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DF Interview: Already a veteran scribe of the Cimmerian’s tales, Jim Zub comes to the flagship ‘Conan the Barbarian’ at Marvel
By Byron Brewer
Conan has faced many foes since leaving Cimmeria, but the greatest challenge lies ahead! A perfect jumping-on point for new readers as Conan finds himself in a city in the mystical Uttara Kuru, further on the eastern border than the young barbarian has ever traveled. And with the new city comes new dangers! Unfamiliar with the language, Conan inadvertently agrees to be the latest entrant to the Great Crucible. The people of the city support their foreign champion… but what deadly traps does the Crucible hold, and what will Conan sacrifice to overcome his ordeal?
Writer Jim Zub (Savage Sword of Conan, Avengers: No Road Home) and artist Rogê Antônio (Conan 2099, X-Men Red) lead Conan on an all-new journey, as we begin a new era for Conan the Barbarian into undiscovered country. DF checked in with the scribe of the new creative team, Jim Zub.
Dynamic Forces: Jim, when Conan the Barbarian #1 by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith reached racks (yep, remember racks?) in 1970, by hype and by Marvel it became one of the House of Idea’s top comics. How does it feel to man the helm of its modern-day successor?
Jim Zub: Honestly, and I know this sounds dramatic, but it hasn’t fully hit me yet. Even now that it’s been announced and I can talk about it, I’m still kind of in a haze about all of it.
I’ve said over and over that Conan is one of my favorite characters ever and that sword & sorcery is my jam but getting this kind of opportunity is absolutely surreal. Just over a year ago I was finishing off co-writing Avengers: No Road Home, the series that brought Conan home and now I’m diving into the Hyborian Age full-time. It’s wonderful and all kinds of intimidating, but I’m doing all I can to live up to the challenge.
DF: I know you are well-known for being into Dungeons & Dragons. How does the world of Robert E. Howard tales and its Marvel derivative compare with D&D?
Jim Zub: D&D is influenced by the works of Robert E. Howard, so there’s definitely some connective tissue there, but D&D is also its own thing: a crazy mix of high fantasy, pulp sword & sorcery, obscure fantasy concepts, and miniature war gaming all mashed together.
Conan is obviously more singularly focused on the character and his world, moody and brutal with a surreal spin from time to time. It’s less magical on the whole and when magic is involved it’s more mysterious and freakish than the spellcasting we see in D&D. Conan may team up with other people from time to time, but his adventures are not about a group. He’s a singular force of survival.
DF: I just cannot believe you went from bringing Conan to the 616 in Avengers: No Road Home to a 3-part Savage Sword of Conan story, then the limited series Conan: Serpent War and now taking over the Barbarian in the flagship comic, all in ONE YEAR!
Jim Zub: Yeah, it’s been absolutely bizarre and wonderful. Each one of those projects I thought would be my last chance to write a Conan story and instead they just kept building in intensity, laying the groundwork as a kind of “audition” to taking over the Barbarian, and now here we are.
DF: Conan’s history is all over the map due to travel, aging, etc. In what period of the Cimmerian’s adventures does your initial storyline, which begins in February with issue #13, focus upon and why?
Jim Zub: I like Conan in his youth, the impetuous adventurer we see in The Frost Giant’s Daughter, The Tower of the Elephant or God in the Bowl. I like his outgoing nature and need to travel and see more of the world. I like writing about his discoveries and mistakes. It’s a period flush with potential and a lot of space to roam around. It also gives me time to build up to Conan in his prime.
DF: What can you tell us about your first arc, “Into the Crucible”?
Jim Zub: “Into the Crucible” takes Conan to Uttara Kuru, putting him in a place where he doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t know the local customs. He’s used to making his way through the world with strength and grit, but what he comes up against here isn’t going to be solved with simple steel. I don’t want to give away too much but suffice to say that the Crucible itself is a place he won’t soon forget.
I’m using some of my favorite sword & sorcery tropes but also giving them a slight twist to keep readers guessing where it might go next. We’re building out locations that haven’t been touched upon much in Conan stories and putting our favorite adventurer into situations way over his head.
DF: So, new beginnings with #13. Is this a good jumping-on point for the valued new reader, and why? And what about fans (like moi) going all the way back to Roy and Barry?
Jim Zub: It’s absolutely a good jumping-on point. Conan as a concept is very easy to get into. He’s the original sellsword survivor traveling the Hyborian Age in search of adventure. Beyond that, issue #13 begins a connected tale that build on bigger ideas Robert E. Howard reflected in many of his stories: civilization vs. savagery, survival vs. fear, and courage vs. the unknown.
I want new readers and old to be able to fearlessly jump in. New readers will understand his motivations instantly and longtime fans should find a character they know quite well thrust into new locales with strange threats on all sides.
DF: Talk about the awesome art of Rogê Antônio.
Jim Zub: Rogê is an absolute ass-kicker on the series. His work feels like a natural fit for people who have enjoyed Mahmud Asrar’s artwork on the series so far but he’s already building its own flavor of savage action and stunning environments. I certainly haven’t made it easy on him. Issue #13 has a slew of crowd scenes and big action set pieces along with new locales. Issue #14 takes it further with new creatures and a couple of bizarre traps as well. I’m trying to pull out all the stops and Rogê is enthusiastically keeping pace. I’m so incredibly thankful to have him at my side swinging that sword.
DF: Jim, if you have found any time to breathe with your hectic schedule, tell readers what other projects you are working on, currently and in the near-future.
Jim Zub: On the sword & sorcery front, Conan: Serpent War has four issues arriving over two months and I can’t wait for readers to see how that all warps together. Dungeons & Dragons: Infernal Tides will be launching before Conan and continuing into the new year. Rick & Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons is zipping to the end of its second mini-series.
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda continues its weird and wonderful epic espionage in 2020 and Max Dunbar and I will be busting out a second “season” of Stone Star for ComiXology next year as well.
Lots of great projects, but Conan the Barbarian is front and center in my brain right now. I am ready for the Age of High Adventure!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Jim Zub for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Conan the Barbarian #13 from Marvel Comics hits stores Feb. 19th!
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