Creatives Jim Zub and Max Dunbar Talk About “Stone Star” – Interview

Stone Star Season 2 issue 5
Stone Star Season 2 Issue 5 Cover

The fifth and final issue of Stone Star Season 2 released this week. While the second season has concluded, there’s still a lot of story left to tell. I got to talk to writer Jim Zub and artist Max Dunbar about their sci-fi/space-fantasy/action comic book (part of comiXology Originals) and what readers can expect when the series returns.

You can read my review of Stone Star Season 2 issue 5 here. If you’re into sci-fi and action-heavy storytelling with a number of real-world themes, you should consider checking it out. In a sense, I would even liken it to reading shonen manga because of the tournament setting, visually dynamic action sequences, and emotional beats.

Both seasons are currently available at comiXology. They’re free to read if you have a comiXology Unlimited subscription.

Take note; Stone Star Vol. 1 in paperback arrives in bookstores July 6, 2021. It will be available in comic book shops on July 7, 2021. Featuring 136 pages, the MSRP is $19.99/$25.99 pbk (ISBN: 978-1-50672-458-4 / Dark Horse Books).

Now, the interview. First up, we have writer Jim Zub!

The Geekiary: You have worked with a number of well-known publishers, what made you bring Stone Star to comiXology?

Jim Zub: Chip Mosher, who heads up comiXology’s Originals program, reached out to me about bringing my next creator-owned title their way and, after looking at the flexibility they had on the platform and unique ways they could promote it with comiXology Unlimited and Kindle I thought it would be great to give it a shot. The comiXology team has been wonderful to work with and we’re really proud to have Stone Star there.

TG: Stone Star has a lot of themes that can be applied to the real world: What people are willing to consume as “Entertainment”, Capitalism and Exploitation, etc. What interested you in telling such a story?

Zub: You really nailed it in terms of those overall themes. Stone Star is about surface-level fame propped up by a much darker undercurrent of wheeling and dealing happening behind the scenes. It’s about exploitation, regrets, and finding purpose in the midst of all these opposing forces.

TG: Due to the variety of projects that you work on, what’s your writing schedule usually like? 

Zub: There’s no “standard” work schedule right now. With multiple projects on the go at multiple publishers, plus classes I teach and a Kickstarter project I’m getting ready to go to print on, I’m constantly jumping between tasks that need to get done – story outlines, approvals, scripting, reviewing artwork, letter proofs, you name it. Every day is a deep To-Do List and I slowly but surely cross each task off as I go. I love working on all this stuff, but it’s a wild ride at times.

TG: You have worked with artist Max Dunbar a lot and I take it you two have fostered a creative understanding of each other’s vision over the years. Have there been moments where you creatively clashed with each other when adapting a script for the visual medium?

Zub: Yeah, Max and I have done a bunch of work together – two different Dungeons & Dragons mini-series, Champions and now Stone Star. We’ve got a pretty synchronized sensibility in terms of storytelling and it’s served us really well. I’d love to tell you there was some kind of dramatic dirt I could sling about a specific moment on a project but, honestly, the reason why we keep working together is because it goes so well. Max is one of the most professional artists I’ve ever worked with and he always delivers the goods.

The only regret I have is that he’s doing work over at DC right now instead of drawing more comics with me!

TG: Having read Stone Star Season 2 Issue 5, the story is clearly FAR from over. Can you drop any hints about what to expect in Season 3? As a reader, is it okay for me to be interested in Dail’s lineage on his mother’s side?

Zub: Yeah, we definitely tee things up for bigger stories yet to come. The true nature of what’s going on with Durn and the energy that fuels the “kick” is a big part of it, as is the nature of the Stone Star tournament itself.

Dail’s mother doesn’t have a big role to play in future stories, but she will be referenced at some point.

TG: The world you and Dunbar have created is incredibly vast. Any ideas for a spin-off or a mini- flashback series?

Zub: I think the original Ring of Stone tournaments would be really cool to explore. Show how the guilds began and the sacrifices that were made to launch the station into space.

TG: Any plugs you’d like to share? Any current stories we should know about? Anything nearing a release date?

Zub: Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons just wrapped up in single issues and will be collected in a trade paperback later this summer. Conan the Barbarian is my current ongoing monthly title at Marvel. I have a cool project at Vault that will be announced pretty soon as well, so keep an eye out for that.

Stone Star Volume 1 release
Stone Star Volume 1 (Image: comiXology)

Let’s bring in artist Max Dubar!

TG: As an artist creating fantastical worlds, what’s the creative/research process like, especially when coming up with something that’s unique because we have numerous sci-fi/action comic book stories available.

Dunbar: Stone Star was a cool project because neither Jim nor I had a super-strong idea initially on what we wanted the visuals to look like for the world(s) we were creating, aside from the name of the book and the fact that it referenced an arena built into a floating asteroid.

So from there, I did a bunch of sketching to figure out what I could come up with that we would both like the look of. Eventually, through a ton of sketching, and a lot of trial and error, came up with this general look of the arena and ship, which was central to our story, and would influence the look of everything around it.

Once that rough design was in place, and we had the idea that we were going for less of a sci-fi look, and more of a space-fantasy, it was much easier to design the characters that would occupy Stone Star, and the worlds it traveled to.

Espen Grundetjern then brought a huge amount of personality to the art with his colors and really gave the whole book a huge amount of life that I couldn’t have imagined, so his work was integral to the final look.

TG: Is there a current comic book out there you would like to be an artist for?

Dunbar: I have been super lucky to work on some incredible, bucket-list books so far. Honestly, as long as I get to draw for a living I am super happy with whatever book I get to work on.

TG: I have to ask, are Dail’s large ears supposed to serve some kind of purpose/advantage, or are they a creative choice for aesthetic reasons?

Dunbar: Dail is supposed to be sort of a touchstone character, so we wanted him to look human (or the most human) out of any character, but I also didn’t want him to actually be a human. His species just seem to have large ears (his dad, who is the only other one of his kind that we see in the book, also has big ears).

TG: Any current stories we should know about? Anything nearing a release date?

Dubar: I’ve got some work in the upcoming Batman: Urban Legends #2, which comes out April 13 th!

Have you read Stone Star? What did you think of it?

Let us know.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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