Zubby Newsletter #66: Howard Days

The Howard Museum in Cross Plains, Texas.

I’m home from four days in Texas – three in Cross Plains for Howard Days, the annual Robert E. Howard celebration at his home, and a quick half day stop at Fan Expo Dallas.

Howard Days was an informal gathering that began in 1986 with ten fans making a pilgrimage to Robert E. Howard’s home and is now an official two day event deeply tied into the town with several hundred attendees. There’s a small pavilion set up near the home for barbecues and hanging out, a dozen vendors selling books and other merchandise, tours of the house (which is now a museum) and local sites, discussion panels and signings at the community center, original manuscripts on display at the local library, gaming, poetry readings, a banquet, a silent auction, and more.

Each piece of the festival was quite small but when you put it all together it made the whole thing feel expansive, especially considering that Cross Plains itself has a population of less than a thousand people. Dozens of regulars return to spend time together, year after year, alongside a host of new people like me making the trek for the first time. I thought coming down from Canada would make me the furthest visitor for the event, but I was wrong – there were people who came in from France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, and Norway.

Jeff Shanks, the Howard expert who writes the essays in the back of each issue of Conan the Barbarian, told me it was a family reunion and I was part of the family, and I joked that I was more like a long lost cousin who showed up out of nowhere carrying a deed for an important tract of land. That said, the Howard Days core made me feel incredibly welcome and their excitement for the future of the fandom came through in every interaction.

This year, Robert E. Howard’s original writing desk had been restored and replaced the stand-in they’d been using for decades at the museum. I was one of the first people to stand at the desk returned to its rightful spot and, as you might imagine, it all felt pretty surreal. Honestly, the whole week was surreal, as I chatted with literary scholars, locals, friends, and fans.

Jeff Shanks, John C. Hocking, Howard Andrew Jones, and me.

I filmed interviews and signed hundreds of comics while walking around the small town grounds where the sword & sorcery genre came to life. Shawn Curley from Heroic Signatures was there filming material for the official Conan the Barbarian YouTube channel and, as it all gets compiled, edited, and posted, I’ll be sure to share it in future newsletter installments. The legacy and gravity of it all washed over me a few times, but then a few minutes later we’d all just be laughing and hanging out, looking for respite from the intense Texas heat or hunting for bug spray to handle the mosquitos.

Fan Expo Dallas on Sunday was a breakneck pace, especially in contrast to the previous three days. I woke up at dawn and drove almost 3 hours from Cross Plains to Dallas, arrived at the convention center, signed for two hours, hosted a Conan panel, signed for another hour and then had to dash so I could return my rental car and head to the airport. Lots of Conan, Dungeons & Dragons, and Marvel fans there and it was really nice even though it was so short and rapid fire.

I’m finally home and spending today unpacking, reorganizing, and decompressing. The whole week was really special but I don’t know if all of it has really sunk in yet.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN: BOUND IN BLACK STONE won this year’s Costigan Award at Howard Days!

“Awarded for original creative writing that carries on the spirit and tradition of Robert E. Howard, to better recognize and celebrate his influence on future generations of writers.”

Comics are rarely nominated and an original one based on a Robert E. Howard property has never been nominated in the literary category before.

Rob De La Torre and José Villarrubia also won the Rankin Award for Artistic Achievement, so Bound in Black Stone won in both categories we were nominated in.

I know for people on the outside it may seem obvious that a Conan book wins a Robert E. Howard-related award, but the Foundation is not directly tied to the company that owns Conan, it’s an independent panel of scholars and archivists focused on the legacy and literary merit of Howard’s works. I’ve been writing Conan-related comic stories since 2015 and this is the first time the Foundation has given my work any kind of acknowledgement, both with the nomination and now the award.

Bill Cavalier, one of the Foundation board members and a key organizer of the festival, handed me the award and said-
“Congrats! We don’t normally give ’em to the funny books, but you and the boys did a fine job. Keep it up.”

Thank you to the Foundation and our readers. It’s an honor.

Doom Is Coming…and It’s Going To Be Great

Shawn Curley has posted a Conan News video on the official Conan the Barbarian Youtube channel and it’s packed with exclusive sneak peeks at artwork from CONAN THE BARBARIAN #12, the next Conan prose novel, Savage Sword, a sneak peek of the Heroic Signatures office, and more. I also make a brief appearance at the 5:40 mark to help hype the end of our first year on the relaunch.

Jim Zub – Voice Actor?

The latest grad films from Seneca Animation are starting to get posted online and first out of the gate is Fly Away, Froggy Boy, a wild and weird noir story about an anthropomorphic fly seeking revenge against the frog mob.

I lent my voice to the Frogfather, the main villain of the cartoon and it was a lot of fun snarling, grunting and screaming my way through the script. Give it a watch and let me know what you think of my performance and the hard work of my students.

Back In School With Teachers In The Dungeon

Stacy and I returned to the Teachers in the Dungeon podcast, chatting with Tom Gross and Dan Reem all about ARTIFICERS & ALCHEMY, the latest Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide, discussing what goes into making the books, igniting the imagination of new gamers, fun details, future plans, and more!

You can listen to this episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

Current + Upcoming Releases

  • Conan: Battle of the Black Stone #0 – released May 4th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #11 – released May 22nd.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Fortune Finder – TPB released June 5th.
  • Conan the Barbarian #12 – releases June 26th.
  • Life of Wolverine – One Shot – releases July 3rd.
  • Savage Sword of Conan #3 – releases July 3rd.
  • Conan the Barbarian Vol.2: Thrice Marked For Death – TPB releases July 16th.

  • Upcoming Appearances

    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

    • Conan scholar Jeff Shanks is chatting up a storm lately, and his latest interview with Stygian Dogs is fantastic, covering many different aspects of Robert E. Howard literary and fandom circles.

    • Literary Hub has an excerpt from Ursula K. Le Guin‘s book The Language of the Night that may strike a chord with writers and would-be writers I know.

    Chris Broad stops at every station on Tokyo’s famous Yamanote subway line in one day and shows off interesting or obscure things at each one. Seeing familiar spots from my recent Tokyo trip and learning about new places to check out was enjoyable.

    Asa Wheatley is crowdfunding the next volume of Sagas of the Shield Maiden. I’ve enjoyed the previous anthology volumes and am looking forward to this one.

    Have a wonderful week!

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