Episode 137: Stan Sakai
Like many of roughly my age bracket, my first exposure to Usagi Yojimbo was as an action figure — a badass samurai rabbit that fit in perfectly in world where Ninja Turtles roam the streets of New York at night. It’s one of those perfect sorts of synergy, anthropomorphic superheroes trained in Eastern forms of combat born out of the small press black and white comics revolution of the mid-80s. But Usagi’s roots are far deeper than his gritted toothed action figure implies. Stan Sakai has been telling the samurai rabbit’s story for 30 years now, writing and drawing one of the most complex works in all of comics. It’s a work deeply tied to the cartoonist’s early obsessions with his heritage, bits and piece of Japanese culture he poured over in his formative years in Hawaii. Conducted on the show floor of this year’s Baltimore Comic Con, Sakai and I discuss the roots of his beloved creation and how he manages to keep Usagi’s story fresh three decades in.