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This week brought some great news for fans of Stan Sakai’s long-eared ronin — Dark Horse announced that the ongoing Usagi Yojimbo will return this May.
While it’s been three years since we last saw an issue of the Usagi Yojimbo regular series, neither Sakai nor Usagi haven’t been absent from comic shelves. During that time Dark Horse released the Eisner-nominated 47 Ronin, by Sakai and writer Mike Richardson. And last year brought the War of the Worlds-inspired Usagi Yojimbo: Senso miniseries, a “What if?”-like tale that saw an older Usagi battling an alien invasion.
On his Facebook page, Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai offers a glimpse into his process, showing the evolution of a single panel from rough sketch to final inks.
Sakai’s historical fantasy, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, continues next month with the conclusion of Usagi Yojimo: Senso, the six-issue miniseries with a War of the Worlds-like twist.
See the full panel process on Sakai’s Facebook page.
Southwark Playhouse in London has released a trailer for its Christmas show, a stage production of Stan Sakai’s long-running historical fantasy Usagi Yojimbo.
Adapted by Stewart Melton for ages 7 and up, the play opened Nov. 28 to positive reviews, with particular attention given to its production design and original live music (you get a little taste of both in the trailer). It closes Jan. 4.
While Usagi Yojimbo may not be what comes to mind when you think “Christmas show,” in previous years Southwark Playhouse has staged Howl’s Moving Castle and Anansi: An African Fairy Tale for the holidays. So, more kids’ fare than Christmas fare.
Fans who attended the “30 Years of Usagi Yojimbo” panel at Comic-Con International were treated to a peek at Usagi Yojimbo: The Last Request, a stop-motion animated short that’s still not quite complete. Now Lintika Films has released online the latest version of the proof-of-concept short that convinced Stan Sakai to grant director Roel Robles the feature film rights to the property.
“It’s a still a work-in-progress and about 90% complete,” Lintika explains on its YouTube page. “We’re currently working on the sound mix and refining the film for the DVD release which will include behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, deleted scenes, and interesting details regarding the making of the featurette.”
Dark Horse Comics has announced the impressive list of artists who have contributed to The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate Thirty Years of Usagi Yojimbo, the oversized hardcover benefit book for Stan and Sharon Sakai.
All proceeds from the book will go to the couple to help pay for the medical expenses of Sharon Sakai, who suffers from a debilitating illness that required an extended hospital stay and convalescence, followed by 24-hour home care and medications. The Comic Art Professional Society, which spearheaded a series of auctions to benefit the Sakais, is working in conjunction with Dark Horse to produce the book. The auctions are ongoing and can be found on the organization’s eBay page.
You can find the complete list of artists, along with the page number where their art will appear, below. The 160-page book will be released next Wednesday in comic shops and at Comic-Con International in San Diego, and will cost $29.99.
With just three weeks until the official start of Comic-Con International, Dark Horse unleashed what it calls its “first wave” of convention-exclusive items, which includes a Usagi Yojimbo lithograph, Hellboy in Hell and Itty Bitty Hellboy hardcovers and — wait for it — an Itty Bitty Hellboy plush toy.
The products will be available throughout the convention at the Dark Horse booth (#2615), with the publisher allocating a set number of exclusives and limited editions for each day.
As part of the 30th-anniversary celebration of Stan Sakai’s famed samurai rabbit, Usagi Yojimbo will return in August in a six-issue miniseries from Dark Horse. Its debut will be followed in October by the release of the first volume in a new series of deluxe compilations.
Set 20 years in his future, Usagi Yojimbo: Senso follows Miyamoto Usagi has he fights as a general for Lord Noriyuki against Lord Hikiji. But in a sci-fi twist, a rocket crashes to Earth in the middle of the final battle, containing an enemy that neither side could have imagined. Sakai teased the project last summer in an interview with ROBOT 6, explaining, “The entire premise is,’What if the Martians from HG Wells’ War of the Worlds had sent a few scout ships 200 years before their invasion of Victorian England?’ It may not be as historically or culturally accurate as my stories usually are, but it sure will be fun.”
Dark Horse will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo with the release in July of the oversized hardcover benefit book The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate Thirty Years of “Usagi Yojimbo.” All proceeds will go to Stan and Sharon Sakai.
Sharon Sakai suffers from a debilitating illness that required an extended hospital stay and convalescence, and while she’s now back home, she requires 24-hour care and medications that exceed their insurance coverage. The Comic Art Professional Society, which spearheaded an earlier fundraiser for the Sakais, is working in conjunction with Dark Horse to produce the book.
“It has been an absolute pleasure publishing Stan’s work over the years, and recently collaborating with him directly on 47 Ronin,” Dark Horse President Mike Richardson said in a statement. “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 list of contributors to The Sakai Project already includes the likes of Arthur Adams, Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Groening, Mike Mignola, Bill Morrison and Jeff Smith, but Dark Horse is seeking to involve more professionals. The deadline for submissions is Feb. 20; email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Dark Horse took a rather novel approach with its holiday card this year, turning to Art Baltazar and Franco of Tiny Titans and Itty Bitty Hellboy fame to create not just a card but an unfolding comic, with cameos ranging from Darth Vader and Battlepug to the Mask and Publisher Mike Richardson.
See the rest of the card/comic below.
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.
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)
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]