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PostPosted: Sat Feb 24, 2018 13:29 +0000
by Steve Hubbell

Usagi Yojimbo enjoys a distinction that not many comic book titles can claim: it has had 225 consecutive issues written and drawn by one creator, Stan Sakai. The creator-owned title has reached the territory of series such as Dave Sim’s Cerebus and Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon. If you include his various miniseries like Space Usagi, we’re talking more than 250 issues almost wholly produced by Sakai, who even does the lettering.

The adventures of Sakai’s ronin rabbit were published by Fantagraphics Books in the late 1980s and Mirage Publishing in the early 1990s, and have resided at Dark Horse Comics from 1996 to present. Each move has brought with it a new #1, but the comic has reached #165 at its current and most stable home. What’s more, the property has been reinvigorated in the past couple of years with the Senso miniseries receiving wide acclaim in 2014 and 2015, the reunion of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Usagi in print and animation last year, and the announcement Usagi would finally get his own animated series earlier this month. To top it all off, Usagi Yojimbo will relaunch with a new #1 in March — shifting to a miniseries format starting with the seven-issue Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden.

While renumbering ongoing titles is common place for Marvel and DC, making it to #165 at the same publisher for a creator-owned title is a massive milestone. So, why a new Usagi Yojimbo #1 then? Well, that’s what CBR aimed to find out when given the opportunity to pick Sakai’s brain about our favorite anthropomorphic hare. We also inquired about the upcoming Usagi cartoon, the major European influence in the next arc of the comic, if we will see Space Usagi Vol. 4 in 2018, and what animal will never be a character in Usagi Yojimbo. Check it all out below.

CBR: It’s been more than 20 years since you relaunched with a #1, why now?

STAN SAKAI: It just made sense. My editor, Philip Simon, came up with this idea to switch to miniseries format and I liked his thought process. Since it really wouldn’t affect my pacing or storytelling and I already was planning a major story arc, it meshed. Additionally, our goal was to make it easier for new Usagi readers, since it can be intimidating to pick up issue #165 and feel like you are current. Not to mention that the “true” #1 is actually back with Fantagraphics. With that in mind, I didn’t see a reason to not try out the miniseries format.

CBR: When will you switch back to the proper Dark Horse numbering?

STAN SAKAI: All the comics will have both the “actual” number of serialized comics (now past 220 issues, not including Space Usagi, Senso, TMNT crossovers, and Yokai) as well as the Dark Horse numbering in the indicia.

CBR: In Senso we saw Jotaro inherit Usagi’s swords (aka soul). Is it possible Jotaro may eventually become the star of the title? Or that there might be another miniseries set after Senso?

STAN SAKAI: With Space Usagi, we saw that the swords were passed down generation to generation. In the end of Senso we saw when it was first handed down. I don’t plan for a story after Senso, but I have a miniseries in mind for events that occurred right before that story.

CBR: How much involvement will you have in the digital animated series? What more can you share about the production at this point?

STAN SAKAI: I will have some involvement with any animated series. However, as the sole creator of Usagi Yojimbo, my time is largely spent on the comic and other related projects. What I can say is that I am quite optimistic in what I’ve seen, thus far. Gaumont certainly knows what they are doing and I have much confidence in their approach. We’re still in the early stages. Last I heard they were narrowing down the writer, who they may have selected by now. I’ve also been told that the approach is a bit more expedient than typical, as there is much excitement surrounding the project.

CBR: Is there an animal that you haven’t used for a character yet that you plan to?

STAN SAKAI: I have not used any of the more weirdly designed animals, such as a giraffe, and don’t plan to. For the most part I’ve used animals native to Asia, though Gen the rhino is an obvious exception.

CBR: You said Rodriguez is the first ever European character we’ve seen in Usagi comics, but that there would be more soon. Can you tell us more?

STAN SAKAI: This time in Japanese history — the early 1600s — was a transitional time. Europeans were coming in to trade but were relegated to certain areas, most well-known was the man-made island of Dejima off the coast of Nagasaki. Christianity, which was once welcomed, is now outlawed and its practice by Japanese nationals was punishable by death. The Hidden, which is the first story in the miniseries format, is a murder mystery revolving around that faith. We were in Japan in April 2017 and we were invited to visit a traditional mirror maker who is a designated Cultural Asset. He is the last in a long line making nickel mirrors by hand. One thing he showed us was a “magic mirror.” It looks and reflects as any mirror but when a certain light is shone upon it, it casts a reflection of Jesus on the cross. That was one way for early Japanese Christians to both display and hide their faith at the same time.

CBR: That sounds like an amazing arc. What is the most personal Usagi story you’ve ever written?

STAN SAKAI: One story that was not intended to be a personal story but became one is The Way of the Samurai in Usagi Yojimbo Book 5 from Fantagraphics Books. It tells of an old general who intends to die in a final duel with Usagi. A guy in Sweden, who was contemplating suicide, said that story turned his life around. A psychiatrist friend of mine reached out to him and discovered that some of his medications may have been interacting negatively with each other and encouraged him to have them re-evaluated.

CBR: Usagi issues often start with a shot of the weather or landscape. Is that inspired by a specific influence?

STAN SAKAI: I just enjoy drawing scenes of Usagi in various weather conditions — rain, snow, wind, etc. The weather becomes a character and part of the story. Four consecutive book collections take place during the same summer monsoon period, from the early gentle rains of June to late August.

CBR: Is the fourth Space Usagi miniseries coming in 2018? His cameo in Senso was very cool!

STAN SAKAI: There is one more Space Usagi series that I would like to do because I have some nice visuals planned, but my year, story-wise, is already planned out.

CBR: We had a chance to talk just before the release of last year’s Usagi Yojimbo/TMNT crossover. You told us about Ten Little Critters and drawing the first chapter. Is it any closer to being finished?

STAN SAKAI: Ten Little Critters is another project that has been shelved, even though I have a great ending. Another is a Sherlock Holmes miniseries that I have been itching to do. It is a take on Holmes that I don’t think has ever been done. This one also has a fun ending.

CBR February 2018 interview

PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 19:34 +0000
by lookatyouhacker
This interview was back in 2018 with CBR with Stan Sakai talking about his then upcoming Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden. Of course, all seven issues have already been released, and next month, will be in a single book. However, what really interested me in this interview is what Stan Sakai said about the upcoming Usagi Yojimbo cartoon.

I am quite optimistic in what I've seen, thus far. Gaumont certainly knows what they are doing and I have much confidence in their approach. We're still in the early stages. Last I heard they were narrowing down the writer, who they may have selected by now. I've also been told that the approach is a bit more expedient than typical, as there is much excitement surrounding the project.

Now, I was hoping if Stan could let us know what it was that he saw that gave him hope for how this project is going to turn out. Of course, I think it would be great if someone working at Gaumont were a user on this site. There are plenty of things about that cartoon that I want to know. Mostly, is the cartoon going to follow the comics in much the way a lot of anime based on manga follow their printed source materials or will it be a separate continuity? I'm kind of hoping for the former, though.

Re: CBR February 2018 interview

PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 19:41 +0000
by Maka
Good questions. All I know is thing in the movie/TV industry typically take a long time to make. Check how many times Akira has been promised to made into a live action film. I heard that Michael Golamco is involved with the latest Akira project. It would be nice to have an Asian-American (Golamco) involved with this project. Peace, maka


PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 5:08 +0000
by lookatyouhacker
On the Tomoe Ame topic, Stan stated that there is an upcoming project next year, and now I'm wondering if the Space Usagi story that was mentioned in this interview might be exactly that.