Adjective alterations and new number ones are nothing new in the world of comic books, but doing them with a sense of humor is. Jim Zubkavich, the writer behind Image Comics' fantasy-action-parody series "Skullkickers," is having a little fun by relaunching the series with a new #1 issue in February 2013 and adding the word "Uncanny" to the title in hopes of borrowing some of Marvel's magic. Until recently, "Skullkickers" followed the adventures of a pair of mercenaries nicknamed Shorty and Baldy as they visited places as varied as fantastical realms and pirate ships to the Old West. But all that changed in August when Shorty died in August's "Skullkickers" #17.
With one 'Kicker down, plenty of questions remained for the series. What's next? How will Baldy go on? What will he do without his trusty sidekick? Zub and artist Edwin Huang decided to launch a new series called "Uncanny Skullkickers" which playfully pokes fun at the House of Ideas and also sports an alternate cover reminiscent of DC Comics' recent New 52 #0-issues. Don't expect Baldy to go solo in the new series, however. In fact, he'll be joined by a familiar face to those who have been reading the series from the beginning.
CBR News talked with the always entertaining Zubkavich about poking fun at the Big Two, Baldy's new status quo and why he selected a descriptor so closely associated with a bunch of mutants, as well as a look at Zub's vision for the series as a whole moving forward.
CBR News: The most obvious question is, out of all the adjectives you could have chosen, why "Uncanny?"
Jim Zubkavich: After doing a lot of comic market research and consulting the dark gods of pulp and staples under the light of a waxing moon, I realized that Marvel has been using "power words," magical adjective sigils that imbue their many comic titles with far-reaching popularity and commercial success.
Although it's risky, I felt it was important to test and see if this descriptive sorcery could be used to empower a creator-owned title with a sliver of that same magical might. If Marvel feels 2013 is a good year to make such strong use of "Uncanny," then why not use that same spark to fuel my sales bonfire?
Were you ever worried that this lighthearted jab at Marvel would ruffle feathers over there?
I'm feeling a bit like Prometheus, risking the wrath of the old gods, but I believe they'll be merciful rather than vengeful.
The folks I know over at Marvel are good-humored. Also, they know I'm working in creator-owned comics, so I obviously don't have any money or possessions worth suing for.
To the larger point at hand, why did you go with a name change at all? Is it story-based or an attempt to get new readers or something else altogether?
It's definitely something.
How does "Skullkickers" lead into "Uncanny Skullkickers?"
What I mean by that is that we're not adding any crossovers, prelude issues, checklists or continuity mazes for readers to figure out. If you bought issues #1-18 of "Skullkickers" or our three trade paperbacks then you're perfectly prepared for "Uncanny." If you haven't, you're still good to go. "Uncanny Skullkickers" #1 has an entertaining little recap of important story points so new readers are well-versed in our skull-kicking lore before the new adventure begins.
In fact, if you did buy all our issues and are feeling blue that we're relaunching with a new #1 and your previous run is bunk, don't worry! Our "B cover" is a special "issue #19 variant" so your collection numbering can stay perfectly intact. We've covered all the bases. Old and new. Classic and relaunch. Chocolate and peanut butter.
Baldy's not joined by Shorty on the cover to "Uncanny Skullkickers" #1, so what can you tell us about his feminine replacement?
That's Kusia, the elven assassin who's been in the series since practically the beginning! She's taking over as the second skullkicker after (SPOILER START) the dwarf's untimely demise in "Skullkickers" #18 (SPOILER END). Don't tell anyone that he's (SPOILER START) dead (SPOILER END), okay? It's a secret that happened back in August. Oh wait, I just said it twice. Damn...
Anyways, Kusia's as much a skullkicker as Baldy and Shorty are -- er, were. She's a centuries-old, highly-trained assassin wielding an intelligent crimson blade called the Ruby Cutlass that has a poncy British accent and speaks in rhyme. She's not a sex object or damsel, she's a skullkicker.
People have always assumed that the "Skullkickers" title referred to the human and the dwarf, but that's not necessarily the case. We could replace them with anything -- fish people, faerie folk, younger dorkier versions of themselves from an earlier timeline -- and they'd still be Skullkickers. It's a descriptor, not a name.
What can you tell us about what happens in the pages of "Uncanny Skullkickers" #1?
After the shipwreck at the end of "Skullkickers" #18, our protagonists have washed up on the beach of a mysterious tropical island. What they find there will tie together unexpected threads from the past and set up the second half of the overarching "Skullkickers" storyline, all told with our usual level of irreverent, violent absurdity.
What larger plans do you have for the series beyond the new name and a new skullkicker kicking, well, skulls?
After the big revelations of our third arc, "Six Shooter on the Seven Seas," I think we've got enough story momentum built up to help carry us through the fourth, fifth and sixth arcs with action and entertainment aplenty. The master plan for "Skullkickers" is 36 total issues and, with the power of a little adjective magic-making, I think we can get there.
I hope new readers join the adventure we have planned starting in February. It's going to be a very good time.
"Uncanny Skullkickers" #1 from Jim Zubkavich and Edwin Huang goes on sale in February 27.