DARK HORSE ANNOUNCES THE FULL SLATE OF ARTISTS FOR THE SAKAI PROJECT!
MILWAUKIE, OR, JULY 17—Next week will see the release of the official celebration of thirty years of Stan Sakai’s marvelous samurai rabbit saga, Usagi Yojimbo, in the oversized hardcover benefit book The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate Thirty Years of Usagi Yojimbo!
To celebrate, Dark Horse announces the complete list of all of the artists who contributed to this very special tribute. These artists have truly brought their own styles to the subject, making this book a one-of-a-kind treasure.
“It has been an absolute pleasure publishing Stan’s work over the years, and recently collaborating with him directly on 47 Ronin,” said Dark Horse’s president and founder, Mike Richardson. “With the thirtieth anniversary of his most beloved creation, Usagi, and in a time of need for Stan and his family, we are honored to publish this tribute to Stan and his work. We are donating all of the proceeds to Stan and his wife, Sharon. We hope you will join us in honoring one of the comics industry’s shining lights.”
The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate Thirty Years of Usagi Yojimbo will be released opening night of next week’s Comic-Con International, and in comic shops everywhere!
For a complete list of the participating artists contained in this deluxe hardcover, check out the Dark Horse NewsFeed, and then mark your calendar for its release on July 23!
The Sakai Project is produced in association with the Comic Art Professional Society (CAPS). All proceeds from this book will go to Stan and Sharon Sakai.
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USAGI YOJIMBO: SENSO #1 | Stan Sakai
Twenty years in his future, Miyamoto Usagi fights as a general for Lord Noriyuki, against the treacherous Lord Hikiji. In the fury of the final battle, a metal rocket crashes to earth—and inside is an enemy that neither side could have ever imagined! Witness the final fates of your favorite Usagi characters, in this all-new samurai epic with a startling science fiction twist!
- From multiple–Eisner award-winning creator Stan Sakai!
- An all new story set in Usagi’s future!
- Celebrating Usagi’s 30th anniversary!
Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #1 is on sale August 6th.
by Robert “Rob Base” Greenwood
Welcome to the first article in a series talking about great comics that never had a truly great toy franchise.
Today I want to talk about a book that’s pushing 30 years now.
Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai
A brief history
兎用心棒 Usagi Yōjinbō (pronounced oo-SA-gi) “The Rabbit Bodyguard” created by Stan Sakai that first appeared in Albedo Anthropomorphics #2 published by Thoughts and Images in November 1984.
Stan Sakai accepted an offer to move his warrior rabbit to Fantagraphics Books where he appeared in several issues of the new anthropomorphic anthology series, Critters.
Usagi’s popularity influenced Fantagraphics to then release the Usagi Yojimbo Summer Special in October 1986.
Finally, Fantagraphics gave the ronin rabbit his own on-going series with issue #1 being published in July 1987.
The adventures of this talented anthropomorphic biped have captivated comic fans for a long time yet he has never seen a proper toy line.
Don’t get me wrong he was made into a few figures over the years. In the TMNT vintage line, he appeared twice. Nothing that was groundbreaking.
One issue that diehard fans have is that Usagi is neither dressed nor resembles his comic book counterpart other than the ears in a bun.
I make exceptions for toys that are really out there and Space Usagi gets the pass for just being too quirky and over the top!
When characters who are basically in the same vein as Usagi, like Bucky O’Hare, get a full fledged toy line, why didn’t our beloved Rabbit warrior?
In the late 90’s, Antarctic Press released an Usagi Yojimbo figure that did its best to capture the comic book.
Of course, being it was the 90’s, comic book fans couldn’t escape the dreaded variant versions.
In the early 2000’s, the return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (redubbed “TMNT”) brought new and more adult themes into the world of the Fab Four. With their return, they brought their totally awesome rabbit friend in to the modern toy world.
Needless to say that with the rise of direct market and high end action figures, Usagi and the gang could very well be made into an awesome toy line in the year 2013.
In 2003 Dark Horse released a PVC of Usagi.
Unfortunately, this has almost no articulation but does retain a lot of what makes Usagi who he is.
Who would I pick to handle such a monumental undertaking event? Minimates! Having a full line of 2 inch figures makes me smile from ear to ear. Mininates, who first out could capture the cartoon style of Sakai and give a robust collection which could then be incorporated into any preexisting Minimates toy line.
With its parent company Diamond Select, we could also get a 7 inch tall highly detailed collectors figure of Usagi to add as well.
We have been treated to Usagi in statue form but a proper figure still alludes us. With Sakai doing Usagi right for so long and his new series, 47 Ronin, being a modern masterpiece, plus Usagi getting his own hack and slash app game, a proper figure would just be the icing on the cake.
Let us also not forget that in 2011, IGN ranked Miyamoto Usagi 92nd in the top 100 comic books heroes.
There is no time like the present to bring action figures back to Usagi Yojimbo.
By Alex Vazquez
Usagi Yojimbo # 144 presents the satisfying conclusion to the ‘Shoyu’ two-parter. As predicted, the action ramps up and the katanas fly.
As a new reader of this series I find Stan Sakai’s art endearing — it’s like Charles M. Shulz meets Goseki Kojima (Lone Wolf and Cub). There is a lot of swordplay, as one would expect from a series about a Ronin (masterless Samurai). However, don’t expect to see any blood in this kid-friendly series. With that said, Usagi still eff’s up his enemy’s with extreme prejudice.
Mr. Sakai also wraps up the story nicely; the villain gets his comeuppance and Usagi is there to give a fitting one-liner. While this story follows the tropes of a jidaigeki (Japanese historical drama) to a tee, it does so with style and class.
I’m looking forward to what trouble Usagi-san gets into next issue. Until then, pour that soy sauce and enjoy.
Follow Alex on Twitter @Net_Lex
By Alex Vazquez
This is my first time reading a Usagi Yojimbo comic; my only exposure to the character being the ’87 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, and owning the vintage toy. I’m aware of the high praise this long running series has received though and I can see why. There is an unabashed love for traditional Japanese culture, a charming simplicity to the artwork, and a protagonist with gravitas.
The plot in this issue revolves around the brewing of shoyu, or soy sauce. Not the most stimulating of subjects, but our writer extraordinaire, Stan Sakai, filters it through an endearing shoyu brewer, who walks Usagi (if not us readers) through the brewery process. The love of traditional crafts, as portrayed by the hapless brewer, is infectious.
He is, I surmise, the latest of victims that Usagi protects from whatever villainous lot. In this case, our antagonists being a rival brewer and his hired thugs. While the story may not be groundbreaking it’s still a rewarding and educational read nonetheless (I now have a new found love for soy sauce).
If this issue is any indication of what this series represents then consider me on board. The story ends off on a cliffhanger, so some sword swinging action is bound to ensue in the next issue. As such, I’ll be there faster than our wandering samurai can swing his sword.
Follow Alex on Twitter @Nettomono
By Chuck Suffel
Usagi Yojimbo #141 Created, Written & Illustrated by Stan Sakai
This issue is quite a milestone as it marks the two hundredth appearance of Usagi in his own comic illustrated by Stan Sakai. I’ve read this title once or twice in the past but until this issue I don’t think I ever gave it the chance it deserved. Sakai drafts a simple yet compelling story one we think we’ve read before, it feels so familiar, but in lending it his voice he changes it, makes it mean something different. It’s a very personal and symbolic issue and one I’m sure it felt wonderful to write.
For the un-indoctrinated Miyamoto Usagi is a Ronin (masterless samurai), traveling the “warriors pilgrimage” as yojimbo (bodyguard for hire). He is also an anthropomorphic rabbit. As I said the story is quite familiar, a town being terrorized by a
gang. A gang who takes what they want and kills whomever they wish. We all know how those stories play out, there’s a girl to save and her father. There were several interesting differences this time, the supporting character Masa a stone carver who has set himself to the task of carving 200 statues of Jizo (a deity who relieves suffering) in order to rid his village of this blight. And his daughter, Tomiko who despite being a beautiful damsel in distress does not become the hero’s love interest. Another interesting shift in the story away from the formula is how the bad guy gets his comeuppance. I won’t spoil it here but lets say it was more satisfying than a straight dual would have been. When you finish this issue you realize that this story has been a tribute by Sakai. To his fans to Usagi to the craft. Masa is asked if when he reaches his goal will he continue to carve his reply? “Of course– Until my hands can no longer hold the tools of my craft.” I hope that’s true Sakai because you are a master of the craft and I hope you continue it for many years to come.
Also a quick bio on Stan:
Name: Stan Sakai
Born: May 25th, 1953 – Kyoto, Japan. Age of two, family moved to Hawaii where he lived for the next 22 years.
Current Residence: Pasadena, California
Training: University of Hawaii, B.F.A.; Art Center College of Design
Credits: Art/Story – Usagi Yojimbo, Nilson Groundthumper, Space Usagi, Ten Little Critters. Lettering – Groo The Wanderer, The Legend of Kamui, Spider-man Sunday Strips
Favorite Pen: Kohinoor Art Pen
Favorite Movie: Satomi Hakkenden
Major Influences: Steve Ditko, Sergio Aragones, Milo Manara, Moebius, Jack Kirby, Bill Stout, Walt Kelly, Carl Barks, and (of course) Akira Kurosawa.
Check out Chuck’s Twitter and tumblr
STAN SAKAI HONORED WITH YEAR OF THE RABBIT EXHIBIT!
October 25, MILWAUKIE, OR—Earlier this year, Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai was named the 2011 Cultural Ambassador by the Japanese American National Museum. Shortly thereafter, the JANM opened their Year of the Rabbit exhibit—the most comprehensive collection of Sakai’s work to date.
Stan Sakai has won several Eisner Awards and has received over twenty Eisner Award nominations. Prior to Dark Horse’s long run on the series, there were thirty-eight Fantagraphics issues, sixteen Mirage issues, a summer special, and four color specials. Dark Horse’s Usagi Yojimbo #141 marks the landmark two hundredth overall issue of master storyteller Stan Sakai’s beloved series, and the rabbit ronin celebrates with a special story perfect for new readers, “200 Buddhas”! With a ruthless gang terrorizing his small town, a humble stonecutter receives a vision and sets out to carve two hundred stone figures. Just as he has finished the 199th, a long-eared stranger comes to his door seeking shelter from the rain!
“In a perfect world, everyone would read Usagi Yojimbo.”
—Greg McElhatton, Comic Book Resources
The Japanese American National Museum is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to sharing the experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry. The founding of the museum is a story of high hopes, remarkable achievements, frustration, and, ultimately, success. The JANM is located in Los Angeles, and the Year of the Rabbit exhibit closes its doors October 30, 2011 – http://www.janm.org/exhibits/
Usagi Yojimbo #141 is on sale October 26, 2011!
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