As announced last year, legendary comic creator Stan Sakai, best known for his Usagi Yojimbo comic, returned to his previous publisher Dark Horse Comics under his own creator imprint, Dogu, to publish Usagi Yojimbo comics as well as other projects. Last weekend at SDCC, Mathias Lewis, Sales director at Dogu Publishing, moderated the “Usagi and Friends” panel featuring Sakai along with his wife and designer/creator Julie Sakai, as well as Emi Fujii, the stepdaughter of Stan Sakai and current Usagi Yojimbo colorist.

Lewis began the panel by noting that as of now Sakai has become the recipient of 12 Eisner awards. He then brought up the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Usagi Yojimbo: WhereWhen crossover miniseries. The idea for this miniseries came to him seven years ago around the time a new TMNT/Usagi crossover was proposed. However, the publisher desired a one-shot instead of a limited series. So Sakai was thrilled at the chance to revisit his original idea. WhereWhen takes place immediately before Usagi Yojimbo: Senso, a storyline that imagines a potential future where Usagi battles invaders from Mars.

As most people are aware, Stan Sakai has maintained a close friendship with TMNT creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Sakai recalled his early bi-coastal correspondence with Eastman and Laird and how they eventually met and became great friends. Years later, Laird apparently floated the idea to Sakai about producing a Miyamoto Usagi action figure as well as having the character appear in the original 1987 TMNT cartoon.

Because Usagi Yojimbo is a creator-owned comic and Sakai has complete and sole ownership of the character, Miyamoto Usagi has been able to appear in occasional short stories published by other companies. That autonomy has allowed Sakai to create and draw Usagi Yojimbo comics at his own pace. For instance, the “Grasscutter” storyline took him five years to research and another few years to actually write and draw. That story is particularly meaningful to him because not only did he win the Eisner award in 1999 for Best Serialized Story, but the legendary Will Eisner presented Sakai with the award. In fact, he even signed the award for the Sakai!

Beginning with the first issue of the recently announced Ice and Snow miniseries, the Usagi Yojimbo series will start featuring legacy numbering with Ice and Snow #1 marking the 270th issue.

Julie Sakai’s involvement in her husband’s began before they got married when she created a Chibi Usagi clothing line for kids. A new collection of the various Chibi Usagi comics as well as Julie Sakai’s art will be published by Dark Horse next year.

Emi Fujii discussed her different approaches to coloring the different Usagi Yojimbo books describing the main series as more realistic and complex with fall colors whereas Chibi Usagi is more cartoony and whimsical. Fuji discussed the daunting task of coloring the original black and white Usagi Yojimbo stories that will delight both new and old fans.

Shifting away from Usagi, Lewis introduced Mack Flavelle, the creator of Oni Ronin a new graphic novel from Dogu Publishing available November 28th. Set in Japan during the Sengoku or “Warring States” period, Oni Ronin combines historically accurate characters and locations with Japanese folklore. Flavelle noted the intense research involved and praised the work of his collaborators.

Perhaps the biggest announcement was Space Usagi: Yokai Hunter, a one-shot coming this October that bridges the gap between Usagi and his future descent Space Usagi. The iconic Bruce Lee film Game of Death was apparently the main inspiration for the story which finds the rabbit rōnin rescuing a girl from Japanese demons. Perhaps the biggest tease that will entice collectors is the one-shot will introduce a very important new character to the franchise. So if you’re a fan, you better add Space Usagi: Yokai Hunter to your pull list!

Stan Sakai On the subject of Space Usagi, Sakai revealed he has a least one more story with the character assuming he can find the time amidst his busy workload. He also teased a new Usagi Yojimbo project that will invite other creators get to play in the Usagi world. Some creators he mentioned include Skottie Young, Jeff Smith, and Geoff Darrow. In addition, it was announced that Sakai was working with cartoonist and painter Jared Cullum on a watercolor Art of Usagi Yojimbo book.

Before moving onto fan Q&A, Lewis noted that while 2023 may be the Year of the Rabbit next year will mark the character’s 40th anniversary and inquired about any plans. Sakai played coy, joking that he’ll finally kill of Miyamoto Usagi.

The first fan up to the microphone asked about a potential Usagi Yojimbo movie. Sakai merely played coy refusing to speak on the matter, but perhaps his silence probably speaks volumes.

An aspiring creator was interested in hearing about Sakai’s decision to maintain his independence. Sakai recalled various offers from companies to buy his IP, but he resisted. recalled being offered by companies to buy his IP, but he strongly resisted. Nevertheless, he conceded the money was alluring but credits his friend Sergio Aragones, the creator of Groo the Wanderer, and his encouragement of creator-owned work that inspired him to retain the rights.

Though a few people have voiced Miyamoto Usagi in various media over the years, Sakai praised actor Yuki Matsuzaki who voiced the character in the 2012 Nickelodeon TMNT cartoon. In fact, Sakai so admired his performance that he advocated Matsuzaki to reprise Usagi in the Samurai Rabbit cartoon on Netflix.

At the age of 70, Sakai assured fans he had no intention of retiring anytime soon. In fact, he admitted he’s busier than ever.

Miss any of our earlier SDCC ’23 coverage? Find it all here!


  1. The fact that Usagi Yojimbo is a creator-owned comic has allowed Stan Sakai the freedom to explore and publish the character at his own pace, leading to rich and meaningful storylines like the award-winning “Grasscutter” storyline.

  2. The legacy numbering of the Usagi Yojimbo series with the recently announced Ice and Snow miniseries is a great way to honor the series’ long history and milestone achievements.

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