After eight years, over 30 issues, and numerous short stories, Image's Skullkickers is going out with a not-quite-mathmetically-correct bang with June's Skullkickers #100. Sure, May's issue is only Skullkickers #34 -- but with a tongue-in-cheek medieval bar-room brawling epic like this, it comes with the territory.
Originally launched as a standalone short story in 2007's Popgun Anthology, Skullkickers went on to be thriving ongoing series for Jim Zub, Edwin Haung, Misty Coats, Chris Stevens and Jeff "Chamba" Cruz. But now Zub has an end in sight for the two unnamed medieval mercenaries, and Newsarama talked to him about the countdown to the finale.
Newsarama: Jim, what’s coming up in this final arc of Skullkickers?
Jim Zub: Our final arc is a ridiculous ‘brawl to end it all’ at a dimensional nexus wedged between time and space called ‘The Gizzard’, a tavern ‘archetype’ where way too many fantasy stories begin. The many disparate elements from our previous adventures all slam together in a gigantic battle buffet with tons of action, lots of cameos, and a few unexpected revelations.
Nrama: The final issue sees you jumping the numbering from #32 to #100 – is that just a number, or are you literally jumping ahead in time with the final issue?
Zub: Without giving too much away, yes, there’s an in-story reason for the number jump above and beyond just making fun of other publisher’s tendency to pull big numbers out of their butts for an anniversary or event. It’s not just a time jump, but it’s something in that vein. It’s going to be a ton of fun.
Nrama: Skullkickers has been the little comic that could – first as a story in an anthology, then a five-issue series and now this – 34 issues by the time you finish. Back when you were writing that short story, did you ever think you’d be here at this point?
Zub: Not at all, no. The whole thing has been wonderful and surreal. The original short stories Chris Stevens and I did for Popgun were just a side project, a little creative outlet at the time. When Erik Larsen, who was Image Publisher at the time, asked if we’d be interested in making it a mini-series I thought that would be as far as it would go but, like you said, it just kept chugging along. Once we decided to go past our first arc knew I’d need a long term plan and this sixth and final arc has been part of that since early-mid 2011.
Nrama: Skullkickers has been the through line for your emergence as a full-time writer after being previously known primarily as just a staffer at UDON Entertainment. Since then you’ve continued to write Skullkickers while also doing other creator-owned and work-for-hire projects, as well as losing a couple letters on your last name. Come May when the final issue comes out, what will Skullkickers mean to you?
Zub: Without trying to sound overly dramatic, it’s honestly changed my life. Skullkickers reinvigorated a desire in me to create stories and, as it started coming out, it helped purge a lot of the internal fears I had about taking something from concept through to a published work. It established me in the comic industry as a writer but it also built a creative foundation inside me, something I could lean on as I moved forward. When it came out in 2010 I could hardly imagine writing a regular comic and now it’s hard to imagine not having multiple writing projects on the go. The change over the past five years has been incredible.
Nrama: What are you filling in that place on your work schedule with no Skullkickers to do?
Zub: At first it’ll be sleep and social time with friends and family, but Wayward is definitely moving into a lot of that creative space as well. I have other creator owned concepts I’m developing but I want to make sure Skullkickers is complete before I start putting a timeline on when/where for those.
Nrama: Do you, Edwin, Misty, Marshall and the others involved with the book have something planned for when you finish the last bit of the book?
Zub: I’m sure there will be a round of email congrats all around, probably some kindly phone calls, and celebratory pints at conventions we’re at. That’s one of the weird parts about working digitally and living so far apart. We rarely get to celebrate the book together. In the past five years Edwin, Misty, and I have only signed all together once, at a shop signing put together by Third Eye Comics. Even at conventions it’s only ever one or two of us together at a time.
When the third deluxe Skullkickers Treasure Trove volume comes out and our ‘trilogy’ is complete I’m really looking forward to putting that on my bookshelf beside the other two. I expect when I do there will be some kind of thunderclap or minor earthquake.
Nrama: So last question is this – is June’s Skullkickers #100 the last we’ll see of these two?
Zub: If you’re asking me today I’ll say ‘Yes’, but I reserve the right to change my mind later on. It’s too close for me right now to have any kind of proper perspective about the end, let alone other possible stories.
Of course, I’m only talking about the comics. If there’s interest in other media then anything is possible. They've already had a Munchkin booster pack, were used as a stretch goal in the Rum & Bones board game Kickstarter, and made a special appearance in the mobile game Super Glyph Quest. Maybe our mercenary morons will invade other game, animated, or live action spaces down the road. They’re durable, stubborn, and full of surprises.