Jim Zub is comics writer known for his wide span of work on Avengers, Samurai Jack, Stone Star (check out our interview!) and Wayward. He’s also penned team, Champions, a title featuring and for young audiences. That experience makes his recent appearance as a TedX speaker that much more appropriate, when he talked to a group of students at St. Mary CS School.
His entire speech, Raised by Dragons, uses his experience with Dungeons and Dragons to talk about how he began his careers as both a writer and a teacher. Spoiler alert: he also writes the Dungeons and Dragons comic from IDW. We heard what he has to say and rounded up the seven best moments.
- Jim connected with his older brother for the first time through D&D: When Zub first talks about his upbringing, he has to bring up his brother, Joe, who’s 4 years older than him. Jim confesses that for so long, all he wanted was to be more like him. So, when Joe got Dungeons and Dragons for his 12th birthday, Jim twisted his parents’ arm into letting him play. Though Joe wasn’t happy about it, the two were forced to listen to each other if they wanted to play at all. Jim was overwhelmed by the simple fact that Joe was hearing what he was saying – even laughing at his jokes! He was empowered.
- Roleplaying is an empathy life hack: When Zub gets into the nitty gritty of playing D&D, he has the important job of describing roleplaying: the near-literal act of putting yourself in another person’s shoe’s. He remembers one instance specifically when he was playing as a really faithful person and how it challenged him. Zub laughs, saying he had to pretend he was a better person, a kinder person.
- It let him forget about embarrassment: Ironically, by being a totally different person, Zub says he was able to become closer to who he actually is. The scrawny, skinny kid that he was, Zub was also afraid of being himself around others. Roleplaying gave him the excuse not to care. The person he was pretending to be didn’t matter to anyone, really, as long as they were having fun. He could be funny, witty, clever – anything. After pretending for awhile, he finally realized it wasn’t the character he was playing that was cool. It was him all along. The same became true for the friends he soon made throughout high school and would remain true for years to come.
- He even met his wife by ‘pretending’ to be cool: Zub left high school knowing he wanted to truly embody the person he was while he was roleplaying. He’d still do so using the game, but now he was determined to charge his personality in and out of the dungeon. One October night in the big city of Toronto, he met up with a new group of D&D players. The first person he spoke to there would be his friend for years to come. More than a friend, actually. That woman married eventually married him because of how they connected through the game. “The fact that she thought I was funny and confident blew my mind,” he says trying to compose himself, “because I was none of those things and I never had been. But I’d always been that person inside. I just need to let it out and give it a chance.”
- Collaboration taught him how to interact with a team: Zub admits that D&D didn’t just affect his personal life. The skills he learned there are the foundation for his work writing comics. It’s a medium that necessitates collaboration through taking and giving ideas and feedback. He attributes his ability to work with editors and artists to those long sessions huddled over a tables with friends. It helps him see collaborators less as someone who may reject your idea and more as someone who wants to help make it blossom.
- He uses D&D in the classroom, too: When Zub is working as an art instructor Seneca College‘s award-winning Animation program, he’s constantly referencing back to the game. He draws parallels between laying out a scenario or topic for the day, connecting with students as players in the lesson and letting them join in. “Education is not just about information,” Zub says. “You are trying to create empathy when you teach. If I want you to really remember something, I don’t just tell it to you, have you memorize it. That’s not education. If I want it to stick with you, to be part of you, I have to connect with you.”
If this Jim Zub Tedx Talk doesn’t make you want to go play D&D and chase your life goals, maybe the video itself will. To check out the full length talk and learn all of Zub’s D&D tricks watch Raised by Dragon’s at the link below. And, for good measure, here’s a bonus moment: Jim Zub’s mom tells her friends that her son is “a published author.” C’mon, Mom!