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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:26 +0000
by Steve Hubbell
A new interview with Stan Sakai has been posted over at the Big Shiny Robot web-site


Re: New Interview

PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:19 +0000
by Steve Hubbell

Back during the San Diego Comic-Con, I got a chance to chat with Stan Sakai about his upcoming collaboration with Mike Richardson, 47 Ronin. We also talked about Akira Kurosawa and future plans for Usagi Yojimbo (which I think sounds amazing.)

He's been one of my favorite comics creators for as long as I can remember, and he's one of the nicest men I've ever had the pleasure of interviewing to boot.

The first issue hits comic book stores on November 7th, you'll want to add it to your hold now. Here's the official description from the solicitation:

Among the best-known tales in Japanese history, the legend of the 47 Ronin and their epic mission to avenge their disgraced master epitomizes the samurai code of honor. It has been said, "To know the story of the 47 Ronin is to know Japan." Retold through the ages, the legend at last comes to comics in a meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated miniseries from Mike Richardson, Stan Sakai, and editorial consultant Kazuo Koike! Recounting this sweeping tale of honor and violence in all its grandeur, chapter one details the tragic incident that would seal the fate of Lord Asano and set forty-seven of his vassals on a years-long path of vengeance.

And, without further ado, here's the interview:

STAN SAKAI: I’m Stan Sakai, I’m the creator, writer, artist of Usagi Yojimbo. I’ve been doing doing Usagi for, going on, 28 years now, and along the way, I’ve received a number of awards, such as a few Eisners, I’m also nominated this year for outstanding series and best lettering for the Eisners. It’s been translated into more than a dozen languages, toys, all kinds of stuff.
BRYAN YOUNG: One of the things that I noticed reading the book, I absolutely adore, because it feels like I’m watching a rabbit in a Kurosawa film.

STAN SAKAI: Yes, yes.

BRYAN YOUNG: You know, I wanted to know, what’s your favorite Kurosawa film?

STAN SAKAI: Oh, Seven Samurai, definitely.

BRYAN YOUNG: Seven Samurai?

STAN SAKAI: Yes, don’t even have to think about it.

BRYAN YOUNG: Ok, that was an easy answer.

STAN SAKAI: Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, is wonderful, and I got to see the funny ones, and he’s just very powerful. It was a unique experience. I have his autograph.

BRYAN YOUNG: Was this before you started Usagi, or after?

STAN SAKAI: You know, I think just after I started.

BRYAN YOUNG: Yeah, that must have been incredible.

STAN SAKAI: It was, it was, ‘cause I, I’ve idolized his work for years, ‘cause I’ve been in film for such a long time. Most of my storytelling is taken more from film than from comic books. The pacing, the direction and just the overall compositions and things. I’m influenced more by film than comic books.

BRYAN YOUNG: And I think that comes across in the books. As far as 47 Ronin, what can you tell me about that, and how is that going to affect Usagi’s schedule?

STAN SAKAI: Well, Mike Richardson has been working on the script for an idea for the 47 Ronin for about 25 years, and he approached me and said if we could put Usagi on hiatus for awhile, then we’ll do a 5 issue 47 Ronin story that will be reprinted as a graphic album, and I grew up knowing the 47 Ronin story. Basically, the Lord Asada was ordered to commit seppuku, which is ritualized suicide because he drew his sword in the shogun’s palace, and he drew it against another person, Lord Kira, and he, the shogun, also confiscated his lands and pretty much disbanded the entire clan, all his samurai became masterless, ronin, and it took them about 3 years, because they were being followed and scrutinized, and it took them about 3 years to gain their revenge against Kira, and it’s one of the most pivotal most well known stories or incidences in Japanese history, and I grew up knowing it, even from grade school, so when Mike approached me to do the story, I said, Oh of course, so Usagi is on hiatus right now, while I’m finishing up the story.

BRYAN YOUNG: And how far into that are you currently? (Note, this was as of 7/12)

STAN SAKAI: I’m just inking the second issue right now. Even though I’ve been doing stories about Feudal Japan for years, there’s still so much research that has to be done for this because, the clan crest has to be correct, locations have to be correct, things like that. It’s a lot more in depth research than even I’m normally used to.

BRYAN YOUNG: So you’re making sure it’s as historically accurate as you can get?

STAN SAKAI: Partly, because we have a technical advisor, Kazuo Koike, who is the creator of Lone Wolf and Cub, and he’s acted as technical advisor, and it’s, what can I say? It’s working with one of the great legends of comics and manga throughout the world.

BRYAN YOUNG: That sounds like you’re having a lot of fun working on it.

STAN SAKAI: I am, I am, and Mike’s scripts are great, they’re easy to follow, and he’s open to ideas that I may have, such as, I would say, ‘well I don’t think it should be this way’, or ‘let’s make it this way’. Or ‘you have him reading, you have this person reading, let’s have him writing something because he is reading in another scene here’, or ‘if you want a greater impact, let’s do it this way rather than that way’. He’s very much open to it. He says it’s collaboration, but it’s his words and things, but he more than welcomes me to have my own input into the stories.

BRYAN YOUNG: What sort of movies, Kurosawa or otherwise, are you looking to for inspiration on 47 Ronin?

STAN SAKAI: Well, all his samurai movies, especially, even from Who Treads on the Tiger’s Tail, which is one of his more obscure ones, to Yojimbo and Sanjuro , and Ran, I love the sweeping epicness of Ran.

BRYAN YOUNG: And then what’s going to happen to Usagi when you come back?

STAN SAKAI: Well I want, the plan right now, is that I’ll start working on Usagi towards the end of this year, 2012, and I want to come back with a 6 issue mini-series. Because I want to do something, very -- different. Basically, it will be Usagi and War of the Worlds, with Martians and tripods, and what would happen if Martians had sent a scout ship to feudal Japan 200 years before H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, and we’ll have tripods against giant samurai armies in armor, and ninja versus the aliens and all kinds of stuff.

BRYAN YOUNG: That sounds amazing.

STAN SAKAI: But it won’t be historically accurate!

BRYAN YOUNG: No, no, not at all, but that was actually another of my questions. Are you going to do more in the Space Usagi?

STAN SAKAI: There is one final Space Usagi mini series I would like to do, but I want to concentrate on Usagi for a while, and after the mini series, I want to continue the numbering of the regular Usagi Yojimbo series, and basically pretty much pick up where I left off.

BRYAN YOUNG: That’s great, thank you very much.

STAN SAKAI: Thank you.

Can you imagine? War of the Worlds playing out in the pages of Usagi Yojimbo? That sounds so fun to me. And the possibility that we're getting more Space Usagi makes me happy.

If 47 Ronin sounds like your cup of tea (and if you've read this far, I'm assuming it is) check out these pages from the book.