Usagi Yojimbo enjoys a distinction that not many comic book titles can claim: it has had 225 consecutive issues written and drawn by one creator, Stan Sakai. The creator-owned title has reached the territory of series such as Dave Sim’s Cerebus and Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon. If you include his various miniseries like Space Usagi, we’re talking more than 250 issues almost wholly produced by Sakai, who even does the lettering.
The adventures of Sakai’s ronin rabbit were published by Fantagraphics Books in the late 1980s and Mirage Publishing in the early 1990s, and have resided at Dark Horse Comics from 1996 to present. Each move has brought with it a new #1, but the comic has reached #165 at its current and most stable home. What’s more, the property has been reinvigorated in the past couple of years with the Senso miniseries receiving wide acclaim in 2014 and 2015, the reunion of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Usagi in print and animation last year, and the announcement Usagi would finally get his own animated series earlier this month. To top it all off, Usagi Yojimbo will relaunch with a new #1 in March -- shifting to a miniseries format starting with the seven-issue Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden.
While renumbering ongoing titles is common place for Marvel and DC, making it to #165 at the same publisher for a creator-owned title is a massive milestone. So, why a new Usagi Yojimbo #1 then? Well, that’s what CBR aimed to find out when given the opportunity to pick Sakai’s brain about our favorite anthropomorphic hare. We also inquired about the upcoming Usagi cartoon, the major European influence in the next arc of the comic, if we will see Space Usagi Vol. 4 in 2018, and what animal will never be a character in Usagi Yojimbo. Check it all out below.
CBR: It’s been more than 20 years since you relaunched with a #1, why now?
Stan Sakai: It just made sense. My editor, Philip Simon, came up with this idea to switch to miniseries format and I liked his thought process. Since it really wouldn't affect my pacing or storytelling and I already was planning a major story arc, it meshed. Additionally, our goal was to make it easier for new Usagi readers, since it can be intimidating to pick up issue #165 and feel like you are current. Not to mention that the "true" #1 is actually back with Fantagraphics. With that in mind, I didn't see a reason to not try out the miniseries format.
When will you switch back to the proper Dark Horse numbering?
All the comics will have both the "actual" number of serialized comics (now past 220 issues, not including Space Usagi, Senso, TMNT crossovers, and Yokai) as well as the Dark Horse numbering in the indicia.
In Senso we saw Jotaro inherit Usagi’s swords (aka soul). Is it possible Jotaro may eventually become the star of the title? Or that there might be another miniseries set after Senso?
With Space Usagi, we saw that the swords were passed down generation to generation. In the end of Senso we saw when it was first handed down. I don't plan for a story after Senso, but I have a miniseries in mind for events that occurred right before that story.