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Postby Steve Hubbell » Thu Nov 16, 2006 1:26 +0000


Anthrocon guest of honor Stan Sakai is best known as the creator of the anthropomorphic samurai epic Usagi Yojimbo, and is celebrating twenty years since the first appearance of a UY story.

ANTHROCONTENT: To what do you attribute Usagi’s longevity?
STAN SAKAI: Of course, I’d like to say it’s the quality of the story and art that has kept Usagi going, but one of the biggest factors certainly has to be the timing of when Albedo #2 first came out in 1984. It was just before the huge black and white glut, and so it stood out. There were many good books during the B&W boom, but they were lost with the garbage of that time. When Albedo hit the stands, black and white comics were still a rarity. In fact, we had a difficult time giving away copies of Albedo 2 at the San Diego Con. The following year, it was already going for about $100. However, after 20 years, there has to be more to it than timing. So, I guess it is the story and art, along with a strong fan base.

ANTHROCONTENT: What was your first attempt at drawing a comic?
STAN SAKAI: I’ve been drawing as far back as I remember. I remember drawing a Captain America story in the 6th grade. I contributed to the fanzines in the late 60’s/early 70’s such as Chronicle and Star Studded. After reading Lord of the Rings for the first time, I wrote an outline for a story that probably became the basis for Nilson Groundthumper.

ANTHROCONTENT: Nilson is another wandering rabbit -- Is there something you find particularly appealing about rabbits as characters?
STAN SAKAI: I think it’s more coincidence. Nilson came long before Usagi. The biggest reason for doing a samurai rabbit is that he looks cool with his ears tied up into a samurai topknot. Usagi was originally to have been part of the Nilson epic, but he’s pretty much taken over my life now.

ANTHROCONTENT: Were there any comics, books, movies, or stories that had a major impact on you early on?
STAN SAKAI: I’ve been a big fan of the Japanese chambara (sword-fighting) movies since I was a kid. I’m still trying to find videos of the 1959 version of Satomi Hakkenden. Later, I came to appreciate Akira Kurosawa and Hiroshi Inagaki. My earliest influence in comics is Steve Ditko, during his Spider-Man days.

ANTHROCONTENT: Of all the things you’ve worked on, what are you most proud of?
STAN SAKAI: If you mean in terms of stories, it has got to be Grasscutter. I spent about five years writing and accumulating research for it. That story won an Eisner Award, a Spanish Haxtur, and an American Library Association Award. It was also used as a text book in Japanese history classes at a couple of universities.

ANTHROCONTENT: Usagi appeared in the early ‘90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, and there are upcoming appearances in the new version of that show in the works. How do you feel about the way Usagi comes across in these?
STAN SAKAI: I enjoy seeing other creators’ versions of Usagi. I just regard this as another person’s vision of Usagi. Certainly, the new TMNT storyline does not fit into any sort of Usagi continuity.

ANTHROCONTENT: What was the most interesting experience you’ve had at a convention?
STAN SAKAI: I really enjoy traveling, and when I do I try the local cuisine. I was a guest at a comics festival in Norway, and our host asked if we would like to have a traditional Norwegian peasants’ meal. Northern Norway is a sheep raising area and, in feudal days, the lord of the area got all the best. That evening, we each had a boiled sheep’s head and a turnip.

ANTHROCONTENT: What do you do for fun?
STAN SAKAI: I like to read and paint, but have very little time for these. I also enjoy traveling. I’m fortunate in that I’ve been invited as a guest to many national and international conventions and festivals. Among the places I’m going to this year are Poland and Spain.

ANTHROCONTENT: If you had unlimited time and resources to devote to any project, what would you like to do?
STAN SAKAI: I really enjoy working on Usagi. I’ve already got enough story arcs to last ten years. I may know what he will be doing three years from now, but it’s thinking up a story for the next issue that’s the hard part.

ANTHROCONTENT: Is there a writer or artist most people haven’t heard of who you think should be getting a lot more attention?
STAN SAKAI: Canales and Guarnido are the creative team behind Blacksad. I first discovered their work in Belgium a few years ago. They’ve since won some major awards, including one at Angouleme. ibooks has published two English language volumes so far. Barbucci and Canepa does Sky Doll for the European market. Beautiful art, weird aliens. I’m hoping some US publisher will pick up their books.

ANTHROCONTENT: Are there any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
STAN SAKAI: The 200 page Art of Usagi Yojimbo is schedule for a fall release from Dark Horse. Included in the book is the How I Create a Usagi Story 12 pager, a large color section that will have my watercolor stories and drawings, and a guest artists section.

ANTHROCONTENT: Don’t you think it would be painful to have your ears tied together like that?
STAN SAKAI: Never tried it. Don’t think I will.

Anthrocontent is a single page newsletter produced for the Anthrcon, which I just recently learned of and managed to aquired a copy of (thanks Bob). I have to admit that I really liked Stan's reply to the last question. :lol:
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