I had recently previewed the print edition of Jim Zub and Max Dunbar’s Stone Star, Vol. 1. Needless to say I was impressed with the volume. For both its entertaining story as well as its spot on art work. Because of that, when given the chance to talk to the creative team behind this book, I was eager to find out some of the behind the scenes machinations that brought the book to life. So to start that journey, let’s welcome writer Jim Zub to GVN’s Talking Comics Interview. Thanks for sharing part of your day, Jim.

Jim’s Beginning

GVN: Before we get into Stone Star Vol. 1: Fight or Flight, lets cover a little of your beginnings. When did you take an interest in writing and did you have any writers that you admired and wanted to perhaps emulate?

JZ: I grew up an avid novel and comic reader, but never imagined I would get the chance to write my own stories for a living until much later. I think I had a feeling that authors lived somewhere else (I grew up in a small city outside of Toronto) or had some extra push I didn’t have.

It wasn’t until I was in college and saw the way independent artists were making their own comics and posting them online that I thought this was something I could do. The simplicity of making the thing, posting new pages online for free for people to read, and making more finally convinced me it was possible. I started a webcomic called Makeshift Miracle in late 2001 and started posting 3 pages per week. That got my comic career rolling.

In terms of writers or creators I admire it’s a pretty wide field – Classic superhero comics from Roy Thomas, Roger Stern and Chris Claremont, more surreal and supernatural material from Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison, fantasy prose from Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber and manga from creators like Katsuhiro Otomo and Masukazu Katsura.

You had me at Conan

GVN: You have written for almost everyone of note in the comic book field publisher wise. Of course, you had me with Conan. I was a huge fan of the original Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor Smith/John Buscema adaptation so I was pleased to see the character continuing. Not that we are talking Conan necessarily, (but since I brought him up) did it give you any pause writing for such a beloved character and following the work that had been established before? (Love that you have brought back BÊLIT by the way)

JZ: It’s an absolute thrill to contribute to a character with such an incredible legacy in sword & sorcery. Although I’d written a few Conan tales previously, when I was offered the flagship series I didn’t actually accept the gig right on the spot. It was so unexpected and I had a lot of other projects on the go at the time, so I needed 24 hours to clear up space in my schedule to make sure I could give it the space and attention it deserved.

Inspirations for Stone Star

GVN: Well you’re doing a great job on the title. So, getting to Stone Star, I loved it. In my preview for the print version, I called it part Gladiator, part Running Man. What was your inspiration for the story?

JZ: It’s a lot of stuff that influenced me growing up – colorful adventure with an anything goes feel mixed with bits of pathos and intrigue. I wanted to build a really wide-open sandbox that Max and I could generate weird and wonderful characters in, with a structure that naturally generated conflict. It’s a bitLast Starfighter and Battle Angel Alita, but also Star Wars and Gladiator.

Max Dunbar

GVN: Well it is no wonder that I loved it. You picked four of my favorite films. Still hoping for an Alita sequel at some point, but I digress. You had a chance to work with Max Dunbar on this title. (He killed it, by the way). This was something you and he were working toward for a while. How long had you known Max and did you have a certain genre book you were hoping to collaborate on, or did you not think of it in those terms?

JZ: 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.

Character’s Voice

GVN: The dialogue in the book screamed certain voices in my head. Especially Volness. His Cool Hand Luke vibes and manner of speech suggested Clint Eastwood or Sam Elliott. As you developed these characters (perhaps along with Max) do you imagine a certain cadence or sound in the way that they speak and if so, does that reflect in their dialogue?

JZ: I had some brief notes on each character in terms of attitude, but didn’t really nail them down until max designed them. It was really collaborative. The Clint Eastwood/Sam Elliot voice is exactly what I envisioned as well, so Max is definitely hitting the mark for all of us.

GVN: When might we expect Vol. 2 in the Stone Star Saga?

JZ: Volume 2 is already available digitally via ComiXology and I’m hopeful Dark Horse will put it out in print as well. Volume 1 looks so good and it would be wonderful to have both books out for comic shops and on my book shelf.

Upcoming and Ongoing Projects

GVN: Well obviously I will check that out. Thanks so much for your time, Jim. Before I let you go, do you have any other works coming soon that you want our followers to know about?

JZ: As you mentioned, I’m the current writer of Conan the Barbarian being published monthly by Marvel. I’m also writing a crazy fun team-up between Marvel and Bandai Japan called Avengers Tech-On that launches in August and one of the writers on World of Darkness: Crimson Thaw, launching  at Vault in September.

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