Jim Zub made his name in comic books playing off the tropes of fantasy roleplaying, and now he's gone right to the source of many of those ideas as the primary writer of Dungeons & Dragons comic books. Zub's latest series, Dungeons & Dragons: Frost Giant's Fury, with artist Netho Diaz, brings back the party of adventurers that Zub has guided through several previous quests.
Like a skilled Dungeon Master, Zub has brought his characters forward to a new adventure that centers on a subject that should be familiar to comic book fans: Frost Giants. Drawing on his past work with Skullkickers, high fantasy, and a healthy dose of classic D&D, Zub's latest story sits right at the intersection of comic books and gaming.
Newsarama spoke to Zub ahead of the December debut to talk about what's in store for his party of adventurers, and Zub's own history with Dungeons & Dragons.
Newsarama: Jim, you're once again playing Dungeon Master here with Dungeons & Dragons: Frost Giant’s Fury. What's the campaign?
Jim Zub: Frost Giant’s Fury is a story about survival and redemption. In their previous adventure our heroes were soundly defeated and now, lost in the frozen north of the Forgotten Realms and left for dead, they need to pull together in order to survive. Complicating that even further is an army of Frost Giants destroying everything in their path.
Nrama: The group here comes straight from the previous Legends of Baldur’s Gate and Shadows of the Vampire mini-series, but for those who aren't familiar can you run down the group?
Zub: Minsc is a legendary Human Ranger who helped save Baldur’s Gate over a century ago. Through mishaps and magic he’s been transported to the present (along with his hamster companion Boo) and continuing his endless quest to kick evil in its stinking posterior.
Delina is an Elven Wild Mage, a magic-wielder who casts spells through an innate connection to magic rather than careful training. Her bond with mystic forces is quite powerful, but it can also run amuck when she least expects it, getting her and her companions into trouble.
Shandie is a Halfling Rogue specializing in archery with a quick temper and big heart. She fights for what she believes in.
Krydle is a Half-Elven Rogue, a troublemaker with fast blades and an even faster mouth.
Nerys is a Human Cleric who worships the God of Death, but that doesn’t mean she wants everything around her to die. She believes in the sanctity of life and cares for the dying while railing against unnatural death and the undead.
Nrama: Frost Giants - comic book fans are generally predisposed to read that and think of Thor's Asgardian Frost Giants. What are these like here in D&D?
Zub: The Frost Giants of D&D lore are 20-foot tall Viking-style blue-skinned giants who had kept mostly to themselves in recent years, but are now raiding villages of the north with unexpected vigor. Something has changed amongst the hierarchy of the Giants and all of them are on the march, causing havoc wherever they go.
Nrama: Some comic books based on RPG’s utilize some meta-elements of RPG gaming, but I noticed your D&D run has not. Why did you choose to keep it a straight fictional story?
Zub: The Dungeons & Dragons RPG is the source material for the comic and everything that takes place in our story can happen in a D&D game session, but I don’t want those rules mechanics or other game aspects to distract from enjoyable characters and an engaging story. I don’t want to only cater to readers who play the game. The D&D comics should act as a standard bearer of what makes the RPG game so great. The less “rules talk” or obtuse lore in there, the better it is as a gateway for people to jump on board one of the most recognizable fantasy properties in the world.
Nrama: I've read Skullkickers, so I may be vapid in asking this, but bear with me - have you played much D&D on your own, or other RPGs? If so, how does that influence your storytelling here?
Zub: I’m a lifelong Dungeons & Dragons fan and Skullkickers was my six-arc love letter to D&D and pulp fantasy as a whole. No word of a lie, without D&D I wouldn’t be a writer at all. Playing D&D and other tabletop RPG’s taught me how to make characters, build drama, and entertain with stories of my own. Writing the official D&D comic and receiving such a strong response from fans so far has been incredible.
Nrama: In this new miniseries, your previous collaborator Nelson Daniel is stepping out for Netho Diaz to come in. How is Netho doing coming into this world with you?
Zub: Netho brings a more realistic dramatic look to the page art and I think it works really well. Each mini-series has had its own look that exemplifies the story we’re building and I’m excited for people to see Netho’s classic fantasy flare.
Nrama: People know you from Skullkickers - how would you compare that with these D&D stories you're doing?
Zub: Skullkickers was a full blown fantasy farce, with broad slapstick humor and a lot of meta-commentary on sword & sorcery, while the D&D comics I write are more straight-forward adventure stories injected with frantic action and the kinds of tough decisions that players make around the gaming table that get their group into trouble.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with these D&D stories and Frost Giant’s Fury in particular?
Zub: My goal with the D&D comic is to tell a fun fantasy story anyone can pick up and enjoy, whether or not they’ve played the tabletop D&D game or the Baldur’s Gate video games. Each D&D mini-series can stand on its own, but if you’ve been following along you can also see the ongoing development of this cast of characters and the growing bond between them. Frost Giant’s Fury has the most epic action I’ve written so far in Dungeons & Dragons, with a threat larger than any our heroes have fought before. It’s big bombastic adventure with a lot of heart.