by Kim Thompson, ED.
Kim Thompson was the editor (- ED.) during the time
Fantagraphics Books produced the comic Usagi Yojimbo.
It's hard to believe, but it's just four years ago that Stan Sakai's
warrior bunny made his debut in Steven A. Gallacci's Albedo
In the intervening 50 months, his fame and fortune have advanced by, if
you'll pardon the expression, leaps and bounds. As I type this, Usagi has
appeared in 18 issues of his own title; a couple dozen other comics
including Critters and Turtle Soup; and two handsome
paperback collections. He's even got his own action toy and computer game,
and rumor has it that he'll be guest starring in a few episodes of an
enormously-successful animated TV series starring a quartet of rambunctious
We've published well over 500 pages of Usagi's adventures so far, and all
but a paltry eight have been in black-and-white. Some people think it's just
because we're too cheap to pay for color. Okay, so there's a grain of truth
in that - we are cheap - but the main reason Usagi appears in
black-and-white is that we like it that way. Black-and-white has
gotten a bit of a bum's rush of late, both in comic books and the wider
world of movies and such; but there's something about the clarity and
directness of a black line on a white background that is very basic and very
appealing. Magical, even.
But color has its charm, too, especially when you have someone as
talented as Tom Luth as part of your creative constellation. Tom, who is
best known for coloring Groo the Wanderer (which Stan letters), has
been Usagi's colorist of choice virtually from the start, lending
his hues to several dozen Usagi covers to date.
You know, no member of a comic's creative team is more vulnerable to
technical difficulties than the colorist. Already forced to work with a
comparatively limited palette of colors due to comics' technical
idiosyncrasies, they fall victim to lousy separations, off-register
printing, gross shifts in color, and other art director's nightmares with
painful regularity. (Ask Tom about the Groo graphic novel
In fact, this is exactly what happened to Tom when Usagi took a
tentative stab at color in an issue of Doomsday Squad. Tom turned
in a lovely, subtle coloring job that, when it finally found its way to the
printed page, was so out-of-register that it looked like 3-D and so muddy
all the whites had turned purple! Can you blame us for not risking color for
another three years after that?
So, in a sense, this one-shot is almost an apology to Tom. (God, I hope
this book prints up decently. If it looks like hell, this introduction is
going to look so stupid!) But it also gives Stan and Tom a chance
to play around with color a bit, and for Stan to tell an out-of-continuity
story starring our favorite supporting character, Tomoe Ame; allows us
another forum for Stan's hilarious Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy
series; and, last but not least, gives us the opportunity finally to hustle
into print Freddy Milton's "Gnuff" story "A Star Is Born," which was
(beautifully) colored by Mighty Mike (Captain Jack) Kazaleh years
ago and has sat on the shelf ever since.
So, for this issue at least, Usagi's world goes Technicolor. We hope you
enjoy it, and - who knows? - maybe we'll do it again someday.
Drop us a line to tell us if you enjoyed it!
- Kim Thompson