As great as the weekly outputs by comic book giants DC and Marvel are, one of the best books I’ve read in the past year is an indie comic called Skullkickers. The book follows the mercenary duo of Shorty (a dwarf with an anger problem) and Baldy (a huge, bald man with a golden revolver) in a fantasy world, going around killing monsters, people, a fairy or two, and pretty much anything that crosses their path and they can get paid for. Since nothing I can say will really encapsulate the madness that is Skullkickers, I went straight to creator and writer Jim Zub to see if he could help explain his crazy masterpiece. Hit the jump for the interview!
How did you come up with the idea of Skullkickers?
At its core, Skullkickers is a love letter to the pulp sword & sorcery novels, movies and games I loved as a kid. It’s a buddy cop movie by way of Conan the Barbarian-style fantasy.
It was originally conceived of as just a short story for Image’s new talent anthology called Popgun and our two monster-mashing idiots showed up in Volume 2 and 3. The stories were just simple gag-based violent humor and I didn’t think it would go beyond that.
When Eric Larsen (publisher at Image at the time) mentioned that he really liked the shorts, Chris Stevens and I started planning out a longer mini-series. Unfortunately Chris had to bow out of the art duties on the mini and the project got thrown on the backburner. A year or so later I met Edwin Huang and we’ve been working away on it ever since, moving from a mini-series through to an ongoing that we’re planning to take through six ridiculous story arcs.
On paper, the universe you’ve created (goblins, elves, fairies, etc.) isn’t technically groundbreaking or exceptionally new, but the story-telling, style, and creativity make it feel fresh and unforgettable. Aside from Skullkickers, do you want to explore other heroes, stories, places, or ideas in this universe?
The core story I’m crafting is going to cover just about every classic fantasy setting – from forest and mountain exploration, to adventures on the sea, winter wastelands and deserts, you name it. Although there are other characters who will get their moments to shine in Skullkickers, it really is focused on our two idiot protagonists. Everything’s being built for them to bulldoze their way through.
Everyone calls the main characters Baldy and Shorty, but do you personally have a name for them?
Well, we’ve danced around the names in some fun ways in the story, but the big guy’s cowboy name really is Rex. As for the dwarf, well, wait and see…
There are cowboys, pirates, and I guess a form of inter-dimensional aliens (Thool). What are your thoughts on Ninjas?
I don’t think the whole “Asian mysticism” side of medieval fantasy is something we’re going to touch upon in Skullkickers. I could be wrong and anything’s possible later on, but I think we’re going to sidestep ninjas. Shocking, I know.
You have everything from werewolves to fae to necromancers in your stories, so you’ve obviously been inspired by lots of different sources and writers. Which would you say are your top 3 inspirations?
Dungeons & Dragons game sessions with my brother and cousins when I was around 9 years old, Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser novels by Fritz Leiber, Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian and Dr. Strange comics.
What other comics are you reading now?
I think Atomic Robo is brilliant. I’m obsessed with Locke & Key. I voraciously read Chew, Luther Strode, Mouseguard and Empowered. Creator-owned comics are on a real roll as of late.
We at Twinfinite have a massive dinosaur fetish so I have to ask, what is your favorite dinosaur?
Who wouldn’t love a Gryposaurus Monumentensis, also known as the “Duck-Billed Dinosaur”. Weird and wonderful.
At this point, we know a little bit about Baldy’s past (and what a past it is). He’s an interdimensional-time-travelling cowboy who was sent here by an inter-dimensional alien squid type creature called a Thool. You’ve set the standard for mind-blowing-origin-story really high. Are we going to see Shorty’s origin at some point? If so, are you at all worried that Shorty’s story won’t be able to live up to Baldy’s?
I’m planning for Shorty’s origin to be as mundane as possible so I don’t have to worry about upping the ante in the slightest. He’s a moronic dwarf who loves to kill things. What happens into the future because of that is really what’s important.
Growing up I was a huge Marvel kid – Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, X-Men, Excalibur and Ghost Rider were a big deal.
Currently I’m happily reading Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, Mark Waid’s Daredevil, Scott Snyder’s Batman and a handful of other titles.
Can we get a sneak peek or a hint at what’s to come in Volume 4?
The fourth story arc of Skullkickers plays with the clichés of explorer/jungle fantasy stories, with savage threats, hidden treasures and tropical antics. Kusia and Rex are shipwrecked on a mysterious island and the trouble they encounter there should keep everyone entertained.
Now that we’re moving into the latter half of the big story readers will start to see more and more callbacks to earlier plot lines and tidbits they probably didn’t even realize would be important. I want our readers to frantically dig through back issues to see that we really did plan all this crazy crap out ahead of time.
Within the next few months you will have The Uncanny Skullkickers, Savage Skullkickers, and The Mighty Skullkickers coming out. How many more adjectives can you stick in front of the title and can the answer please be “A lot”? What, if any, will be the differences between the different titles?
Each one of these re-re-reboots was carefully planned. Nothing is left to chance. Each adjective weighed for its particular mystical might. That’s all I can say about it right now. 😛
Finally, as a gaming website, we would be stupid not to ask what games you’ve been spending your (extremely limited) free time with?
I have a pile of games I’ve started that I haven’t had time to finish because of my intense work schedule. In that ridiculous mix are Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Arkham City, Torchlight, Darksiders and Okami HD. Some day I’ll find time to complete them. Some day…
If your readers want to get a taste of Skullkickers, they can read the early issues online starting right here:
http://skullkickers.keenspot.com/d/20120106.html and drop me a line any time on twitter via @jimzub.