INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
Attendees at this year’s Baltimore Comic-Con are in for a special treat, as they’ll have the opportunity to purchase an art book featuring Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo as drawn by more than 30 artists.
Earlier today, we heard from Thom Zahler and Brad Tree on how the project came together, and now Sakai shares his thoughts on the book, his work on the recently wrapped 47 Ronin and some details on his next projects, which include a new Nilson Groundthumper tale and a Usagi story that will be out of this world. My thanks to Stan for his time in answering my questions, and to Thom and Brad, who arranged the interview.
Baltimore Comic-Con, being held Sept. 7-8, sports an impressive guest list of comic book creators. This year it welcomes Joe Hill, Neal Adams, Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Brian Bolland, Amanda Conner, David Petersen, George Perez, Walt Simonson, Louise Simonson, Mike Mignola, Keith Giffen, David Finch, Adam Hughes and many more.
One guest is particularly notable: Stan Sakai, whose signature creation, Usagi Yojimbo, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. To help celebrate Usagi and his creator, the convention will offer a special yearbook featuring the long-eared samurai as drawn by a variety of creators who are attending the show.
Graphic novel sales | The top-selling graphic novel in bookstores last month was the 18th volume of The Walking Dead, according to BookScan, followed by Naruto, Vol. 61, Saga, Vol. 2, Sailor Moon, Vol. 11, and perennial bestseller The Walking Dead Compendium, Vol. 1. It was a good month for manga, which took 10 of the Top 20 slots; not so much for DC, which had just one book in the Top 20, and Marvel, which had none. [ICv2]
Comics sales | Comic and graphic novel sales were up in the second quarter of 2013 compared to the same period last year, but ICv2 termed it a “solid but unspectacular” quarter compared to a “torrid” Q1. Anemic sales in June were partly to blame — comics sales were up, graphic novel sales were down. [ICv2]
Stan Sakai is taking a break from his long-running series Usagi Yojimbo, and he explains why in a short comic on the Dark Horse site: He’s taking time off to draw 47 Ronin, a historical tale written by Dark Horse President Mike Richardson. The comic is cute and turns what could just be a creator’s note into a dynamic encounter with lots of action and a funny twist at the end. In other words, it’s pure Sakai. And yes, he promises he will resume work on Usagi Yojimbo once he’s done with 47 Ronin.
(via Comics Worth Reading)
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d spend the first $3.99 on the first issue of 47 Ronin, a retelling of a Japanese legend written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by Stan Sakai. I saw a preview of this and it looks phenomenal. Next up is my favorite soap opera, Life With Archie #24 ($3.99), in which Moose contemplates running for the Senate and The Archies reunite. This comic is consistently well written and the stories really drag me in. I’ll slap down another $3.99 for Popeye #7, because I’m a Roger Langridge fan. And because I love a bargain, I’ll finish up with Freelancers #1, a new series from BOOM! Studios that looks kinda fun — and hey, there’s a variant cover by Felipe Smith, one of my favorite manga artists.
If I had $30, I’d revert to my childhood and pick up the Doctor Who Annual ($12.99) from Penguin. When I was a kid, the British comics annuals were the high point of the holidays, and I’m pretty sure I have a vintage Doctor Who one tucked away somewhere. It’s probably aimed at kids but that just means I can share it with my nephew and nieces.
The splurge item to get this week is the new box set of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This is Miyazaki’s longest manga by far, and the story continues after the movie ends. It’s going to be the same large format as Viz’s earlier box set, but the seven volumes are being bound as two this time. It’s $60, but I noticed Amazon is offering a steep discount, so I’ll add another splurge: Nickolai Dante: Sympathy for the Devil ($29.99), a story that ran in 2000AD. I saw artist Simon Fraser describe it at NYCC this way: “Nikolai Dante is a swashbuckling hero from the far, far future, the year 2666, where he is alternately working for and against the czar, and for his own family and against his family, and in the meantime trying to get as drunk and screw as many women as he possibly can.” Sold!
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics — now with 100 percent more JK Parkin! Michael May, Graeme McMillan, Chris Arrant and JK have each picked the five comics they’re most anticipating in order to create a Top 20 (or so; we overlap sometimes) of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
47 Ronin #1 (Dark Horse, $3.99): Mike Richardson, Dark Horse’s head honcho, teams with Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai to retell the story of the 47 ronin who avenged their master after he was forced to commit ritual suicide for assaulting a court official. It will be both very cool and a little odd to see Sakai drawing samurai that aren’t anthropomorphic animals and aren’t in black and white (the book’s full color), but I’ve always admired his clean style. As an added bonus, Kazuo Koike of Lone Wolf and Cub fame consulted on the project, so this should be a treat.
Great Pacific #1 (Image Comics, $2.99): Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo have come up with a book that I just love the high concept behind: the heir to one of America’s most successful oil companies moves to the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch and declares it a sovereign country. He then fights giant sea monsters, based on the preview art that’s been released, which is an added bonus.
Marvel NOW!: This might be cheating, but Marvel has 10 new comics debuting in November under the Marvel NOW! banner. Mark Waid on Hulk? John Romita on Captain America? Matt Fraction writing Fantastic Four and FF? Jonathan Hickman on Avengers? Yeah, I’ll just lump all these together and hope no one notices I’m gaming the system here …
Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: A Christmas for Shacktown: Fantagraphics continues its series of high-end collections of the best of Carl Barks’ duck stories, with the Christmas-themed third volume arriving just in time to be stuffed in somebody’s stocking.
Retrovirus (Image Comics, $16.99): Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s latest graphic novel, drawn by Norberto Fernandez, is about a research scientist who specializes in viruses heading to Antarctica to examine a perfectly preserved caveman. I’m a fan of Palmiotti and Gray’s work together, from Jonah Hex to The Monolith (which gets the collection treatment in November), and this one sounds like it could be a lot of fun.
Digital comics | The Japanese web portal JManga today launched an unlimited-access site JManga7, although it won’t be putting any actual content on it until October. Unlike JManga, which sells digital manga one volume at a time, JManga7 operates on an “all-you-can-eat” model, with single chapters of a variety of titles available for free, and a wider selection with a paid subscription. The site will be updated daily and will include a mix of genres, with some new content that is being published close to its Japanese release date as well as some older series. The idea is for readers to check out the manga at JManga7 and ultimately buy them for keeps at JManga. To encourage readers to pre-register, JManga is raffling off seven Nexus 7 tablets and seven free subscriptions. Plans for the site were unveiled last month at Comic-Con International in an exclusive interview with Comic Book Resources. [JManga]
[Update: Thank you to Ryan Estrada for pointing out Stan Sakai’s Facebook comments about this post. By way of clarification, these pages were already posted in their entirety on the Tumblr account credited at the bottom of the post. I didn’t scan them myself, but it was still thoughtless not to contact Mr. Sakai and ask before sharing them here. I regret not doing that and apologize.]
The January 1991 issue of Amazing Heroes (Issue 187) included this cool eight-page comic by Stan Sakai on his process in producing Usagi Yojimbo. There was also an accompanying interview with gems like this: “I’m not really that into manga. It’s funny: whenever I go to conventions around the country I’m always put on a manga panel, I guess because I’m Japanese and Usagi’s about Japan. But I know almost nothing about manga. So I just say my two cents’ worth and keep quiet the rest of the panel.”
Twenty years later, it’s still an insightful (and delightful) read. Check out a couple of the pages below; Vingt Et Un has the rest.
Video games | Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai has revealed a video game will be released later this year for smartphones, tablets and personal computers based on his long-running historical action-fantasy comic. Called Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin, it’s not the first video game to feature the samurai rabbit: Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo debuted in 1987 for Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Expect more details next month at Comic-Con International in San Diego. [Facebook]
Conventions | Organizers of the Denver Comic Con anticipate that this weekend’s show was their second-largest ever. Batgirl writer Gail Simone praised the show, noting it sold out Friday and Saturday: “Sheesh, both Friday and Saturday completely sold out, the place was packed. There are tons of interesting guests, lots of great panels, and a real emphasis on diversity. The attendees have huge percentages of females, there’s more cosplayers here than any con this size I have been to, and very welcome indeed, there are lots and lots of kids.” [Denver Post]
Jonathan Case, artist of Green River Killer and creator of Dear Creature, was the big winner this year at the Stumptown Comic Art Awards, taking home two of the awards’ unique trophies this past weekend during the Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland, Ore.
Nominees in each category were chosen by a panel of judges consisting of comics industry professionals, journalists and retailers, and then voted on by the comics-reading public. This year’s winners are:
Jonathan Case, Green River Killer
Brandon Graham, Prophet
Jaime Hernandez, Love and Rockets
Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo: Fox Hunt
Dave Stewart, Hellboy: House of the Living Dead; Chimichanga
Best Publication Design
Petrograd, Tyler Crook and Keith Wood
Lies Grownups Told Me edited by Nomi Kane, Jen Vaughn, Caitlin M.
Best Small Press
Fugue #1 by Beth Hetland
Best New Talent
Jonathan Case, Dear Creature, Green River Killer
Vic Boone by Shawn Aldridge, Geoffo Panda
Dark Horse President Mike Richardson is teaming with two samurai masters to tell the tale of the 47 Ronin, about a Japanese feudal lord who was forced to commit ritual suicide, and the samurai-turned-ronin who avenged his death. Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai will draw the project, while Kazuo Koike of Lone Wold and Cub fame will serve as an editorial consultant.
“I’ve been fascinated with this story from the earliest days of Dark Horse, visiting the significant locations and doing research during my trips to Japan. For years I’ve been looking for just the right artist, and it finally dawned on me that he was right here at Dark Horse,” Richardson said in a press release. “Stan Sakai is a master storyteller who knows the material, and his artistic interpretation is perfect for the story. What’s more, my friend, legendary manga writer Kazuo Koike , has served as editorial consultant for the project.”
“I have known the 47 Ronin story about all my life, and I paid a pilgrimage to their grave site when I was in Japan in 2009. This is a significant event in Japanese history, and when Mike asked me to illustrate the story I jumped at the chance. I’m known for the research I do, but I was amazed at the research and knowledge Mike already had. I’m having a blast with this,” Sakai said. .
47 Ronin will be on comic stands November 2012. Check out a piece of Sakai’s art after the jump, as well as the video from CBR that announced the project.
Creators | Veteran artist Jules Feiffer is publishing his first graphic novel (not counting a graphic novel-ish work in the 1970s), and he says his fans won’t recognize it, as it’s in a much more realistic style than his other work. Feiffer got his start in Will Eisner’s studio but felt he couldn’t draw like the other artists there, but he seems to have developed the ability recently: “Now I seem to be able to work in the adventure story drawing style. All of this comes out of my early love of Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler.” [Publishers Weekly Comics World]
Creators | Pitting teenagers against one another for a television reality/talent show, America’s Got Powers may sound a bit like The Hunger Games, but artist Bryan Hitch says there’s more to it than that: “The talent show/gladiatorial stuff isn’t the story, though — it’s the setting against which the story takes place and at heart this is the story of two brothers and how they changed the world, or at least the world from their point of view. It’s personal, emotional and, given my own visual tendencies, massive, explosive and destructive!” [USA Today]
Although the Mouse Guard series is David Petersen’s sandbox, he has been known to let others in to play with his toys. For instance, the first Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard series featured stories by Ted Naifeh, Gene Ha, Jeremy Bastian and many others.
We know that a second volume of the anthology series is in the works, and it looks like one of the contributors will be Stan Sakai, who shares one of his pages on his LiveJournal. Sakai of course has been doing Usagi Yojimbo for decades now, so it isn’t surprising to see him drawing anthropomorphic characters, but it is a rare treat to see his work in color (beyond the Usagi covers, of course, and the occasional graphic novel or anthology submission).
Libraries | The Center for Cartoon Studies has found a new home for the Schulz Library, whose previous location was damaged in a flood in August: the old post office in downtown White River Junction, Vermont. The school was able to purchase the building with the help of Bayle Drubel, a real estate developer and founding CCS board member who bought the post office in 2004. Renovations are set to begin this winter to create room for instruction space, faculty offices and the Schulz Library cartoon collection. [The Center for Cartoon Studies, via The Daily Cartoonist]
Creators | The Atlantic profiles Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith. [The Atlantic]
Creators | Artist Fabio Moon talks about teaming with Zack Whedon on the new Serenity comic that makes up one-half of one of their Free Comic Book Day offerings. [ComicsAlliance]
Wouldn’t it be awesome if everywhere you shopped this holiday season offered a minicomic with a $50 purchase? Fantagraphics is doing just that, through their online store. They’ve created 21 mini-comics by a variety of their creators that are available free with the purchase of their “matching” book or books, or for simply purchasing $50 worth of stuff from their catalog.
“I always was very fond of the mini-comics format — take two to four 8 1/2 x 11 sheets, fold them once, staple, and voilà!” wrote Kim Thompson. “You have an adorable little 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 comic book for mere pennies. But I could never really figure out what to do with this old-school, low-tech format. Until now!”
The contents of the mini-comics are fairly unique, too; there’s a David B. one featuring a never-before-translated-into-English tale, and a Stan Sakai one that reprints a Nilson Groundthumper story that originally appeared in the Critters anthology back in the day. There’s one featuring out-of-print Peter Bagge strips, and one featuring a full-color 10-page summary of Tony Millionaire’s doomed attempt to get Billy Hazelnuts onto television. And more, by the Hernandez Bros., Jim Woodring, Johnny Ryan, Richard Sala, Bill Griffith, Ivan Brunetti and even Doc Winner, E.C. Segar’s assistant on Popeye.
The big chain stores might have cheap TVs this weekend, but how many of them come with a Tony Millionaire mini-comic? Not nearly enough, I tell ya.