The 27th Annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards took place at the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront San Diego on Friday night, and it was a great night for diversity, for women in comics, for comics aimed at a younger audience, and for the future of the industry.
Ever since I wrote about how great Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo is a few weeks ago, it's been the only comic I want to read. As a result, I've been re-reading the entire run, and it occurs to me that even though I wrote at length about how great it is, I might've actually undersold it a little bit. I mean, I talked about the craftsmanship, the accessibility, the commitment to historical accuracy and the effortless way that it's blended with myth and legend, the instantly engaging characters and all that stuff, but when you get right down to it, that's only part of what makes that comic so great.
I mean, I didn't even mention the time that Usagi fought Mothra and summoned the King of All Monsters. That seems like something worth mentioning, right?
Q: What's the big deal with Usagi Yojimbo, anyway? - @cwidtz
A: If you're not already familiar with Usagi Yojimbo, I can see why it might be a hard sell. On paper, it just sounds weird. I mean, it's a long-running samurai story where all the characters are cute furry animals, and that's just the start of things. It's exhaustively researched and set in feudal Japan, frequently using actual historical events as the centerpieces of its stories, but also ghosts and magic are completely real, it's cartoonish and frequently very funny with great buddy comedy bits and a ton of slapstick humor, but it's also very serious and violent, with the highest on-panel body count of any comic I read, and everyone who really loves it won't shut up about how great the word balloons are when people die. Even if you're willing to believe that it's very good, there's a lot there that sounds like it'd be hard to get into.
But since you asked, here's the big deal with Usagi Yojimbo: Stan Sakai's been doing this comic for over thirty years, and he hasn't done a bad issue yet.
In case you don't have it written on your calendar, May 4 kicks off Children's Book Week, which means that it's time once again to decorate the Children's Book Tree, carve up a turkey with a copy of Watership Down and, of course, send your sweetheart a lovely children's bookentine. Or... or maybe you should buy books for kids? Yeah, it's probably that one.
Fortunately, the folks over at Humble Bundle have made it very easy: For the next two weeks, they're offering up a whole lot of comics that are great for younger readers on their usual pay-what-you want setup, including books from Archie, Dark Horse, Image and more - including an amazing full-color Usagi Yojimbo original graphic novel by Stan Sakai.
In the history of comics, few editors have been as influential for as long as Diana Schutz. In terms of long-term, well-known women editors at the top of the industry, Schutz is really only equaled by Vertigo's Karen Berger and Shelly Bond. Today, Schutz announced she is retiring from Dark Horse after 25 years at the publisher, and would be moving towards more academic pursuits. Over the course of her impressive comics career she has worked with many of the best creators in the business, including Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Matt Wagner, Stan Sakai, Will Eisner, and Harvey Pekar, and her books have won multiple Eisner and Harvey awards.
Here's the best news you'll hear all week: After a three-year hiatus, Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo is finally returning to shelves this May!
If you've never read it, I imagine this marks a great place to jump on, and that's something you should definitely do. Over the past 30 years, Usagi has consistently been one of the greatest comics of all time, with a level of craftsmanship and skill that goes beyond virtually everything else out there with a combination of adventure, comedy and incredibly compelling relationships. Like, for instance, the one at the center of the new story, which finds the wandering samurai teaming up with his friend, a thief, to battle a ninja who wants to recover something she stole at all costs.
The thing about Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo is that it's been one of the best comics on the stands for over 30 years. It's both fantastic and consistent to the point where I can't think of a bad issue, but when every single installment of a comic is at that high a level of quality, you sort of get used to it. It gets to the point where the stories are as epic and thrilling as they've ever been, but they don't quite surprise you in the way that you want them to, if only because you're expecting them to be that good, and as much as I love Sakai's work, it's been a while since I've actually been surprised by it.
Until I read Usagi Yojimbo: Senso, I mean. Because really, if you want to spice up an exhaustively researched samurai adventure story about a cast of furry animals, it just makes sense to throw a Martian invasion into the mix.
I'm a pretty big fan of Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo, for the simple reason that it's one of the single greatest epics in comic book history. The mix of meticulously researched history, funny animal comics and high adventure, along wth Sakai's legendarily consistent high level of craftsmanship, has made it an amazing comic. That said, I never expected it to make the transition from the page to the stage.
And yet, that's exactly what's happening in London, as the Southwark Playhouse's Stewart Melton has adapted Usagi Yojimbo as their annual Christmas play -- and not only that, but it seems to be getting rave reviews for its use of live music and a whole lot of swordplay.
If there's one thing we've learned from our years on the Internet, it's that there's no aspect of comics that can't be broken down and quantified in a single definitive list, preferably in amounts of five or ten. And since there's no more definitive authority than ComicsAlliance, we're taking it upon ourselves to compile lists of everything you could ever want to know about comics.
This week, we're heading away from the Big Two for a look at some of the scariest bad guys from the world of indie comics. The catch? We're also staying away from horror comics, just to make things a little more interesting!
With the exception of perhaps Marvel, Dark Horse Comics may have been the publisher that broke the most news about its upcoming books at New York Comic-Con this year. That includes new stories from Eric Powell and Sergio Aragonés, the latest adventures from the Eisner-winning Itty Bitty team, prestige collections of Kabuki and Pistolwhip, brand new horror tales from some of the masters of the form, and much more.