Episode 34: The Secret to Getting Ahead in Comics with Jim Zub

August 25, 2016

Today on the show we have Jim Zub (www.jimzub.com).

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Jim is an icon in indie comics for the candid way he talks about the ups and downs of making stuff. If you don’t know him, here is his bio from www.jimzub.com.

Jim Zub is a writer, artist and art instructor based in Toronto, Canada. Over the past fifteen years, he’s worked for a diverse array of publishing, movie and video game clients including Marvel, DC Comics, Capcom, Hasbro, Cartoon Network, and Bandai-Namco.

He juggles his time between being a freelance comic writer and Program Coordinator for Seneca College‘s award-winning Animation program.

His current comic projects include Dungeons & Dragons, a new series celebrating 40 years of the classic tabletop RPG, Thunderbolts, the return of Marvel’s villainous superhero team, and Wayward, a modern supernatural story about teens fighting Japanese mythological monsters.

So the reason I brought Jim on the show wasn’t because of Skullkickers, or his work on Thunderbolts, or even Wayward. It was because of an article he wrote about the economics of his book Skullkickers, and how much money he made on it over time. It was a fantastic breakdown of how even a book that is deemed successful might be losing money at the beginning as it builds an audience. I thought it was such a fantastic and candid look at the industry that I’ve been a fan ever since.

The weird thing is that we barely touched on that article. We did talk about it for a couple of minutes, but the thing we talked about most of all was treating people like human beings. Whether it’s your artists, or editors, or the press, or publishers, it seems more and more that people get forward by having a little empathy.

I’m dealing with this right now as I record my 31 tips in 31 days for the launch of my next campaign. A lot of my advice is on how to build an audience, press contacts, and connections. However, I have to make sure I include in every one of those tips that it doesn’t help if you are a douche.

If you are the guy that’s trying to game the system and find the most important person at a party or using the tactics I show just to make a good impression. If you are doing favors just so you can ask for a favor, it’s not going to work.

Because the key to this whole thing is you have to treat other people like human beings because you want to do so, not because they can do something for you. That’s the way that most of these creators get ahead. Yes, they are talented. Yes, they did the right things. But more importantly, they were genuinely nice people because they wanted to be.

We talked about Charles Soule on the show. I met Charles when Renzo was penciling Ichabod and 27: Second set at the same time. We struck up a conversation and I just remember how nice he was. He had no reason to be nice. He didn’t know me. I was just some kid with a floppy, but he was nice. He even bought my book. It was so cool. I still remember it to this day.

Jim is the same way. He gives value all the time. He does it because he wants to help. He wants a better industry and gives without asking. In return, he has an enormous amount of people that like and trust him. Those people want him to succeed and are more likely to buy his book just because they like him.

There was a post on my Facebook feed about ways to get rich, and I had to comment about being “rich” is a byproduct of providing value. It’s amazing how much more you can get back if you give value first. If your position is one of value, you build empathy and people want to buy from you. In return, you’ll make money.

However, the key is you have to provide value for the sake of value, not in order to get ahead. The byproduct is that you get ahead and make more money. I don’t even know if Jim thought about the psychology behind it before. He was just giving back because he wants to help.  

In this world, people say you have to be two of the following: nice, on time, talented. I think that’s horseshit. I think you should strive to be all three.

Look, you can’t just be supremely talented. That happens over time. You have no real control of being amazing. You can always control being on time and nice. Those are things you can control today, and should control today. Then, if you become talented, guess what…you’ll have all three and be in the driver’s seat.

Jim learned that long ago. He spent years making mistakes, but always being on time and polite. People knew he would get books in on budget and on time. He just kept hanging around doing the right thing, and opportunities presented themselves. Of course, Jim is also supremely talented.

But that supreme talent doesn’t come overnight. He wasn’t always able to write for Marvel. He grew into that role. But he was always on time and polite. It’s so important to control what you can control and work on those things you can’t.

If there is one wonderful example of that, it’s Jim Zub.

If you like this episode, please subscribe, rate, and review it wherever you listen to podcasts, whether it’s iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or any other aggregator.


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