Usagi Yojimbo: Ice and Snow #1
Usagi and Yukichi are still in the snowy mountaintops of Northern Japan, following Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo story arc, “The Green Dragon.” They are led to the hut of a strange hermit who allows them to spend the night at her home to shelter from the snow storm. Meanwhile, the maniacal Jei and his familiar, Keiko, are on Usagi’s trail when they stumble upon a bandit lair and subdue a band of cutthroats and thieves.
I was first introduced to Miyamoto Usagi, as "Usagi Yojimbo", through the 1987 TMNT cartoon. In his introduction episode, Usagi jumps through a portal, starts fighting the turtles, and decimates them easily! At least until Mikey throws a pizza at him and Splinter takes his sword. Taking out 3 turtles easily was jaw-dropping and the fact that he was a good guy was great! From that point on, he easily became my favorite non-turtle character!
My reintroduction to Usagi as an adult was when I came across Fantagraphics' graphic novel #1. This amazing cover featured Usagi riding into battle on a horse, sword drawn, and the reins held in his mouth. I had to grab it! I was so enamored by the story and art that I consumed that first trade paperback instantly and ordered the next five as soon as I could. After learning his backstory from the comics, I wanted to know more about the character. After doing some research, I found that he was loosely based on the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi (one of my favorite historical figures). Years prior during a deployment to Iraq back in 2007, I came across a fictional biography of Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, that I read and enjoyed. Seeing that Usagi was based off of Musashi furthered my deepening love for that character. As an adult, I did some research into rare and sought-after comics, and on so many lists was Albedo #2 (the 1st appearance of the Samurai Rabbit), and I knew I had to find one. In my life, I have been lucky to own an Albedo#2 in a CGC 9.4 and CBCS 9.6, but sadly have had to sell them for personal reasons. So you know I will be working my butt off to get the holy grail at a 9.8 in my collection one day.
This year I saw that Stan Sakai (the creator, writer, letterer, and artist for Usagi) was bringing Usagi back to Dark Horse Comics. I immediately ran to my wife Sam and told her about it! We discussed how creating an Usagi Yojimbo #1 variant would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us and we reached out to Dogu Publishing/Dark Horse immediately. Once we were green-lit to start the project, we made a short list of artists that we would love to have do our variant cover. Dave Dorman was one of those artists, so when we found out he was available to do the cover we were so excited! Dorman and I share the love and passion for Usagi and Usagi is a character he has always dreamed of doing art of! Sam and I couldn't be happier with the cover, Dorman obviously put a lot of love into this cover and it was great working with an artist who is as passionate as I am for this character!