(1953- ) US Comic-strip artist and writer, born in Kyoto, Japan, raised in Hawaii, and now based in Pasadena, California, known for keeping the anthropomorphic funny-animal tradition alive in the twenty-first Century by telling tales of a wandering, masterless samurai rabbit in seventeenth-century Japan. That series, Usagi Yojimbo, has the distinction of being the longest-running comic-book series by a single writer/artist, with no assistance from other creators. Sakai has kept the title running since 1984, completing more than 175 individual issues. The series has been collected into more than 24 books, all of which have consistently remained in print. Mostly working in exquisite black-and-white linework, Sakai celebrated the 25th anniversary of his series with a fully painted graphic novel, Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai (graph 2009).
Usagi Yojimbo features a combination of fantasy and historical fiction set in the Edo period of Japan. While the early days of the series relied heavily upon homage (the title character alone references the Yojimbo series of movies from Japan), and featured characters such as the Lone Goat and Kid (a reference to the Lone Wolf and Cub Manga series), the comic quickly evolved to become a powerful drama depicting the daily struggles of life in feudal times and the power struggles between neighbouring lords. The series also frequently features supernatural elements based upon Japanese mythology, including ghosts, goblins, demons and trolls (see Gods and Demons; Supernatural Creatures).
Sakai brought his ronin rabbit to the Far Future in three short Space Usagi series, telling tales of the descendant of his samurai character and collected as Space Usagi (graph coll 1998). Usagi Yojimbo also appeared in several episodes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated Television show.
Sakai got his start in cartooning as the letterer for Stan Lee's daily Spider-Man comic strip. He has also lettered hundreds of other comics, mostly Sergio Aragones's long-running series, Groo the Wanderer. [JP]
born Kyoto, Japan: 25 May 1953
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