher at Image at the time (I think it was Jim Valentino) warned him that he didn’t have that luxury. Modern readers decide almost immediately if a series is worth their time and money and drop it in a heartbeat if they believe it’s not, so slam that accelerator pedal down at the start and cover as much ground as you can because you will not get a second chance to earn their loyalty.

(Although weirdly, in this case I kind of did, because this Conan relaunch has had way stronger sales and staying power than my initial run, which is highly unusual.)

Invincible delivered its big twist in issue #7, and I genuinely think if the series launched in 2023 Robert would’ve done it by issue 4 or 5 to get the same jolt.

Anyways, if we’d known right off the bat that the Conan relaunch would be the smash hit that it’s been, I’m sure we would have made different narrative choices, but then maybe those choices wouldn’t have led to the same surge of interest. It’s chicken and egg, in full effect.

Now that we have some momentum it’s a bit easier to set up future plotlines without the same level of fear around a quick cancellation. I’ve always been committed to at least 2 years/24 issues on the new series (and am now looking at possibilities beyond that), but I’m sure that if we would’ve flopped right at the start the plan would look very different right now.

Speaking of which, I’m in the thick of year two writing on the series and am happy to report that readers will get more variety as we keep rolling- Arc 4 will be 4 issues, but after that we switch things up with some 2-parters and even some done-in-one adventures. Different times in Conan’s life, different locations and circumstances…All kinds of creative levers we can pull to keep the excitement going.


Gut-Wrenching Beauty, Coming Your Way


Speaking of excitement, I received my CONAN THE BARBARIAN #6 comp copies late last week.

Doug BraithwaiteDiego Rodriguez, and Richard Starkings are crafting something special. The words are pretty good too 😉

Issue #6 arrives in stores December 27th. Preview pages are right HERE.

In Conan #6-8 we certainly earn our ‘Mature Readers’ rating. It is violent, sexy, tragic, and gut-wrenching in ways readers have never seen in a Conan comic story before.


Links and Other Things


Jim