FAQs about Stan Sakai's Comics
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Questions about Stan Sakai's Comics

  1. What audience is Usagi Yojimbo aimed for?
  2. Why do Usagi Yojimbo comic books go in and out of print?
  3. How long does it generally take you to draw an issue/page?
  4. How do you come up with these ideas for Usagi stories?
  5. What made you think of a comic about a samurai rabbit?
  6. When did you first start drawing Usagi Yojimbo?
  7. Generally, "funny" animal as they are called, have never sold as well as books with human characters. So why would you change a human character into an animal?
  8. In writing the stories, do you find it helps to read a great deal of books from this period of Japanese history?
  9. It's sometimes called a funny-animal comic, but what kind of comic is it really?
  10. How do you produce the comic book?
  11. How do you decide who gets to draw the back-up to Usagi Yojimbo?
  12. Was your online comic "Tsuru " (Dark Horse Comics) reprinted anywhere? Are there any other stories where origami is a theme?
  13. Are the color specials prior to "Green Persimmon" (UY Color Special #4) available in any of the UY books?
  14. Do you know how many languages Usagi Yojimbo have been translated to?
  15. Do you foresee a time when all comic book art will be done by computer?
  16. There seems to be a flood of samurai and ninja comic books on the market. Does your audience notice the difference in your work?
  17. There's a lot of noise in the comic book field about censorship now, because there seems to be a difference of opinion about who is the market for comics. Some people feel comic books can be just like other literature, for a variety of audiences. Others feel comic books are just for kids.
  18. Do you find that there are some people, who have not been reading comic books, that give your work a try because of the interest in Japanese film artists like Kurosawa?
  19. Has Usagi ever been printed in Japan and have you received any reaction from over there yet?
  20. Do you reinterpret Usagi Yojimbo somewhat for American audiences?
  21. How do you and Usagi generally deal with Japan's social classes in the comic?
  22. So cartoon characters generally reflect the personality of their creators?
  23. Are there a lot of Usagi Yojimbo fans in Japan?
  24. So you're bigger in Germany than you are in Japan?
  25. What do you think about the big recent explosion in funny animal comics? Why do you think that happened?
  26. What do you see happening with the independents in the next year or so? Do you think this flood of material's going to last?
  27. Do you think when the funny animal boom that's going on in the black-and-whites now dies out there'll still be a legitimate market for good funny animal stuff?
  28. What are some of your other projects?
  29. And you also got to meet the living legend, Alexandro Jodorowsky.
  30. How do you feel about your own comic books?
  31. Did you ever get any outside offers to make an Usagi Yojimbo cartoon?
  32. How were you able to get makers of cartoons to accept the level of violence in Usagi?
  33. Are you planning to make a Usagi Yojimbo cartoon or perhaps a full-length feature?
  34. What was the reason that Usagi Yojimbo was released in color?
  35. Do you approach drawing differently for color than you do for black-and-white?
  36. Usagi Yojimbo in color was nice, but I much prefer the detail of the black-and-white issues. Please keep Usagi in black-and-white!
  37. Are you planning any more issues of Usagi Yojimbo in color?
  38. Are you planning any more crossovers with the TMNT?
  39. I liked the cameo appearance of Akiko, Spuckler, Mr. Beeba (and the Poog kimono!) in "The Courtesan" (UY Vol 3, #28). How about a crossover story with Mark Crilley's Akiko?
  40. Even though the book's been around for a number of years now, do you feel it's accessible to new readers?
  41. How much of a multi-issue story arc do you usually have planned out beforehand?
  42. How much time passes between you finishing an issue and its being published?
  43. How long will Usagi Yojimbo continue to come out at its current (seemingly) monthly schedule?
  44. You've been creating Usagi Yojimbo comics for a long time now (16 years!). Are you going to have to take a furlough from cartooning pretty soon?
  45. Do you feel it's part of your responsibility to teach Japanese history and culture, or is it there to help the story?
  46. Why do you usually choose to use watercolors for your color work?
  47. Your backgrounds are always incredibly detailed and realistic. Do you do a lot of research into plants and animals in creating your backgrounds?
  48. The credits in Usagi Yojimbo state that Tom Luth is the one who handles the "color separations". What are "color separations"?
  49. I read in the UY Summer Special #1 that T.O.M Luth (Transparent Optical Media Luthitron-7) is the name of your coloration machine. Is this Tom a real person or not?
  50. I really like the new design of the UY comic books [beginning with UY Vol 3, #39]! (Maybe you could increase the size of the comic book overall so we can still get a full-size illustration!) What do the kanji characters read?
  51. What are "anthropomorphic" comics?
  52. What do you think allowed Usagi to survive and thrive when so many other characters and titles were cancelled in the early 90s?
  53. What effect do you think that the Usagi Yojimbo Summer Special ultimately had on making this character known in comics circles?

[Editorial comments in boldface text.]


1. What audience is Usagi Yojimbo aimed for?

(Comics Buyer's Guide #1235 Interview, 1997) The audience that I aimed for is myself. I just write whatever I feel comfortable with, whatever I like drawing. It seems to have clicked with so many people.


2. Why do Usagi Yojimbo comic books go in and out of print?

(WWW Board Aug 2000) Publishers print just a certain number of copies. The print run may depend upon orders, confidence in long-term book sales or even storage accessibility. Also, a new printing of a book may stimulate more interest in that volume.

Fortunately, my publishers have had enough confidence to reprint my books whenever they become unavailable.


3. How long does it generally take you to draw an issue/page?

(WWW Board Aug 2000) It takes about 4-6 weeks to complete an issue of Usagi, depending upon how much research needs to be done, other work (such as lettering Sergio Aragonés' various projects), travel (especially to cons) and what other things are happening in my life at the time.


4. How do you come up with these ideas for Usagi stories?

(WWW Board Aug 2000) Stories are inspired by different sources -- books, sketching, TV, etc. I once wrote an entire story because of a line I heard on a documentary: There is a forest at the base of Mt Fuji that is a favorite place for suicide because of the maze of trails into it. I came up with "The Tangled Skein".

"Where do you get your ideas?"

That is probably the first question every creative person is asked. The answer is probably, "I don't know."

They come from a variety of sources such as reading, sketching or just trying to force another drop out of that well of creativity. One of my major incentives is deadlines. I have a schedule to keep and that helps to keep the creative juices flowing.

(UY Vol 3, #33) I was asked by Wizard Magazine to do a three-page story, but after about a week I was unable to think of a suitable story.

I was talking to my good friend Sergio Aragonés, and he thought up a scenario off the top of his head: "Usagi is walking along a river and the water is red, so he thinks there's a battle. He runs upriver, but it's just some dyers rinsing out fabric."

"Well, I don't know..." I said.

"Do something about netsuke, then."

My story, entitled "Netsuke," appeared in the August '99 issue of Wizard, colored, of course, by Tom Luth.

When writing "The Missive" for this issue [UY Vol 3, #33], I needed an anecdote demonstrating Young Usagi's impulsiveness, and I thought of that story Sergio told me. It fit in perfectly.

Where do I get my ideas? Sometimes they're given to me by friends.


5. What made you think of a comic about a samurai rabbit?

(UY Vol 1, #7) I chose a samurai rabbit because the samurai chicken just didn't work out.

(Sequential Tart Interview, Feb 2001) There have been so many movies based on Musashi's life, the most famous of which is Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy starring Toshiro Mifune. Most of them are based on the book by Eiji Yoshikawa. Musashi was the epitome of bushido, the way of the samurai. He was an expert and innovative swordsman as well as a philosopher and artist. I wanted to do a comic series loosely based on his life but while sketching, I drew a rabbit with his ears tied into a chonmage, a samurai topknot, and my character was born. I named him Miyamoto Usagi (usagi means "rabbit or hare" in Japanese) as homage to Miyamoto Musashi. I wasn't sure which direction to take the stories -- a pure historical series or should I go toward fantasy? The first story, The Goblin of Adachi Plain, pretty much set the mood for the entire series -- a fantasy rooted in history.

(Worlds of Westfield Interview June 2000) Probably the first question I'm asked is why a rabbit? Once they start reading the story, though, they get over it. I've never encountered a person that has read Usagi that has said "I would never read it again because it's a funny animal series." It really doesn't matter. One of the main reasons I chose a rabbit, or a funny animal, is that I have a lot more flexibility as far as the storytelling goes. It originally started off as a series with human characters based upon the life of samurai Miyomoto Musashi and his adventures. But I wanted to introduce elements of fantasy, Japanese folklore, as well as the political side of Japanese culture at that time. By making it funny animals, it becomes more a fantasy series, though it's grounded in real life or authentic history. I get to play a lot more with monsters and things out of folklore and my own imagination. Also, Usagi is not a typical funny animal series. I've done horror stories, political dramas and adventure stories. I recently completed a story arc called "Demon Mask" which is a whodunnit in the Agatha Christie vein with clues to a killer's identity scattered throughout the three issues.

(WWW Board May 2000) I originally planned to do a series about 17th century swordmaster Miyamoto Musashi but, while sketching one day, came up with a samurai rabbit with his ears tied into a samurai chonmage <topknot> and Miyamoto Usagi was born. "Usagi" mean "rabbit" or "hare" in Japanese. I'm not even sure where that original drawing is as I did a bunch of them at the time of similar characters.

(Amazing Heroes #129 Interview, November 1987) At first, all my characters (Usagi, and Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy) were human. I have an entire eight-page pre-funny animal Nilson story somewhere cluttering up my files. Of course, he wasn't called "Groundthumper" at the time. His name was Torin Oakenshield or something equally pretentious and Marvel-esque. Hermy was always Hermy but was a troll.

by STAN SAKAI

Usagi was just called "Miyamoto" and only existed as sketches. He was a secondary character in the Oakenshield storyline.

One day, I turned Miyamoto into a rabbit, tied his ears into a samurai topknot, and was delighted with the result. He wasn't the present-day Usagi -- he had black ears and hair -- but he looked visually unique and took on an entirely new personality. I named him "Usagi" (which wasn't a stroke of genius since it means "rabbit" in Japanese).

I immediately added long, floppy ears to Torin and gave him a new name. I changed Hermy to a...I have no idea. I've called him a mole, hamster, hedgehog and gerbil but his head looks almost like an odd-shaped potato with ears (maybe I'll create a new line of funny vegetables).

And so my present funny-animal characters were born -- and you know what? I like them this way.


6. When did you first start drawing Usagi Yojimbo?

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991) Interestingly enough, Usagi did not start off as a funny-animal series. It was kind of a historical book with real people in it, based on the life of Miyamoto Musashi, who was a 17th Century samurai. One day I just created a rabbit, and changed his name from Miyamoto Musashi to Miyamoto Usagi -- bit I tried to keep the feel of the chambara [swordplay] comics, the Samurai comics, and I tried to keep it historically accurate -- within reason.

I've got Usagi sketches dated about 1982 -- Nilson Groundthumper actually predated Usagi by about a year or so. But the early Usagi looks nothing like the present-day one. For one thing, he had a fringe of hair around his head, and he had heavy brows, kind of like what Nilson has now. Also, he was pudgier, darker looking. I kind of streamlined him when he made his first appearance, in Albedo #2.

He's constantly changing. When he orginally appeared he was four heads tall; now he's more like five heads tall. And in the past couple of years he's developed a bump for his nose in profile. Before, he never really had a nose in profile.

Usagi just changes on his own. I noticed in, I think it was issue #5, that suddenly he was a little taller, a little more streamlined: that was completely unconscious on my part. But I kept him that way now. When I look at his earlier appearances, he looks a bit too chubby, a bit too cuddly. This might also be because of the type of story I've been writing. It's more dramatic now, rather than humorous, and I think the sleeker, taller appearance works better with a dramatic story.

(Witty World #1 Interview, 1987) About 1981, he first started off as a human before I changed him into a rabbit. The human character stories are still unpublished. The first appearance of Usagi was in Albedo #2. He looked better as a rabbit with his ears tied back in a topknot and all. He just seemed to be more likable to me.


7. Generally, "funny" animal as they are called, have never sold as well as books with human characters. So why would you change a human character into an animal?

(Witty World #1 Interview, 1987) Design-wise, I thought he looked great. At the time I was lettering a comic book called Groo The Wanderer (Marvel) by Sergio Aragonés, and Sergio kind of encouraged me to do my own characters. When I first heard that Steve Gallacci was putting together a comic book of funny animals, I submitted an old story I had called "The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper," and it was published.


8. In writing the stories, do you find it helps to read a great deal of books from this period of Japanese history?

(Witty World #1 Interview, 1987) Yes, that helps. I also buy a lot of manga, which are Japanese comic books. There are quite a few Japanese comics about samurai .


9. It's sometimes called a funny-animal comic, but what kind of comic is it really?

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991) Well, Usagi's always had a really broad range of humor or drama. I never consciously set out to create a humorous or dramatic title; I just wrote the stories that I like to do. Sometimes they're humorous, sometimes they are dramatic, and Usagi's been comfortable in the entire range. It's nothing conscious on my part. I think that Groo is definately a humor title, but Usagi can be both, which I love because I can write almost any type of story that I want to within the genre.


10. How do you produce the comic book?

(Sequential Tart Interview, Feb 2001) First of all, comes the idea. The idea may come from some research that I've come across or maybe from sketching or from recreationally reading. One story, The Tangled Skein, was inspired by a line in a tv documentary: "There is a forest at the base of Mt Fuji whose trails are so convoluted that many people get lost. It is especially popular for people who want to commit suicide. They walk in and are never seen again." After the idea, comes the research. Accurate research can only add to the story. Lack of it can destroy the story's credibility.

For me, the writing is the hardest part of making a comic book. True, the art takes a lot longer but the writing is much more intensive and is the part of the process that is the most frustrating at times. I usually start off with an outline, usually no longer than one page. It may include description of scenes, snatches of dialogue or description of the action. Then I do the thumbnails, very small and very simple, four comic book pages on an 8 ½ x 11" sheet. These determine composition and pacing. The final dialogue is written on these thumbnails. When I write for another artist, I send him thumbnails in lieu of a written script. Of course, in this case the thumbnails are a lot more detailed.

Next the art is done on kid finish 2 ply strathmore 500 series bristol board. The image area is 10 x 15. I rough it out using a 2H pencil, letter it, tighten the art with an H pencil then ink with a flexible tip fountain type art pen. I use Badger Black Opaque ink. This ink is usually used in air brushing so is very fluid and non-clogging. It is also permanent and waterproof.

(Witty World #1 Interview, 1987) First, I do a little one page synopsis of the story. Then I break it into pages. I do about six pages on a single sheet of paper. Then I break the layouts into actual pages and then I write in the dialogue on the pages. I often have two or three endings in mind and as I'm doing the actual artwork, it kind of leans into the appropriate ending.

(Comics Interview #44 Interview, August 1987) First of all, I write a brief outline of the story. I usually think of a plot, mull it over in my mind -- for about a month, maybe -- before I set it down to paper. Then I do some thumbnail sketches. I take a sheet of typing paper and divide it into six rectangles and each rectangle would represent a page; I do the layout and write the dialogue on there and then go directly to the finished artwork. The story changes a lot when I'm actually working on it. In the first Usagi story, "The Goblin of Adachigahara," I started with four different endings: the woman was a goblin, her son was a goblin, the goblin was someone else altogether, and the one that I used was that her husband was a goblin. That's primarily the way I work.

It takes me about a half to a full day to pencil an entire page. I work pretty slowly. To ink a page it takes about, oh, three to four hours. If it's very detailed, it sometimes takes a full day. I put a lot of detail and a lot of crosshatching in my work.


11. How do you decide who gets to draw the back-up to Usagi Yojimbo?

(Comic Culture Vol 2 #2 Interview, Dec 1994) I'm writing a Gen story now [UY Vol 2, #11-12 and UY Book 9] in which Gen the bounty hunter meets up with another bounty hunter called Stray Dog, and they're after the same outlaw. Basically it's more of a character piece of how Gen's personality clashes against the other guy's personality. Another back up story that I did is "Nilson 2199". We've met Usagi's descendant in Space Usagi, so I figured I'd just do a little eight pager on Nilson's descendants, so "Nilson 2199" came about. Seeing as how everyone was doing these futuristic things, like Punisher 2099 and whatever.

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991) A lot of those chosen are friends of mine or people whose work I really enjoy. We've had quite a few....Dennis Fujitake, Sergio Aragonés, Dave Thorne, and Gary Kato of course. Scott Shaw! did one. He's doing a two-parter for me, a mystery, in an upcoming Usagi. Don Dougherty, Jim Engel -- whose work I really love -- is going to do an issue. Ken Mitchroney, and Tom Stazer has done a bunch, and I really enjoy his work. I think I've booked up those stories until about issue [UY Vol 1] #37 or so. I'm not taking any more stories right now. A lot of the reason is that I want to do some of the back-up stories myself now (laughs). I wouldn't mind doing a few short stories with Usagi or other characters.


12. Was your online comic "Tsuru " (Dark Horse Comics) reprinted anywhere? Are there any other stories where origami is a theme?

(WWW Board July 2000) The story was first published in monthly installments in The Dark Horse Extra, a monthly advertising tabloid newsletter. It will be reprinted in an upcoming trade paperback collection.

The short story "Tsuru" [Which you can find on the UY Animation page], which was serialized in Dark Horse Extra, has an assassin with a habit of folding paper cranes [reprinted in UY Book 14 "Demon Mask"]. Also the story "Runaways" [UY Vol 3, #13-14 and UY Book 9] takes place during the Tanabata Festival one of whose customs is trimming branches with paper cranes and other paraphenalia. I don't offhand recall any other stories.

One footnote to the Tsuru story is that I had intended to include instructions on folding cranes however I wound up needing the space for story. Maybe I'll include it next time when the opportunity arises.

(WWW Board Apr 2000) The story, Tsuru (crane), will be included in a forthcoming volume but in black & white. [It's in USAGI YOJIMBO Book 14: Demon Mask]

The first episode has Usagi entering a roadside inn where he notices a guy folding a paper crane.
He goes over and comments on it.
The guy says: "It helps me remember all those I've killed."
Usagi: "The crane is a symbol of long life. How many have you killed?"
Guy: "More than you can count. I am an assassin."
To be continued.


13. Are the color specials prior to "Green Persimmon" (UY Color Special #4) available in any of the UY books?

(WWW Board July 2000) The three previous color specials have not been reprinted in the book collection. The color specials have their own continuity and I'm just waiting until the stories in the regular comics catch up to the specials which will be soon.


14. Do you know how many languages Usagi Yojimbo have been translated to?

(Silver Bullet Comics Interview, November 2000) They've been translated into a few European languages -- Finn, German, Italian, even Croatian. There may be a couple of others. I recently returned from Spain where I received two Haxtur Awards for the Spanish editions. Usagi is also available in a couple of South American countries. I get a lot of letters from Australia.

It has never been translated into Japanese. I don't believe that any American comic has ever made a big impact on the Japanese market. I was there in 1998 as a guest of Osamu Tezuka Productions and was surprised that anyone knew who I was. I visited publishers and met a lot of cartoonists during the symposium. Their manga industry is just amazing.

(WWW Board July 2000) It has been translated into Swedish, German, Croatian, Brazil (Portuguese), Spanish and Italian.


15. Do you foresee a time when all comic book art will be done by computer?

(WWW Board May 2000) I already know of comic strip artists who do everything on the computer.

I don't know of any comic book artists that use it to that extent.

Personally, I much prefer working on the page. I like the tactile nature of it. I like the fact that there is an original piece of art that I can hold in my hand. When drawn or written on a computer, each print out is considered an original. I have heard that David Gerrold is still selling original scripts of the Star Trek episode Trouble With Tribbles. There is something very satisfying when I complete a page of art that I don't think I can get when working with a computer.

But the real reason is that I'm not very good with the computer. It's an accomplishment for me to actually post things on the UY-Dojo discussion page.


16. There seems to be a flood of samurai and ninja comic books on the market. Does your audience notice the difference in your work?

(Witty World #1 Interview, 1987) Yes. I've been getting a lot of letters from people telling me that they really appreciate the extra time I spend. People even write to me with their own ideas from Japanese mythology. There's been lots of positive response on the books. I've also been selling a lot of original drawings. There seems to be a new niche created here for "funny" animal type characters in both Japan and Europe. "Funny" animals have typically been looked down upon in America. Well, comic books in general haven't had much respect in America. That's not the case in many other countries where the comic book is a form of literature and any type of reading is appreciated. In the United States, it's kid stuff.


17. There's a lot of noise in the comic book field about censorship now, because there seems to be a difference of opinion about who is the market for comics. Some people feel comic books can be just like other literature, for a variety of audiences. Others feel comic books are just for kids.

(Rafu Magazine Vol. 1, #3 Interview, June 1998) There's a lot of violence inherent in the genre, samurai stories. It was a violent culture back then. I try to keep the violence within reasonable boundaries. I never put in gratuitous violence.

At first my wife would be my censor. But since the kids arrived, she doesn't read Usagi as much. Now I pretty much censor myself. My arrangement with my publishers is that they publish whatever I send them, so there's an additional bit of responsibility placed on me.

I get letters written in crayon from five-year-old kids, all the way up to one grandmother reader with whom I used to correspond. Usagi appeals to a wide range of readership.

(UY Vol 3, #8) Usagi is a creature of peace, but he lives in a time of turmoil. I try not to glorify the violence but to eliminate it would be a disservice to history. The late 16th/early 17th century was a period of upheaval. The Age of Wars was barely ended, the Tokugawa Shogunate was being established, and there were a lot of warriors wandering the land who knew only one way to make a living, but whose services were no longer required.

(UY Vol 1, #24) I do not put any gratuitous violence in any of my stories, but I would never compromise the story by cutting out a violent scene or scenes.

Nor will I compromise the culture and traditions that my stories are based upon. 17th century Japan was a feudal society governed by a military dictatorship that arose after a bloody civil war. It also had a strict caste system in which the lower you were on the social ladder, the less important your life was looked upon. Your life did not belong to you but to you group or your master, and everyone had a master. The greatest honor one could have was to give your life to your lord.

By today's standards it may sound like an oppressive, inhumane society, but it worked for the situations and the times and it would be a grave error to judge a foreign society by our own standards.

True, these are just comic book stories, but still, I try to keep it as faithful to my heritage as I can.

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) I put in whatever violence I'm comfortable with, and it seems to work so far. As far as the children part, it did receive the Parent's Choice Award and it was recommended for kids seven and up. In the samurai genre, there is a certain amount of inherent violence you have to contend with. I don't go beyond what I think is tasteful, but basically I'm my own panel of experts when it comes to violence in my comics. My wife Sharon used to comment on the book, but she doesn't have time to read Usagi any more. (laughter)

(San Diego Comic-Con Interview, 1994) When you're dealing with feudal Japan and the samurai warriors, you also have to deal with the violence, That's pretty much just a fact of life back then. And so I dealt with it the best I could.

It's hard to say because the audience that I'm doing this for is primarily myself -- whatever I want to do, I do. I make my own limits which are drawn according to my own taste.

It's considered a general audience book, even though there is a lot of violence in it. I received the Parents' Choice Award. That's one of the awards that I'm most proud of...besides the Inkpot award.

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991) I'm not that concerned about it, primarily because I don't think I put in any gratuitous violence in the story, and whatever violence I do put in is pretty tame compared to other comics that are out there. I don't do blood spurting out all over the place. Actually, there aren't that many dead bodies in Usagi (laughs). There is a fair amount of violence, but it is subdued. I keep it within reason: Whatever I feel comfortable with, that's what I put in.

[Akira Kurosawa's] Yojimbo, for instance, is a great movie. There is a lot of violence, but you never really think about it. But then, the Samurai movies in general are very violent, with their famous "death in slow motion" scenes -- when jugulars get hit it's like a hose spurting out of the neck. I've really kept Usagi pretty tame compared to that.

(Witty World #1 Interview, 1987) The samurai genre has traditionally been pretty violent. I try to tone it down. You'd be amazed as to how much I have toned down from the Japanese. It's not very graphic. But I think that if the violence is part of the story, it's okay to put it in. I try to make the story a good story without adding violence for the sake of violence.

(Comics Interview #44 Interview, August 1987) Actually, I have really toned down the violence when compared to a typical Japanese comic book. In those books heads fly, blood spurts, there's gore, guts...I think I've really toned it down.

None of the violence is gratuitous. Each fight scene is essential to the storyline and they tend to be pretty short, no longer than absolutely necessary. There is only one instance in which Kim [Kim Thompson, Fantagraphics Books editor] has suggested that I tone down a panel.

I had sent him xeroxes of a story -- in one panel it showed Usagi cleaving open a bandit's head and there were brains flying out of his ears and the skull was flying apart, and there's blood and guts and he's spitting blood; but after I sent it off to Kim I looked at it and said, "Hey, this is a bit much." I showed it to my wife and she said, "Hey, this is a bit much." Kim called a little while later and said, "Hey, this is a bit much." (Laughter.) But by the time he called I had already whitened out all the bits of brain and had put his skull back together, so it wasn't any problem for me.


18. Do you find that there are some people, who have not been reading comic books, that give your work a try because of the interest in Japanese film artists like Kurosawa?

(Witty World #1 Interview, 1987) Yes, I'm surprised because I have done book signings where people have told me that I've brought them back into comic books, which is staggering for me. After all, these are comic books [laughter].


19. Has Usagi ever been printed in Japan and have you received any reaction from over there yet?

(Comics Interview #44 Interview, August 1987) I sent off a few copies to Japanese publishers but I've gotten no reaction yet.

Japan is not very much into funny animals, and whatever funny animals they do have are primarily geared at kids. It's a very small funny animal market, and I think my book is geared towards the older kids and the more mature reader.


20. Do you reinterpret Usagi Yojimbo somewhat for American audiences?

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) I think I reinterpret it for American audiences. For one thing, I'm third generation Japanese-American. I'm not close enough to the source to portray it as accurately as someone else who is first generation; because of that most of my research is through books and films, and I reinterpret it. Also, there are a few things that I may allude to that I really don't go into much detail, such as the eta, which, at that time, was kind of comparable to the untouchables of India, the very lowest class of the social order, and they dealt with things having to do with death, I may make a commentary every once in a while, like the eta was, as a class, disbanded in the 19th century but they basically changed the name from eta to burakunin but basically it's the same social class. They deal with death and a lot of them have shoe stores because shoes are made out of leather.


21. How do you and Usagi generally deal with Japan's social classes in the comic?

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) Well, you know, he's pretty friendly; he pretty much treats all the social classes the same, which a real samurai at that time would not do. I think he reflects my own personality to a degree.


22. So cartoon characters generally reflect the personality of their creators?

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) That's me -- a maniacal sword-wielding bunny rabbit. One thing I want to mention, though, is that Usagi fans are great. I get a lot of really intelligent questions through the mail, and if I make any big blunders as far as historical accuracy or cultural accuracy goes, I hear about it from the readership. They take things like that seriously. There's even an Usagi web site that's pretty comprehensive that was done by a guy in Long Beach named Todd Shogun. It was created and is maintained by the fans; I really don't have access to the Internet so basically it's the fans who keep it up. They have things like character profiles, story synopses, they even have a color gallery, a printing history of all the Usagi books and everything. They run contests. It's pretty neat.


23. Are there a lot of Usagi Yojimbo fans in Japan?

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) Not really, not on a consistent basis. I would get a couple every so often but Usagi's not translated in Japan. There's never been an American comic book that has really made a big impact on the Japanese market. I was featured in a prominent Japanese magazine but aside from that, there's been no response as far as the Japanese market goes.


24. So you're bigger in Germany than you are in Japan?

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) Uh-huh. (laughter) And Croatia!


25. What do you think about the big recent explosion in funny animal comics? Why do you think that happened?

(Comics Interview #44 Interview, August 1987) Well, of course it started off with those Ninja Turtles people. My stories came out at about the same time that the Turtles came out, so I don't consider myself part of the big explosion. I'm really disappointed with a lot of the independents, the black-and-whites. It feels like they're out there just to make a quick buck.


26. What do you see happening with the independents in the next year or so? Do you think this flood of material's going to last?

(Comics Interview #44 Interview, August 1987) Well, I've been hearing about the great black-and-white recession that's supposedly going on now. My editor, Kim Thompson, assures me that Usagi's going to continue.


27. Do you think when the funny animal boom that's going on in the black-and-whites now dies out there'll still be a legitimate market for good funny animal stuff?

(Comics Interview #44 Interview, August 1987) I hope so. The way I see it, this recession is just going to wipe out the chaff and leave the good. I hope that Usagi and Critters are going to continue.


28. What are some of your other projects?

(Sequential Tart Interview, Feb 2001) Every now and then I'm asked to do a non-Usagi story such as the Riblet back-up series that ran in Bone [Bone #30-35 and also Stupid Stupid Rat Tales trade paperback]. Upcoming projects include a Simpson's story for the next [September 2001] Treehouse of Horror comic from Bongo, a short story written by Greg Rucka for the Oni Color Special and a pin-up for Guy Davis' Marquis.

These are nice diversions and I get to work with other creators and publishers.

I do come up with other stories and they are usually written down or just put on the back burner until later. Every writer has more plot ideas than time to develop them. I remember when Sergio came over at 2 am one day to pick up Groo pages. On the drive over, he thought of a plot for a new Terminator movie and an Usagi story. He filed the Terminator story in his memory and gave me the Usagi one.

It became Broken Ritual [UY Vol 1, #33] which appears in Usagi Book Seven.

I have also done a few autobiographical pieces such as Norway. That was not intended for publication but Diana liked it so asked to include it in [Dark Horse] Maverick 2000. I have a few others that have not been published. A lot of them are exercises and an excuse to experiment in different styles. No doubt they'll see print one of these days.

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) Most of my time is spent doing Usagi Yojimbo but once in a while I may take the odd job in commercial artwork, and it does pay a lot more. About 10 years ago I did some work for Mattel on their Captain Power games and things like that, and I would make $300 a hour. Comic books -- they pay a little less.

Well, besides the ongoing series for Dark Horse, I'm also doing a couple of things for other publishers, like that six-page story for Crusade Comics, with real human figures.

I had to go back and count everyone's fingers after I had done it just to make sure I had put five fingers on them. And I'm doing things like covers and pinups for other publishers. There will be a role-playing game. Oh, Antarctic Press is going to publish an Usagi Sketchbook. Basically, it's a pin-up book. A lot of it is things like the endpapers for the Usagi hardback books, calendar art and drawings that were very rarely seen, convention sketches, and commissions.

Also, the Diamond Previews catalog is serializing an Usagi story ["Green Persimmon", also found in UY Color Special #4] over the period of one year. There is a two-page episode each month, which is a new challenge. The story has to be paced so that each two-page installment has to interest the reader and end with a cliffhanger. The plot has to be summarized every so often for the benefit of new readers but not too often or too obviously or it will become redundant when the entire story is collected into a single volume. Frankly, I had a difficult time thinking up a story but I happened to be reading Musashi by Elji Yoshikawa and one of the chapter titles, "Green Persimmons", caught my eye, so I wrote a story about a mysterious green porcelain persimmon which comes into Usagi's possession and everyone seems to be after it.

I've enjoyed my tenure with Dark Horse. It's pretty much the same with all my other publishers in that they leave me alone.

(Comic Culture Vol 2 #2 Interview, Dec 1994) I do advertising art, I also have been the letterer for the Spider-Man newspaper strip on Sunday. I've been doing the lettering for the strips must be at least eight years now. I pretty much took that on because I get to work directly with Stan Lee. Stan's a person that I've always connected with comic books since I first picked up comic books, since I first picked up Fantastic Four number two there was his name on there. It's great to work with him, he's a terrific guy.

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991) A lot of it has been for Disney. I just finished lettering a couple books for Disney. Right now I'm working on doing lettering and touch-up for The Great Mouse Detective. I finished a cover for, oh, Donald Duck [Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures #32, Jan 1991] I think. It's the first time I ever drew the duck. Also, a six-page story for Dennis Mallonee's Flare, which was a strange little piece -- a story about a stick boy.


29. And you also got to meet the living legend, Alexandro Jodorowsky.

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991) Oh, yeah, he wrote the introduction to my fourth book [UY Book 4]. I had heard from a couple of sources that Jodorowsky liked Usagi, so I said, "Oh, that's really nice," because I've always liked his movies. And one day I got a phone call: Hi, may I speak to Stan Sakai? This is Jodorowsky." Oh wow! (Laughs) He was passing through Los-Angeles from the Japan premiere of his new movie, Sante Sangre, and he was in town for a few days so we got together for dinner with Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier. He's really a nice guy -- not what I pictured him to be, He's a real gentleman in the European sense, a marvelous person, very interesting to talk to. The only thing I knew about him was from his movies, Holy Mountain and El Topo, and he's not as wild as that. He's very nice.


30. How do you feel about your own comic books?

(Comics Interview #44 Interview, August 1987) I enjoy it. (Laughter.) I like reading my stories over and over again. I think it's suitable for rereading. There's so many people today who just collect comics, there's not enough people who actually read them, and I think my stories are very readable.

I do the lettering and I'm always going back and rereading Groo and looking for those hidden messages. Sergio's been drawing all of us, you know, doing cameo appearances in each issue of Groo. I think last issue I had a helmet with these bunny ears tied to the top. (Laughter.) I thought that was great. But yeah, again, there's too many collectors and not enough readers, and I think Usagi's a comic that you can go back to and read again and again.

(UY Vol 1, #38) "A Kite Story" [UY Vol 1, #20 and UY Book 5] is one of my all-time favorites. It not only tells a good story but it teaches something about the culture of Japan. This is the one that I've given to parents and to some classes where I've been invited to give a presentation.


31. Did you ever get any outside offers to make an Usagi Yojimbo cartoon?

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) Yeah, and sometimes from strange sources. I think Fantagraphics got a call from Oliver Stone's company...that was the strangest. Every so often we get inquiries about Usagi and there's even been some merchandise, a computer game and even Usagi pajamas...But the second year I was at Mirage, they had approached me about developing Space Usagi for licensing, and with the success of the Ninja Turtles, they had all the contacts worldwide. It was with the intention of putting together a package, a TV series, getting it syndicated, and doing the licensing from there...and this was the first property that Mirage was launching since the creation of the Ninja Turtles, so there was a lot of interest in it. Turner Home Entertainment came on board to become the licensing agent. This was the first creator-owned property that Turner was undertaking; they took out ads and things, and we were getting licensees calling, inquiring about the project. We fully developed it, we wrote the series bible, we introduced new characters, we even did a three and a half minute animated clip, and Michael Dooney created some incredible toy designs. We had interest for a movie, and we had financing for 26 episodes for a TV series. At one time, we were offered a time slot for TV, but the deal breaker for that -- there always is a deal breaker -- was that everything hinged around getting a toy line. Apparently for licensing that's where the lion's share of the merchandising is, and at that time the toy companies were certain that superheroes was where everything was going to be in the next few years. This was the time when the big superhero explosion was coming about. Image Studios had just come about, everything was superheroes: Playmates had WildC.A.T.S., Galoob had the Ultraverse , Toy Biz had Marvel, and Kenner had DC.

The first thing they had against Usagi was that he was not a superhero, and the second was what killed a lot of the deals for Usagi in the late '80s: Bucky O'Hare. If you're familiar with Bucky O'Hare, he was a rabbit in the space that Neal Adams's Continuity Studios had created specifically for licensing. Unfortunately, when they launched Bucky O'Hare, Neal Adams dropped a bomb of such mega-tonnage that we can still feel the fallout. When toy companies saw "rabbit in space", they thought it was another Bucky O'Hare scenario and they stayed away from it. But, if nothing else, I've got a great three-minute clip that I show at conventions.

Like I said, we're always getting some kind of inquiry. We were set to develop Space Usagi for ABC just this past year. Mark Evanier agreed to help me develop the property. Disney had bought out ABC earlier and made up huge public announcements saying they were going to maintain a "hands-off approach" with ABC; however, this past summer, they quietly told ABC they can only develop Disney properties, and so that again killed the Space Usagi deal. However, just this past week, we had another inquiry (laughter)...so it keeps going on.

We went through a lot in those three years we did all that development for Space Usagi . I had never dealt so much with lawyers -- I had to join the Chamber of Commerce of Century City so that my trademark would be legal in Turkey and Brazil...it was that big of a project we were developing. Anyway...

Actually, one of the things that attracted ABC to Usagi was that it was a rabbit. Disney had told them hands off ducks and mice. So being a rabbit was great. The TV studios loved it, they had no qualms about it. It was primarily the licensees, the toy companies, that were hesitant about it, because he is a rabbit -- they had been burned so badly on Bucky. However, that was about seven years ago and maybe now they'd be willing to take another look at Space Usagi.


32. How were you able to get makers of cartoons to accept the level of violence in Usagi?

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) Well, we got around it in two ways. First of all, through syndication -- you can get away with a lot more in syndication.

Yeah, I mean, look at Batman...The Warner Bros. Batman is terrific but there is a lot of violence in there. Even more so with some other shows. Because of the success of some syndicated shows, the networks have become more lenient when it comes to cartoon violence. Also, with Space Usagi, we were able to create all these robots and things which basically were there to be blown up and hacked up and everything...so you've got the violence there, but no person is being killed or mutilated, it's just these robots. It's the same thing with the Ninja Turtles, they had those Foot Clan robots that would get sliced and diced and still, because they were robots, the networks let them get away with it. But yeah, for a while, the standards and practices guys were really looking over everything: Popeye couldn't make a fist or hit anyone, or if a villain got beat up it was always his own fault, he would fall into the trap he had originally intended for the hero and get caught up in his own mess.


33. Are you planning to make a Usagi Yojimbo cartoon or perhaps a full-length feature?

(WWW Board January 2001) We have talked to and are continuing to talk to a number of studios. Getting an option is one thing but actually getting something made is another.

(UY Vol 1, #21) He's made appearances on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series and rumor has it that he made a cameo in a crowd scene in a Duck Tales episode (though I haven't seen this). Currently, there is no plan to do a Usagi cartoon series or feature.

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991) Well, if it's done right I'd love it. I really enjoyed seeing Usagi on TV. It was great. Also, the people who did the animation are fans of Usagi, so they used my character design rather than the toy, because the toy looks completely different. I love it, but it's not my Usagi, and I'm comfortable with that.


34. What was the reason that Usagi Yojimbo was released in color?

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) Well, when I first went over to Mirage, it was with the intention of possibly doing a color book, but more probably a black and white book. In fact, the first Space Usagi series, which was the first thing I had published through Mirage, was black and white. But, when Usagi came over, it was just about the time when the entire Mirage line was going to color -- well, when I say the entire line, it was just a couple of books, really. Usagi was the first on-going color series for Mirage, and right after that, the Ninja Turtles went to color, and eventually, they got set up so that they could even do the color separation in-house, with their computers. There were a lot of good points, but there were also some drawbacks to that, in that the coloring system was not perfected yet; there were a couple of issues of Usagi -- around numbers 11, 12, and 13 - where the reproduction of the lines was really fuzzy. Tom apparently knew what the problem was so I think he called them up and they discussed it and eventually that problem was fixed.

(Comic Culture Vol 2 #2 Interview, Dec 1994) Basically color sells better, at least that's the theory, I'm not sure about it though, if that's true. Mirage was at the time switching all their books to color. In fact I think Usagi was the first ongoing color series that they launched. Of course the Ninja Turtles are now in color, Space Usagi received color, too. I was leery of color myself, I really like the black and white look of the art work in print because that's closest to the original artwork as you'll ever get. Tom Luth is a wonderful colorist, I use him almost exclusively since I first had done any color work. We'd done three color specials from Fantagraphics and Tom always did such a marvelous job, and he still does with the new series.


35. Do you approach drawing differently for color than you do for black-and-white?

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) Yeah, less black. I figured the color would fill in that area so that I wouldn't get as much white space. I'd make color indications to Tom [Luth], saying I want a sunrise here or a sunset here, I want this effect here, rather than trying to convey all that in textures.

In the Fantagraphics Color Specials , the color was such a novelty that I really planned around it. I did adventures in which the color would really enhance the story. But by the time I got to Mirage, it was just the stories I wanted to tell, rather than the stories I wanted to tell in color.


36. Usagi Yojimbo in color was nice, but I much prefer the detail of the black-and-white issues. Please keep Usagi in black-and-white!

(UY Vol 1, #21) I agree with you wholeheartedly. The color special was great. Tom Luth, as always, did a terrific job. However, I still prefer the black-and-white.

(The Comics Journal #192 Interview, December 1996) Well, I prefer black and white myself. I've always said that black and white looks truer to the original artwork than anything else; you can really see what the artist had intended to do. I've also often said that at many of the American comic book companies, the colorists do not know how to color. They hide good artwork or they try to disguise bad artwork, and it's especially true with all these things that you can do with computers now. The computer coloring, for the most part, looks terrible. There's some that looks wonderful, of course, but for the most part, I despise the coloring that's done on current comic books. The coloring seems to be more important than the line art in some cases. But Tom Luth has done a great job on Usagi. I consider him the best colorist in the industry, and even though a lot of his work is on computers, he also does a lot of hand coloring. He's terrific -- anyone who can color an issue of Groo has to be tops in my book.

In fact, as soon as we went to color at Mirage, I got some letters from readers saying they wouldn't buy the book any more because it was in color. In fact, of the letters that I received that expressed a preference, almost all of them unanimously chose black and white.

Even during the old Fantagraphics days, we'd get letters saying they loved the artwork in black and white. You can see the detailing, the different textures that I put in, and with the color books, even though, like I said, Tom is a terrific colorist, some of the nuances in the artwork were hidden. So, the [Dark Horse Comics] switch to black and white was both an aesthetic move as well as an economic move.


37. Are you planning any more issues of Usagi Yojimbo in color?

(WWW Board November 2000) No.

(WWW Board April 2000) There are no plans for another color special in the near future. There is a 4-page serialized story ["Tsuru"] currently running in Dark Horse Extra (I believe part 3 just came out a week or two ago). This story will probably be printed in the next trade collection in March 2001.

The color specials will be reprinted in a trade collection in black and white. Chronologically the adventures take place later than the current Dark Horse series so it may take a while for them to see print.

Incidently, besides the Color Specials, the entire Mirage series was published in color.

(UY Vol 3, #25) There are no color specials planned, but I hope you checked out the Trilogy II Tourbook, which has a painted Usagi story ["The Guardian"] along with terrific tales by the Trilogists, all of whose books you should be reading: Mike Crilley (Akiko), Linda Medley (Castle Waiting), Jeff Smith (Bone), Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother), and Charles Vess (Ballads and Sagas).


38. Are you planning any more crossovers with the TMNT?

(WWW Board February 2001) My participation in the episodes were little more than providing approvals and giving initial input to the character designers. Fortunately, the people at Murakami/Wolf Films were fans of Usagi and followed my character designs rather than basing it on the toy design. They even had Usagi initially beat the Turtles, so naturally, I approved the script.

The episodes Usagi appeared in are titled:

"Usagi Yojimbo" and "Usagi Come Home".

I don't believe either have appeared for sale on pre-recorded tape.

(Comic Culture Vol 2 #2 Interview, Dec 1994) Peter Laird and I were sitting together at the San Diego Comic Con one year, this is back in '89 or so. He turned to me and said "Do you want a toy?" and I said sure. The Usagi Yojimbo toy came out and it was a pretty big seller, it was one of the bigger non-Turtles figures. Because of the toy, Fred Wolf had known about Usagi for a while. Fred Wolf has the animation house that did the Turtles TV series. He liked Usagi too, and he thought there was a good chance to work together. And that's how Usagi got on TV.

[The Turtles appeared in the story "Shades of Green", UY Vol 2, #1-3 and UY Book 8]

(UY Vol 2, #3) This story, ["Shades of Green"] an homage to Kurosawa's Seven Samurai , was actually plotted out two years ago and had been simmering in my mind for a while. The switch over to Mirage seemed the ideal time to actually draw it out.

It's changed a lot since that initial idea. For one thing, the part of Gen originally belonged to Tomoe.

(UY Vol 1, #24) Usagi was in two episodes of the Ninja Turtles TV series and there were three cross-over stories with Leonardo. It was great fun working with them and hope to again, but there are no plans for another meeting in the near future.

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991) Well, Usagi's been on a couple episodes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show. One episode was titled "Usagi Yojimbo". The other was "Usagi Come Home".


39. I liked the cameo appearance of Akiko, Spuckler, Mr. Beeba (and the Poog kimono!) in "The Courtesan" (UY Vol 3, #28). How about a crossover story with Mark Crilley's Akiko?

(UY Vol 3, #31) First of all, let me congratulate you on your fine taste in reading matter. Akiko is, indeed, a superb book and well deserving of the many accolades it has received. Also, Mark Crilley is a heck of a nice guy. I would love to do a crossover with Akiko. Time is just one of the factors involved. There's also the artwork: Who draws what? Do I draw my characters and Mark draws his? Do we just split the book in half? Who gets to keep the originals? How will the story be written?

Sergio Aragonés and I have wanted to do a crossover for a long time. So far, we've plotted out a six-issue miniseries, and that took us six years to do!


40. Even though the book's been around for a number of years now, do you feel it's accessible to new readers?

(Silver Bullet Comics Interview, November 2000) I generally plan out shorter stories which lead to a longer arc. Older fans seem to prefer the longer, more in-depth stories while the shorter ones are a good opportunity for newer readers to get introduced to the series.

Incidentally, a new collection, Demon Mask, is scheduled for March 2001. That would be the 14th UY trade collection and both publishers, Fantagraphics and Dark Horse, try to keep them in all in print and easily available.

(Worlds of Westfield Interview June 2000) It's very accessible. Besides the comic book, Usagi's also collected in trade paperbacks. The thirteenth trade paperback [Grey Shadows] comes out in March [2000]. There's also a Space Usagi trade paperback collection. They're all kept in print. I believe Book One is currently in its sixth or seventh printing. Grasscutter [UY Book 12], published in August [1999], is already scheduled for another printing. But each volume can be read independently of any of the others.

I try to make these stories as accessible as possible to new readers. Japanese terms are always translated the first time they're used. Story notes, a bibliography, and more details about aspects of Japanese culture that I've talked about are included in the letters column. I give a bit of back-history whenever recurring characters show up. There are not many subplots or threads that continue on for years and years.

Pretty much, once a person starts into an Usagi story, he catches on fairly quickly. There's only been a few very long stories that have been serialized over a number of issues. Most stories are either self-contained or will continue over only 2 or 3 issues. The exceptions, of course, would be the novel length "Dragon Bellow Conspiracy" and "Grasscutter".

(UY Vol 3, #27) I deliberately alternate longer stories such as "Dragon Bellow" or "Circles" with shorter single or double issues. Older readers seem to prefer the more involved epics, while the shorts are great jumping-on points for new readers. Even the shorts have a loose theme tying them together -- currently, it's mysteries, in the case of "My Father's Swords," "Hairpin," and the upcoming "Inn at Moon Shadow Hill" -- and set the groundwork for the multi-issue stories.

(UY Vol 1, #31) After a multi-part story, I like to do shorter ones so that I and the readers can catch our breath and new readers can get into the stories without having to know what went on in the past half-dozen issues.

Also, the shorter stories are often used to set up the longer ones. Issues [UY Vol 1] #7-12 introduced new characters and re-introduced older ones who were involved in the "Dragon Bellow Conspiracy." And, as Usagi slowly made his way back home in issues [UY Vol 1] #19-27, it built up anticipation for the "Circles" multi-parter [UY Vol 1, #28-31].

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991) I like to do a few short stories and then, every six issues or so, do a longer one.


41. How much of a multi-issue story arc do you usually have planned out beforehand?

(WWW Board November 2000) I have ideas for landmark stories further in the future but many times I do not know what is going in the next issue. For instance, I have the "Duel at Kitanoji" story roughly plotted but am unsure of the stories that go between "Grasscutter II" and that story.

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991) I have a general idea of the plot and I kind of know what each issue's going to be about, but it's not until I'm actually working on that issue that I know exactly what's in it. It's hard to describe. I have a strange way of working. Because I do everything myself I can afford to be flexible. I don't have a script per se, I just use little thumbnail sketches and I change a lot of it in the final drawings. But I have a general idea as to how far each issue goes as far as the storyline is concerned, and I just kind of wing it from there.


42. How much time passes between you finishing an issue and its being published?

(WWW Board November 2000) It varies. I finished UY [Vol 3] #45 (the final chapter of "Grasscutter II") at the beginning of October [2000], before going to Spain and that story will not hit the stands until January [2001]. I should finish up UY [Vol 3] #46 this week and that issue should be out in March [2001].


43. How long will Usagi Yojimbo continue to come out at its current (seemingly) monthly schedule?

(WWW Board November 2000) We try keep major story arcs on a monthly schedule so UY will be monthly until UY [Vol 3] #45 when GCII [Grasscutter II: Return to Atsuta Shrine] ends. We will take a month off then go back to monthly at least for a couple of months. I try to do 9-10 issues a year. There will still be some UY stuff coming out in those off months, though. The "Demon Mask" tpbk [trade paperpack, UY Book 14] is scheduled for the beginning of March [2001] (UY [Vol 3] #46 is set for the end of that month). A new Art of UY [#3]is tentatively scheduled for July [2001].


44. You've been creating Usagi Yojimbo comics for a long time now (16 years!). Are you going to have to take a furlough from cartooning pretty soon?

(Sequential Tart Interview, Feb 2001) I have never felt that way. Nor have I ever thought of taking a hiatus from the series. I do everything so I can vary the kind of stories that I want to tell. I can do mysteries then switch to a fantasy with ghosts and monsters then do a historical drama. After more than 16 years, I'm still never bored with Usagi.

Incidentally, since we're talking about publishers, I want to mention that there are currently 13 trade paperback collections. The first seven are published by Fantagraphics and the rest are by Dark Horse who also collected the Mirage material. All the books are continuously being reprinted -- Book 1 is currently in its 6th or 7th printing. A 14th book, Demon Mask is due out at the end of March. There is also a Space Usagi collection.

(Tozai Times Vol 13, #148 Interview, February 1997) I love to work with Usagi and I never feel burnt out. I enjoy what I'm doing. Besides, I do other work for the publishers besides Usagi. I also do some advertising art and this gives me a variety of assignments.


45. Do you feel it's part of your responsibility to teach Japanese history and culture, or is it there to help the story?

(Rafu Magazine Vol. 1, #3 Interview, June 1998) Both actually. I enjoy doing the research and writing about it. I try to put a lot of Japanese culture and history into the book. At the same time, I try not to make the cultural aspects so blatant as to interfere with the story. The story is always foremost.

I'm Sansei [third-generation Japanese-American], and, growing up, I didn't learn a lot about Japanese culture. I enjoy the research now. It helps to authenticate the story. From the reader input I get, they seem to love it too. If I make a mistake, I hear about it. They let me know…


46. Why do you usually choose to use watercolors for your color work?

(Tozai Times Vol 13, #148 Interview, February 1997) Using oil medium (oil paints) takes too long.


47. Your backgrounds are always incredibly detailed and realistic. Do you do a lot of research into plants and animals in creating your backgrounds?

(UY Vol 3, #42) Though I try to do as much research as I can, many of the visuals are just determined by what looks neat.


48. The credits in Usagi Yojimbo state that Tom Luth is the one who handles the "color separations". What are "color separations"?

(WWW Board November 2000) Separations refer to getting the colors ready for the printing process when the colors are "separated" into the primary colors -- magenta, yellow, cyan (process blue) and black. (The blacks are already taken care of by my inking but it is printed as a 4th color.) If you look carefully at the covers, you'll see that the colors are made up of individual dots. So a green may be made of certain number of blue dots mixed with yellow dots. Another shade of green may have a different percentage of blue mixed with yellow and even some red dots thrown in. Tom takes care of separating these primary colors so the printer can make four printing plates -- one for each color in its various percentage dots and the black which looks like a line drawing.

Hope this clears it up a bit. At least, I hope it doesn't confuse you further.


49. I read in the UY Summer Special #1 that T.O.M Luth (Transparent Optical Media Luthitron-7) is the name of your coloration machine. Is this Tom a real person or not?

(UY Vol 1, #31) As far as Tom Luth being a machine, I'll let him answer for himself! Take it away, Tom.

"I am not a machine. *Click*."


50. I really like the new design of the UY comic books [beginning with UY Vol 3, #39]! (Maybe you could increase the size of the comic book overall so we can still get a full-size illustration!) What do the kanji characters read?

(UY Vol 3, #43) The credit for the book's design has to go to the wonderfully talented Cary Grazzini. I'm especially delighted with those inside front covers he's been coming up with [beginning with UY Vol. 3, #30].

The kanji translates as "usagi yo-jim-bo." However, I just noticed a small stroke missing from the first character. I apologize for not noticing it sooner.

Usagi Yojimbo


51. What are "anthropomorphic" comics?

(Silver Bullet Comics Interview, November 2000) Anthropomorphic just means to give human qualities to other animate or even inanimate objects. So even a toaster can be made anthropomorphic if given a personality and other human qualities. However, when we talk about it in comic book terms, it usually refers to "funny animals", a term I prefer myself even though Usagi Yojimbo is not particularly funny.

(Sequential Tart Interview, Feb 2001) Using anthropomorphic characters give me more freedom in writing as well as art. I base the stories in feudal Japan but they are written with a Western perspective. I don't think I could do this if I was using human characters. It also makes it clear that this is a fantasy series, though with roots in the history, tradition and culture of a specific country, and so I can stretch the boundaries a bit more.


52. What do you think allowed Usagi to survive and thrive when so many other characters and titles were cancelled in the early 90s?

(Sequential Tart Interview, Feb 2001) I hate to blow my own horn but I think the quality of the series has something to do with it. Usagi has received its share of awards so I assume others agree. It or I have gotten a Parents Choice, an Inkpot, three Eisners (out of 15 nominations) and two Spanish Haxtur Awards. I also think it is because Usagi is unique in the comics field. There have been other samurai comics but never with the dedication and research that I put into it. Also the fans have been amazingly supportive, just check out the website at www.usagiyojimbo.com. It is completely put together and maintained by fans.

But one of the biggest reasons it is still out there is because of timing. Usagi appeared before the big black and white boom and so didn't get lost with all those other new books that just hit the stands in a deluge.

It also kept coming out fairly regularly so it was never forgotten. Diana Schutz, my editor at Dark Horse, is great at keeping me on a consistent schedule.


53. What effect do you think that the Usagi Yojimbo Summer Special ultimately had on making this character known in comics circles?

(Sequential Tart Interview, Feb 2001) The Summer Special was the first comic that was exclusively Usagi and it sold very well so that convinced both myself and Fantagraphics that a series was viable.

USAGI YOJIMBO Summer Special #1


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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.