Interview With Jim Zubkavich

Jim “Zub” Zubkavich is the writer and co-creator of Skullkickers currently out with Image comics. We recently featured Skullkickers as one of the 5 comic that change the way we read and buy comics. Since Skullkickers hit stands it has found it’s way into my pull list. By now you have had to of noticed the absolutely gorgeous covers gracing your comic shops shelves, the art work throughout the comic match if not exceed the cover art making this one of the best looking comics Image is putting out right now. But Skullkickers isn’t just a pretty face, the writing and story are equally brilliant with a tone and style that match the artwork. Jim Zub is the man behind the brilliance, we caught up with him and he was kind enough to answer a few questions for Panel Bound. We were able to speak about how Skullkickers was developed, working with new editors, and the importance of creator owned comics in todays marketplace. I hope you enjoy it.


First off how did you develop Skullkickers and how did you get the fantastic art team of Edwin Huang and Misty Coats on board?

Skullkickers was co-created with Chris Stevens, a ridiculously talented artist, for Image’s Popgun anthology series. Chris was invited to contribute to the anthology and we came up with a short story about two nameless monster hunting mercenaries who caused trouble and kicked ass and it was printed in Popgun V2. Erik Larsen, who was Image’s Publisher at the time, quite liked the story and asked us if we’d be interested in expanding it to a mini-series at Image.

The original mini-series (which became issues #1-5 of the ongoing series) was written with Chris in mind as the artist, but scheduling and financial problems lead to him having to bow out. I figured the series would never get done and put the story away until I met Edwin Huang over a year later. Edwin and I hit it off well. He was just getting ready to graduate from the New York College of Art and was looking for a way to get his foot in the door with the comic business so he ended up jumping onboard Skullkickers.

Christina Strain, a friend and professional comic colorist, recommend Misty as a good option for the kind of coloring I was looking for on the series and she worked out fantastically well. The two test pages she did on the series are actually in the first issue. That’s how on target they were.


Did you use a traditional pitch procedure when presenting SK to Image, or something less traditional? 

Although Erik Larsen had ‘approved’ Skullkickers, enough time had passed between that initial pitch and Edwin coming on board that Eric Stephenson was now the Publisher in charge at Image. In turn, I didn’t want to assume that he would approve us too so I ended up compiling a full pitch package containing the story outline, full first issue script and completed first issue artwork to show Eric. He was impressed with the package and gave us the go ahead on the mini-series.

By the time sales figures came in for issue #3, Eric asked if we’d like to make the series an ongoing and we happily accepted, expanding the story idea and building a much larger overplot than I’d originally planned.


Skullkickers takes the action fantasy genre and adds a unique humor violence element to it. As a writer how did you first develop this tone for SK?

I write Skullkickers as a book that I as a reader would enjoy. The violent/cartoonish tone of it, the banter and the strange situations are things that amuse me and, I hope, will also entertain our readers. Writing humor and continually trying to pull out unexpected situations that work well and keep the reader guessing is a challenge and I thoroughly enjoy it.

Skullkickers, when it’s working well, should feel sort of like Army of Darkness meets Red Dwarf or a D&D game where the players are having a good time at the Dungeon Master’s expense. If I can maintain that attitude than it all seems to come together.


You have spoken in great detail about the importance of publisher integrity especially in creator owned books, what has SK taught you about creator owned comics?

Creator owned comics, especially in this market, are a labour of love. Very few titles make enough money to provide enough income to make it a job, but you’re still competing on the exact same store shelves as titles from major publishers, so you can’t scrimp on quality. You have to work harder and push yourself further in order to stay on that level, with less time and a much smaller budget. That’s exactly why Marvel/DC hire people who are able to stand out in the creator-owned market. They know you’ve proven you can deliver under extremely difficult conditions.


When did you first decide that you wanted to write and create comics?

Although I’ve been a comic fan since I was young, I didn’t actually think it was a viable job until relatively recently, the last 4-5 years. My original intent was to stay in the animation industry because so many people are needed for animation production. The frustrating part of animation that I didn’t anticipate was that I was also going to be a very small part of a very large production pipeline and it would be extremely difficult to have creative control or contribute ideas in that field. Comics are much more immediate and I can put my ideas out there much more quickly.


What comics can you recommend to someone looking for inspiration especially from a writers stand point.? 

It’s an incredible time for creator-owned comics right now. There are a ton of great books that are establishing a solid foothold in all kinds of different genres. Some of my favorite ongoing series that inspire me lately are Atomic Robo, Casanova, Chew, Locke & Key, Invincible, The Sixth Gun and Orc Stain.


Most writers I speak with have a great deal of trouble finding an artist to draw their comic, what advice do you have for them?

There are a lot of outlets where artists gather: Penciljack, The Drawing Board, deviantART, come to mind. Put together a professional pitch and then personalize your messages to artists who are available and fit the tone of the work you’re going for. Expect that it’s going to take a while to find a good artist who is available and looking for collaboration. Also expect that the less money you have to offer them, the more flexibility and input they’ll want in the process, ownership and scheduling.


Writing a book with a humor tone can be really hard for writers, do you ever read a joke or gag you put in SK after it’s printed and think “what was I thinking?”

I think the toughest part is that you come up with a bit of banter or visual gag and then you’re going to see it dozens of times at each stage (writing, sketch, line art, color and lettering) before it’s in print. It’s hard to remember how funny it originally was and that readers will see it for the first time and, ideally, have that spontaneous reaction rather than the feeling you have now that you’ve seen it so much. You have to trust your instincts a bit, knowing that it was funny originally and that it will probably still be funny later on to the reader.


  Any last minute advice for aspiring creator owned comic writers or artists? 

Don’t try to create a comic based on trends. Don’t write creator-owned material you’re not personally invested in. The best way to make your mark is to put out something you believe in rather than hoping to piggyback on the market at large. If you’re not intensely inspired initially you won’t be able to keep dedicating yourself to it when the hours are long and rewards are distant at best.


[End Interview]

I want to thank Jim again for taking the time to chat with me about being a comic writer and creator. You can check out links to Skullkickers website as well as a link to purchase the book.

Buy Skullkickers

Skullkickers Creator Jim Zub Has Some Of The Best Comic Writing Advice Online

Here is something for you aspiring comic writers out there. Friend of the site and all around nice guy, Jim Zub from Skullkickers has put up some pretty great writing tips and tricks on his personal blog. Apparently, tired of shooting advice back and forth on Twitter, Zub started posting writing tutorials on his blog starting with part one, “brainstorming,” which offers advice like:

“The first thing I do is brainstorm a series of point form ‘things’ – facts that need to be relayed to the reader so the story makes sense – character traits, settings, antagonists, goals, character changes or revelations. It’s a giant jumble of story ideas, characters and key moments – the raw story ingredients all piled up.”

Skullkickers is a wonderful comic that has some of the best writing on shelves right now. Zub is a master of the comic script and his advice is certainly something you will want to look into. Zub’s tutorials are on their fifth part right now and range from pacing to scripting.

Going over all of this advice again while writing this post, I can tell you that pound for pound this is some of the best comic writing advice on the Internet. The whole reason we started Panel Bound was to find more information about creating comics for both writers and artists. Zub’s advice is some of the best out there especially for writers. Check out all of the writing tutorials at Zub’s blog here.

5 Comics That Will Change How You Read Comics

As a would be comic book writer I sometimes have dry spells of creativity, some days I just can’t get to the next level of a story. As of late I have been working on a few stories and for one of them I was having trouble getting pen to paper. Regardless if it was taking the plot in a natural progression or creating an organic sense of anticipation it wasn’t happening for me.

In moments like these I must remind myself that the reason I want to be in this business is the simple fact that I love comics, to me they are a well spring of creativity and what better place to find inspiration to take my scripts to the next level then in comics. So I present you several comics that represent the epitome of  artistic epiphany in my humble opinion.

B.P.R.D Plague of Frogs Volume 1 & 2 By Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis, Dave Stewart

If you have been visiting Panel Bound for a while then I am sure you have noticed my adoration for just about anything Mike Mignola and John Arcudi put out. I was luck enough to get a copy of these books from the dudes and Geek of Doom and this series completely floored me. Mignola and Arcudi manage to create the most compelling storyline I have read in years with Plague of Frogs. It’s like any other B.P.R.D book however they bring it on such a large scale that it actually managed to get under my skin and legitimately spook me, giant bug monsters, people melting, constant decapitation, these book have it all.

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine

True Story I once met Adrian Tomine at a indie comic convention and he was less then cool to me, I get that he was probably busy and all that but still I just wanted to tell this dude that Shortcomings was a life changing read. I digress, Shortcomings is exactly that a life changing read, before I read this book my pull list only consisted of comics about monsters and the heroes that bashed their heads in. After reading Shortcomings though I realized that this was the start of a new generation of the comic form and Adrian Tomine was at the forefront. This book literally changed the way I read, bought and cared about comics.

Skullkickers by Jim Zub, Edwin Huang, Misty Coats

I first heard about Skullkickers at San Diego Comic Con asI was creeping about the Image booth trying to nab interviews for the website. I was initially intrigued by this comic because the guys doing signings were probably a few years older than me and this both bummed me out (whenever I see people my age making comics professionally I get a little jealous) and made me want to check this books out immediately. I couldn’t believe that this group of creators in their (probably I am guessing) mid 20′s were creating such a polished and clean looking book being put out by Image. After checking out the first issue of Skullkickers it all started to make sense why Image was rallying behind this book so much, it’s comedy and action writing at it’s finest. The art is superb and is by far one of the most polished comics out currently.

Animal Man by Jeff Lemire

By now everyone had heard the hype about Animal Man, it’s by far the best rated New 52 title and it’s being written by a relatively new comic writer. Jeff Lemire began with his creator owned title Sweet Tooth with Vertigo which gained so much praise that DC chose him to pen Animal Man. Not only do I love this comic for it’s great writing and general sense of horror but it also to me represents the fact that if you are talented enough and create a good enough title that even the big guys at DC will take notice. Also it’s about a man who has the powers of any Animal he wants, I think that speaks for itself.

The Goon by Eric Powell

I don’t think I need to say to much about why this in my opinion is the best comic series that has been put out recently. Of course I am counting out all the series drama comics that are amazing, but pound for pound when it comes down to comedy and action The Goon has them all beat. If you haven’t read any of The Goon yet stop reading this now, throw your computer out the window and run not walk to a comic shop and buy everything with the words The Goon on them. I also met Eric Powell at SDCC and he was the nicest guy I have ever met which only added to how much I liked this comic.

Every week I will be adding to this list, mainly to remind myself of why I love comics so much and also maybe helping someone else find a comic that will inspire them to be a better artists, writer, etc. If you have comics that do this for you drop me a line at and let me know, I would love to share your suggestions at the site and spread the word.