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DF Interview: Jim Zub brings Skullkickers saga to a conclusion
By Byron Brewer
When Jim Zub originally pitched his creator-owned Skullkickers, it was as a 5-issue story with a slim hope that it may possibly continue.
When the launch went well, Zub and artist Chris Stevens were asked to keep the book going. Thus, Zub sat down and planned out the larger Skullkickers storyline and a bigger theme.
Five years later, what Zub himself often calls “a ridiculous sword & sorcery action-comedy” comes to a close. Dynamic Forces sat down with the scribe to discuss the book’s planned finale, beginning with issue #31.
Dynamic Forces: Jim, let’s start this out right: Even though they have been running for five years, for the uninitiated, tell us who the Skullkickers are and how the concept came to be a comic book.
Jim Zub: Skullkickers is the story of a group of mercenaries who hunt monsters and get themselves into deep, deep trouble. It’s also my love letter to the sword & sorcery adventure stories I loved growing up; Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser, Conan, and Dungeons & Dragons tossed together with a healthy dose of humor and violence.
The Skullkickers first appeared in a short story published in Popgun Volume 2, Image’s new talent anthology. Joe Keatinge approached artist Chris Stevens about contributing a story and Chris and I put together a silly short about a pair of heartless monster hunters in a story called “Two Copper Pieces”. That went over well enough to have another short in Popgun Volume 3, called “Gotcha!”, and from there Image Publisher Erik Larsen offered us a full Image series.
Chris hit some financial difficulties and wasn’t able to commit to doing the series as it moved forward but thankfully I found Edwin Huang, who fit really well with the material and he’s been drawing Skullkickers ever since our launch in 2010.
DF: You have called Skullkickers “the bedrock of my comic writing career” and it helped establish the path you are now on. How does it feel to see the 5-year running property come to an end?
Jim Zub: It honestly doesn’t feel real right now. With so much work still to be done finalizing the last couple of issues, getting them off to press, planning the last trade and deluxe hardcover and all that, it just feels like we’re in normal production. I don’t think it’s going to really settle in that Skullkickers is done until I’m sending that last issue off to the printer.
DF: Tell us about this last arc planned to close the book, beginning with issue #31. I believe it is called “Infinite Icons of the Endless Epic”?
Jim Zub: That’s correct. It’s a whirlwind kitchen sink approach as just about every character, monster and plotline comes to roost in a multi-dimensional nexus location, a tavern known only as “The Gizzard”.
We’re bringing it all to a ridiculous finish with the ultimate bar brawl to end it all. It will be packed with insane cameos, over the top action, and twists and turns to keep readers guessing right up until the end, our super-sized final issue arriving in June.
DF: In your perception as a creator who has dealt a lot with your own creator-owned properties, how has the industry changed since you entered it in 2010?
Jim Zub: There’s been a seismic shift in the comic business in the past five years and I think Image has been instrumental in spearheading a lot of those changes. Creator-owned comics are viable in a way they haven’t been since Image first formed in ’92. Readers are hungry for new stories, new characters, and new ideas, and the diversity in both the characters and creators is broadening nicely to really open up comics to a larger audience. I’m more excited about creator-owned comics than ever.
DF: What will you miss most about producing Skullkickers? Do you see any of the characters going on into other adventures, perhaps a solo book by you?
Jim Zub: I'll definitely miss the madcap fantasy fun of it all. Skullkickers is like a D&D game gone off the rails where the players destroy the adventure the DM had planned out. I've been able to channel the frantic energy of myself playing D&D at 10 or 11 years old and that's a heck of a lot of fun.
I don’t really want to think about Skullkickers sequels/prequels or any of that stuff right now. My focus is on wrapping up as strongly as I can and ensuring that it lives up to the fun we’ve delivered in our previous five arcs.
Edwin and I have talked about doing another creator-owned project together, which would be very exciting, but that hasn’t been nailed down yet. I’m assuming we’ll both need a breather before tackling what comes next.
DF: Do you have any favorite artists with whom you have worked with on Skullkickers you’d like to mention at this point?
Jim Zub: Obviously Chris (the original SK artist), Edwin (our ongoing artist), and Misty (our colorist) are the core of what started Skullkickers. I owe them so much as it really established my career as a writer in comics. Nothing else would have happened without Skullkickers.
Jeff “Chamba” Cruz has contributed the most in terms of alt covers and short stories after Edwin. Chamba’s bombastic animation-centric style is a real favorite of mine and it was a thrill to have him involved in Skullkickers.
DF: So where are the Zubbistic creative juices flowing these days?
Jim Zub: It’s a bit weird because I have a bevy of titles coming out right now but they’re all projects I wrote a few months ago: Conan-Red Sonja, Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate, Samurai Jack… so I’m not quite as busy as it looks from my release schedule.
Wayward, my new Image series, continues with its second arc starting in March with #6. That issue arrives the same day as Skullkickers #31. The response to the series has been fantastic so far and I can’t wait for people to see what we have planned with it.
I have a couple of pitches I’m putting together for new work-for-hire and creator-owned projects, so my fingers are crossed for those as I trek through 2015.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Jim Zub for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Skullkickers #31 from Image Comics, beginning the mag’s final arc, hits stores March 25th!
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