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Postby richarddragon » Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:15 +0000


The first ever Maui Comic Con took place last year at the Lahaina Cannery. An estimated 2,000 people attended, many in costume with their keiki. The event featured appearances by top tier comic book artists, an Artist’s Alley of local comic book artists, buyer’s booths, scores of comic books, a VIP room and panels pertaining to comic book films and TV shows. The Lahaina Cannery hadn’t felt so cram-packed in years and the event proved to be a dream come true for anyone living on the Valley Isle who had never made it to either a mainland or inter-island comic book convention.

A year later, Maui Comic Con is back and even bigger than its inaugural year. Now, UH Maui College will host the event, which will create a more expansive landscape, a more centralized location for attendees and more variety for lovers of all things comic books, movies and pop culture.

In the weeks leading up to the event, most of the inventory at Maui’s sole comic shop, Maui Comics and Collectibles, is being boxed and stacked. Alika Seki, the owner of the store that hosts multiple gamer meetings and the NERDWatch podcast, has rarely been busier. In addition to being the orchestrator of another eagerly anticipated Maui event, he’s also in the process of moving his shop. His cozy, charmingly stuffed store at the Akaku Center is moving across town. In fact, starting Nov. 1, Maui Comics and Collectibles will be right next to Paradise Video, making Wakea Avenue the hippest street on Maui (sorry, Market Street, you had a good run).

A final conversation to share in exploring the personalities of Maui Comic Con is one of the most esteemed guests in the convention’s brief history, Stan Sakai. His career is one of the most legendary in the comic book world. Sakai is the creator of Usagi Yojimbo (portraying a samurai rabbit’s adventures in Japan) and The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy. The former series began in 1984 and continues today, while the latter is inspired by Sergio Argones’ classic Groo the Wanderer, which Sakai contributed to early on as a letterer. He’s the recipient of multiple Eisner awards and has been nominated more than 20 times. He is the Kurosawa of comic books, a humble, extraordinarily skilled and highly experienced master of storytelling and comic book craftsmanship.

MAUITIME: Usagi Yojimbo has evolved so much over the years. Are there places you still hope to take the story that remain unexplored?

STAN SAKAI: There are many aspects of Japanese history and culture on which I would like to focus stories. There are major story arcs I have wanted to do for a long time such as Tomoe’s Wedding, in which I delve into traditional arranged marriages or Tengu Wars which revolve around these mythological creatures. I am just starting to write a few stories about Christians in the Tokugawa period, having introduced the first European character a couple of years ago.

MAUITIME: What was the initial response to Usagi Yojimbo from the Japanese community?

STAN SAKAI: They were very supportive and saw Usagi as a way of sharing their heritage to their kids. I did talks for Japanese community groups and libraries.

MAUITIME: You’ve mentioned in the past how the actor Toshiro Mifune has influenced your work. Which other artists and works of cinema influenced your character and storytelling abilities?

STAN SAKAI: Much of my storytelling is inspired by cinema and directors such as Akira Kurosawa and Alfred Hitchcock. I like straight-forward, clear storytelling with good pacing and frame compositions. I like the way James Cameron introduces characters, or I may like another director for how he stages his action sequences. My artistic influences vary from Japanese Osamu Tezuka to American Steve Ditko to Italian Milo Manara.

MAUITIME: What is the collaborative process with Sergio Argones like?

STAN SAKAI: I do the lettering for Sergio’s Groo the Wanderer and other projects. Usually, Sergio comes up with the story then hands it off to Mark Evanier for scripting. I say “usually” because sometimes Mark comes up with the story, gives it to Sergio, who gives it back to Mark. Anyway, then the rough penciled art comes to me with a script for lettering. I still do traditional hand lettering directly on the original art. It then goes back to Sergio for inking, and finally to Tom Luth who colors everything digitally and sends scans to our editor. We also travel. Sergio and I have been around the world together, and just returned from the UK last week where we were guests at The International Comics Arts Festival in Kendal where they inaugurated the Sergio Aragones International Award for Excellence in Comic Art.

MAUITIME: You’ve brought your talents to Groo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Peanuts and many others. Is there an established story still out there that you’ve always wanted to take part in?

STAN SAKAI: I have done pretty much what I wanted to do. I grew up with the early Marvel superheroes so it was a thrill many years ago when a Marvel editor called and asked me to do a short story using any of their characters in whatever kind of story I wanted to do. I did a Samurai Hulk story, integrating the green guy with classic Japanese folktales. I just loved drawing the Hulk in armor fighting an army of samurai.

MAUITIME: In this climate of so many comic book properties being adapted for film and television, have you been fielded with offers? Since Usagi Yojimbo is your independent creation, is this something you’d even want?

STAN SAKAI: Usagi has been optioned for movies and television many times, but never made it into his own series. He is in the current season of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in a three-part story which is very good. The toys are in the stores as well, with three exclusive action figures through Walmart.

MAUITIME: Did growing up in a place as beautiful and rich with history as Kyoto also inspire your artistry?

STAN SAKAI: My dad was in the US army, stationed in Japan where he met and married my mom. I was two years old when the family moved to Hawaii where my dad was born, so I remember nothing of Kyoto. However, there is such a large Japanese population in Hawaii and I was able to experience much of the traditions, history and culture. I really enjoyed growing up in Hawaii, but I never really appreciated it until I moved to the Mainland. I return a couple times a year to visit with family.

MAUITIME: You’ve been drawing Usagi Yojimbo for so long–do you ever dream about him or the other characters?

STAN SAKAI: A few of the stories have been inspired by dreams.

MAUITIME: Please tell us what your latest projects are and anything you’d like to promote.

STAN SAKAI: The ongoing Usagi series continues through Dark Horse. I am currently writing and drawing a seven part story involving Usagi and Inspector Ishida, a Sherlock Holmes-type character who was inspired by the Hawaii detective Chang Apana. It is a murder mystery involving high ranking officials who were much more than suspected. Other than that, the DVDs of the TMNT/Usagi crossovers will be on sale in December and the Usagi toys are on sale right now.

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