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Tag Archive: Usagi Yojimbo


This past February we reported writer/artist Stan Sakai would be bringing his world of the swordsrabbit Miyamoto Usagi to IDW Publishing with stories old and new.  That begins tomorrow with the first issue of the new three-part, full-color series–yep, the black and white comic will be in full color for the first time, written, drawn, and lettered by comics legend Sakai with colors by Tom Luth (Groo the Wanderer).  Readers will catch up with Usagi caught-up in his own new drama set during the Edo period of 17th century Japan.  The first story, titled “Bunraku,” a word for Japanese puppetry, captures many elements that make the world of Usagi Yojimbo unique: adventure filled with culture, folklore, and history.  IDW also plans to bring all 35 years of Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo stories into new collected editions.  So Issue #1 of Usagi Yojimbo: Bunraku is only the beginning.

First published in 1984, Usagi Yojimbo garnered five Eisner Awards for Sakai, the 2014 Inkwell Award, 2007 Harvey Award, 2002 National Cartoonists Society Comic Book Division Awards, and the Cultural Ambassador Award from the Japanese American Museum.  Haven’t checked out Usagi Yojimbo yet?  The humor is similar to Mike Norton’s Battlepug, or Mike Wieringo’s Tellos, full of action, classic Conan, Tarzan, John Carter-level adventure, with the epic feel of Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki.  Note: Another book is now available for pre-order from Sakai’s earlier publisher.  Last week Dark Horse Comics announced Usagi Yojimbo: 35 Years of Covers, a complete hardcover collection of Sakai’s greatest covers (you can pre-order it now here at Amazon).

Usagi Yojimbo #1 will be released in a main cover by Sakai, plus variants by Daniel Warren Johnson–1:10 retailer incentive, Kevin Eastman–1:50 retailer incentive, comics legend Walt Simonson–1:25 retailer incentive, and a two-part Sakai cover that connects with Ragnarok: The Breaking of Helheim, Issue #1, plus store exclusives from Buzz (500, Legends), Maria Caligari (500, AOD Collectables), J. Scott Campbell (color or B&W, Comics & Ponies), Mike Choi (logo–600, virgin–200, Collector’s Paradise, Knowhere), Chris Johnson (1,000, Brave New World), Alex Kotkin (Excelsior), Linh Nguyen (Incredible Con), Ian Nichols (w/Tick, 500, New England), Tessa Rose (1,000, Jak’s), blank cover from Sakai for use with watercolors, another Sakai cover (500, Other Realms), Julie Sakai (500, Dogū), Mike Vasquez (500, Frankie’s Comics), and the great Charles Vess (color–750, B&W–500, HeroesCon).

Here’s a preview of Usagi Yojimbo–Bunraku, Issue #1, plus previews of the covers for Issues #2 and #3, and all 24 variants for Issue #1, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a comic book nearly two years in the making.  Or maybe 27 years.  And it may be the best single comic book issue of the year.  But as strange as the tale between the covers, the story of its creators is stranger still.  What you probably know is this:  In 1984 Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird published a single issue comic called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Intended as a spoof-parody-mash-up concoction of Marvel’s Daredevil and The New Mutants, Frank Miller’s Ronin, and Dave Sim’s Cerebus, the book sparked something much bigger for readers, becoming one of the most popular franchises for a few generations of readers and cartoon watchers (not to mention the impact it had via toys and movie tie-ins).  A couple unrelated–short-lived–parody spin-offs of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came and went unrelated to Eastman and Laird, including Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos and Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters.

What you don’t know is that eight years after the Turtles saw their first comic–in 1992–comic creators Shane Bookman and his brother Paul released their scrappy indie creation on the unsuspecting comic book universe: Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls Like Eastman and Laird, the Bookmans had their own share of ups and downs, tales of fame and fortune (evidently Eastman sold off his rights to the Turtles some 20 years ago, etc.).  So in 2017 Eastman and writer David Avallone and artist Ben Bishop (with Troy Little, Brittany Peer, Tomi Varga, and Taylor Esposito) took the Bookmans’ story to Kickstarter, and nearly 1,200 backers brought in more than $100,000.  Now it’s all done, first to tell the Bookmans’ story in a new monthly comic beginning this past week called Drawing Blood, and at the same time with a companion comic they created and discussed in their comic industry exploits, Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls, Issue #1.

 

The result?  Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls is an idea as good as any Turtles tale you’ve read, and as finely crafted an origin story, full of action, top-notch writing, beautiful layouts, and exciting new characters: referred to as the Ragdolls (from the cat breed), they are three female cats who encounter gamma rays, cosmic rays, genetic mutagens, and who knows what other comic book superpower trigger was tapped, to become Tezuka, Otomo, and Miyazaki.  Speaking, Ronin-trained, defender cats.  Otomo is the most fearsome, Miyazaki speaks in Haiku poems, and Tezuka is a master tactician.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As you drift along through IDW’s new mini-series, Ghost Tree, don’t be surprised if the story evokes Japanese folk tales, like Momotarō or last year’s Oscar-winning animated short film Bao.  Unlike so many comic book stories today, Ghost Tree is not an action-driven spectacle, but a refreshingly slow supernatural journey into the past for a young Japanese expatriate.  His name is Brandt, and he is returning to the home of his youth because of a promise made to his grandfather a decade ago.  And that takes him to a meeting in the woods near his grandmother’s home.

Writer Bobby Curnow (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and artist Simon Gane (Godzilla) paint a delightful, engaging, and haunting snippet from Japanese culture, bridging two generations, with a tale steeped in the otherworldly realm of so many Asian legends.  Take Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo and merge it with something spooky that awaits in the forest–like something just this side of the dark of Kim Eun-hee’s Kingdom–and you’ll find the setting for Ghost Tree.  

  

It’s a journey of self-discovery for grown-up Brandt, but what more can he learn from his grandfather now that he’s gone?  Can he help the lost souls in the woods and take home lessons from his grandmother to solve his own problems?  Learning from mistakes and regret, a haunted tree, and an assembly of souls that are drawn to it, plus monsters, and disembodied samurai?  It’s no wonder the first printing of Issue #1 has already sold out in pre-orders.  What prompted the advance sell-out?  The description or that creepy character standing atop the cliff?  Whatever the reason, the first chapter matches the hype.  It’s coming to your local comic shop this week, and if you happen to miss it, don’t worry because the second printing is close behind.

Take a look at this preview of Issue #1 of Ghost Tree, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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A classic board game and TV show are getting new tie-in comic book series and a classic creator and character are all coming to IDW Publishing this year. IDW announced several new books this week to expand their line of monthly series. The Hasbro board game Clue/Cluedo is getting a new comic book mini-series. The Netflix award-winning TV series GLOW is getting a limited series.  And Stan Sakai is bringing his world of the swordsrabbit Usagi Yojimbo to IDW with stories old and new, including a full-color, three-part series.

The Sakai announcement is bigger than a single series, as IDW says it plans to bring all 35 years of his Usagi Yojimbo stories into new collected editions–the black and white comic will be in full color for the first time–and new stories are being prepared.  Beginning in June, a three-part story set again in the Edo period in 17th century Japan finds Usagi “embroiled in a puppet drama where the players are not quite what they seem.”  According to Sakai, “Bunraku (Japanese puppetry) captures many elements that make the world of Usagi Yojimbo unique: an adventure filled with Japanese culture, folklore, and history.  It also features the return of a long-awaited fan favorite character and Yokai (Japanese supernatural creatures).”  Usagi Yojimbo #1 will be released in a main cover by Sakai, plus variants by Daniel Warren Johnson (Murder Falcon), Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), and comics legend Walt Simonson

IDW returns to Clue tie-in mysteries with CLUE: Candlestick, a three-issue comic book miniseries launching in May. “Rife with puzzles, secrets, and lies, and everyone’s a suspect,” the series will be created by animator Dash Shaw writing, illustrative, coloring, and lettering a new Clue mystery.  Check out a preview of the new Clue series below, courtesy of IDW Publishing.
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This past April we previewed here at borg.com what we predicted would be the crossover event of the summer.  We’re glad we were right!  The crossover is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Usagi Yojimbo from IDW Publishing, by arrangement with Dark Horse Comics, Nickelodeon, and Miyamoto Usagi creator Stan Sakai.  Sakai returns to his nimble samurai rabbit warrior 33 years after its first appearance, writing, drawing, and lettering the new book, with Tom Luth supplying the color.  Kevin Eastman, co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, even lends a hand, supplying a cover variant for the book.  Both series featuring anthropomorphic martial arts heroes were created in 1984.

The quality of this book can’t be overstated–it’s gorgeous.  With most comic books a panel or two per page always seems to get short shrift, sometimes an image with no details or silhouette, but that’s not the case with Sakai’s work here.  You can see Sakai’s love for these characters in every panel on every page–emotion, action, or attitude is always present–as he conjures a tale derived from Namazu, a legend in Japanese tradition.  He combines his samurai hero with Kakera–his version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sensei Splinter–and everyone’s favorite ninja turtles as they embark on a quest to save Japan.  Sakai’s story is based on the story of a giant catfish that lives under the Japanese islands, whose movements are the cause for frequent earthquakes.  A great hero was able to pin the fish under a massive rock at Kashima Shrine.  In his new twist on the legend, a piece of the rock has broken off, weakening its power, and now the catfish threatens to destroy the country.  Our heroes must face the demonic spearman Jei, who wants the country destroyed and threatens to interfere with their efforts as they return the rock to its rightful place.

As you can see above, Sakai’s sound effects are brilliant!

   

Look for cover variants from Sakai, longtime Sakai collaborator Sergio Aragonés, Mouse Guard’s David Petersen, and Kevin Eastman–ten covers in all.

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Happy Easter!  Along with the Easter Bunny, how well do you know the famous rabbits of print and screen?  We thought we’d dig in and see what we found and a few dozen surfaced that you probably know, maybe don’t know, or might want to know.  Americans are raised knowing something about the Easter Bunny from year one.  Are any of these other rabbits even more famous?

We had a hard time finding a photo of one famous movie rabbit.  There he is–Harvey, from the 1950 movie co-starring Jimmy Stewart.

Everyone needs a painting in their home like that.

Since it’s Star Wars Celebration weekend, we won’t forget our favorite rogue rabbit, Jaxxon, from the Howard Chaykin and Roy Thomas 1970s Star Wars comic book series.  (That’s him at the top of this article).

We discussed another comic book rabbit only yesterday here at borg.com, Stan Sakai’s samurai from Usagi Yojimbo.

Usagi is a rabbit you want on your side.  But so is Judy Hopp.  She’s one great cop.

She’s the star of last year’s Academy Award winner for Best Animated Film, Zootopia.  And speaking of zoos, Judy would fit right in with this next guy.

That’s Captain Carrot, from Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew!, the 1980s DC Comics series.

Who could be cuter than Thumper, the rabbit from the 1942 Disney movie, Bambi?

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It’s not every day we get to read a new story by its original creator, especially 30 years later.  Comic book readers are getting just that this summer as Japanese-American comic book writer/artist Stan Sakai returns to his creation Miyamoto Usagi, a samurai rabbit living in late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth-century Japan whose exploits were chronicled in his Usagi Yojimbo saga.  Usagi will partner with The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a one-shot graphic novel crossover event.  Both series were created in 1984, the Turtles created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

The new story written and illustrated by Sakai is called Namazu, and the conflict centers on the Japanese myth about a giant catfish that lives under the islands of Japan.  A god named Kashima trapped the fish and it now threatens to free itself and destroy the islands, helped in Sakai’s story by Jei, a character on a mission to destroy all the evil in the world.  Can Usagi and the Turtles join forces to save the future of Japan?

The catfish is featured prominently in a beautiful variant cover by Mouse Guard artist David Petersen (below).  Sakai will provide the standard cover for the book.  A softcover and hardcover edition will be available, the hardcover edition including extras like concept art and story notes selected by Sakai.  Sakai has won a total of seven Eisner and Harvey Awards, and was nominated for 21 Eisners, over his long career.

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