The Corner Box

The Corner Box S1Ep45 - The Jim Zub Interview: Love the Zub

June 18, 2024 David & John Season 1 Episode 45
The Corner Box S1Ep45 - The Jim Zub Interview: Love the Zub
The Corner Box
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The Corner Box
The Corner Box S1Ep45 - The Jim Zub Interview: Love the Zub
Jun 18, 2024 Season 1 Episode 45
David & John

Episode Summary

On this episode of The Corner Box, the Love Zub, Jim Zub, joins hosts John Barber and David Hedgecock! In Part 1 of this conversation we talk about when Jim became a comics fan, his extensive Marvel collection, the massive creative influence of DnD, Jim’s journey into a creative career, and Scott McCloud’s pure kindness. Also, Jim learns to cook, John gets a Pro Badge, and David’s notes take a dark turn.

Stick around for Part 2 of this conversation next week on The Corner Box vs Jim Zub.

 

Timestamp Segments

·       [00:57] Who is Jim Zub?

·       [02:16] What has Jim done?

·       [04:01] When Jim became a comics fan.

·       [10:45] The continuity of the Marvel Universe.

·       [12:03] Jim and Joe’s Marvel collection.

·       [13:00] Getting into DnD.

·       [20:33] Is DnD evil?

·       [25:11] New DnD tech.

·       [27:09] Chef Jim.

·       [29:56] Jim’s early access to comics.

·       [33:31] Making a living with comics.

·       [39:58] The forbidden list.

·       [41:25] Rejected by Marvel.

·       [42:30] Jim’s first webcomics.

·       [44:31] The future of comics.

·       [47:00] Meeting Scott McCloud.

 

Notable Quotes

·       “It’s not evil. It’s just fucking stupid.”

·       “If you made comics, you were part of it.”

 

Relevant Links

You can see what Jim Zub is up to on his site:
www.jimzub.com

David is having a Fun Time. Let's GO!
Fun Time Go, Inc.

John is helping PugW take over the comic world!
https://www.pugworldwide.com/

For transcripts and show notes:
www.thecornerbox.club

Show Notes Transcript

Episode Summary

On this episode of The Corner Box, the Love Zub, Jim Zub, joins hosts John Barber and David Hedgecock! In Part 1 of this conversation we talk about when Jim became a comics fan, his extensive Marvel collection, the massive creative influence of DnD, Jim’s journey into a creative career, and Scott McCloud’s pure kindness. Also, Jim learns to cook, John gets a Pro Badge, and David’s notes take a dark turn.

Stick around for Part 2 of this conversation next week on The Corner Box vs Jim Zub.

 

Timestamp Segments

·       [00:57] Who is Jim Zub?

·       [02:16] What has Jim done?

·       [04:01] When Jim became a comics fan.

·       [10:45] The continuity of the Marvel Universe.

·       [12:03] Jim and Joe’s Marvel collection.

·       [13:00] Getting into DnD.

·       [20:33] Is DnD evil?

·       [25:11] New DnD tech.

·       [27:09] Chef Jim.

·       [29:56] Jim’s early access to comics.

·       [33:31] Making a living with comics.

·       [39:58] The forbidden list.

·       [41:25] Rejected by Marvel.

·       [42:30] Jim’s first webcomics.

·       [44:31] The future of comics.

·       [47:00] Meeting Scott McCloud.

 

Notable Quotes

·       “It’s not evil. It’s just fucking stupid.”

·       “If you made comics, you were part of it.”

 

Relevant Links

You can see what Jim Zub is up to on his site:
www.jimzub.com

David is having a Fun Time. Let's GO!
Fun Time Go, Inc.

John is helping PugW take over the comic world!
https://www.pugworldwide.com/

For transcripts and show notes:
www.thecornerbox.club

[00:00] Intro: Welcome to The Corner Box, where we talk about comics as an industry and an art form. You never know where the discussion will go or who will show up to join host David Hedgecock and John Barber. Between them, they've spent decades writing, drawing, lettering, coloring, editing, editor-in-chiefing, and publishing comics. If you want to know the behind-the-scenes secrets, the highs and lows, the ins and outs of the best artistic medium in the world, then listen in and join us on The Corner Box.

 

[00:30] John Barber: Hello, and welcome back to The Corner Box. This is the part of the podcast where we always forget the name of the podcast and stumble for a second as we try to cover for remembering it. Hey, I'm John Barber, and I'm here, as always, with

 

[00:42] David Hedgecock: David Hedgecock. Did I step on you? It never happens.

 

[00:46] John: It's charming. We're here with somebody we’ve both worked with on DnD Comics in the past, we've all touched in on other stuff together, Jim Zub.

 

[00:54] Jim Zub: Hello. Grim Jim Zub, apparently, that's what they call me now in the Conan comics.

 

[01:02] David: In the office here, you're being referred to as the Love Zub.

 

[01:06] Jim: Oh, my god.

 

[01:08] David: I don't know why that's coming up, but that's what you’re being called over here.

 

[01:11] Jim: I’ve never been called that before. Maybe you're talking out of school. Amazing. Cool. John, I’ve probably known you since 2002, maybe?

 

[01:23] John: Yeah, you're right. No, you're probably right.

 

[01:27] Jim: The early days of the interweb.

 

[01:31] John: Yeah, early days of moderntales.com, and Kentucky Colonel, Joey Manly.

 

[01:36] Jim: My career has gone through all these different phases. So, I can always tell how people know me, depending on how they refer to me or what things that they remember. So, Zub is a pen name, but in the same way that Stan Lee is Stanley Lieber. It's not like it's a far-removed pen name or something. I just shortened my last name, but when I was doing webcomic stuff, I was using my full name of Zubkavich, and so I always know if someone knows me from that era or earlier, because they will refer to me as that, and then, once I started doing my own creative stuff more consistently, I just use Zub for simplicity’s sake, and that has stuck.

 

[02:17] John: You've done some more stuff since Makeshift Miracle?

 

[02:19] Jim: Couple of things. One or two. Yeah, I've written about 60 trade paperbacks worth of stuff.

 

[02:27] David: Holy crap, really?

 

[02:29] Jim: This bookshelf right here that no one can see on the audio is all me.

 

[02:33] David: That whole bookshelf, from top to bottom?

 

[02:35] Jim: From top to bottom.

 

[02:36] John: Honest to God, the largest bookshelf I've ever seen.

 

[02:40] David: It's five shelves, about eight feet tall, foot-and-a-half, two feet wide, and it's packed.

 

[02:47] Jim: It is packed. It’s full, which is very weird. Yeah, the very first time I had one shelf filled, I thought “what an incredible, crazy thing.” Still special. Honestly, I don't ever want to sound like I'm taking it for granted. Every time I get a package in the mail, a copy of a book, and I crack it open. I have a little ritual that I do with my wife, where I'll pull the top copy out, and I'll look at it, and I look at her, and I go, “I made a book,” and I like show it off like a proud puppy or whatever, and then she always looks at me and she goes, “Yeah? You should keep doing that,” and I'm like, “okay,” and then put it back in the thing. It’s a stupid ritual that we do.

 

[03:20] David: The real question is, any of this stuff any good?

 

[03:24] Jim: Some of it’s okay.

 

[03:27] David: John’s shaking his head as usual. If John doesn't make a disappointed noise and shake his head while looking at me, in every single podcast, then I've done something wrong.

 

[03:35] Jim: Somehow, I've been able to work for, I think, almost every major comic publisher in North America. They haven't turfed me, so that's exciting. Yeah, it's been fun. I like the books. I like the collaborating. It's been a real joy, honestly. If you told me as a kid, I get to work in all this stuff, I would never ever have believed you, that's for sure.

 

[04:01] David: What is the origin story for your love affair with comic books? What was the first book or comic that you remember, that turned you from just a casual reader to a massive fan?

 

[04:13] Jim: Everyone read, whatever, Garfield in the newspaper and stuff like that, but actually collecting comics as we think of them, in terms of floppies, and whatnot, the first series I started really collecting was GI Joe.

 

[04:25] David: Do you remember what issue you started with?

 

[04:27] Jim: I want to say six or seven was probably the first one I got. It was in one of those next Toys “R” Us three pack. I had watched the GI Joe cartoons. They had just started coming out, the original Sunbow ones. You know the ones? So, then I got the comics and I started collecting the figures, and all that stuff, but I knew Spider Man, so I had seen the old Spider Man cartoon on TV, and Spider Man’s Amazing Friends, and all that stuff, and Spider Man in The Electric Company Magazine, and so I liked Spider Man, in a general sense, and then I saw those ads for Spider Man in the GI Joe comic. I collected GI Joe.

I was crazy about Spider Man, and I know the very first issue I bought with my own money, because there was this used bookstore. I grew up in Oshawa, Ontario, which is about 45 minutes to an hour east of Toronto, and there was this used bookstore, and they had comics in these big bins, and I would flip through them. I bought Amazing Spider Man #231. It's a completely innocuous, nothing issue. It's got a villain on it called the Cobra, and he's holding on to Spider Man, and Spider Man's on the side of a wall, or something. It looked really cool, and it looked much more serious and dark than the cartoon, and I just thought that looked really neat, and I started collecting it pretty soon after that. So, within a couple of issues is the first appearance of the Hobgoblin, and so you get that mystery, and the series was so cool, and then within a few issues, within a year, it's Secret Wars, and it was a real seminal time, in terms of Marvel.

It had the real feel of an interconnected universe, and then Marvel 25th anniversary happened, and all that stuff, and so I was crazy about it. I couldn't get enough of it. My brother and I started collecting Marvel stuff. We didn't collect everything, but we were splitting the Marvel Universe in twain. Joe started getting, my brother, he would get X Men and eventually X Factor. We would fight over Dr. Strange, but he would usually buy those. Dr. Strange was cool, because we loved fantasy stuff, and he was a wizard and a superhero, and that was cool. I love street-level heroes and the supernatural heroes. So, Ghost Rider, any of the weird stuff, the supernatural stuff, that mystic stuff. I love those kinds of books, Fantastic 4, and Avengers, and obviously, when Spider Man had three series going, I was getting all three of them. So, it was Amazing Spider Man, Spectacular, and Web of Spider Man. So, that ate up a bunch of my budget. Because it had a more magical bent,

 

[06:54] David: That’s a $1.80 you just call it out right there, man.

 

[06:56] Jim: That's right.

 

[06:57] David: That's serious cash.

 

[06:59] John: Because it’s Canadian.

 

[07:03] Jim: It was $50 in French and English. We were just buying tons of different stuff. When Excalibur started, I started buying that. That was the only mutant book that I bought. Joe would buy all the other ones. We got the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and that was a huge thing for us, and I still have them here. Eventually, we got the whole trade collection, but we bought the individual issues, and it became this really powerful tool for us because it was written in a way that it feels like these encyclopedia entries, and it's organized in a way that makes it seem like it was planned out, even though, of course, it wasn't, and there were hundreds of creators that were just riffing all the time, but when you read it, it made it seem like it was a logical order and an interweaving web of characters and concepts, and places, and it would talk about issues we could never afford, the back issues and stories, and so it gave it this mythic quality.

The history of the Marvel Universe was what we could afford going forward, the occasional back issue, and then these were the lore. This was the myths that someone was telling you, the origins of these characters, and these important moments, and because they were being described to you, and you could never read them, there were no trade paperbacks. You could not afford those back issues. You would just see them up on the wall, if they were really expensive ones. It was like they were tall tales. It was like they were these “Oh, wow. Way back when,” the very first time that Doc Ock fought Spider Man, and you can see the little asterisk, and it would tell you “back in issue, whatever,” and if that back issue was more than five bucks, you would never buy it. So, that was true.

It's the great history of the Marvel Universe, and so it gave it this incredible quality of feeling like you had been plunged into the middle of this huge soap opera, and you were moving forward, and peering into the past, and trying to drink it all in. That's what was so exciting about it. It was so cool, and you'd see those schematics for the Quinjet and the Avengers Mansion, and you were like, “it's all planned out. They built this thing perfectly, and that's the way it's meant to be, and look, there's the membership roster, and those are the first appearances, and everything was organized. Therefore, it was concrete,” and so it felt very strong. The foundation, narratively, felt so solid to us, as kids, to the point where it's like, “well, there's the map of Manhattan, and there's the Sanctum Sanctorum, and there's Avengers Mansion, and that's on a real map of America. Therefore,” it's not like I believed I could go to New York, and I would see Avengers Mansion, but it just gave it this, I don't know, gravitas, or whatever. We couldn't get enough of it. We were crazy about it.

 

[09:45] John: That is a crazy thing about the Marvel Universe, that I don't think there's anything left that has that, where, theoretically, every story happened from 1930, whatever, the present day. You know what I mean?

 

[09:58] Jim: We would always joke, you’ve just got to ignore the Christmases. It doesn't matter how many Christmases Spider Man's had. It doesn't matter which presidents were around. You just don't think about that. Sure, they had bell bottoms, and now they have crop tops, and you just don't think about that.

 

[10:16] John: No. Yeah, it'll come back in a little, but they will have had bell bottoms again, at a certain point.

 

[10:24] Jim: And then it was such a funny bit, when Bendis did that thing where they brought the original accident to the present, and they had all the Hokey ‘60s fashions and stuff, and you're like, “well, that's just the anachronism.” You could say, it pushes the incredulity, but you're like, “on the other hand, how else could you do it?” It just worked.

 

[10:41] John: I think there's a Peter David bit in one comic, where Hercules was remembering an issue of Avengers where they met Jimmy Carter, and he's telling the story, like “Jimmy Carter? You mean Bill Clinton?” And he's like, “oh, yeah. I get those “C” presidents mixed up” or something.

 

[10:56] Jim: That's good. I love that stuff. I mean, when you think about the fact that in Marvel Two-in-One, Zdarsky did a thing a couple years back where he was showing that Reed Richards graduated from university, and it was 2008, or something, and I was just like, “No. God, that's insane,” but on the other hand, I guess the sliding timeline, it all works in its own way. Sure, for some reason, it's still World War Two for Captain America, but the Punisher wasn't in Vietnam anymore. He was in the Gulf War, and now he's in just some indeterminant, terrorist conflict.

 

[11:31] John: That's another thing that is funny, and especially for anybody that grew up knowing Marvel from the movies or anything, let alone people who grew up like us, but when Captain America got unfrozen, it wasn't that all of his friends were dead. It was that they were in their 40s. He wasn’t dating Sharon Carter.

 

[11:49] Jim: Oh, they're a little old. You’ve got some gray on the temples there, buddy.

 

[11:52] David: Nick Fury was his contemporary, just 10 years earlier.

 

[11:56] John: Reed Richards also. Reed Richards served as Nick Fury’s […].

 

[12:01] Jim: Yeah, it's so funny that way. To us, as kids, we were absolutely obsessed with that. I would read this stuff. My brother and I, to the point, we would quiz each other on stuff from the Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and real names of characters.

 

[12:13] David: Seriously? You'd be like, “Okay, first appearance of” quizzing each other?

 

[12:20] Jim: Yeah, it was ridiculous. You'd be like, that's “Amazing Spider Man #46,” and you're like, “why do you know that?” Just because you have to, for some reason.

 

[12:29] David: How far apart are you from your brother? You guys must be pretty close.

 

[12:35] Jim: Four years older than me. It's that perfect age where I really wanted to impress him all the time. So, he's my primordial nerd. He would be into sci-fi and fantasy books, and I gravitated more to the fantasy side of reading them, but he would constantly be buying used books, and when he would finish them, I would read most of them

 

[12:54] David: And he was cool with that?

 

[12:57] Jim: We'd share each other, we'd read. He was my first Dungeon Master. So, he was running Dungeons and Dragons, and that was huge, massive, formative, and I know exactly how old I was because the red box said, on the front of it, 9 and up, and I was eight years old, and my brother got the box. He was literally like, “in theory, you’re too young for this,” and I was like, “no, let me play,” getting all pissed off, and my mom's like, “if you have a game, your brother has to be able to play, too.” Got to start playing. The very first adventure we played, it was super confusing to us, because we were playing Dungeons and Dragons. We had the basic box set, and then my brother got gifted the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide, and these are technically two different editions, and my brother's friggin’ 12. I'm eight, and he’s trying to understand this incredibly complicated game, and the original manuals are not well organized and not well indexed. They're very confusing, particularly ADnD. Gary Gygax, bless him. That guy could overwrite everything and bury rules in the text, not in a very organized fashion.

So, we would be playing, and then he would read more, and then he would go, “Okay, we did it wrong. We have to start again.” I'd be like, “No, my character is perfect. Don't touch it.” Stuff like that. There was one point where I had a long sheet of foolscap, and my brother was explaining, in all DnD, your goal was to become a Lord. You would get your own castle and rule your own little kingdom, and so it was the idea that you can have your own army and all this stuff, and so when I started beating up goblins and all those things, you'd get all this junk. This guy's got a dagger and this guy's got some chainmail. I was like, “Well, what are we supposed to do with this stuff?” And my brother’s like, “I don't know. You sell it?” I said, “No, I can save it for my army.” I had a piece of foolscap, and I would write a list of every sword, every dagger, every shield, every suit of armor that my character was going to keep so that he wouldn't have to buy it for his army when he was a warlord.

Do this for weeks while we're playing and got hundreds of weapons and armor, and all these arms, and then my brother read the part of the book called Encumbrance, where you're not supposed to be able to carry more stuff than you can actually have on you. My brother was like, “you can't have all these things.” I was like, “No, it's mine. I earned it.” So, then he's like, “Well, you have to get a wagon to carry all your weapons and all this stuff, and then you need to get a donkey,” and then he's like, “and if you go into a dungeon, someone can steal all your stuff.” I was freaking out. We're trying to put reality on this insane fantasy world. In the end, he changed my life because entertaining him, making him laugh, or coming up with something he couldn't handle, plan for, was my favorite thing ever, entertaining him or my older cousins when we played DnD, because they were all older than me.

I was the youngest. We couldn't do sports or anything. They would just crush me. Even video games. They had way better hand-eye coordination, and they paid more attentions, but at the table, during combat, or whatever, I get my turn. I get to tell you what I'm going to do, and everyone has to listen to me for a change, and I can tell them something funny or something amazing, and my rolls are as good as anyone else's. That feedback loop of entertaining and entertainment was very formative to me as a storyteller and creator of stuff.

 

[16:27] David: That's cool. I'm just impressed that your brother let you play.

 

[16:32] Jim: There were times where, I know, when he was fully a teenager. I had all the stink of “get away from me.” That kind of thing, but then I was finally old enough, I could run my own games, that I would run with my friends. Then he went off to university, and then in high school, it was just me and my buddies playing every tabletop RPG we could get our hands on.

 

[16:52] David: I couldn't keep the momentum going. When I was in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, me and a couple of my buddies we were playing all the time, and then the one of us discovered girls, and then that was it. It was over. It never came back. I'm playing again now, though, and so my little brother is five years younger than me, and I wasn't about to let him do anything that I would do, and basically, I kept him away from the table, basically, and I regret it, but the happy ending to this story is my brother plays now. He got back into it a couple of years ago, and now he's running a campaign, and he's allowed me to join them. So, we've been playing, and speaking of donkeys, we just got a battle donkey in the gaming session last night, and I'm very happy about this.

 

[17:39] Jim: That’s good, man. Yeah, it's so fun. I was so obsessed with RPGs, and that interactivity. It was a way to communicate. It was a way to build competence because you could do things in the game and try things out, and be way more confident, and bold. Whereas, in the real world, you can just constantly embarrass yourself, especially when you're growing up and you don't know what the hell you're doing. At the table, you can be, “well, I died, but that was funny. That's okay” or, “I tried a thing, and it went all wrong,” and that was where a lot of the joy came in that. It was huge to me, too, when I went to university, it became really a great way to meet new people, because you got the shared lexicon of these games. By that point, we have played through all sorts of different games, Shadow Run, Cyberpunk, and Rifts, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and all these different games, and by the time I was in university, the White Wolf Games were huge, like Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf, and all those things.

I met my now-wife at a goth club, in the height of the Masquerade madness. That was a thing, and realizing, A, there were tons of women that played these games, and also a bunch of them were extremely attractive and gregarious, and outgoing, and you were like, “Oh, wait. There's a whole other world here I did not realize.” That was formative, too. It's all part and parcel, but gaming stuff, comics, animation, the nerd foundation is so ridiculously strong, and it has defined my life in so many different ways.

It's come full circle. My wife and I work on a series of books for Random House called the DnD Young Adventurer’s Guides.

 

[19:18] David: Yeah, they're great.

 

[19:19] Jim: We just had book eight of our two-book series come out, so they've done very well. The parents are telling us that they've got their kids into DnD, thanks to these books, or kids are telling us stories about their characters and their imagination, and things, and I pour so much of that energy, from when I was eight, into them, and I tried to take those qualities that I felt were really formative about the game, and the things I remember how it ignited my imagination, and write with that in mind when we make those books, and I think that's why they've done so well, and without trying to sound too dramatic, why they will probably outlast me, because they do. They are grabbing people. They're in multiple languages. They just keep selling and they do very well, and all these kids, I see that sparkle in their eyes when they talk about their stories and their characters, and their adventures, and I feel so honored that I get to be their way into that because it did so much for me, creatively, and so it really does feel full circle.

We did, at Emerald City Comic Con this year, Random House had a booth, and they did a giveaway, and so they gave away 100 books, and we had this great line, and people were excited, and telling me about their adventures and how much they love DnD, or all those kinds of things, and it feels really special to be in the mix.

 

[20:33] David: It's interesting, to me, that we're in a day and age where getting people together at a table to play something like Dungeons Dragons is now a way to create in-person social interaction, whereas when I was younger.

 

[20:49] Jim: Schools and libraries, they would have the Satanic Panic.

 

[20:53] David: It was almost anti-social behavior, back in the day.

 

[20:57] Jim: And now it's like, “Oh, my God. You got off your screens, and you're seeing each other in person?”

 

[21:02] David: Exactly.

 

[21:03] Jim: Librarians are like, “Thank God, the kids are reading.” My mom took our books away at one point. So, she watched, I don't know, Donahue or one of these talk shows where they said it’s Satanic or something. So, she took the books away, because she didn't know the occult in all this stuff, and my brother and I had enough wherewithal to realize that if we flipped out, that would prove to her that we had gone to the dark side or something. We tried to calmly explain to her that these are not evil, but on the other hand, we really wanted our books back.

 

[21:37] David: Like an addict trying not to show those.

 

[21:41] Jim: “Give us the stuff,” and my dad comes home, and we're trying to negotiate with him, and he just wants to solve the problem, of course, and we convince him, that weekend, to try the game. So, my brother gets the books back, and here's the advantage.

My brother was what we call RAW, rules as written. He would just run the game. If you went on an adventure, and that adventure was across the continent, then we were going to play five hours of random encounters and weather tables. You have to earn it. You know what I mean? And on this day, there was a torrential storm, so you only moved half what you would normally on the map, and now you're in the swamp. So, we have to roll in the swamp Random Encounter table. So, we could do full sessions before we got to the adventure. You just fought a giant weevil or something because you rolled a 72 on some table. This is how he knows to play the game. So, he walks my dad, excruciatingly, through character creation, instead of nowadays, you give someone a pre-jam, and want to give them the most fun, exciting game possible. He's just dragging my dad, rolling all the stats, and explaining in grotesque detail what it all means, and there's no photocopied character sheets, and my dad has to hand-write out every effing line of ability scores, and all this stuff, and it takes him an hour and a half to make a character. My dad's eyes are glazing over. This is the worst thing ever, and then he runs the game, and it's first edition DnD.

So, my dad comes into a cave and my brother rolls a random encounter, and there's a giant spider, and he's by himself, and my dad's character dies in 20 minutes. It took him an hour and a half to roll up a character, and then he dies in 20 minutes, first encounter. I’m howling because that's pure DnD. The world is a cruel place. The dice are merciless, and my dad is just super pissed off. “What is this stupid ass thing?” And he finishes up, and he goes, “Okay, I understand,” and he just leaves the table, and literally, like a bad movie, he goes up to the bedroom to talk to my mom, and my brother and I go into the next room, and we're cupping our ears to the wall, to listen, and=my mother, she's just like, “Joe, is it evil?” My dad goes, “[…], it's not evil. It's just fucking stupid. They sit and they talk, and they talk, and they talk, and they write things down, and they do math, and they roll dice. They’re not causing any problems. So, just give them the fucking books.”

 

[24:23] David: They talk, and they talk, and they talk, and they do math, and roll dice.

 

[24:26] Jim: So, we got our books back, and I joked around, I told Chris Perkins, he's one of the developers of fifth edition DnD, in my head, I wanted to have a new edition of the DnD box set, and on the cover, it just says “it's not evil. It's just fucking stupid.” That's his review of Dungeons and Dragons. Whenever I see one of these YouTube videos of someone's grandparents playing DnD, or someone's parents, I'm like, “Ah, yes. I have done that, but not like you people. We did it old school.”

 

[25:02] David: These days with your newfangled computers.

 

[25:05] Jim: All your auto statistics.

 

[25:08] David: Auto generated characters. I'm using the DnD Beyond app.

 

[25:14] Jim: Oh, yeah. It's so great.

 

[25:15] David: It makes things so much easier.

 

[25:17] Jim: Yeah. It’s incredible.

 

[25:18] David: It's pretty amazing how much easier.

 

[25:21] Jim: I know they’ve got maps now. When I was running stuff during the pandemic, I would use DnD Beyond for the character stuff, and then I would use, there's something called OwlBear Rodeo.

 

[25:30] David: We're using that, too.

 

[25:31] Jim: It's great. It feels like magic compared to when I was a kid. 

 

[25:35] David: Oh, yeah. 1,000%. We're in different parts of the country, so it allows for all of us to get together, too.

 

[25:43] Jim: That’s what's so great about it. I had a moment during the height of the lockdowns and stuff, where I was grossing to my wife that I hadn’t seen people, and I missed gaming, because we would have regular board game nights and gaming nights, and we hadn't seen people in ages, and some of our friends retreated, and other people were trying to stay in touch, and it was just awkward, and then, you guys know Zack Davison, the translator. He wrote essays in the back of the Wayward book. He does manga translation. He reached out. He wanted to run a Call of Cthulhu game over Zoom with some people from Dark Horse, and some artists, and other comic people, and I was like, “playing over Zoom? I don't know,” and I was hmm-ing and hawing, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to play, and my wife, she never nagged me or whatever, but we were having dinner, and I was explained to her, Zach wanted to run a game that I didn't know if I want to play, and she gave me this death stare. She goes, “you just said your friends, you miss them, and that you're not gaming. Your friend reached out and offered to game with you, and you're not sure you want to do it. What else do you need? You need a gold engraved invitation or whatever?”

So, we started gaming. It was a joy. I was running with a regular group on Wednesday nights during the pandemic, and it was a way for us, the first half-hour would just be us commiserating and talking about our fears, and “man, I wonder if comics is going to survive,” and all that stuff, and then we would game together and laugh, and really break bread. It was great. It was really fun.

 

[27:08] David: So, is that how you got through the pandemic?

 

[27:12] Jim: Yeah. A lot of cooking. I learned to make a lot of stuff.

 

[27:15] David: Yeah, you threw a lot of stuff on Twitter. Everything looks delicious, and it always makes me feel lesser. This guy's over here, making comics, and he's an excellent cook, and I'm just a schlub sitting on the couch, watching basketball again. 

 

[27:33] Jim: If you would’ve told me in college that I would be a decent cook. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and I just ignored all of that. The kitchen was like wizardry to me. I didn't understand what the hell was going on, and I moved out on my own. I remember the first time I bought my own groceries, and literally, I finished buying groceries and I saw the bill, and it was insanely high, and I called my parents and I apologized for years of being such a prick about “why don't you buy Cap’n Crunch instead of the no-name brand cornflakes, or whatever?” and then I had looked at that bill, and I went, “Oh, I understand now. I just bought nothing, and it cost me so much money,” but I still didn't know how to cook anything. The whole time I was in college, I didn't know how to cook anything.

For a year, I lived with my aunt and uncle, and my aunt, she worked in an office, and she would come through the door, look through the fridge, or she had picked up something from the butchers on the way home from work, and she would just whip up these amazing meals. People would be coming over spontaneously and she would just make up these incredible spreads, and I thought “I want to be a host like that. That's what adults do. Adults make food,” and troglodyte sitting there, was just, “I can fry an egg or get a bowl of cereal, and grilled cheese is the extent of my culinary knowledge,” or whatever.

With the advent of YouTube and stuff, it was like, “Oh, I can watch people and figure this stuff out, and bit by bit, get better and better at cooking.” I wanted to get better at it. I would cook little things and get okay at it, and then the pandemic was like, “Well, what else are you going to do? You can watch the news and hate the world more today, or pour yourself into something vaguely productive,” and I know a bunch of people, whatever, did sourdough starters and a bunch of other things, and all the restaurant food that we were missing, I was going to figure out how I was going to make it. So, I made pasta from scratch, or I would do these big, elaborate spreads, and it was just for my wife and I, and she would laugh at me making these super fancy meals. She’d be like “it's just us,” and I'm like “you know what? It's a productive use of my time, instead of screaming into the void.”

 

[29:34] David: Yeah, instead of just slowly going crazy. Instead of just drinking a full bottle of wine every night, like I did.

 

[29:43] Jim: I was like, “well, I could do this.” Projects are shutting down and I'm just like, “well, I just made a pizza.”

 

[29:56] David: Did you have a comic bookstore near you when you were growing up?

 

[30:00] Jim: We had a couple. Oshawa was shockingly nerdy. So, Oshawa is called the city that MotoVates Canada. It's got one of the General Motors plants, but in that same way, I think there was a weird, nerdy foundation beneath it all. At one point, there was three comic bookstores in this town of less than 100,000 people.

 

[30:18] David: That's impressive.

 

[30:19] Jim: Yeah, one of them is still around. It's changed names, but the owner is still there. When I go in to visit my parents, who are still in the same house I grew up, and I will stop by the shop occasionally and chat with the guy there, but there's three different comic bookshops, eventually. There was a used bookstore. So, that was a pretty good nerdy bent all the way through, and there was also a toy store in one of the malls that, I guess, whoever ordered there, they loved ordering DnD stuff. They had a really good spread of role-playing games, and so we would drool over all the books we couldn't afford, and all the miniatures we wanted to buy.

 

[30:54] David: We were talking a little bit about access and how access makes things, it feeds the fandom in a way.

 

[31:01] Jim: That was the thing, those little communities. You'd come into the store, and you'd have a pull list, and you'd hear about whatever the hot new title is, or people became excited about things. The first time I ever got a signature from a comic book creator, there's a Canadian artist named Ken Stacy, I don't know if you know.

 

[31:16] David: Oh, yeah. Sure.

 

[31:18] Jim: He lived in Toronto, and he came to Oshawa and did a signing. He had done an issue of Marvel Fanfare, a series I would never have bought, normally, but they had a big stack of them there, and this guy was signing them, and I was so in awe that a Canadian guy had made this thing for Marvel, and my hands were shaking when I met him, it so exciting, and he signed this thing to me, and everything else. So many years later, I got to tell Ken he was my first comic book autograph, and he laughed about it. It's pretty cool, and then it was doable that people made these things.

 

[31:51] David: I was going to ask, is that where it hits you that “oh, hey. This is a thing that people do for a living”?

 

[31:56] Jim: There were other names. You eventually figure out that “these books are better than those books.” You know what I mean? I like the ones drawn by these artists, like Arthur Adams or Michael Golden, Ron Frenz, or John Romita Jr inked by John Romita Senior on that Amazing Spider Man run. There were certain artists that were like, “Oh, those are better. Those ones look right.” It's funny because the Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Paul Neary, he was an editor, but he was also an artist. He drew a ludicrous number of the full character images in the Marvel Handbook of the Universe.

 

[32:32] David: I didn't know that.

 

[32:34] Jim: His version felt very formative, John Byrne, of course, John’s stuff was all […] over the 80s. So, it was X Men stuff, and Fantastic Four, and Hulk, and Alpha Flight, and so those things became very formative in that way, as well, where you were like, “well, those artists are better than these other ones,” and when they're drawing the book, it is the Marvel Universe, and when these other people draw them, it's stunt doubles and weird, ugly cousins.

 

[33:03] David: Weird, ugly cousins.

 

[33:05] Jim: You know what I mean? Reading a book, it'd be particularly galling when they'd be in the middle of a storyline, and they'd need to get a fill-in artist. Just, “suddenly, everyone looks like ass now. Thor is supposed to look like when Walt Simonson draws it. Who's this other dude?” It's no one's fault. It's just the nature of the beast, and so in your mind, it just felt like that's the way those characters are supposed to look. That's the way they’re supposed to be.

 

[33:32] David: At what point in that did you go “I think I’m going to try and make a living with it?”

 

[33:36] Jim: It wasn't a plan, at all, honestly. I had no aspirations to make comics as a career because that was impossible. As far as I knew, growing up, the only people who made the comics that I loved, either lived in New York City, or were in Los Angeles, or were brilliant and British, and I was none of those things, and so that wasn't going to happen, clearly, and so for me, my way into the creative career was actually animation, because I love animated films, and I loved cartoons and all that, growing up, and I found out that there was a school just outside Toronto that had a program that taught classical, Disney-style, hand-drawn animation, and a bunch of Disney animators had come from there, and when I saw the credits of a Disney movie, there were hundreds of names, and my little creative goal was “I'm good enough to be one of those people, scrolling past on the screen. I could never be the person whose name would be on the front cover of a book. That's just dumb. Little kids from Oshawa don't do that.”

It wasn't that I didn't want to do comics. It just seemed titanically impossible that that would ever happen. You know what I mean? So, animation felt like, “Oh, I could do that. I could eventually move to Florida or California and work on a Disney movie and be one of those talented little quiet Canadian guys chipping away and drawings characters.” So, that's what I went to school for. Eventually, I took a year of Film Art intensive, and then I learned classical animation, and while I was in school taking classical animation, the Internet was really coming into its own, and most of us didn't have access to the internet. There was no internet access at the dorm, but on school, there was a computer lab, and you could just sign up for time, and I noticed there were these people making comics online. First, I was looking through web pages and fan pages, and all sorts of stuff.

By this point, I wasn't collecting superhero stuff anymore. My brother had gone off to university, and again, he's my proto nerd for all these things, and the Waterloo Science Fiction Club had basically become an anime club. So, the University of Waterloo, here in Ontario, had a really well-regarded computer engineering and computer programming, and a bunch of prodigious Japanese students had come over, and they brought a bunch of their comics and their cartoons with them, and they absolutely hooked the Sci-Fi club, just went from Star Trek and Isaac Asimov, and all that stuff, and they just all turned and went Japanese everything. My brother came home for Thanksgiving that year, and he brought a VHS tape of a copy of a Japanese laser disc, on VHS, of Akira, and there was no subtitles, and we had no idea what was going on. I had to watch this a two-hour movie of faces blowing up and things going wild, and I just couldn't get enough of it.

We watched Akira, we watched an anime called Blackmagic M-66, by eventually the creator of Ghost in the Shell. There was Bubblegum Crisis. So, we watched those, and everything is sci-fi cyberpunk, badass, amazing, violent, sexy, crazy. What? So, I was obsessed. I fell into that. I got copies of those VHS tapes. I showed all my friends, and then they became obsessed with it, and I was their dealer. I was getting stuff from the University of Waterloo. This is pre–World Wide Web internet. So, the universities would have electronic DBSs. They’d have forums where they would post up messages, and so these fan clubs would basically go “okay, we bought these Japanese laser discs, and we're going to run them through an Amiga with something called a Gen Lock, or we're going to fan subtitle them ourselves. The Japanese students are going to translate them. We'll do this movie. If this other club does this other movie, and then we'll trade copies.”

There was a network of about six universities that were trading anime tapes. So, that's where I saw my first Ghibli movies. That's where I saw Lupin and all these, but also romantic comedies and stuff. A bunch of little dramas and things. They weren't all action. It was everything, and I was like, “wow, every genre, every story. It was so crazy to me,” and so I'm going somewhere with this, I swear. Once I got to university myself and I was taking animation, I would log on to time in the network in the computer lab to go to my favorite anime fan sites, or go to those forums and things, and then I stumbled across, someone had made a comic online, and there were these guys, like Penny Arcade and PvP, Scott Kurtz, and then you got Tycho and Gabe, and they were making these fun little three-panel strips and jokes, and all that stuff. I bookmarked those and I just started reading them and being like, “oh, people make comics online. That's neat,” and then GeoCities started up, and you could make your own website, and so my first website was an anime fan site, and I was obsessed with a particular anime, manga creator named Masakazu Katsura.

He'd done a bunch of these different series, like Video Girl Ai, and stuff like that. I really loved his artwork. He had this beautiful, sensitive line and all kinds of things, and that was the first time I ever contacted a publishing professional because, I think, do you know Carl Horn? He's written tons about the anime industry, and he was a translator, and stuff like that. He was translating some of Katsura’s work into English, and he sent me a little email and basically said, “Hey, you’ve got a bunch of artwork and pages up from this manga. We're going to be publishing it officially in English. Can you please take it down?”

 

[39:45] David: That was your first?

 

[39:46] Jim: Wow. It was a nice cease and desist letter.

 

[39:51] David: You're like “I’ve got his email, now.”

 

[39:53] Jim: Yeah, I got an email address of a real working professional, and then there was a comic book forum, and someone said that there were a couple of comic book artists and writers who had email addresses, because people were starting to use email more regularly for professional work, and there was a list going around of “here is, whatever, Peter David and Rob Liefeld, and Todd McFarlane, and Erik Larson's email addresses. Don't write them anything, but here they are,” like you had this forbidden list, or whatever. I was so scared. I had this thing I'm not supposed to have. I have an email address for these people, and I emailed, Scott McDaniel was the first comic book professional I saw who had his own website, and on his website, he had his email address, publicly, and he said, “email me if you liked my work,” and I was like, “he gave me permission. I guess, it's okay.” I emailed him, and he sent me back a nice little note that was like, “Oh, thank you. I'm glad you liked my stuff.” I was like, “wow. This guy works in comics. That’s crazy.”

 

[40:52] David: I think his website is exactly the same as the one that he started with. It looks like it's at least 25 years old. I was actually just on Scott McDaniel’s website yesterday.

 

[41:03] Jim: Oh, that's funny. It's probably the same website. He’ll probably still answer your email.

 

[41:07] David: He does. He still has his email posted, right on the site.

 

[41:12] Jim: There you go.

 

[41:14] David: In fact, if you want to buy an original page of art from Scott McDaniel, you have to email him, personally.

 

[41:22] Jim: So, that was my first little fleeting edge of it. I did a couple of sample pages that I put together for Marvel because I was in school, and I thought, “well, that'd be the ultimate summer job. What if I could draw for Marvel? I learned how to draw some stuff. I know perspective and anatomy now. Practically a professional.” I put together, I don't know, three or four sample pages, and before I sent them to Marvel, on a whim, I emailed them to Erik Larsen, and Erik Larsen tore me a new asshole.

 

[41:50] David: I was going to say.

 

[41:51] John: He didn’t love them? What? Erik Larsen?

 

[41:56] Jim: No, he didn't. He just totally trashed them, and just great advice. He gave me a bunch of “you don't know what the hell you're doing,” and that was great. I was so thrilled he emailed me back, even as he just blowtorches them back, and then I fixed that, I thought, and I sent them, and I got my rejection letter from Marvel, and I’ve still got it. I was like, “wow, I got rejected from Marvel. This is great.” I was just puttering around, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and I got my first job in animation. I was in this little independent art studio. We were doing our own thing, and I thought, the frustrating thing is that making animation, of course, is an excruciating process, and you're a little cog in the machine, but these webcomics, you could just make them, and I’ve got my own GeoCities site. I can just repurpose the HTML. I know how that stuff works under the hood, enough to put an image and make my own little thing.

At the time, there was this web hosting thing for webcomics called Keenspot, and Keenspace, and you could make your own junk, and so I put my own together, and I just started posting on pages because I wanted to have a creative outlet that wasn't under anyone else's control, and I made this little webcomic, John mentioned the name earlier, called the Makeshift Miracle. I made 12 pages ahead, and so I’d post three pages a week, but I always had a three-week buffer. So, I was always working ahead, because I was like, “that's what a professional does. You're going to have yourself a buffer, make sure you stay on top of this thing,” and so I started posting things up, and I did that for a few months, and then I was taking a break for Christmas, and it was a different time. There were no RSS feeds. John could tell you. It was very different times. If people stop going to your website, you're dead in the water. If they thought you stopped updating, your traffic would just vanish, overnight, and so I posted on the front page and I said “I'm just taking a break for a couple of weeks, for Christmas and New Year's. I swear I'm coming back in January. Don't stop reading, and I know sometimes the pages aren't as good as they could be, but I'm doing the best I can.” Just this classic artist self-flagellating, kind of thing.

About half an hour after I posted that update, I got an email, completely out of the blue, from Scott McCloud, and all it says, “you're doing a great job. Don't be so hard on yourself. Really looking forward to reading more,” and I was just like, “whoa.” I just completely lost my mind, because that’s the Understanding Comics guy, and he's a real professional. He's award-winning, and he wrote a whole book on comics, and he's reading my comic book.

 

[44:29] David: He must know what he's talking about.

 

[44:31] Jim: Yeah, and so, I emailed him that “I'm so sorry, Mr. McCloud. I'm doing the best I can,” and he was just like, “here's my phone number,” and he just sent me his phone number, and we got on a call, and we just started chatting, and he was the nicest, most supportive dude, and said, “I think the web is going to be this really powerful, creative delivery tool for comics and everything else, and we're at the cusp of something amazing. You should be part of the conversation” and I'm like “What conversation?” And then he goes, “conversation about the future of comics,” and I said, “how does this work?” And he goes, “well, you’ve got to come to San Diego Comic Con,” and over the next four to five months, he convinced me to go to San Diego 2002, and I told him, I was barely covering my bills at the time, I had student loans, and all this stuff, and I said, “Look, there's no way. I can't fly down there. I have nowhere to stay, and I don't have a badge,” and then, it was a different time. He just contacted San Diego and said, “This guy's a working professional.”

So, they enrolled me as a pro and I got a badge, and then he introduced me to a couple of people, and so I had a couch to crash on in San Diego all of a sudden, and then I just needed the flight, and I still couldn't afford it. It was, whatever, $600, and there was no way I was going to pull that together, and I told my proto-nerd, I told my brother, and he knew who Scott McCloud was, he has Understanding Comics, and I told him Scott McCloud's talking to me about a comic book, and he couldn't believe it, and I told him, “I can't go. Maybe I'll go in 2003, or something,” and my brother calls my dad up out of the blue, and says, “Jim's got the opportunity of a lifetime. If he doesn't do this, he'll regret it forever,” and my dad knows nothing about nerd stuff and doesn't understand the Internet or anything else. Whatever tone was in my brother's voice, my dad bought me a plane ticket

 

[46:17] David: Aw. That makes me tear up.

 

[46:19] Jim: This was still the era where there were all these articles about people luring each other to their death online and stuff like that. “Those aren't real human beings. They're predators” and all this, and I'm flying to California, like “whoa, well, I wonder how this is going to go.”

 

[46:34] John: Scott killed 30 people.

 

[46:39] David: Whenever we do interviews with people, I always just write little random notes, things that the person we're interviewing said. The only thing I've written on my notepad so far is “Scott McCloud groomed Jim Zub.”

 

[46:56] Jim: Wow. So, harsh. Scott is one of the best people ever, by the way. That guy seriously, milk of human kindness. The way I meet him is so hilarious, too, when I meet him in person. One of the other webcomic people who was living in San Diego, who had never met me, picked me up at the airport, and took me to the grocery store, to Ralph's, you guys all know the Ralph's there in San Diego, and I bought a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a jar of jam. So, I basically live off peanut butter and jam sandwiches for the entire show, because I had no money, and was just the kindness of others that I was eating anything other than those goddamn sandwiches for the week, and went to that show, and I get my bags, and I come walking in, and of course, I beeline over to Scott’s table because I want to thank him and meet him in person, and at that moment, he's talking to Chris Claremont, and they've got a computer there, and he's showing Claremont web stuff, and I'm just wandering over, and this is the purest Scott McCloud moment.

He's talking to Claremont and pointing out a bunch of things about the infinite scroll and all that stuff, infinite canvas of comics, and Claremont’s like “this is super weird.” He doesn't understand it, and Scott just glances over, sees my name on my badge, is like “Oh, Jim,” and he comes over, gives me a big hug, and then he points to Chris, and goes “Chris, do you know Jim?” Yeah, that's right. Chris Claremont. Claremont was looking at my badge and looking at my face and apologizing. He's all like, “I haven't had the pleasure. I'm so sorry. What do you do?” And I was like, “literally nothing you've ever heard of, Mr. Claremont,” but in Scott’s mind, everyone who makes comics is basically equal ground, and worthy, and family, and all that stuff, and that's the purest Scott moment right there.

 

[48:45] David: That's awesome.

 

[48:46] John: The difference in what was going through those two gentleman's heads at that moment was astounding.

 

[48:51] Jim: Of course.

 

[48:2] John: Was the year I met you, and then, was that the year we went to the Chinese restaurant at origin Plaza?

 

[48:57] Jim: Yes. We all hung out on that patio area and stuff, and there's those photos of all those guys.

 

[49:06] John: Not to derail us from you, but talking about a different time, being able to get badges. So, I was in England. We'd been talking, so we knew each other by then, but we just knew each other from Modern Tales, because Modern Tales hadn’t started by then. Flew out that summer to come back to visit our family. I was like “I’ll see you around Comic Con, and then I’ll try to go to Comic Con.” I don't have a pass. I go in line. I was going to try to talk my way in. I stand in the pro rep line. I get up in front. This woman looks up and she's a friend of mine from high school, who I didn’t know had anything to do with Comic Con, and she goes, “Barber? I bet you're glad to see me.”

 

[49:47] Jim: That’s amazing. Wow. Talking about an incredible coincidence. That's so awesome. It was a different time. I remember, that was the year I think they broke 50,000 for attendance, and they were like “it'll never be bigger than this.” We were just like, “wow.”

 

[50:03] John: Scott was so important to everybody at that thing. I had a similar experience with him, where he was so welcoming, and I still tell people advice that he gave me. He gave it to everybody, because I've read it.

 

[50:17] Jim: Sure, but that was the whole thing is, it was great advice, and that idea that if you made comics, you were part of it, that you could be part of it, and you weren’t being ostracized, and it didn't matter how small your audience was, and there was no such thing as a niche, and it was “just make comics and be interactive, and be engaged.” I remember, Joey Manly saying to me, he's like, “how much traffic are you getting on Makeshift Miracle?” And at the time, I think I had like, maybe 10-12,000 regular readers, but I didn't know what that meant. I was comparing myself to, whatever, Penny Arcade, and at some point, Scott Kurtz had said, when he left, there was some web hosting site that was hosting PvP, and when he left, he said he had a quarter of a million readers or something, and I was like, “so 10,000 is nothing.” That was what that said to me. Do you know what I mean? So, Joey says “how many readers do you have?” I said, “10,000,” and he goes, “that's crazy.” He goes, “most indie comics, self-published stuff, they would kill for 1000 readers.” It's just like, what?

 

[51:26] John: Hey, this is John here. We went a little long again. So, we will be back next time with the rest of our interview with Jim Zub, and we'll finally talk some Conan and, oh, man, all kinds of other stuff. It goes all over the place, but it's a great interview. Hope to see you back next time, and thank you, as always, for joining us on The Corner Box.

 

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