Usagi Yojimbo celebrated a 30th Anniversary in 2014. In our first single-creator spotlight episode, we celebrate Miyamoto Usagi and his creator, Stan Sakai.
- Stan Sakai created Usagi Yojimbo, and is at once a master storyteller and holder of the title "the nicest person in comics".
- Diana Schutz has been Stan's editor at Dark Horse for years, and moderates the San Diego Comic-Con panel excerpted here.
- Kim Jung Gi (twitter) is a world-renowned Korean artist whose website, Facebook, and Tumblr are full of jaw-dropping, no-sketch finished art (as seen in motion here).
- Andy Ihnatko (twitter) is generally best-known as a writer who covers technology, but his not-so-secret identity is that of a man with a marvelous appreciation for great artwork across a variety of media.
- Sergio Aragonés, a legend in his own right, created Groo the Wanderer, which Stan still letters to this day.
I've broken this into a few categories, since we're covering 30 years of content with some very focused recommendations and a three-decade publication history with a bit of mixing of terms and the fact there are multiple "issue #X" in various cases.
- In general, Usagi Yojimbo is great if you go right from the beginning with The Ronin (Book 1), but you can "jump ahead" to some of these classics among classics to get a good, broken-in taste.
- Usagi Yojimbo Trade PaperBacks are collected in "Books", which stay the same across all different publishers, regardless of what "volume" (1, 2, or 3) of Usagi a given issue is from. Book 1 is Book 1 and so on, period.
- Books 1-7 collect all issues published by Fantagraphics. There is a now out-of-print Special Edition oversized hardcover that includes all seven in two big slipcased books, with a special introduction by Stan Lee. I wish Fantagraphics would put a version of it back into print.
- Books 8-29 (and beyond) collect the comparatively few issues from the Mirage era, as well as the longest continuous volume of Usagi, still-running from Dark Horse.
- The recently-released "The Usagi Yojimbo Saga" Volume 1 from Dark Horse collects Books 8-10 (which includes Daisho).
- Three more "The Usagi Yojimbo Saga" volumes are already scheduled for release this year, collecting three Books each:
- 10 March 2015 (Volume 2: Books 11-13...which includes Grasscutter)
- 9 June 2015 (Volume 3: Books 14-16)
- 8 September 2015 (Volume 4: Books 17-19)
- I'm pre-ordering the Limited Edition hardcover versions (2, 3, 4), but fair warning: they currently run ~$60-70 as compared to the ~$20 paperbacks.
- If you are one of the little monsters who buy those and scalp them, I will come for you with a very sharp sword.
- Regarding digital: Dark Horse exclusively sells their comics digitally from their own app as a non-comiXology signatory publisher (which is fine!).
- Last I checked, many or all of the Usagi Yojimbo issues from the Dark Horse run are available digitally alongside a few "Classic"-branded reprint versions of older issues.
- All the Dark Horse TPBs (Book 8 onward), in digital form only cost $9.99, which isn't bad at all.
- Stan Sakai loves "A Kite Story" from Lone Goat and Kid (Book 5).
- Andy Ihnatko and Moisés both recommend Grasscutter (Book 12) and its sequel Grasscutter II: Journey to Atsuta Shrine (Book 15), as well as Daisho (Book 9), which includes the story of how samurai swords are made, of which Andy makes particular note.
- Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai is a gorgeous standalone, all-watercolor special from the 2009 25th Anniversary.
- Not mentioned on the show, but a great early volume: Moisés also likes The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy (Book 4), whose TPB features an introduction from Alejandro Jodorowsky.
More Usagi Discussed on This Episode
Samurai + Sci-Fi
- Space Usagi jumps forward to the far future, following the descendant of the original Usagi. Spread across multiple miniseries from the 90's, all are now collected in one TPB.
- Usagi Yojimbo SENSO, which jumps ahead in time and transplants an HG Wells-War of the Worlds invasion into the world of Usagi arrives in hardcover May 2015.
Also by Sakai
- 47 Ronin, written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by Stan Sakai, tells the "great story of Japan".
- The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy was released last year, featuring the characters Sakai originally thought would be his breakout favorites. It's more "very young reader"-friendly than the Samurai Violence of Usagi is.
Stan Reads and Loves
- The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt is one of the best ongoing series out there, and is the best TV show not on TV. The Volume 1 TPB collects issues #1-6, but the Volume 1 Deluxe Hardcover collects #1-11 in oversized format, plus various extras. (Deluxe Volume 2 is out in April and includes #12-23)
- Bone by Jeff Smith is one of the great comics ever made, and you can get all of it for around $30
- Mouse Guard by David Petersen starts in Mouse Guard: Fall 1152
- Nansō Satomi Hakkenden, the source material for one of Stan's favorite childhood movies, was a 100+volume epic published over nearly 30 years.
- Satomi hakken-den (1959, IMDb) is impossible to find on DVD, and is generally overshadowed by the 1983 second remake, starring Sonny Chiba.
- The writing of Ed McBain
- Take a look at this proof-of-concept for an animated Usagi feature-length movie, made on a shoestring budget by industry visual effects pros.