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The Creation of 'Pathfinder' Comics

ICv2 Interviews Erik Mona & Jim Zub

Published: 06/24/2012, Last Updated: 06/25/2012 04:19am
We recently caught up with Paizo Publisher Erik Mona and Jim Zub, writer of the upcoming Dynamite Entertaiment comic series based on the Pathfinder RPG, to talk about the comics and their connections to the RPG.  In Part 1, we talk about the creative process for the comics and how they connect to the game content.  In Part 2, we talked about the game content in the comics and how the comics and games cross-promote.
 
Going back to how this started, we hear you’ve known each other a while and met while Erik was working on Dragon magazine?
Mona:  Yes, Jim was working, and still works, with Udon Studios who did a lot of the art for Dragon and Dungeon magazines while we were doing them in the early years at Paizo—about eight or nine years ago.  I got to know Jim through various conventions and things like that and we became friends.  We realized we saw eye to eye on lots of different things in terms of fantasy, the publishing  business, and gaming, so yes, it’s been a long relationship.
 
And Jim, we first heard of you through Skullkickers, which you’re writing.  You’ve been an artist and now you’re pursuing a writing career, is that right?
Zub: Yes, I started off as an artist in the Udon Studio and then moved into project management there.  Over the last two years now I’ve been doing more comic writing and that’s really where I’m putting a lot of my time and dedication at this point.  It’s been a lot of fun.  It’s been really cool seeing different aspects of the art and creative industry, and being able to tell stories and get involved in all sorts of different aspects of it.
 
Is "Jim Zub" your nom de plume?
Yes, that’s right.  My full name is Jim Zubkavich and that’s what most people know me as from Udon and things like that, but just for books and for writing, Zub’s a lot easier.  Since college most people have called me "Zub" as a nick name anyway and I sign all my artwork "Zub."  It’s just become a thing; it made it easier to just go with that.
 
One of the reasons we wanted to talk to you together is to understand how the collaboration is working between Paizo and Dynamite.  Can you tell us how you’re collaborating on the creation of these stories for the comics?
Zub:  Because I’m a longtime tabletop roleplaying gamer, I come at it from that gaming point of view; but I’ve also been involved in comics for quite a while so I understand that there’s a different sensibility involved in comic book storytelling.  Like Erik was saying, we really do see eye to eye in terms of storytelling and in terms of the way stories are built.  So when Erik approached me and said that Dynamite’s got the license for Pathfinder and they’re looking for writers for the series, they’re looking for someone to pitch on it, we had a really strong understanding of what kind of things would work best—what things translate over well from the game and what aspects are really important to keep it new reader-friendly in particular.  I didn’t want this to be really heavy inside baseball where if you didn’t play the actual games you wouldn’t be able to get anything out of it, because I think that’s really a mistake.  The great thing about having licenses in different mediums is that you can broaden that license; you can get all new people to try out stuff and to appreciate where you’re going.
 
Mona: In terms of how the process has worked, Jim put together a couple of pitches for story arcs and we said, "OK we like this one," and he fleshed that out to an overview of the first arc and we gave him some comments.  When I say "we" what I generally do is I take Jim’s scripts or his outlines to all of the same editors who are in charge of the Pathfinder game line.  We all read it together and
we look over it and say, "Instead of that, how about maybe trying this."
 
Jim’s done a really good job of absorbing the source material so the types of changes we’ve made are very, very minor.  It’s nice to have that level of confidence that our writer knows what’s going on before we get involved.  We’re polishing it up a little bit, but it’s in really good shape by the time it gets to us.
 
One other thing that’s fun about this comic is that in addition to the normal 22 pages of story and comic Dynamite is adding a section in the back of every issue that is more game oriented.  In the first issue for example, the story takes place in the village of Sandpoint, which is where the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path starts; it’s part of our county called Varisia; it’s part of our main starting point for our campaign, if you will.  And so we’ve got a little article in there that’s a gazetteer of Sandpoint, and we’ve got a two-page encounter with a pull-out poster map that is inspired by some of the stuff in Jim’s scripts.
 
The inspiration is working in two directions—it’s really cool.  Jim takes our game stuff and the game itself and the characters that we loosely created (and Jim can talk about that), but he takes that and he creates it into a comics story.  We take Jim’s comic story and we translate some encounter in there that we find inspiring and turn it into a game encounter.  So it goes both ways.
 
You mentioned that this first story was tied to Rise of the Runelords.  Are the comics tied to specific storylines of the game?
Zub: We didn’t want to specifically tie it to an adventure.  We wanted to be new reader-friendly, so someone can pick it up and jump right in from there.  But anything that happened in Rise of the Runelords, we wouldn’t contradict.  Everything fits like it’s part of the same world, and this stuff has all happened as one continuity.  As a fan you can appreciate that it all fits together, but as a new reader you can come in cold and get the story right from the get go.
 
Mona: It’s not an adaptation, by any stretch, but it does share some locations and themes.  For example, the first Rise of the Runelords adventure, the characters fight against goblins, and in the first issue of the comics it’s goblins.  There’s some thematic similarity, but we really didn’t want to do what I would call an adaptation of the adventures.
 
People familiar with Rise of the Runelords will find a lot to be familiar with, and there’ll be cute Easter eggs in there for the hard core fans, but Jim’s proposal and the reason we went with his stuff is that he felt pretty strongly that this comic needed to appeal to people who don’t have any grounding in Pathfinder and we totally agreed.  There’s definitely not a requirement that you’re familiar with the game at all, let alone with one of our adventures.
 
Are the comics canon?
Mona:  That’s a good question.  They go through the same editorial process that the RPG stuff does, so the answer is probably yes.  Nothing has happened in them yet, or nothing has been planned to happen in the short term that would meddle with the continuity or change anything.  We’ve been pretty careful with that, so I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t be canon.

Click here for Part 2.
 
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