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DF Interview: Jim Zub discusses his Wayward path
By Byron Brewer
A misfit teen travels to the Land of the Rising Sun and discovers the legends of a world she never made.
It is that environment to which writer Jim Zub and artist Steve Cummings bring readers for Wayward, a new Image Comics series which begins later this month.
To get the 411 on the book, Dynamite Forces tracked Zub to Yoshida’s Sushi Bar in the prefecture and discovered the following.
Dynamic Forces: Jim, tell us how you became the writer of Image Comics’ new book, Wayward.
Jim Zub: Wayward is a concept co-created by artist Steve Cummings and I built around concepts near and dear to us. We’ve been working on it for the past 8-9 months and it’s now finally ready to launch here in August.
DF: Tell us the concept behind this very imaginative series.
Jim Zub: Wayward is about teenagers fighting Japanese mythological monsters on the streets of modern Tokyo. It’s a bombastic supernatural series about myth, magic and finding friends who will stand by you against all odds.
DF: Who is Rori Lane?
Jim Zub: Rori is a half-Irish, half-Japanese girl who’s never actually been to Japan. Her mother is Japanese but Rori grew up in Ireland. The family traveled around for her father's work, but they never went back to Japan. She has Japanese cultural elements her mother has instilled in her – language lessons, cultural lessons, and she’s seen tons of photos. All of that has given her a grounding in what Japan is all about, but no matter how much research she’s done, she has no way of truly understanding it until she experiences the country firsthand.
Once her parents divorced, Rori stayed with her father for a while, but it didn’t work out. In her second year of high school, she moves to Tokyo to be with her mother, and that's where the story begins, with her arriving in Tokyo for the first time. She has expectations about what Japan is, what Japanese culture is and what living with her mother is going to be like but the reality of that, and beyond that, the hyper-reality of the supernatural, takes it all to another level.
DF: Who else from Rori’s life will we see regularly?
Jim Zub: The story actually begins with her arriving in Japan for the first time and reuniting with her mother. Rori’s mom plays an important role in the first story arc, while her father’s presence will be felt in other, less direct ways.
DF: Did you or Steve Cummings do any research on Tokyo and its lifestyle for the series?
Jim Zub: I’ve traveled to Tokyo several times over the past 8 years or so. I love Japanese culture and find the myths and cultural elements really fascinating. A lot of Rori’s fears about going somewhere new and unexpected definitely channel some of my own feelings about going there for the first time.
Steve actually lives in Yokohama, just outside Tokyo. He’s raising a family in Japan and is fluent in the language and cultural idiosyncrasies, so he’s right in the thick of the culture and lore we’re drawing upon to create Wayward.
I had broader concepts for a story about myth and belief but wasn’t sure where it would take place. Steve wanted to illustrate a story set in Tokyo. Wayward is both us playing to our strengths.
In addition, we have Japanese Yokai (monsters and spirits). Expect Zack Davisson on board consulting on some of the deeper meanings and history behind the myths we’re using and also writing new essays about Yokai that will be in the back of each issue. Readers won’t need any prior knowledge of Japan to start reading Wayward and Zack’s essays will help broaden their understanding of Japanese culture.
DF: Interesting. What else can you tell us about these Yokai Rori will be encountering?
Jim Zub: It’s a pretty varied cross section of Japanese creatures and spirits we’re using in the series, many of them updated/evolved to fit in with the modern city environment.
In the first issue Rori encounters kappa but they’re not the cute little turtle creatures from Japanese fairy tales. They’re scary street tough monsters, sort of like demonic teenage mutant ninja turtles.
Beyond that, readers can expect to see all kinds of freaky shape-shifters, ghosts and otherworldly beings.
DF: This series will certainly lend itself to an examination of adolescent metaphors. Any subtext going on underneath Wayward’s skin?
Jim Zub: Absolutely. I don’t want to tip our hand too much before the story gets rolling, but suffice to say there are bigger ideas at play as we explore the generational divide and changing role of myth in our modern lives.
DF: Where does a writer look to for inspiration for such an imaginative book?
Jim Zub: My own love of Japanese culture and fantasy in general provides a pretty fertile foundation. From there I try to build something that might be unexpected but hopefully also rings true once it’s all said and done.
DF: How has it been working with Steve? Thoughts on his interpretation of your imaginings?
Jim Zub: Steve’s a wonderful collaborator. It’s really both of us bouncing big concepts back and forth while I do scene plotting and figure out how it all fits together. I’ll tend to have broader ideas about the evolution of a character or important scenes and Steve brings his greater understanding of Japanese culture or specific locations into play to fit those ideas and enhance them. It’s a great working relationship.
DF: So what else can we soon expect from the talented keyboard of Jim Zub?
I have a lot of comic projects underway right now. It’s a very busy, but also enjoyable, writing time for me right now.
The Figment mini-series continues into the Fall from Marvel in partnership with Disney. Working with the Disney Imagineering team to tell the story of Figment and Dreamfinder has been a great experience.
Samurai Jack continues at IDW. Our original five issue mini-series keeps getting extended and we’re good to go through at least 20 issues now, which is wonderful.
I’m launching a new Dungeons & Dragons comic series through IDW as well in October. It’s the 40th anniversary of D&D and I’m thrilled to be a part of the celebration that ties into the fifth edition of the game.
I’m co-writing the new Conan-Red Sonja crossover event with Gail Simone that should be coming out late 2014/early 2015 from Dark Horse. Contributing to these two legends with one of my favorite writers is a real dream come true.
Skullkickers, my other Image creator-owned series, is coming to an end in 2015 so Edwin and I are ramping up for that final story arc. It’s going to be a blast taking that one to the hoop and finishing our five-year storyline.
In addition to all that, I’m plugging away on a few new commercial and creator-owned projects for 2015. Hopefully I’ll be able to reveal more details about those soon.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Jim Zub for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Wayward #1 arrives in stores August 27th!
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