USAGI YOJIMBO Volume 1, Number 36
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USAGI YOJIMBO Volume 1, Number 36

USAGI YOJIMBO Volume 1, Number 35 <-- --> USAGI YOJIMBO Volume 1, Number 37

  Synopsis for Gen Part 3: Lady Asano's Revenge
Letters Column
Letters Column
Send letters & comments to: "USAGI LETTERS," c/o Fantagraphics Books,
7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115

[Hello again, we're back with the third and last installment of the story of "Gen." Not much to say this time around, except that the hardcover edition of Usagi Yojimbo Book Five is out and looks fabulous, and so are all three issues of Space Usagi from Mirage. Buy them all! And a big welcome back to Tom Stazer, who concludes his latest "Lionheart" story this issue.

[Also, those who like to follow the careers of cartoonists they've seen in the pages of Usagi Yojimbo should pick up Marvel Comics' new Ren and Stimpy comic, illustrated by none other than Madman Mike Kazaleh hisownself! Don't wait 'til Yak Shaving Day - rush out and buy a copy this very minute!

[We'll start off with a classic fable this time around, courtesy of a well-read reader.

[- ED.]

Hi Kim,

Recently, I found an old children's book called Ooka the Wise. It tells stories of the wise old judge of Old Japan. Ooka really lived and he did some very strange things. He accused a statue of stealing some silk. He declared a student guilty of stealing a smell. He ruled that a man could be a thief and still be honest. He divided thirteen horses in two equal groups without cutting the thirteenth horse in two. All the strange things he did were for the purpose of finding out the truth, so that he could carry out the shogun's order to punish wickedness and reward virtue. I thought Stan could use them to make some backup stories in case the regular artist can't make it. In any case, could you please pass this along to Stan for his review please? If he likes them, maybe I could send some more stories. right now I am going to tell the story of Ooka and the Stolen Smell.

Now it so happened in the days of old Yedo, as Tokyo was once called, that the storytellers told marvelous tales of the wit and wisdom of His Honorable Honor, Ooka Tadasuke.

This famous judge never refused to hear a complaint, even if it seemed strange or unreasonable. People sometimes came to his court with the most unusual cases, but Ooka always agreed to listen. And the strangest case of all was the famous Case of the Stolen Smell.

It all began when a poor student rented a room over a tempura shop - a shop where fried food could be bought. The student was a most likeable young man, but the shopkeeper was a miser who suspected everyone of trying to get the better of him. One day he heard the student talking with one of his friends.

"It is sad to be so poor that one can only afford to eat plain rice," the friend complained.

"Oh," said the student, "I have found a very satisfactory answer to the problem. I eat my rice each day while the shopkeeper downstairs fries his fish. The smell comes up, and my humble rice seems to have much more flavor. It is really the smell, you know, that makes things taste so good."

The shopkeeper was furious. To think that someone was enjoying the smell of his fish for nothing! "Thief!" he shouted, "I demand that you pay me for the smells you have stolen."

"A smell is a smell," the young man replied. "Anyone can smell what he wants to. I will pay you nothing!"

Scarlet with rage, the shopkeeper rushed to Ooka's court and charged the student with theft. Of course, everyone laughed at him, for how could anyone steal a smell? Ooka would surely send the man about his business. But to everyone's astonishment, the judge agreed to hear the case.

"Every man is entitled to his hour in court," he explained. "If this man feels strongly enough about his smell to make a complaint, it is only right that I, as city magistrate, should hear the case." He frowned at the amused spectators.

Gravely, Ooka sat on the dais and heard the evidence. Then he delivered his verdict.

"The student is obviously guilty," he said severely. "Taking another person's property is theft, and I cannot see that a smell is different from any other property."

The shopkeeper was delighted, but the student was horrified. He was very poor, and he owed the shopkeeper for three month's smelling. He would surely be thrown into prison.

"How much money have you?," Ooka asked him.

"Only five mon, Honorable Honor," the boy replied. "I need that to pay my rent, or I will be thrown out into the street."

"Let me see the money," said the judge.

The young man held out his hand. Ooka nodded and told him to drop the coins from one hand to the other.

The judge listened to the pleasant clink of the money and said to the shopkeeper, "You have now been paid. If you have any other complaints in the future, please bring them to the court. It is our wish that all injustices be punished and all virtue rewarded.

"But most Honorable Honor," the shopkeeper protested, "I did not get the money! The thief dropped it from one hand to the other. See! I have nothing." He held up his empty hands to show the judge.

Ooka stared at him gravely. "It is the court's judgement that the punishment should fit the crime. I have decided that the price of the smell of food shall be the sound of money. Justice has prevailed as usual in my court."

Oh Kim! Back in issue #23 of Usagi Yojimbo you mentioned that you were puzzled as to why I didn't order that Nilson Groundthumper special. Well...I could order it, but that's not the point. Ordering things through the mail is too easy. There's no challenge involved. I like to treat the whole thing like a treasure hunt (well, Usagi Y. is a treasure). That's where all the fun is! The looking. When you're searching for months at a time for that special comic during your travails and you can't find it, your disappointment is high. THEN! All of a sudden! There it is! Hooray!!! You've found it! You are grinning from ear to ear. Then all is perfect with the world. Do you see now, Kim? I look because it doubles my pleasure when I do find it. That's all for now.

Wait. Just out of curiosity, does MU Press have a certain similarity to Renegade Press when they were at its height? Just wondering! Bon jour! Bye.

Happily yours,
Andrew Laverdiere
Skowhegan, ME

[The old boy seems to be like a cross between King Solomon and Judge Roy Bean. Thanks for an enlightening anecdote. Does this mean that if you're caught reading comics without buying them in your local comics emporium, you just have to let the store owner read your money for a while in exchange?

[I guess I can understand your reasons for not wanting to order Nilson Groundthumper through the mail (although there have been times in the past when ordering comics through our back-issues department posed at least as much of a challenge as digging them up the way you suggest; thankfully, that's all been cleaned up now). Have fun!

[Since Renegade Press has been stone cold dead for several years now, I'm not sure how MU Press boss-man Edd Vick will feel about your analogy, but we're sure it's well intentioned.

[- ED.]

Fan Art by Swindel Mark "Riley"
Fan Art by Swindel Mark "Riley"

Dear Stan or whoever is reading this,

I just finished reading issue #33. I think it was a big jump from a top-spinner (last issue) to a ghost that had some significance to Usagi's past. I still liked it, though. Well, after reading the back-up, I turned to the "Menagerie" ad and noticed that #34 and #35 were listed as back issues. At that point I had just received #33 in the mail, so what's the big idea? Anyway, here are some more important questions that I would like to be answered...

1) Are we going to learn any more about Kitsuné, the top-spinner's past?

2) I'm new at reading Usagi, so I was wondering if you could direct me to issues and books containing things about Gen. I've got no idea who he is and people keep writing about him.

3) Do you plan to reprint Book One; if so, when?

4) Have you ever thought of making Usagi into a cartoon? If you've ever seen Prince Valiant on the Family Channel? I think that's a good example of a cartoon, not TMNT. So if you eve decide to, I'd recommend doing it like Prince Valiant.

5) Hey, how about printing up a 6-dollar poster of Usagi instead of a 65-dollar silkscreen for us guys who have low budgets?

6) And lastly, which I know, Kim will kill me for asking this, but how did Usagi get that scar? I've decided to join the Seattleites on this one. And this time please don't be "cute" about it.

Thanks for taking time out to read this. Bye.

The only Brookings Usagi Fan,
John Funchion
Brookings, SD

[1) You bet, and pretty soon, too.

[2) Talk about anticipating our readers' wishes, eh?

[3) Early next year.

[4) Making cartoons is difficult and way beyond our meager little budget. You have to talk someone with deep pockets in Hollywood into doing it, and that's hard, since almost every non-Disney cartoon in the history of the world has been an expensive flop. Don't hold your breath.

[5) In fact, we are thinking about just that thing. Also, maybe a Usagi cloisonné pin next year. Sound good?

[6) Cute? Moi?

[As for the early "back issues" listings, think of it as a philosophical point: All the future will eventually be the past, and that page was designed to help you grapple with that frightening concept. Okay? See, if you go back and look at that page now, those issues are back issues, which means that something that was "wrong" back then is now "right," even though it remains the same. (I think this paragraph alone is worth your two bucks and a quarter this month.)

[- ED.]

Dear Usagi-san,

This is my first letter to Usagi so I shall ask some questions and following that is some interesting information.

1) In Usagi #32, page 8, on the second panel in the gambling house, who are those guys with cloth wrapped around their chest?

2) Will we see more of Katsuichi and Shunji, Mariko and Kenichi, and Gen?

3) In Usagi #33, what kind of animal is General Tadaoka?

All of your issues are brilliant, with a full story that is not so complicated. As a samurai expert, I think that you capture the true life of a wandering ronin. If you ever run out of ideas, how about Usagi meeting a ronin porcupine that has a nodachi (real long sword). When I was eight I came up with the idea for a warrior, somewhat like a samurai, but I haven't come up with his name yet.

I included a picture of him too and I plan to make a comic book with him as the main character. I have seen every movie possible that has Toshiro Mifune in it and I have enjoyed them all. Is it possible that Usagi might turn into a cartoon or something?

A good future from
James Dewey
Davis, CA

P.S. How about having a frog ninja clan?

[Frog ninja? A porcupine warrior? Hmm, sounds to me like you've got something there, James. The guys with cloth wrapped around their chests are just gamblers with a low clothing budget, and Tadaoka looked like some kind of wildcat to me. - ED.]

Dear Stan,

The cover to #34 is beautiful! Not only does the composition of Usagi and the Tokagé work well, but the style of the painting made it look even better! The warm colors of the reds give it that blood splattered look...ew. Tom Luth, a job well done once again!!

The story of "Gen" looks wonderful so far. I love when you take us into the "history" of everything that has gone on - and bring us back to a climax in the story - well done!

And once again - the woodcutters strategically placed among the villagers...

The back-up "Panda Khan" story was cool. Usagi and Khan seem to go together perfectly. I'd really like to see more of them collaborating. By the way, it's good to see Gen's horn back.

Thanks again for printing my letter and making me the "header" in #34. I swear every time my art gets printed I still get that great feeling inside - really makes me proud!

By the way, the illo enclosed is of "Space Usagi." It's a parody of Arthur C. Clarke's "2061: Odyssey Three": it's quite an amazing book, along with the cover to the book. Just one final thing to say - careful of large black rectangles...

Chuck Dillon
Philadelphia, PA

Fan Art by Chuck Dillon
Fan Art by Chuck Dillon
Space Usagi

[Thanks for the cool illo. Glad you enjoyed seeing Gen's horn back...oops! Oh well, c'est la vie. - ED.]

Dear Usagi Letters,

I'm a total Usagi nut. Anyway, two things:

1) What animals would fall under Ronin ?

2) What does "Usagi Yojimbo" mean?

John McCloy
Lockport, IL

[1) No animal would fall under a ronin if he could help it, unless he really wanted to get footprints all over his head. Nyuk nyuk nyuk. No, seriously now, a ronin is just a masterless samurai and any animal can become a ronin (although presumably it would be difficult for, say, a goldfish or a snail).

[2) "Rabbit Bodyguard."

[See? I can come up with straight, informative answers too, you know!

[- ED.]

Dear Kim and Stan,

As of late I've noticed an all-too-common theme in the stories of Usagi Yojimbo. Yes, the eye-bulging demons, sword-toting goblins, and armor-clad ghosts are becoming too much of a trend for me in these pages. Before the D.B.C., I enjoyed the few "ghoul-stories" that appeared at one time or another (i.e. "Kappa," "The Tangled Skein"), but ever since Usagi hit the 20s there's been a little too much more of the same horror-stories we've seen before, with Usagi getting attacked by something that looks like a cross between a Kabuki actor and Freddy Krueger. (No offense!)

But now that I've read the first installment of "Gen," I can truly say, "Bravo, Sakai, bravo." It looks like a return to the real world for Usagi. Sure, "Circles" was true blood, but as I read the conclusion I realized that Jei wasn't really needed in the story. It would have worked just as good if not better with brigands alone as Jotaro's captors. I felt Jei's return was a bit too bold for use in "Circles," even though it did add somewhat of a twist.

I hope "Gen" will turn out to be the type of story that I've thirsted for - one without the influences of the Nether-Realms. So far it is: Usagi's getting himself involved with the emotional insecurities and well-being of real people, something I feel makes this book worth my while. C'mon, Stan, let's dig into the Feudal Japan that we have all come to admire, the reality of Usagi's world that has kept me a dedicated reader for over five years. It's the "realness" your books provide that has made me a follower for life.

To sum it all up, I'd just like to see a departure from stories which deal with the mythology and folklore (the unreal) of Usagi's world and a voyage back to the "accurate fictional portrait of historical Japan" that you, Stan Sakai, are famous for. Let's get back into the country life, the martial arts, the social unrest, and my favorite, the politics. I feel that these aspects (not the mythology) are what make Usagi Yojimbo the best damn comic around.

Todd Shogun
Cypress, CA

Dear Stan,

After reading Usagi #34 I figured I might as well write in a letter to tell you what a great comic you're putting out. The Usagi Yojimbo books have always had very believable characters. I mean at first I thought a samurai rabbit isn't the most realistic kind of character, but when incorporated into a good storyline, that character has more depth and personality added to it. So while reading, you can feel excitement or sorrow for the character.

This is especially so in issues 28-31, the "Circles" storyline. It starts on a good note when Usagi finds Katsuichi alive after so long. Then ends quite the opposite, with Usagi having to leave his child and his chance at a peaceful life behind to continue wandering. The story was very well done, but

1) Is there going to be any more on this subject; are Usagi and Mariko ever going to be together?

2) And if not, is Usagi going to further his relationship with Tomoe? I mean, Usagi needs a woman.

3) Is Jotaro going to seek out Katsuichi sensei? And what about a sidekick? Batman has Robin, Wolverine has Jubilee, and Groo has Rufferto. Doesn't it stand to reason that Usagi should have one? How about Jotaro finding out Usagi is his real father and goes to join him? Then Usagi could teach Jotaro the way of the samurai, and they could wander the land together. Oh well, just a suggestion.

Anyway, with or without a sidekick, Usagi is still one of the best comics out. Keep up the good work.

Damion Belvin
(no address given)

P.S. If you don't print my letter and picture in Usagi Letters, I will still buy the Usagi Yojimbo comic, but I refuse to enjoy it.

[Well, we couldn't have that, now could we? Stan and I generally don't like giving answers to questions about what the future will bring, because that'll spoil the surprise. Keep readin', is all we can say at this point! - ED.]

Hey Stan -

WOW! What a Cool Book! I'm new to the world of Usagi but I like it already! It's hard to find independent titles where I live, so when I saw ish 35 at the comic shop, I snatched it up quick! I've always felt that Usagi had to be more than "just the rabbit in the Turtles comics." I wasn't disappointed. I can tell the stories will be pretty involved and I'm trying to find back-issues. Will there be any trade-paperbacks?

The "Lionheart" back-up was cool too, it cracked me up! What impressed me most was the artwork throughout the book. It's very well-done, albeit a bit sketchy (So what? It's your book) at times.

I'm a really big fan of good cartooning, as I want to be a cartoonist myself (year, I'm sure you've heard that before). I'm eighteen and I like nothing more than 'tooning away at my drawing table, or reading books like this!

I've seen your comments to "Bone" comics, fantastic title, isn't it? It's one of my faves! I got to meet Jeff Smith before he moved to California - super-nice guy - he gave me some really good advice.

Well, I'll let you get back to work, I can't wait for "Gen", pt 2!

See Ya!
Aaron Wood

Fan Letter and Art by Aaron Wood
Fan Letter and Art by Aaron Wood

Dear Stan,

WOW! Usagi is up to issue #34 (as I write this), has a three-issue mini-series going (the superb Space Usagi), two action figures (fun), five neat collected books (five times the fun), way cool silkscreen prints, two intense T-shirts. Why, he's even been on T.V. (with those ultra-rad Turtles!). Not bad for a humble rabbit like Usagi!

I'm one of the people who has been with Usagi the whole trip. (God, how I miss Critters!) and it keeps getting better and better. I won't go into Stan's artwork, as everybody knows how good it is. I'm most impressed by his stories. In the world of comics, you rarely find anyone who can write as well as Stan. Compared to almost any other comic, I don't know how he can get so much drama, feeling, and emotion into each page without completely filling the page with dialogue. I don't know about other readers, but in Usagi, Stan really knows how to play my emotions.

I've laughed (often), gotten a lump in my throat, been anxious, angry, surprised, and uplifted. All I can say is thanks, Stan. You've given us all something not just to read, but to experience.

I've also been educated. Stan's dedication to historical and cultural accuracy makes Usagi a learning experience as well. The customs, places, and people presented in its pages are so fascinating because they are so real. (O.K., so Usagi himself obviously never existed, but I'm sure samurai like him did, in human form.) Once again, Stan is not only a gifted writer/artist, but a wonderful sensei, as well.

As you can tell, I really like Usagi. (See reasons above). I collect mostly "funny animal" comics, and Usagi is in the top three of my favorites, along with Albedo and Omaha. (Critters was #1, but alas, isn't currently with us. Although hope springs eternal!) I hope he will be around for a long time to come. So if you'll keep making Usagi, I'll keep buying him, and that will keep us both happy!

Once again - thanks, Stan, for such a great comic, and thanks, Kim, for bringing it to us. It has been, and continues to be, a joyful experience!

Mike Johnson
Wheaton, IL

[Nothing like a letter jam-packed with praise to end a letters column. Thanks, Mike!

[We'll be back again in 60 days with a brand new Usagi story, and a special back-up feature by Martin Wagner of Hepcats fame.

[Finally, a little personal plug from Stan and me: On the back cover of this very issue, you'll find a full-page ad for a dozen Tintin books by the late, great Herge. If you like Usagi, you're guaranteed to enjoy these classic volumes, which feature breathtaking adventure, side-splitting humor, and some of the finest comics art committed to paper. I've been a Tintin fan since I was four. Give one a try: you'll never regret it!

[Also, be sure to check out Walt Disney Comics' new Donald Duck and Uncle $crooge collection, featuring 96 pages of Don Rosa duck stories in spectacular full color (some of it by Tom Luth) for a mere nine bucks. The bargain of the year for funny-animal fans! Th-th-that's all, folks!

[- ED.]

USAGI YOJIMBO Volume 1, Number 35 <-- --> USAGI YOJIMBO Volume 1, Number 37

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Usagi Yojimbo, including all prominent characters featured in the stories and the distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of Stan Sakai and Usagi Studios. Usagi Yojimbo is a registered trademark of Stan Sakai. Names, characters, places, and incidents featured in this publication either are the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events, institutions, or locales, without satiric content, is coincidental.