That means anyone out there with even a slight interest in comic books or Japanhas to read at least one issue of USAGI YOJIMBO by Stan Sakai this year. I’m sorry but no exceptions allowed!
I know I’ve written about this long-running comic series before, but I wish it got more recognition and press. Writer and artist Stan Sakai has been chronicling the adventures of his “Rabbit Bodyguard” since 1984. So it’ll be Usagi’s 40th anniversary next year. That is very impressive, especially for a creator-owned independent comic book. SPAWN has been getting all the press recently but Usagi Yojimbo has been going for longer than Todd McFarlane’s Hellspawn. Spawn does have more issues though, because its run has never been interrupted, unlike Usagi Yojimbo.
After a long run with comics publisher Dark Horse, Usagi moved to IDW in 2019. But Stan Sakai was rumoured to be unhappy with IDW’s approach to the character. In September 2022, it was announced that Usagi would be returning to Dark Horse Comics. There haven’t been any new Usagi issues published since September, but the word is that Sakai will be collaborating with some “new talent” and they will continue publication of the ongoing Chibi Usagi, Space Usagi, and the Color Classics series. I look forward to any future issues of the main Usagi Yojimbo series.
This story is taken from a collection of Japanese fairy tales translated by Yei Theodora Ozaki and published in America in 1908. In the book’s introduction, Ozaki writes:
“These stories are not literal translations, and though the Japanese story and all quaint Japanese expressions have been faithfully preserved, they have been told more with the view to interest young readers of the West than the technical student of folk-lore.”
Here is the opening paragraph of the story:
Long, long ago there was a large plain called Adachigahara, in the province of Mutsu in Japan. This place was said to be haunted by a cannibal goblin who took the form of an old woman. From time to time many travelers disappeared and were never heard of more, and the old women round the charcoal braziers in the evenings, and the girls washing the household rice at the wells in the mornings, whispered dreadful stories of how the missing folk had been lured to the goblin’s cottage and devoured, for the goblin lived only on human flesh. No one dared to venture near the haunted spot after sunset, and all those who could, avoided it in the daytime, and travelers were warned of the dreaded place.
The Goblin of Adachigahara
Source: Ozaki, Y.T. (1908). Japanese Fairy Tales. New York: A.L.Burt Company.
To celebrate getting 100 subscribers on YouTube, I made a video where I talk about how I got into reading comics. I cover five comic book titles that had a big effect on me and helped develop my love of the medium. It’s at the bottom of this post and is twelve minutes long. If you watch it, please let me know what you think about my choices. Also, I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read any of these titles! 😀
The FIVE comics are:
Groo the Wanderer
Groo the Wanderer #17 was the first American comic book I bought with my own money. I’d read some of my brother’s Batman comics before that. Also, the Marvel UK reprints of the popular Marvel Star Wars comic that became a big seller after the first Star Wars movie. I think it was the cover of Groo #17 that caught my eye and led me into the madcap world of this bumbling yet deadly barbarian. Sergio Aragones’s detailed cartoony style blew my young mind and I quickly fell in love with the bonkers, silly humour.
Like Tom Waits sang, “I’m big in Japan”; six foot two inches to be precise. They use centimeters over here, so that makes me around 189~190cm. Not significantly tall for a “Westerner”, but taller than a lot of Japanese people. I’m always easy to find in a crowd over here. That can have both its good points and bad points😉.
“A samurai should always be prepared for death – whether his own or someone else’s.”
I first got into Usagi Yojimbo back in the 1980s; just under 40 years ago! My brother lent me an early collection of Stan Sakai’s tales of the wandering rabbit ronin and I fell in love with it immediately. I was already developing an interest in all things Japanese at that point in my life so this was a perfect comic book for me. It introduced me to some Japanese words and gave me glimpses into some aspects of traditional Japanese culture. It also featured regular doses of samurai swordplay, ninja attacks and a myriad of mythological creatures. Can you believe that Stan Sakai has been chronicling the adventures of Usagi Yojimbo for 40 years? That’s very impressive! Continue reading →