Dark Horse just keeps bleeding properties, having lost Star Wars, Conan, Buffy, and now comes an unexpected departure:
Stan Sakai has announced, via the NY Times, that Usagi Yojimbo has a new home at IDW, which will kick off a new monthly series this June.
This will be the fourth home for the rabbit ronin (not counting Albedo Anthropomorphics) a list that includes Fantagraphics, Mirage Comics (the originators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, where many fans my age first got acquainted with Miyamoto Usagi, at least in animated form), and then it settled for decades at Dark Horse, starting in 1995; making it one of the longest published properties there.
It’s frankly, one of the greatest comics ever made, while heavily indebted works like Lone Wolf & Cub, Kurosawa films, Zatoichi, and other samurai classics, Sakai brings his own level of immense craftmanship to these tales that are consistently fabulous with every issue. In some ways, I like to think of him as the real inheritor of Carl Barks’ legacy. It’s honestly the kind of comic that’s maybe even taken for granted. Let us stop doing that, okay?
IDW will also be reprinting the entire series from the very beginning, in colorized collections this time. Not only that, but the new monthly coming this Summer will also be colored by Tom Luth, and involve a story about Japanese puppetry.
Sakai has, to date, published well over 200 issues of the series – pitting him, Erik Larsen and Fred Perry in a pretty tight race as to who might set the new record for longest ongoing comic by one (American) cartoonist.
Update: We reached out to Fantagraphics to get clarification on whether the first 38 issues, along with short stories that appeared in titles like Critters (all currently comprised of seven collections from the publisher), would remain at Fantagraphics. Jacq Cohen, Executive Director of Marketing, Publicity and Promotions shared the following:
Fantagraphics is still the home for the black and white editions of the first seven volumes of Usagi Yojimbo. As the first company to publish Usagi, it’s an honor to keep volumes 1-7 in print in their original black and white form. I, personally, am a massive fan of Sakai’s work and am looking forward to rereading the entire Usagi series in the newly colored editions.
So have no fear, gang! The original run of Usagi will still be available for those seeking to pick it up as it originally was presented.