Talking with Jim Zub, Part 2: What's up with <i>Shifty Look</i>?

In addition to writing the standout comics Skullkickers and Makeshift Miracle, Jim Zubkavich is an avid gamer and an editor at UDON Entertainment, which publishes comics and graphic novels based on games. So it's only natural that he would be involved in Shifty Look, a new project from Bandai Namco Games, the creator of classic games like Pac-Man and, more recently, the Naruto Shippuden game. Jim will be one of a number of creators who will be turning classic characters into webcomics... But let's let him tell us about it.

Robot 6: Can you explain what Shifty Look is all about?

Jim: Shifty Look is an experimental new website put together by video game/media giant Namco-Bandai. They have dozens and dozens of intellectual properties in their vaults and a lot of that material hasn’t been utilized in many years.

Rob Pereyda and some of his colleagues at Namco had this brilliant idea to use a bit of seed money and see if they could refresh/reinvigorate old content in a way that wouldn’t cost a ton but could also have impact. They struck upon the concept of webcomics and brought the UDON studio on board.

We went through lists of old IPs and did a bunch of research. Some of these titles were never released in North America, some hadn’t been used at all since the 80’s... but it’s a whole new world now. Properties that might have seemed “too Japanese” back then are a perfect fit for the modern manga-reading North American audience. Other games had a visual hook we could turn into something new or even just a title that sounded like it had potential.

Concept art was done up, story ideas were bounced back and forth and the end result is Shifty Look, a site where the ideas will be tested out with “seasons” of webcomic stories. The best and most popular ones could go on to media development (animation, games, toys, etc.). I’m thrilled to be a small part of it.

Who would’ve ever imagined webcomics could be the testing ground for this kind of content or that a big company like Bandai would let creative people loose on some of their older properties? To me it feels progressive and responsive to an online culture that simultaneously wants to embrace nostalgia while looking for the “new” thing.

Robot 6: How did you get involved in this, and what part are you playing?

Jim: I manage all kinds of creative services projects at UDON and when this one came through I jumped in with both feet. Just about everyone at UDON is involved in some way, with Sky Kid (a WW1-esque flying game from 1986) the first title announced so far. I’m writing the first “season” of Sky Kid and overseeing production on a couple other titles in development.

Robot 6: With all your comics, you seem to be reaching out to a particular niche (gamers, to be specific) although they are also pretty accessible to non-gamers like me. Do you think that sort of niche marketing is a viable alternative to the Big Two and the world of comics shops?

Jim: I honestly don’t think it’s niche at all. Is the internet a niche? More people read Penny Arcade than Justice League. Video games and game players are the biggest media audience in the world. The video game industry has made more than movies and music combined for the past few years. Without trying to sound cocky, I’m looking to that mainstream and doing all I can to make an impact there. The fact that I’m also a passionate gamer (RPGs, board games and video games) makes it that much better.

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