Josh Epstein: You’ve been working in comics for some time, making a name for yourself in the independent sphere and by sharing your creative experience with fans. Now that you’ve moved, as you put it, from triple-A to the big leagues with taking over Birds of Prey, what is the biggest challenge you foresee in working with established characters as opposed to your own creations?
Jim Zubkavich: I’ve worked on commercial properties before with comic stories I’ve written in the past for Street Fighter, Clash of the Titans, Pathfinder and Namco video game titles like Klonoa and Wonder Momo, so I’m already used to balancing my ideas with a company’s vision.
What makes writing for DC or Marvel challenging is the inter-connected superhero universes they’ve built. There are tons of moving parts with dozens of titles and hundreds of characters progressing month by month. My job on Birds of Prey is to write a great series that can function on its own, but one that also serves the larger needs of the DC universe. That’s an exciting and daunting challenge, but one I’m up for.
JE: This marks a big transition for you. A lot of independent creators never make the jump to “the show,” so to speak. What would you say it is about your body of work that set you up for this move?
JZ: I’ve released a pretty diverse set of comic stories, from slapstick action-adventure in Skullkickers, quiet character-driven mystery in Makeshift Miracle, a ‘team’ book filled with different characters in Pathfinder… The one constant I try to bring to all my projects is making them engaging and entertaining, no matter what the tone or subject matter is. Birds of Prey is a character-driven story filled with action and intrigue, so it fits in well with what I’ve done even though I’m not someone fans would’ve expected on the title.
JE: Outside of plot, which I know you have to keep close to the vest, if you could point to one thing you’re hoping to achieve with the book, what would it be?
JZ: I want readers to care about the cast of Birds of Prey and root for them, month after month. If I can do that, I’ll be really proud.
JE: Out of the characters you’ll be playing with on Birds of Prey, what’s the relationship you’re most looking forward to developing?
JZ: I want to show people why Dinah (Black Canary) is such a great character and the traits that make her one of DC’s best and brightest. Her really grabbing hold of the reins in terms of leading the group and her relationship with the rest of the team are top priorities for me.
JE: Birds of Prey is one of the few female-centric books in the mainstream market. How are you planning to approach that aspect of the storytelling, and are there any challenges inherent in writing a book that differs from so much of what’s out there by virtue of its composition?
JZ: I feel it’s important that I keep in mind I’m writing characters who are women, but that I don’t try to paint the characters with a broad brushstroke of expectations because of that fact, if that makes sense.
When I pitched on Birds of Prey I put together an extensive character “matrix” for the team: Who they are, how they feel about each other and what motivates them. I’d do the same thing if I was putting together any team book, regardless of the male-female composition of that team. I’m character building and try my best to make each person in the cast substantial and well thought out.
From everything I’ve seen, female readers look for the same thing male readers look for: great stories with compelling characters being put through the paces. If I write a group of characters worth following then I’m hoping readers will respond positively to it, regardless of their gender.
JE: Favorite moment in comics history?
JZ: Winsor McCay creates Little Nemo in Slumberland and blows peoples’ minds each and every week with his draftsmanship and creativity.
A huge thanks from all of us here at Capeless Crusader to Jim Zubkavich for taking time out of an increasingly busy schedule to shares his thoughts with us. We’ll be watching to see what he’s got in store!