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FOG! Chats With JIM ZUB About CONAN/RED SONJA and D&D: LEGENDS OF BALDUR’S GATE

Jim Zub is one of our favorite independent comic creators, with his own creations like Skullkickers and runs on licensed properties that range from Disney’s Figment to Samurai Jack that are always fun to read. Lately, Jim has been taking some of his fascination with Dungeons & Dragons and putting it to good use; with a collaboration with superstar writer Gail Simone on Conan/Red Sonja, a cross-company sword and sorcery miniseries staring the biggest stars in the genre.

Jim takes a spin on the Cosmic Treadmill today to tell us how that came to be and also about his run on IDW’s Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate, just as issue #5 hits stores and digital today.

FOG!: Thanks for joining us, Jim! You are co-writing the Conan/Red Sonja mini-series with Gail Simone, from Dark Horse in association with Dynamite. How did both of the team ups happen, first for the first time in 15 years, Conan and Red Sonja are in the same book. The other all-star team is you and Gail!

Jim Zub: Thanks! I don’t know what went into the negotiations between Dark Horse and Dynamite to make it all happen in the first place, but my part in all this started when Gail approached me about being involved in late 2013. She suggested me as a co-writer to Dark Horse and they thankfully agreed, so we started brainstorming the over arcing storyline in early 2014 and wrote the issues over the course of the year while juggling a host of other projects.

Swords and sorcery are where you come from as a writer — more on your other books later. How great is it to write Conan? Did you read Conan and Red Sonja growing up?

Writing Conan and Red Sonja is an absolute thrill. I was a big fan of the Conan stories (prose and comics) growing up and enjoyed seeing Red Sonja in her own series or teamed up with everyone’s favorite Cimmerian.

I also remember the sweet Marvel Team-Up issue where Red Sonja and Spider-Man kicked all kinds of ass.

As a lifelong fan of sword & sorcery stories its kind of surreal getting the chance to co-write this story and bring Conan and Red Sonja back together after more than 15 years apart.

It’s a real career milestone for me.

Gail’s Red Sonja is knockout amazing and we’re huge fans of what she does. How is it working with someone who is already redefining Red Sonja myths for new readers? Her take on Sonja doesn’t rely on her being a sex symbol, rather the bikini is matter of fact she gets to go into Sonja’s motivations a bit more.

Absolutely agreed. Gail’s approach to Red Sonja strikes the perfect balance between past and present, taking the best parts of her original character while updating and improving a lot of the elements that felt unnecessarily stereotyped as the sexy sword maiden. Gail’s instinct for storytelling and appealing characters is top notch and I’ve learned a lot working with her on this mini-series.

Were there always Conan stories you wanted to tell?

Every Conan prose story has already been adapted into comics, so I don’t feel like I need to re-adapt any particular one, but I’d be happy to create new tales of the youthful headstrong Cimmerian or the swashbuckling bad ass aboard Belit’s ship the Tigress.

Conan and Red Sonja have a unique relationship in your book. Teammates, friends, rivals, flirt buddies. By Crom — we need to know if a romance will bloom out of this! Any hints?

All I can say is – keep reading!

Gail and I both agree that these two legends would be magnetically drawn to each other, sort of like Olympians who get attracted to other athletes operating at that intensely competitive  level. It’s an instinctive physical and mental bond between them.

Speaking of blooming, a biological weapon known as The Bloodroot is threatening the world. I thought that was a clever idea that bridged mysticism and the warfare of the time. Did this come out as a brainstorm between you and Gail?

Gail had the original brilliant idea for Bloodroot and I ran with the concept and came up with the “end game” for it, cranking things up to an epic level for our final battle in issue 4. 

I’m pumped for people to see how far we take it.


Dan Panosian has a classic style fitted for these characters, and you get Dave Stewart as well. What do you think these artists are bringing to the story?

Both of them are perfect for Conan and Red Sonja.

Dan’s art has a pulpy gritty feel that feels right at home with this violent sword & sorcery tale and Dave’s moody color palettes take it to the next level.

I feel absolutely honored to have them illustrating our story.

I’m also enjoying D & D: Legend’s of Baldur’s Gate at IDW. I really enjoy the pacing and the heel turns you make in the story that fits well to the D&D World. For example in the first issue, Neera casts a ‘COLOR SPRAY!’ – that felt very ‘in-game’. Are you planning this book like you would a campaign?

Thanks. I always use the Dungeons & Dragons world material as the underpinning of the story, but try not to make it feel too “gamey.” I want it to read like a really good gaming session without any of the weird slow bits when people are grabbing snacks or problematic random rolls that could hamstring the flow of an actual D&D gaming session.

I heard a vicious rumor that Skullkickers is coming to an end this year. Say it ain’t so! I know you’ve answered why on your Tumblr, but what can you tease about the last issue?

It’s true that we’re headed into our final story arc, called “Infinite Icons of the Endless Epic.” Our final issue arrives in June and it’s going to be a wonderfully chaotic collision of everything we’ve built up to this point in the series. Skullkickers is my love letter to sword & sorcery adventure and I hope our readers enjoy the ‘brawl to end it all’ as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Lastly, and only a truthful answer or plead The Fifth, how many times have you seen Red Sonja (1985)? Since I was a 10 year old at the time, and movie rentals and television viewings were limiting, I am putting myself in the no less than 10 but no more than 15 range. Because… Brigitte Nielsen.

Honestly? I’ve probably only seen the original Red Sonja movie once or twice back in the day and I barely remember any of it. Now that you mention it though I may have to track it down and watch it again to see how it holds up 30 years later.

If your readers want to check out any of the comic work I’m doing, they can see what I’m up to and read tutorials on comic writing and working in the business at jimzub.com or follow me on Twitter via @jimzub

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