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Interview with Stan Sakai 1/30/07
Dark Horse: January marks the release of Usagi #100. Did you ever
imagine Usagi would get this far and be as successful as it has become?
Stan Sakai: When I started with Usagi, I was not thinking of it as a long-term project. I was just concerned with getting the next story finished before the deadline. I'm still working this way. And I should point out that this is the one hundredth issue of Usagiís Dark Horse run. Usagi was with two previous publishers, and, if you count those issues, this will actually be about 160.
DH: A ďcelebrityĒ roast seems a little unusual as the theme for Usagi #100. How did that come to pass?
SS: It was all my editor Diana's fault . . . er. . . brilliant idea. I was just going to make Usagi 100 another story, a continuation of the previous issue. She said we should do something a bit more than that. We've worked together for awhile, so she knows who my friends are in the industry, and she contacted a few of them to contribute pages for the roast. I don't think anybody she contacted turned her down. I'm very flattered for that.
DH: In its long-running history, what do you consider your greatest achievement with Usagi?
SS: If you're talking about which story I am proudest of, it has to be UY Book 12: Grasscutter. It won an Eisner Award (Will even wrote the introduction), it also won a Spanish Haxtur and an American Library Association Awards. It was also used as a textbook in Japanese history classes at the University of Portland. I did a lot of research for that, and it turned into a nifty little story.
All right, Stan, 3 non-comics related questions for you. What is your most treasured possession?
SS: I assume you mean besides my family. That is a toughie, because I can't think of anything that I can't live without.
What is your favorite dish?
SS: I like to eat, and I like to travel. Whenever I'm abroad I like to eat the local cuisine. I've had great creme brulee in France, wonderful tapas in Spain, even sheep's head in Norway. When it comes down to it, though, I think most of us go back to what we were brought up with. I really like sushi, and maybe lau lau with rice and lomi salmon.
What is your favorite movie(s)?
SS: This is an easy one--Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. This is probably the movie that got me interested in the samurai genre in the first place. Another would be Satomi Hakkenden (8 Dogs of the Satomi Clan), the 1957 version that I have been trying for years to find on video or DVD.
DH: Do you have any favorite comics you are currently reading?
SS: Since Jeff Smith ended Bone, there is nothing I look forward to every month. I will buy anything new by Guy Davis or Frank Miller, though.
DH: If you could have anyone take over the reins of writing and drawing Usagi who would that be and why?
SS: The first name that comes to mind is Darko Macan, the Croatian cartoonist. He wrote stories for Grendel and Star Wars. I really like his art as well as his writing. Sergio Aragonés would do a terrific job on Usagi as well. Maybe he can do a fill-in issue, while I do an issue of Groo.
DH: How much time out of your day do you normally devote to Usagi (i.e. every day, every couple days, etc.), and what's your usual routine? What does it take for you to "get into the story" or has it become second nature at this point?
SS: I work every day, but I enjoy it. My typical day: get up at 5:30, pack lunches for the kids and wife, and send them off to school/work, log on to get some business and correspondence done, go on my walk, work at the drawing board until it's time to start something for dinner.
DH: Along those lines, how far do you have the story of Usagi mapped out? Do you actually have a final "ending"?
SS: There was a definite ending when I first came up with Usagi. However, I doubt that story will ever be made. I do have some landmark stories planned such as Tomoe's Wedding, the Tengu Wars, and Hideyoshi's Treasure, but I have to also think up those smaller stories that lead to those epic ones.
DH: You were recently in Europe. How was that experience as a whole and how were your fans?
SS: I really enjoy traveling. I was in Europe three times in 2006, and have already had an invitation for 2007. Europe, as a whole, has a greater appreciation of comics as an artform, as opposed to just something to read or collect. All Usagi readers Iíve met have been very nice. I usually keep travel diaries that are posted on the website: www.usagiyojimbo.com
DH: What inspires you most as an artist?
SS: Finishing an entire story with the satisfaction of knowing that I did it all myself. But then, Diana calls to tell me I'm already behind schedule. That brings me down to earth.
DH: What words of advice would you give to anyone who's trying to break into the comics industry?
SS: Show your work around--to friends, teachers, artists, and to editors and publishers. Get feedback to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are. Learn to take criticism. Network with others, because, face it, people like to work with those they know.
DH: Looking ahead, what are your special plans for Usagi #200?
SS: I think, as in Usagi #100, Iíll leave that up to Diana.
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