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Home | Tag Archives: Usagi Yojimbo

Tag Archives: Usagi Yojimbo

TNTM: Top 5 Ninja Turtles characters

Ninja Turtles Top 5 characters

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around for a long time.  They have been in nearly every media such as comic books, trade paperbacks, special collector’s editions, toys, cartoons, movies, etc.  With their longevity there have been a lot of characters introduced in the main comic book and through cross-over story-lines from other comic book titles.  Jack and I compile our Top 5 list of favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle characters, excluding Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were first published in 1984 by Mirage Studios. The Turtles started from a humorous drawing sketched out by Kevin Eastman.   Eastman and his friend, Peter Laird, went back and forth trying to outdo each other on the concept of Ninja Turtles. They decided to make a comic book based on the characters they developed.  They used money from a tax refund along with a loan from Eastman’s uncle.  They self-published a single-issue comic intended to parody four of the most popular comics of the early 1980s: Daredevil ,  New MutantsCerebus, and Ronin.

The Turtles big break into the mainstream market happened when they met licensing agent, Mark Freedman. Freedman introduced them to wider merchandising opportunities. Their biggest deals were for a line of action figures from Playmates Toys and a cartoon seriesWhile the animated TV series (10 seasons) was more light-hearted, the comic-book series continued in a much darker and grittier tone.

The original movie featured the Ninja Turtles and Splinter being portrayed by actors in partially animatronic suits created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. The film became one of the most successful independent films.  That movie spawned two sequels as well as inspiring a three-dimensional animated film set in the same continuity. After the end of the cartoon series a live-action series in the vein of the films was created in 1997. The series was called Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation and introduced a fifth female turtle called Venus de Milo. The series was largely unsuccessful and was canceled after one season.

The property lay dormant until 2003, when a new animated TV series also entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began to air on Fox Box. The series storyline stuck much closer to the original Mirage comic book series but was still less violent. It lasted for seven seasons and 156 episodes, ending in February 2009.

On October 21, 2009, it was announced that cable channel Nickelodeon had purchased all of Mirage’s rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property. Mirage retains the rights to publish 18 issues a year.  The Ninja Turtles were brought back to the movie screen with a modernized/revamped look.  The newer movies are hit or miss with the older crowd that remembers the original Turtles.  The younger crowd that has no memory of the prior Ninja Turtles, overwhelmingly like the new movies.

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TNTM Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai interview

Troy got the opportunity to interview the owner/creator of Usagi Yojimbo, Stan Sakai.

Stan Sakai began his career by lettering comic books (notably Groo the Wanderer by Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier). He also wrote and illustrated The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy. This is a comic series with a medieval setting. The comic was influenced by Sergio Aragonés’ Groo the Wanderer.

The characters first appeared in Albedo #1 in 1984 (Usagi Yojimbo first appeared in Albedo #2). They were featured in issues of Critters, GrimJack, Amazing Heroes, and Furrlough.

Stan Sakai became famous with the creation of Usagi Yojimbo. The comic is the epic saga of Miyamoto Usagi, a samurai rabbit living in late 16th and early 17th century Japan. The comic was first published in 1984 and continues to this day. Stan Sakai is the lone author and nearly sole artist (Tom Luth serves as the main colorist on the series and Sergio Aragonés has made two small contributions to the series).

Sakai has worked on other titles as well. He wrote and illustrated the story “I’m Not in Springfield Anymore!” for Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #7 and illustrated the back cover of Treehouse of Horror #6.

Sakai was the artist for Riblet, the back-up feature in the trade paperback of Stupid, Stupid Rat Tails.  Sakai illustrated the limited comic book series 47 Ronin.  This is an adaptation of the famed story of the 47 Ronin written by Dark Horse Comics Publisher Mike Richardson with Lone Wolf and Cub writer Kazuo Koike as an editorial consultant.

Several of the characters in Usagi’s world are inspired by or make reference to samurai movies. Usagi’s former lord is named Mifune. This is a nod to Toshiro Mifune, an actor who starred in countless classic Samurai films. Gen, the rhino bounty hunter, was inspired by the characters made famous by Toshiro Mifune in the samurai films Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Zato-Ino, the Blind Swordspig, is a reference and tribute to the film character of Zatoichi.

The story arc “Lone Goat and Kid” features an assassin who wanders with his son in a baby-cart, referring to the film/manga series Lone Wolf and Cub. The main character’s name, Miyamoto Usagi, is a play on “Miyamoto Musashi”. Miyamoto Musashi is Japan’s most famous historical samurai and the author of The Book of Five Rings. Usagi is the Japanese language word for “rabbit”. His friend Tomoe Ame, a feline samurai, is inspired by the female samurai Tomoe Gozen. The storyline “The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy” includes elements reminiscent of the classic Akira Kurosawa films The Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress.

While Usagi Yojimbo draws most heavily upon samurai and chanbara films, it has also been influenced by Japanese films from other genres. For example the three-part story “Sumi-E” features monsters resembling Godzilla (identified as “Zylla”), Gamera, Ghidorah, Mothra, and Daimajin.

Usagi appeared in episodes 32 and 34 in the third season of the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and in episodes 23-26 in the second season of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon for an inter-dimensional tournament against the Turtles (along with Gen). Also in episodes 13 and 22-23 of season 3 for a Christmas party and a continuation of the season 2 storyline (which prominently featured his world and characters).

Usagi again appeared in episode 13 of season 4 for a confrontation with Leonardo. The focus was mainly on Gen. Usagi and Gen also attended the wedding of April O’Neil and Casey Jones in episode 13 of season 7 (Back to the Sewer) titled “Wedding Bells and Bytes”.

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