Zub Tales!

Inside the Inventive Mind of Comics Creator, Jim Zub


Your kids are reading Jim Zub comics. Why? Because he’s writing some of the best stories being printed right now, for comic book powerhouses like Marvel (Disney Kingdoms: Figment; Figment 2) DC Comics (Legends of the Dark Knight; Suicide Squad: Amanda Waller), Dark Horse Comics (Conan-Red Sonja), IDW Publishing (Samurai Jack) and many more.


Like your kids, we’re Zub fans here at PopFam—so we tracked him down in the wilds of Canada…well, Toronto…and begged him to talk with parents about his work, the comics industry as a whole, and even the most important thing in life. Here’s what the talented Mr. Zubkavich had to say:

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How did you first discover comics?



I’m sure I read kids comics and comic strips when I was really young but the first comics I distinctly remember collecting were the Marvel G.I. Joe comics from the early 80s. At the end of each cartoon episode a narrator would shout “Buy the Marvel Comic!” with a screenshot of the latest cover, and I diligently hunted them down. From there I branched out into other Marvel books and started rabidly collecting Spider-Man. Over time I’d move into reading manga, mature-readers comics, and all kinds of indie material.



Samurai Jack and Figment are loads of fun. What secrets can you tell us about those comics?



Secrets? Hmmm…


Working on Samurai Jack has been a real unexpected surprise. When IDW was putting together their proposal for Cartoon Network they asked 6 or 7 different writers to pitch on the series. From what my editor told me later, I was the last person they asked to pitch and I got mine in just before they sent them along to Genndy [Tartakovsky, series creator] and Cartoon Network for feedback. Thankfully, mine was the one they decided to go forward with. Since then Andy Suriano and I have put together 20 issues chronicling the further adventures of everyone’s favorite samurai warrior trapped in the future.


Pretty much every Samurai Jack story pitch Andy and I put together was approved by Cartoon Network. There were a couple story concepts they were initially wary of (like the 2-part story we did where we had Jack and the Scotsman gender swapped thanks to a leprechaun curse), but with each new story we had approved they became more comfortable with us putting weird ideas out there, confident we’d treat Jack properly.


Surprisingly, the Figment project also went very smoothly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled it did, but when I first came on board I was pretty sure the development would carry a heavy corporate oversight since Disney is such a massive corporation and we were fleshing the back story for a pair of beloved characters.


That said, the Imagineering crew were a wonderful to work with. They gave great guidance but let me add a lot of myself and my creativity into the story, which is not the norm with this kind of work-for-hire assignment. It was a ton of fun.


One of the other enjoyable aspects of writing Figment was working in references to the original attraction and other Disney properties/old cartoons. When each new issue came out I’d get messages from hardcore Disney fans as they picked up on each one.



Fanboys and fangirls with a religious background are often attracted to comics, but feel unwelcome in comic book culture because they see their religion mischaracterized by hateful stereotypes or insulted by irreverent portrayals of God. What advice would you give to those kids and their parents?



Open yourself up to all kinds of story experiences and treasure the ones that align most closely with your values and moral compass. I learn things from stories I agree with but also learn from ones I vehemently disagree with as well. They’re all creative fodder in one way or another. Disagree with a story’s point of view? Create your own and prove the other side of it. Look at it as a challenge rather than an insult.



How do you decide what’s “too violent” and what’s “appropriate violence” for your stories?



Although I’m generally known for writing all-ages fare, I’ve written mature reader material. Each project has its own moral threshold that I figure out beforehand, sometimes even writing out ‘rules’ for myself to refer to. I go in with a distinct understanding of where that line is for each one.



Figment is an all-ages series where most of the danger comes from exploration rather than direct character-on-character violence. It’s about the power of imagination and tapping into childlike creativity.


Samurai Jack is surprisingly violent in some respects but, like the cartoon, it shows a lot of that violence indirectly, or by using robot ‘proxies’ instead of living, breathing creatures.


Skullkickers is a cartoonishly violent fantasy-comedy for ages 12+. It’s a cartoon with the occasional squirt of blood played for comedic effect.


Wayward is the most mature story I’ve written so far. It has gore/violence and the characters talk like real teenagers, which means they swear far more than they should. It’s a Buffy-style supernatural story with a darker edge set in Japan. I decided that we’d avoid nudity because I wanted to keep it in that teen space rather than pushing it fully R-rated all the way through.


As with all entertainment, I think it’s important for parents to know what media their kids are consuming and to have active discussions with them about what’s happening in those stories and what it means. There should be stories available for everyone, but not all of it is appropriate for every audience.



Agree or disagree: “Comic book stories should be agents of social change, not just entertainment for the masses.”



Stories are powerful and they can absolutely be agents of social change, but I don’t think there’s a “should” attached to that. Sometimes they’re just fleeting distractions or shallow ridiculousness and that’s okay too. Entertainment can be shallow and it can be deep.


That said, I think stories that make us think and communicate larger themes about who we are and the world as it could be have the greatest potential to last.



Tell us about a moment of pure joy you’ve experienced recently.



Meeting some of the people who read and enjoy my work is still an absolute joy. Working on these stories can be quite a solitary experience and I find interacting with readers to be a really powerful way to recharge my creative batteries. I hope that incredible feeling never goes away.



What would you say is the most important thing in life—and how does that show up in your work?



No matter what project I work on, at one point or another, a sense of wonderment enters into it. We should never lose sight of those bliss-filled moments where we take in the larger world around us and revel in the amazement of it.


Those are the moments we live for and it’s something very core to the stories I want to tell.




All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher. Image Credits:Jim Zub / www.jimzub.com. Marvel Comics / www.marvel.com. IDW Publishing /www.idwpublishing.com

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