[Editorial comments in boldface text.]
Will there be any other Usagi Yojimbo action figures?
(WWW Board July 2000) There are no plans for more Usagi toys at the present. There were the Usagi Yojimbo and Space Usagi action figures from Playmates, and the Usagi Yojimbo toy from Antarctic Press but the collectible toy market has pretty much dried up.
(WWW Board March 2000) The action figure front is inactive -- especially in the direct market where, I assume, an Usagi figure will be distributed. There's no commercial tie-in with a TV series or movie so I doubt there'll be the mass market appeal to interest a bigger toy company. And, as I said earlier, the smaller ones have gotten out of the toy market.
(UY Vol 3, #37) Besides the Usagi figure from Antarctic, there were Usagi and Space Usagi figures released as part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy line in the early nineties.
Will there be any other Usagi Yojimbo statues besides the first (Usagi) and the second (Young Usagi and Katsuichi-sensei)?
(WWW Board June 2000) There are no plans at the moment for any more statues beyond the two.
(Worlds of Westfield Interview June 2000) I just got the first statue and it is wonderful. Each statue comes with a sketchbook which shows my turn-around drawings for the figure. But what was not really advertised is that there's also a trading card set with each statue and I signed and drew a sketch of Usagi on one of the cards.
(WWW Board March 2000) So far, we've only contracted for the two statues -- Usagi with Spot (February 2000) and Young Usagi with Katsuichi (June 2000).
If sales are as good on the second as it was for the first, there'll be more...maybe a Tomoe and a Gen.
Why is the statue of Usagi gray instead of white, like Usagi appears in the comic book?
(WWW Board May 2000) We tried making him white but his features became flattened out. The light color really helps make his face three dimensional.
My second-edition "Usagi" statue came with cards, but they weren't autographed by Stan Sakai like the first-edition cards were. What happened?
(WWW Board Apr 2000) The autographed cards will only be included in the first edition statues. Subsequent editions may have cards but they will be unsigned. The paper stock that the cards are printed on is so slick that it's difficult to get any kind of pen or marker to write on it. You won't believe how many cards got messed up because of ink puddling, smearing, etc. I'd be reluctant to even sign those things at cons.
How much input did you get in the design of the first Usagi Yojimbo action figure in the TMNT line?
(Sequential Tart Interview, Feb 2001 FIXME Broken link) It was a fun thing to do. The toy looks very different from my version of Usagi but it had to fit the rest of the toy line. You should have seen the one that was rejected.
(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996 FIXME Broken link) He appeared in two episodes of their TV series, a couple of toys -- one Usagi Yojimbo and the other Space Usagi -- and maybe two or three comic book crossovers, but that's about it. And actually, I did pick up a few readers because of the crossover. They had seen my character in one of the TV series and decided to try the comic book. So, I have no regrets whatsoever. It's just that, if you saw the toy, it was not the Usagi that I had created. I knew going in that it would have to be part of the regular toylines, so I let it go at that. But the first prototype was rejected outright. It was even more extreme: it was like Rob Liefeld drawing Usagi, Usagi's head on He-Man's body. Like I said, it was rejected outright. The way the entire merchandising thing came about was the San Diego Con. Usagi was the first creator-owned character to get into the Ninja Turtle licensing line. Actually, it was going to be Cerebus at first, but they had some problems working with Dave Sim.
Basically, Peter (Laird) and I were just sitting together and talking and suddenly he turned to me and said, "You want a toy?", and I said, "Sure!", you know, thinking he was going to give me a toy...and he said, "Okay, we'll make an Usagi toy", and that surprised me. So we worked everything out in just a couple months, and half a year later, the toys were on the shelves, and the first year, we sold two and a half million Usagi toys nationally. It did pretty well.
(UY Vol 1, #21) We rejected the first prototype of the figure because it looked like Usagiís head on He-Manís body but I really like the one that was finally produced.
(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991 FIXME Broken link) There's the Usagi action figure, and were working on a couple more licensing deals independant of the Turtles. I can't really talk about them because the deals haven't been finalized. But there has also been a Usagi computer game which was developed in Australia and released in Europe but evidently never made it to the United States. There were also a few Usagi T-shirts and a print, but that's about it.
How much input did you get in the design of the second Usagi Yojimbo action figure by Antarctic Press?
(WWW Board May 2000) Aside from the Usagi and Space Usagi figures from the Turtles line, there was just one other UY action figure -- from Antarctic Toys -- but with several variations: the regular; the limited edition with black clothing; the platinum; and the Dark Horse variant which I think was similar to the limited but with a glow in the dark Spot. As far as I'm concerned, the Antarctic ones are all the same just with different coloring.
(Rafu Magazine Vol. 1, #3 Interview, June 1998 FIXME Old Dojo - needs conversion) The new action figure comes out in June, from Antarctic Press. I designed this one myself, as opposed to the other two, tied in with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and action figures. (Usagi appeared in two episodes of TMNT.) Iím really happy with the way this new one turned out. Iíve seen the prototypes, and it should be neat.
(UY Vol 3, #20) I designed this one myself and it looks great -- wait Ďtil you see Spot!
(UY Vol 3, #18) I designed this one myself so it will look a lot more like Usagi than the previous figure.
Why was the Antarctic Press UY action figure made with his sleeves and hakama tied up?
(WWW Board October 2000) Many times travelers would bind their baggy hakama pants and sleeves to make walking easier. The ties around the back of his hands tie around his middle finger.
I designed the figure like this to make him a bit more interesting and to enable the joints to bend. If he was wearing an outfit made of cloth there would have been no problem with his articulation and I could have made him wearing his traditional outfit but such was not the case.
Wait a minute, you sold two and a half million (TMNT) Usagi action figures, but the comic sells only 10 to 12 thousand. How can we get the comic to the mass market again?
(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996 FIXME Broken link) It's really hard. Kids just don't read any more. They spend much more time with video games. It's just hard to get kids to read anything. Book sales have dropped dramatically, too. I think 90% of the books are bought only by 5% of the US population. Evanier makes the comparison between the US and Japan, where the literacy rate is 99%, and even adults, businessmen read comic books on the streets, and here, it's pretty much a children's medium.
Even those who buy comic books don't read them any more. There was a sudden decline in both book and magazine sales and they traced it back to the time when Pac-Man first came out. Kids are spending all their time paying video games, or watching TV.
And a lot of the adults don't realize there are still comics around. I've done a couple of interviews for the L.A. Times and right after those interviews come out, there is a run on Usagi comic books in the L.A. area. I would get responses like, "Gee, I didn't know they made comic books anymore." If they could advertise on TV or something...
Tell us about the Usagi Yojimbo Roleplaying Game (RPG).
(WWW Board December 2000) Actually, I've never played the UY Roleplaying game, or any other RPG for that matter.
I did read it over but I pretty much left it to the experts as far as playability goes. They did pretty good. It was nominated for an award for best game the year it came out
[nominated for the 1998 Origins Award for "Best Roleplaying Game"]
(Silver Bullet Comics Interview, November 2000) The roleplaying game is published by Gold Rush Games and is in its third printing with a new supplement, UY Monsters, scheduled soon. Now I'm not a gamer, myself, but I've heard good reviews on it. One of my favorite features are the appendices, one of which is a timeline that puts Usagi's adventures in a historical perspective.
And how about the new Usagi Yojimbo wristwatch?
(WWW Board December 2000) At $50 they're a bit pricey but I think the Usagi Watches are out in stores this week. They come in a black, laquered box with the UY logo on the top. The watch face has a picture of Usagi with sword. It's an analog watch (now my kids will know what "clockwise" means).
Have you ever considered Usagi Yojimbo cereal, or maybe Usagi Yojimbo cookies?
(WWW Board January 2001) Actually, a friend of mine baked me some ginger bread cookies in the shape of the Usagi logo found on the back covers of the comics. She used those silver candy spheres for the eyes. They looked neat and they tasted good too.
I saw a hardcover edition of Usagi Yojimbo, and the tip-in plate had "AP" where the number of the book should be. What does "AP" stand for?
(WWW Board January 2001) That's an artist proof probably purchased from me at some convention or other. The books that I get as my comps are all artist proofs. There may also be publisher's proof and printer's proofs though I have never seen any of these. Fantagraphics did have copies of the Book 5 hardcover that were unsigned and unnumbered that were sold at a discount (about $25). But aside from that, all hardcovers have been s/n (signed and numbered).
Have you done any calendar art besides the 1999 Dark Horse "Monsters and Aliens" Calendar?
(WWW Board February 2001) An Usagi image appeared in a Fantagraphics calendar circa 1993 (I'm not sure offhand of the exact year). That image later became the second serigraph print, Banners.
I also did a non-Usagi piece for a Red Shetland calendar from Graph-X Press for the 1995-96 year. The theme was Red Shetland (a barbarian horse-warrior-woman) in literature. I did The Lord of the Rings.
There may have been one more piece of calendar art out there. When I was with Mirage I was asked to do a piece for a Diamond Distributor's calendar. I don't know if it was ever printed as I have never seen it nor was I given a comp copy.
I only remember it because I'm currently signing the signature plates for the "Demon Mask" hard covers and I used that calendar art for the plate -- it is a full color piece of Usagi in armor with autumn leaves blowing around him.