Jim Zub

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I’m proud to say I’ve tabled at every Calgary Expo since the show launched in 2006 and have a pin-up in every art book. Here’s the latest one.If you’re at the show, come by TABLE X-07 to see me this weekend.
Books, art prints, sketches… come by to say “hi” and get comics signed or snag Skullkickers and more directly from the source.

I’m proud to say I’ve tabled at every Calgary Expo since the show launched in 2006 and have a pin-up in every art book. Here’s the latest one.

If you’re at the show, come by TABLE X-07 to see me this weekend.

Books, art prints, sketches… come by to say “hi” and get comics signed or snag Skullkickers and more directly from the source.

Filed under Calgary Expo Conventions

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Anonymous asked: How do you decide on how many panels a page should have?

The artist I’m working with along with story and action will dictate the paneling. Older superhero comics tended to pack in lots of panels per page (6-10 was common) while modern comics tend to have less, but every artist and project is different.

For myself: openings and cliffhangers tend to be full page splashes or 2-3 panels at the most. Same goes for big action, 2-3 panels on a page. Dialogue heavy scenes tend to get broken up into more panels, typically 4-6 panels on a page.

Again, there’s no wrong answer as long as the artist has room to deliver on what you’ve written for them. More important than an arbitrary number of panels is understanding how much information or text you can put in one panel without making it too much for the artist to reasonably illustrate.

The more you work with a particular artist, the better you’ll be able to gauge your panel count.

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Anonymous asked: Jim, you said, "Don’t treat the lettering as something incidental. Lettering can make or break a comic. It controls how a reader moves through each page. Good lettering is crucial to your comic’s success." Can you explain that statement in more detail?

I see a lot of comics with poorly done/rushed looking lettering and it really brings down the final look and feel of the story it’s trying to present.

Lettering, when it’s done well, is almost invisible so it’s easy to take it for granted. It’s clear, well presented, guides the viewer from balloon to balloon and panel to panel in such a way that the storytelling is clear and a reader is able to get lost in the character interactions and story as a whole.

When it’s poorly done, all of that grinds to a halt. The flow of the page is interrupted, the pacing is unclear and the reader is left confused/annoyed rather than entertained.

Make sure the font you’re using is a good size and legible. Break up large chunks of text into multiple balloons or captions to enhance readability. Make sure the positioning creates a logical left to right and top to bottom flow for the reader to follow (or right to left for traditional manga).

There are a few different books on comic lettering. Richard Starkings’ is one of my favorites. Once you read it you’ll never take comic lettering for granted again:


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Anonymous asked: Dear Jim, what are (in your opinion) the top 5 or top 10 mistakes to avoid, when creating comics (in general, and more exactly indie web comics)? You are a writer and editor, you know a lot about the visual artistic side of creating comics too. Thanx a lot in advance, Martin Plsko, empayacomics

It’s really hard for me to list off any kind of authoritative mistake list, but I’ll try to hit a few key things here.

• I know many first time comic creators want their first project to be be something really huge and epic to make a big splash but, more often than not, that kind of story tends to be too much for a new creator to deliver on at the start of their career. Build up your storytelling skills with smaller more focused stories, learn the craft, and then build something big later on. If you’re in to make comics over the long haul you’ll have time to do something epic later on.

• It’s better to create a project from scratch that plays to an artist’s strengths than to try and force an artist to illustrate something that isn’t a good fit for their style.

• Don’t treat the lettering as something incidental. Lettering can make or break a comic. It controls how a reader moves through each page. Good lettering is crucial to your comic’s success.

• It’s all well and good to be influenced by other things, but make sure your story is more than just a Frankenstein monster of influences stitched together. Bring something new and interesting to the table to justify a story’s existence. 

• Don’t worry about riding pop culture trends or trying to figure out what will sell, just tell a story that you as a reader would love to read. Stories that come from a genuine place of inspiration and excitement tend to be the stories that resonate with an audience too.The amount of work involved in making something new is daunting and you’ll need to love what you’re working on to carry you through the rough spots.

• Every idea evolves as it develops into a finished project. It will never be the “perfect” thing it was in your mind when you first came up with it, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the process.

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rocket-raccoon-and-groot asked: So I'm slow to the Skullkickers train. I saw you at ECCC and decided I needed to check out your book. HOLY HOT DAMN IT'S GOOD!! I think my favorite part is the sound effects (which is weird to say) did they just happen or was it always planned?

Thanks for the kind words and support. I really appreciate it.

The sound effect “thing” wasn’t part of the original pitch or my plan for the series, no. If you go back and read the first issue you’ll see that the sound effects are pretty standard. In issue 2 we’ve got “Weapons Ready”, “Powerful Leap”, and “Painful Smack” thrown in there as a little joke and readers really responded well to those.

By the time we had “Sneaky sneak” and “Imminent Violence” show up in issue 3 it was part of our little joke repertoire for the series. I try not to repeat any of them or wear our readers with too many of them, but they are really fun to come up with.

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Networking Is Not What You Think It Is

“Networking” is one of those broad social terms that get tossed out in conversation, and everyone who’s been around a while nods their head knowingly when the word comes up, but it’s something I think is quite misunderstood by a lot of people trying to get their start in comics or any other creative business.

Networking is not entering a social setting, finding the most “powerful” person there and trying to dazzle them so you can become “friends”.

It’s not sending lists of questions to professionals so they can “help” you break in.

It’s not tagging people on Facebook so they see your artwork or writing.

It’s not about dominating a conversation or hogging the spotlight.

It’s not nepotism or elitism, contrary to what some may think.

At its root, “networking” is about expanding your social circle in your related field. It’s casual conversation, shared enthusiasm, good manners, kindness, and common sense, whether those interactions are online or in person. Through the bonds of friendship and trust that build over time you’ll broaden your perspective on the creative and business sides of the industry and, eventually, find out about opportunities before people who are not as involved in those areas.

Like any kind of socializing, networking can be difficult to navigate at times. Everyone is doing their own thing and has their own wants and needs, both in the immediate and the future. There’s no perfect path for networking, but I can give you some quick tips gained from years on the convention circuit and working with publishing, video game, movie, and other entertainment companies.

• Friendly, casual: Networking isn’t contract negotiation and it’s not a job interview. Over the long, long haul it may lead to that kind of stuff later on, but don’t over formalize something that’s not all business.

• Be yourself at your best: Don’t try to put on airs or be something you’re not, but also try to be the best version of “you” that you can.

• Don’t come on too strong: I know it can feel like the current social interaction you’re having is the only time you’ll ever get the chance to sell yourself or make the big pitch, but fight that nervous urge and try to relax.

• Everyone is worth meeting: A lot of people want to meet celebrities, editors, art directors, and other decision-makers, but some of the most enjoyable and valuable networking I’ve done is with people who weren’t instantly recognizable as a “big deal”. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know and you may be surprised at who they are and what they do.

• Listen and Ask: Engage the people you meet instead of just talking about yourself. Listen to where they steer the conversation and go with the flow. It’s not all about you.

• There is no perfect conversation: Don’t rehearse what you’re going to say and don’t expect to check off a list of “key points”. Try to enjoy the interaction for what it is instead of trying to make it something it’s not.

In my experience, the best kind of networking is the stuff that feels almost effortless – enjoyable conversations about shared interests, enthusiasm for the work of others, catch-all chatter about people and places. It’s a relaxed baseline of socializing that lets people know you’re decent and worth getting to know more about. I know that doesn’t sound like it’s going to get you a job but, believe me, it’s an important first step into a larger community where those kinds of first impressions mean a lot.

People tell me that they don’t know “how” to network, but they’re usually over thinking things. Do you like meeting people who like the same kinds of things you like? Do you like talking about those shared interests? Are you in for the long haul? In my experience that’s 90% of what networking actually is.

Everyone wants to work with reliable people. Getting to know you, or hearing from other trusted people that you’re one of the “good ones”, can open up doors. It’s frustrating when that “in or out” mentality pushes away good people or doesn’t embrace a proper range of diversity, but that’s not exclusive to comics by any means. It’s something a lot of creative businesses are grappling with as views broaden and the market for stories becomes even more global.

People in these businesses talk. They weigh opinions. They gossip. I can’t tell you the number of times a name will come up in conversation and I hear the exact same feedback coming out over and over from completely different people. Word gets around, both positive or negative. Good networking (and, you know, being a decent upstanding person in general) is a valuable way of making the right kind of impression and building a solid reputation. It doesn’t get you a job all on its own, but coupled with a quality body of work and a bit of luck it does help bridge the divide from aspiring amateur to paid professional.

Let me give you a personal example – Back in 2002 John Barber and I were both amateur webcomic artists putting our work online. John’s comic was a superhero deconstruction tale called Vicious Souvenirs and mine was a surreal coming of age comic called Makeshift Miracle. The two of us met socially through the late Joey Manley as part of a webcomic collective called Modern Tales. While promoting my webcomic at that time I met all kinds of different creators and attended conventions across North America, slowly building up my skills and body of work.

Now, in 2014, John’s a Senior Editor at IDW and we’re talking about a new project I’ll be writing that’s set to launch in the Fall. In the 12 years inbetween these two select points John and I have seen each other dozens of times. We’ve chatted, laughed, and built up mutual respect for each other. There’s a professional but casual friendship that’s built up over time and it gives John confidence that I’m a capable creator who will deliver the goods. I didn’t meet him back in 2002 expecting one day he’d hire me to write a comic, things progressed naturally over time out of shared social contact as part of this community. John is just one of literally hundreds of people I’ve met in the business over the past 12 years. When I look back through my career I can see weird and wonderful connections between the people I met over a decade ago and the work I’m doing in the here and now. That’s how it works.

Networking is easier than you think – Be social, be decent, and be involved. Don’t try to over think the destination, just focus on the journey itself and enjoy meeting people along the way. You’ll make lifelong friends, broaden your horizons and then, when you least expect it, professional opportunities may come your way.

If you find my tutorial posts helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share them with your friends and consider buying some of my comics to show your support.

Filed under how to tutorial Breaking In networking

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Anonymous asked: Maybe a loaded question, but if you had one piece of advice for an aspiring comic book writer, what might it be?


Read books on history. Honest to god, this is my number one piece of advice for writers. Most non-fiction books will give you SOME ideas for stories, but books on historical events and persons are huge idea factories, in a way that the internet just doesn’t quite replicate.

So every time I go to a book shop, I check their remainder shelves for books on interesting historical events and grab them up. It is a person with a very poor imagination indeed who can’t come up with ideas after reading this stuff…My first Deadpool villain was based on King Ludwig II, the ‘mad king,’ of Bavaria. Secret Six dealt directly with prison allegories based on North Korea, China, and Ireland. The beastmaster story in Red Sonja is based on Roman arenas in rural Wales. 

This stuff is precious as gold and you can get it for almost nothing on sale at bookshops anywhere.

For the actual PROCESS of writing, the advice I have is FINISH something. Start SMALL, a column or a paragraph or a very, very short story. FINISH. That’s what counts. The act of writing teaches skills, but the act of FINISHING teaches confidence. And you will NEED CONFIDENCE.

Finish things. Finish your story and do another. An unfinished story does no one any good. FINISH.

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Anonymous asked: Do you have anymore Marvel work lined up, or is it just Figment for now?

Just Figment right now, but my fingers are crossed that other Marvel work is coming soon.

That said, I have unannounced projects under way for Image, Dark Horse, and IDW so I’m still keeping busy. :)