I have been a fan of Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo since the early 90’s, shortly after getting into comics. It may very well have been one of the first independent comics I picked up. I actually first met Stan in San Diego at the Comicon in ‘94. I left two disposable cameras on his table, completely forgetting about them. A few months later he posted in his letters pages that he had found two cameras and if someone could describe them he would love to get them back to them. WOW! I sent him a letter and a few weeks later I got them in the mail with a lil drawing of a smiling Usagi saying, “Cheese!” I never developed them and displayed them on my mantle at home. About 10 years later I saw him again and he asked me if I liked the picture. I said of course I did. I love Usagi. Then he told me he wasn’t talking about Usagi. He had taken a picture of himself with the camera!! D’oh! I had no idea. 8)
had quite a few fun stories to share. He talked about being friends
with Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the creators of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The first issue of Usagi came out the same month as TMNT. He
talked about getting Usagi on the TMNT cartoon and how hard it was to
find a voice for Usagi. He hadn’t really thought about his voice. When
someone asked Sergio Aragones what Groo sounded like he replied,
“Spanish!” because he thought of him in Spanish.
talked about travelling with Sergio and how they would always be
working, on the bus, on the train, on the plane, in the restaurant, in
the bar. Everywhere. All the time. He said they would push and inspire
each other. Must have been nice having that kind of support.
said his work schedule consisted of him waking up at 5 am, doing all
his internet interactions then working throughout the day. His kids
would stand outside the glass door to his studio watching him and he
would feel guilty for not being able to play with them all day. But work
calls. I often feel the same way about my roommates. They are always
wanting me to watch a show or movie with them, go to the park and run
around in the sun or many other great things. But I gotta work!!
also said that he always has the TV on while he is working. He said, to
him, his comics are movies. I feel the same way. I also watch a lot of
TV and movies while working and think of my comics as mini movies. I was
a film major for one semester until I decided I didn’t want to work
with so many people. A sentiment shared by Jeff Lemire. I would much
rather sit in a studio by myself, working away into the night.
said that he would study directors as opposed to comic creators as far
as storytelling is concerned. I also do this. I learned a lot about
pacing and storytelling from studying Alfred Hitchcock, one of the best.
said he has been approached numerous times with proposals for Usagi on
the big screen, TV and other media. The craziest of which was by Oliver
Stone for a live action movie. The one he regrets not coming to fruition
was a muppet movie by Jim Henson ala Dark Crystal. Wow. I agree. That
would have been an amazing thing to see!!
Sakai is one of the nicest and funniest guys I’ve met. And Usagi
Yojimbo is one of the consistently entertaining comics out there. If
you have even a passing interest in Japanese history or samurais or
anthropomorphic animals check it out. Rabbits, samurai and ninjas!!