‘Stone Star’ Writer Jim Zub: The Conskipper Interview

Jim Zub is one of the most prolific comic writers in the industry, working on projects ranging from IDW’s Samurai Jack and Dungeons and Dragons, to Marvel’s Thunderbolts and Conan the Barbarian.

Zub has also found the time to continue to work on creator-owned projects, which can be traced back to some of his earliest work at Image Comics in the form of Skullkickers and Wayward.

This week Zub, along with artist Max Dunbar, bring their ComiXology series Stone Star over from the digital world to the world of traditional trade paperback collections. We got a chance to talk to Zub about the new Dark Horse Comics collection as well as many of his previous and upcoming comic series in this exclusive Conskipper interview.

Origins of Stone Star?

Jim Zub: Max and I started working together back in 2014 on the official Dungeons & Dragons comic series and have teamed up for several projects since then. With each one we talked about how fun it would be to do a creator-owned series together and with Stone Star we finally did it.

Max is such an incredible designer, so I just wanted him to be able to play in this environment where it felt like just about anything goes – aliens, creatures, robots, you name it. Whatever crazy-cool visuals he had in mind, we could incorporate it into the arena or on one of the planets Stone Star visits.

How does the idea of the Stone Star visiting other planets change/enhance the idea of the gladiator arena?

Zub: The ability for our Stone Star arena to go to distant planets and each one has its own strange environment and challenges really opens up the field in terms of story and character. It’s the gladiatorial concept on a cosmic scale with a ridiculously varied cast of aliens, creatures, and robots.

Thoughts on working with Max on Stone Star?

Zub: Max is genuinely one of the best collaborators I’ve ever worked with. He puts so much thought and care into the environments, the characters, and the storytelling. Stone Star works because of Max’s incredible visuals. It’s that simple.

There are so many creatures and aliens featured in Stone Star. What went into the process of populating the world for you and Max?

Zub: A lot of the core cast started as a brief description in terms of attitude and role in the story, but didn’t really come together until Max’s sketches started rolling in. In the back of the trade you can see lots of the sketches Max did and which characters he hit right off the bat whole others went through an evolutionary process.

You have done an extensive amount of work for IDW on Dungeons & Dragons titles. Why do you think RPGs have experienced a new renaissance in an age of technology?

Zub: I think that people are overwhelmed with entertainment options, but that the passive nature of it – sitting and watching other people’s stories – is starting to become boring. The ability to interact with your friends (or make new friends) at the table, in-person or virtually online, interact and create is really appealing in ways that are pretty unique.

In terms of Conan, what is your history with the character?

Zub: My first credited professional comic credit was as a colorist on reprints of Conan the Barbarian published by Dark Horse in 2003. In 2015 I co-wrote the Conan Red Sonja crossover mini-series with Gail Simone. From there I wrote Conan scenes in Avengers: No Road Home, bringing Conan back to the Marvel Universe, a 3-part Savage Sword of Conan story called “the Gambler” with Conan in a gambling den where his life in on the line, and Serpent War, a cross-dimensional epic with Solomon Kane, Dark Agnes, and Moon Knight fighting against elder gods. The Gambler and Serpent War really stood out to my Marvel editor and the crew at Conan Properties, and I was asked to take over the flagship Conan the Barbarian series in early 2020.

Why is Bêlit such an important character in the Marvel Comics stories? Thoughts on writing #300?

Zub: Bêlit is an iconic character from one of Conan’s most iconic prose stories – “Queen of the Black Coast”. She represents a period of strength and maturity for Conan where he seems to have his future figured out before tragedy strikes. That mixture of high adventure, intrigue and romance grabbed a lot of readers when it was originally released and also represented a great period of the classic comics as well with Roy Thomas and John Buscema crafting a lot of memorable tales. Getting the chance to create a new Bêlit tale with Conan for the big anniversary is a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to contribute to a big anniversary issue like this. Getting to do it with artist Cory Smith and colorist Israel Silva makes it even better.

How did you approach your upcoming Avengers Tech-On series with the idea that they would be made into Bandai figures?

Zub: Bandai had already set the cast and designed the armored power suits before I came on board to write the mini-series, so it was really about using the material already generated and finding ways to make it all work as a fun tokusatsu-inspired series. My goal throughout working on the series has been big action, big drama and lots of surprises. Jeff Cruz is our artistic whirlwind on the series and he has been leveling it up on every single page.

Many Disney fans have fond memories of your Figment series. What was it like expanding on a cult favorite Disney character and did you have any “rules” that you needed to adhere to?

Zub: Building out an origin for Dreamfinder and Figment was a lot of fun. The gang at Disney Imagineering were really enthusiastic and supportive. Tying in other elements of the Disney parks and cameos of Disney franchises required quite a bit of back and forth, but I think we struck a good balance in the end with Easter Eggs that the fans recognized without letting it distract too much from the core story we were trying to tell. Felipe Andrade and Ramon Bachs also really made those series stand out visually. The Disney fans have been really kind about the series and it’s always a blast signing copies at conventions.

Upcoming projects?

Zub: The collected edition of Strangers Things and Dungeons & Dragons, a nostalgic team-up series I co-wrote with Jody Houser, arrives this month in stores. I’m also one of the writers on World of Darkness: Crimson Thaw, launching at Vault in September. Lots of fun projects underway.

The Dark Horse Comics edition of Stone Star Vol. 1: Fight or Flight will be available in finer comic shops everywhere on July 7 and you can also pick up the Strangers Things and Dungeons & Dragons graphic novel right now.

Look for Avengers: Tech-On Avengers #1 in August and Conan the Barbarian #300 and World of Darkness: Crimson Thaw in September.

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