In a serious blow to Dark Horse's martial arts skilled anthropomorphic animal output, Stan Sakai is moving his beloved samurai rabbit comic Usagi Yojimbo to rival publisher IDW beginning in June. For IDW, which already publishes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics in three different continuities, the move pretty much allows them to corner the market on this genre.
According to the press release, Sakai will produce a new full color Usagi Yojimbo comic each month, while IDW will "curate a fully-colored graphic novel library of the complete Usagi Yojimbo – all 35 years of its grand storytelling, plus new stories to come."
It begins in June with the first in a three-part story:
Welcome to the world of Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo in June with the first thrilling chapter in an all-new three-part story! Set in the Edo period of Japan, this adventure sees Usagi embroiled in a puppet drama where the players are not quite what they seem.
Marking this milestone with a spectacular selection of covers, Usagi Yojimbo #1 includes a main cover by Stan Sakai, plus variants by Daniel Warren Johnson (Murder Falcon), Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), and Walt Simonson (Ragnarök, The Mighty Thor).
The press release contained a statement from Sakai explaining his decision:
I'm delighted to work with IDW Publishing on the new Usagi Yojimbo color series. IDW is a creative company that brings a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement to the table. The IDW family includes many beloved characters, including (of course) the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so it is a natural fit. Fans, please look forward to this coming June as we'll be releasing IDW Usagi Yojimbo #1, action-packed and now fully colored."
Bunraku (Japanese puppetry) captures many elements that make the world of Usagi Yojimbo unique: an adventure filled with Japanese culture, folklore, and history. It also features the return of a long-awaited fan favorite character and Yokai (Japanese supernatural creatures). I'd like to thank the readers for their continued support of Usagi, and if you haven't read Usagi before, this is a great place to start.
Plus it's getting a brand new #1, baby! Think of those sales!
Look for Usagi Yojimbo #1 in next month's previews for a June release.