Stan Sakai is the Eisner Award winner who created the series Usagi Yojimbo.
This series is about Miyamoto Usagi, a samurai rabbit, that lives his adventures in the Japan of the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth-century.
First published in 1984, this comic series continues to these days.
Stan, is an honor for me to have an interview with you.
When did your passion for the world of comic books begin and who inspired it?
SS–I grew up reading comics. When I was young, everybody read them—this was in the early 1960’s. We bought them, loaned them to each other and traded them. It was not until much later, though, that I realized you could actually do this as a profession.
In your series Usagi Yojimbo you have mixed up together two different styles of art: manga and comics. How did you do?
SS–I grew up in Hawaii, which is part of the US where a very large Japanese population lives. I read both, US comics and manga, and I was influenced by both.
2011 marks the 25th anniversary of Usagi Yojimbo: it’s an amazing goal. How do you feel?
SS— Actually 2009 was Usagi’s 25th anniversary (Ndr Dho!). One of the events of that year was writing and drawing Yokai. It was an original graphic novel, fully painted with watercolors. I had painted other stories, but this was the most ambitious color project I had done.
One of greatest graphic novel of the year is Yokai.
I love Yokai is a full colored volume.
Is there the possibility of see other stories of Usagi in color?
SS— I would love to do more painted stories. The problem is that it does take a long time to complete—about three times longer than an average story.
Is there an Italian tour in your agenda?
SS— I travel to Europe about twice a year, but I’ve never visited Italy. I enjoy travelling. In 2010, I went to Germany, Australia, Canada and Croatia, in addition to cities in the US.
Is there any Italian artist who inspired your style?
SS— I love Milo Manara’s work—especially his early black and white work. My friend, Sergio Aragones, gave me a few of Manara’s books and I was amazed with his ink lines.
In Italy, Usagi is published by a little publishing house (Bottero edizioni).
The last volume published was Grasscutter vol.1 in 2008.
We are a little in delay, can you spoiler us what is actually happening in the world of Usagi??
SS— So far, I have drawn more than 5.000 Usagi Yojimbo story pages. Grasscutter was published in the US in 1999, and won a Will Eisner Award (Will also wrote the introduction for the US edition). Since then, there was a sequel to Grasscutter, more adventures with Gen and other old friends, as well as meeting more friends and enemies. Tomoe told the story of how she came to serve Lord Noriyuki, and we met her sister. Usagi traveled with his son, Jotaro, for awhile, and we learned the origin of Jei the demon. UY Book 25: Fox Hunt will be published in the US in July.
Thank you Stan, I hope to see you soon in Italy for Spaghetti together….
di Ruffino Renato Umberto