Zubby Newsletter #20: A Sunstruck Conanza

Well…that was one hell of a week.

We launched CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1 at San Diego Comic-Con ahead of our in-store release date (which shifted from July 26th to August 2nd due to a shipping delay out of our control) and the response has been absolutely electric.

• Advance reviews are strongDamn strong.

• It’s the best selling Titan Comic ever and one of the strongest sellers in comics of the past few years, especially for a Mature Readers non-Marvel/DC book.

• The first printing has blown out at the distributor level before release even with a large overprint, necessitating a second print before copies even hit the shelves of your favorite local retailer.

Readers and retailers are buzzing right now and it feels really, really good. The hard work we’ve put into this is coming through on the final printed page and all of us on the team are damn proud.

Sales do not equate quality, but I felt like we put forth a strong mission statement with our Free Comic Book Day issue #0. We hoped that both new and lapsed fans would show their support…and they have in a huge way. Thank you!

I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here

On Sunday morning at SDCC we had a Conan the Barbarian panel and it was packed, which is extra-wild given that it was on the last day of the big show and, by every right, people should have been exhausted. I mentioned something there I want to echo here as far and wide as possible-

This kind of thing doesn’t happen. People don’t get second chances on titles like this, especially if your first attempt wasn’t considered a big commercial success.

Taking over the flagship Conan series in early 2020 was an absolute dream come true, but none of us could have possibly known how things would actually roll out with the world at large. We released part 1 of a 4 part story (called Into the Crucible) in February 2020 and almost immediately received a ‘pencils down’ pandemic order that meant part 2 didn’t arrive in stores until 7 months later. After we came back, momentum was understandably spent and we were fighting to stay alive until things wrapped up on that incarnation of the series in September 2021.

Given everything I know about publishing and promotion, it would have made complete sense for Heroic Signatures to hire a brand new writer for their big relaunch at Titan. The unwavering faith that Fred Malmberg and the rest of the Heroic team has shown in my vision for Conan and my desire for long term myth-making in the Hyborean Age, honestly, it blows my mind.

Conan the Barbarian is the Superman of sword & sorcery. He’s the icon that built an entire genre with a 90+ year legacy of excitement and adventure. He brings out the best from creators because he deserves the best. I was honored to be part of this legend before, and am even more honored now.

Issue #1 sales and great reviews matter, of course. Launching with as much visibility and momentum as possible gives us a clear mandate and opens up all kinds of other opportunities – BUT – a big flashy opening is not as important as a strong ongoing readership. Speculators stashing away variant covers is part of the comic business and I’ve made my peace with that, but my goal is that people read and love this series because it’s damn good and high quality, month after month. I want issues #12, 13, 14 and beyond to be just as good and even more exciting. Is that possible? I don’t know, but I’m going to work like hell and find out.

Savage Sword is Back – in Bold Black & White!

Also announced during our Conan panel at SDCC – Savage Sword of Conan returns in 2024 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It’s back in its original oversized black & white format along with a murderer’s row of talented creators, classic and new, ready to contribute unfettered fantasy fury on the page.

Confirmed creators include John Arcudi, Frank Tieri, Patch Zircher, Howard Chaykin, Rafael Kayanan, Cary Nord, Rebeca Puebla, Dan Panosian, Richard Pace, Gerardo Zaffino, and me!

Richard Pace is illustrating a brutally tragic tale I’ve had rolling around in the back of my mind for years and, even at this early stage, it’s looking stellar.

Conan editor Matt Murray has spearheaded Savage Sword’s return (while keeping the flagship monthly Conan book charging forward) and none of this would have happened without his bottomless energy and tireless toil.

If you never read the original Savage Sword of Conan magazine (reprinted in wonderful omnibus editions that are going back to print this Fall), just know that it was the series that hooked a ton of fans with visceral artwork and bombastic storytelling.

That’s a Whole Lotta Conan, Jim…

I know! It’s the launch so everything’s pretty nutso.

• I spoke to Tim Cundle at Mass Movement all about sword & sorcery storytelling. It was a really fun interview that covers a lot of my thoughts around working on big commercial characters and continuity.

• I spoke to Will Salmon at Newsarama about what makes the new Conan series click and mysteries of Robert E. Howard’s mythic Black Stone.

• I spoke to Jed Keith at Freaksugar about the unexpected winding path that led to this new Conan series.

• Matt Murray and I spoke to Collier Jennings at AIPT all about our big plans for the relaunch.

♫ ~ Slow Down, You Move Too Fast ~ ♫

Despite the fervor of this whirlwind Conanza, I made a real point this year at the big show to slow down at key points and have better conversations.

If you’ve never been to San Diego Comic-Con, it may not make sense but, seriously, it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of 150,000+ people going pop culture crazy and forget to enjoy who is there and why you like this stuff in the first place. You see people you know and care about, but your schedule is packed so you just wave or high-five as you move past and, by the time the show’s over, you realize you didn’t get a chance to really connect with anyone.

So, this year, I promised myself I’d do it differently. Conversations were more focused and meaningful. Compliments were free-flowing. Smiles were easy to find. Photos were frequent.

Reconnecting, celebrating, waxing nostalgic.

Look at us. Still here. Still making stuff and having fun.

So great to see you. Things are busy but it’s okay, take a deep breath, we’ve got this.

We’re veterans of these Comic-Conquests.

There was a lot to celebrate this year, but I also hope a bit of the zen I summoned here carries over to future shows as well…especially with the unstoppable swirl that is Gen Con coming up next week!


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