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.


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