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[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.
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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.
[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.
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
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
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.
The only Brookings Usagi Fan,
[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.)
This is my first letter to Usagi so I
shall ask some questions and following that is some interesting
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
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
A good future from
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.]
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
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
Fan Art by Chuck Dillon
[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
1) What animals would fall under Ronin ?
2) What does "Usagi Yojimbo"
[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!
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.
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
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
(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
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!
Fan Letter and Art by Aaron Wood
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
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
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
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!
[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
[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,