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Send letters & comments to: "USAGI LETTERS," c/o
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[Welcome to the penultimate (meaning there will be one more) issue of Usagi Yojimbo from Fantagraphics. No, I'm not discontinuing the series, but rather switching publishers, to Mirage.
[Let me assure you that this change in no way reflects any dissatisfaction with Kim Thompson or any of the other good people at Fantagraphics. Kim has been a terrific editor and a good friend. It was through Kim's efforts that Usagi is where it is today. Critters was his brainchild, and he invited me to contribute to the very first issue after seeing a couple of my stories in Steve Gallacci's Albedo (now from Antarctic Press). The Summer Special was his idea, as was the first color special ("Stan, I've got this seven-page "Gnuff" story colored by Mike Kazaleh and nowhere to run it. Do you want to build a 48-page book around it?")
[If I don't have any disputes with Fantagraphics why, then, am I leaving? A lot of it had to do with Usagi's just seeming out of place in the Fantagraphics line of books, moreso since the demise of Critters. Don't get me wrong. I like Hate, Love & Rockets, Eightball, and many of their other titles and highly recommend them. However, Usagi sticks out like a sore thumb, being a "general readers" book among "mature readers" titles.
[My association with Fantagraphics will not completely end. They will continue the trade paperback collections, as well as handling T-shirts and other goodies.
[I've always had a great relationship with Mirage Publishing, having done occasional projects with them, including this past summer's Space Usagi mini-series. We're targeted to the same readership and their advertising and promotions reflect this.
[My agreement with Mirage is similar to that of Fantagraphics in that I retain creative freedom in my stories and art. The format will also be the same: a 20-page Usagi story followed by an 8-page back-up, except I'll be doing the majority of the back-ups myself rather than with guest creators.
[One major change is that the book will now be in color. I know, I've always been an advocate of black-and-white, but those books just aren't selling as they used to. And with three color specials, Tom Luth has shown me the merits of Usagi in color. Tom will, of course, remain the colorist. Hey, maybe we'll come out with an annual black-and-white special!
[Another change is that, thanks to Deb Toffoli and her production schedule, the books should be out on time - bi-monthly beginning in March, a month after the last Fantagraphics issue.
[Speaking of which, issue #38 continues Usagi's travels with Gen as they meet up with an acquaintance from the past in "The Last Ino Story."
[I'm planning on being at the Great Eastern Convention in New York at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on January 22-24. I'll be at the Mirage Tables, so drop by to say "Hi!" if you're there. Also, Bay Area residents should drop by Comix Experience in San Francisco on February 27th (from noon to three o'clock), when Mark Evanier, Sergio AragonÚs, Tom Luth, and I will be celebrating the release of Groo #100.
[- STAN SAKAI]
[I just want to add to Stan's opening remarks that it's been a pleasure and a privilege to work with him on Usagi Yojimbo for the past seven years, and I'll be looking forward to the Mirage color edition of Usagi. Like Stan, I've become more and more taken with the way color looks on our favorite samurai rabbit - if color comics weren't so durn expensive I might have tried to talk Stan into converting Usagi into full color myself by now. Anyway, look for the full-scale goodbyes and godspeeds next issue.
[A few matters relating to this passing of the torch: Subscribers, fear not! I'm in the process of working out how to transfer all current subs to Mirage. Also, letter writers note! Due to this issue's lateness (thank you, M.W.), the next issue will be coming out so quickly that by the time you read this, it'll be at press, so all future letters of comment (and mail you want forwarded to Stan) should be sent to USAGI LETTERS, c/o Mirage Comics, PO Box 417, Haydenville, MA 01039. Remember, DON'T send original art if you want it back, DON'T ask for replies, signed art, or any such thing, and try to keep the numbered lists-o'-questions to a minimum! (Although who knows, maybe it'll turn out Usagi's new editor at Mirage just lo-o-oves endless lists-o'-questions.)
[And, even though it took him an awful long time to finish it, special thanks to Martin Wagner for his beautiful "Li'l Hepcats" tale this issue; since next issue boasts an issue-long Usagi story, this will be the last back-up story by another cartoonists for quite a while, and it's a nice way to go out. It's just too bad Scott Shaw! (a procrastinator next to whom Martin looks like a piker) never quite got around to finishing his....
[Next issue will feature the answer to the quiz on the facing page, as well as the long-promised Usagi Concordance, listing every appearance of every Usagi story ever published. See you then!
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G'day Stan and Thomo,
I've been thinking of writing you for a while now, but I finally got around to it after seeing Throne of Blood by Akira Kurosawa, which made me want to read The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy over again. Both brilliant stories and in keeping with the history of that period.
As for me, Usagi Yojimbo is still my favorite comic, with the Turtles as a close second. In fact, it was the Turtles that drew me to Usagi. Your readership wouldn't be the size it is today if it wasn't for them. My first issue was "Lone Goat and Kid" and since then I've been able to collect the first four books as well as all other issues and color specials, which includes the hardcover edition of Book 4, The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy. (Incidentally, it cost me $60.00 Australian, but it was worth it.)
At the moment I am enjoying #35's "Gen," just waiting to see how Gen and Usagi manage to escape with Lady Asano. Gen's story was extremely moving. Makes you feel sorry for him. However, one question about the fourth panel on page 14: Did they really need to pile all over Usagi? It looks like something that would happen in the middle of a baseball field or a rugby scrum rather than in a lord's house. Tom Stazer's "Lionheart" was as good as ever.
I hear that KitsunÚ is coming back in #37 but by the time you get this I probably will have read it. KitsunÚ is a great character, but what about the other characters that haven't appeared for a while? We haven't heard much from Hikiji. Is he plotting any new plans? And what about Shingen's sister who made a brief appearance in Book 4? I think there's a character there worth exploring. Besides the color specials, is Tomoe Ame doing anything special, and will Zato Ichi raise his wooden nose to any new developments? Finally, will we see Jotaro training with Katsuichi-sensei as Usagi suggested? With all these characters about, Usagi Yojimbo could go on forever.
Space Usagi was just superb, with one of the best fight scenes I've seen (no pun intended) yet. There were a number of strange coincidences, however. (1) A pet named Spot. (2) A convenient scar over the left eye. (3) A woman named Tomoe. They do say history repeats itself. Space Usagi suggests that the original Miyamoto Usagi will meet up with another. Who will this woman be?
I liked both your drawings in Images of Omaha and the Amazing Heroes Swimsuit Special. What is this thing with Calvin & Hobbes, however? Not only were they plastered all over the Swimsuit Special, they appear in panel five on page 14 (looney page 14) of Usagi Yojimbo Book Three. I just don't get it.
I hope you manage to get down to the OzCon comic convention some time in the future. It would be great to meet you in person. As a final note for all of those people who wondered who designed the Usagi action figure, it was Stan himself. If you don't believe me take a look at the cover of Usagi Yojimbo Book One.
Hoping Usagi goes on forever,
P.S.: I read what you said, Kim, about Australians being "a few eucalyptus leaves short of a full branch." Just watch your back from now on.
[Gee, Jason, was your great-grandpa a thief, a murderer, or a kidnapper? Just curious.
[Only kidding! You Aussies are so sensitive. Just to make nice, I'm running your letter in the coveted lead spot this issue - so am I forgiven?
Fanart by Jason Gaffney
I have just one question. In Usagi all the animals are kind of animal humans (they walk on two legs, etc.). Why, then, are the horses that the bandits and other animals ride on not like humans? It's the same case with Lord Noriyuki's pet dog, and the foxes in "Fox Fire." There have been human-like dogs in your comics, Goyemon the demon painter for instance. This does in no way make your comic bad, but I was just wondering.
I must congratulate you on an excellent job in Space Usagi. At first I was a little skeptical about it, but it turned out really cool. I especially liked the battle armor, fortresses, and Arcane Katanas. Just like before, I have one question. If Space Usagi is Usagi Yojimbo's son, then who was the female involved in making Space Usagi? Could it be perhaps that Mariko leaves Kenichi for Usagi and they have another kid? Or maybe Space Usagi is really Jotaro grown up and has taken a different name. Anyway, thank you for a great comic!
Name and Address Lost
[Sorry, guy (or gal), but in the last-minute frenzy around here, your name and address got misplaced. I wanted to print your letter anyway because you're the first Usagi reader to bring up what's known as the "Goofy-and-Pluto syndrome": namely, if Goofy is a dog and Pluto is a dog, why the heck can Goofy talk and walk on two legs, while Pluto is just a dog? (Or, for real species confusion, check out Grandma Duck's farm.) There is, unfortunately, no answer to this - or to your Usagi-specific queries - other than "artistic license." I hope that'll do. - ED.]
After reading Usagi #34 I figured I might as well write in a letter to tell you what a great comic you're putting out. The Usagi Yojimbo books have always had very believable characters. I mean at first I thought a samurai rabbit isn't the most realistic kind of character, but when incorporated into a good storyline, that character has more depth and personality added to it. So while reading, you can feel excitement or sorrow for the character.
This is especially so in issues 28-31, the "Circles" storyline. It starts on a good note when Usagi finds Katsuichi alive after so long. Then ends quite the opposite, with Usagi having to leave his child and his chance at a peaceful life behind to continue wandering. The story was very well done, but
1) Is there going to be any more on this subject; are Usagi and Mariko ever going to be together?
2) And if not, is Usagi going to further his relationship with Tomoe? I mean, Usagi needs a woman.
3) Is Jotaro going to seek out Katsuichi sensei? And what about a sidekick? Batman has Robin, Wolverine has Jubilee, and Groo has Rufferto. Doesn't it stand to reason that Usagi should have one? How about Jotaro finding out Usagi is his real father and goes to join him? Then Usagi could teach Jotaro the way of the samurai, and they could wander the land together. Oh well, just a suggestion.
Anyway, with or without a sidekick, Usagi is still one of the best comics out. Keep up the good work.
P.S. If you don't print my letter and picture in Usagi Letters, I will still buy the Usagi Yojimbo comic, but I refuse to enjoy it.
[That's all very reasonable as far as it goes, but Spider-Man and Superman don't have sidekicks. As for your questions about Usagi's future, you're just going to have to keep on reading - and not enjoying it. - ED.]
Re: Usagi Yojimbo #33.
If the Rite of Seppuku was an end unto itself, it would have no bearing for the samurai. But as "Broken ritual" dramatically illustrates, it is but a stop along the journey of the soul.
This Stan Sakai gem following a trail blazed by Sergio AragonÚs was brilliantly presented, touching the basic premise of samurai: that the consciousness of the warrior's soul transcends the life of the gross body.