Zubby Newsletter #12: Art and Inspiration

Our trip to the UK was a ton of fun, but it’s time to get back to business as summer projects and convention season ramps up in a big way-

Marvel’s Art of Storytelling

After San Diego Comic Con last year, I spent two days at the Proko art studio recording material for a secret project with Stan Prokopenko and his amazing team. This week that project was finally announced – Marvel The Art of Storytelling! This digital course goes through how comics are made, from story concept and writing through to design, finished line art, colors, lettering, and cover illustration.

Even before that video shoot, we built an extensive curriculum, structuring a workflow and series of assignments to give both newcomers and skilled artists lessons and clear objectives to improve their comic storytelling skills and broaden their understanding of the production pipeline.

Here’s a rundown of the major sections and which comic pros are involved:

Jim Zub – Storytelling and Story Structure
Ryan Benjamin – Penciling
Mark Morales – Inking
Mike Hawthorne – Basics of Cinematography and Perspective
Aaron Conley – Page and Panel composition
Alitha Martinez – Poses, Acting, and Performance
Sanford Greene – Character Design, Team Design, and Action
Daniel Warren Johnson – Environments
Matt Wilson – Coloring for Comics
Erik Gist – Comic Covers

I’m excited to see a new generation of comic creators dive into the program and learn from our experience. The first lesson drops July 12th, and if pre-order you save 20%.

Check out the trailer below-

My Fantasy Influences

People on social media have been sharing “Four fantasy books or series that had the biggest influence on you” and it’s been good fodder for discussion.

There are others, of course, but the four listed below are a bi~ig part of my fantasy DNA. When I write sword & sorcery I lean into the feeling these series evoked in me as a young reader-

• The CONAN series by Robert E. Howard showed me “low fantasy” – grit and violence in a world full of unknowable and dangerous magic with gods and devils who use mankind as tools in their cosmic machinations or ignore them altogether as kingdoms rise and fall.

With each new story I get to write in the Hyborian Age, I dig back into the source material trying to capture that same excitement and intensity.

• The FAFHRD AND THE GREY MOUSER series by Fritz Leiber delivered a similar “magic beyond understanding” bent, but the warrior and thief duo had their own flair for troublemaking and problem solving that stuck with me.

Skullkickers, the sword & sorcery series that helped propel my writing career, plays with the same kind of adventuring duo who somehow triumph against foes way beyond them in scope and power and that’s definitely by design.

• The DRAGONLANCE series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman is high fantasy in the Tolkien/Lord of the Rings vein, but it arrived at the perfect time for me when I was young – a new epic trilogy that made Dungeons & Dragons ‘real’ – bringing the abstraction of game rules and encounters to life with memorable characters and lots of heart.

Although my Legends of Baldur’s Gate heroes aren’t involved in the same kind of world-shattering threats as the Heroes of the Lance, I’m always looking to channel the warmth and comradery Tracy and Margaret brought to their adventuring party.

• The FIGHTING FANTASY series by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone clicked for me, with its choose-your-own-adventure structure and TTRPG-centric combat, but DEATHTRAP DUNGEON towers above the rest. A labyrinth full of ingenious traps and its competitive gladiatorial spectacle drove my imagination into overdrive.

My first Conan the Barbarian story arc, called “Into the Crucible”, is an homage to Deathtrap, plunging our favorite Cimmerian into a similar lethal tournament with the added challenge that he’s also in a foreign country where he doesn’t speak the local language.

A Freakish Discussion

I spoke to Jed Keith at Freaksugar in-depth about my work on the Conan the Barbarian relaunch, over 2000 words covering my previous Hyborian Age writing, how the new series came about, and more. Check it out.

Links and Other Things

  • I’ve been checking out episodes of the Cromcast, a podcast dedicated to Conan and other pulp adventure stories and in a few weeks I’ll be a guest on the show. It’s fascinating listening to early episodes where the hosts are just starting to dig into the original Conan prose stories with very little knowledge of the lore and compare that to more current ones after 18 seasons worth of episodes analyzing these classic tales and joking around with each other.
  • Last week I made Pasta alla Zozzona, an obscure pasta sauce that combines elements and flavors from 4 different classic pasta dishes, and it turned out great!
  • Okay, that should cover it this time.

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