Usagi Yojimbo is currently celebrating 30 years, and I’ve known about Miyamoto Usagi’s adventures my entire life. The first issue of Usagi Yojimbo, which he signed for my mother back when it was first released, is a family treasure, and it was an honor to finally meet the creator in person.
Stan Sakai’s booth was my first stop at Comicon. He was friends with my mother back in school, and he remembered her after all these years. He was kind enough to sign the action figure my mom picked up in 1990 when I was busy loading up on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Originally I wanted to make a White Chocolate Cherry cupcake in honor of it being close to cherry blossom season and his Japanese heritage. However, I’m now aware that we no longer carry cherry syrup at the bakery, which I used to use to enhance the cherry buttercream. I made a split decision to switch it up to strawberry because if nothing else it would at least be delicious. I worried for half a second about it not being particularly masculine, but delicious trumps masculinity every time…or at least it should. The top artwork is made of chocolate, and I admit I worked harder on this one then any of the others (notice the tiny dots in the ear detail).
Stan Sakai is a 4 time Eisner Award winner, along with many other awards and honors. I love his combination of ancient Japanese culture with absolutely adorable yet fierce and honorable animals. There are many comic artists in this world, but the ability to take your own unique character and carry it on for 30 years is a rare and amazing thing. In honor of the 30 year celebration several artists have submitted inspired pieces that will be published later this year in a book called The Sakai Project. Proceeds from this book will go towards the care of his wife Sharon, who was also a friend of my mother. One of the major drawbacks to being an artist is that the pay is irregular and the health insurance is minimal. To quote one of my illustrator friends, “All my heroes have day jobs.” Sharon Sakai is a wonderful woman who has spent many years giving back to her community, and she has fallen ill with a debilitating illness that requires 24 hour monitoring and care. Check with your local comic shop for pre-order opportunities of this book. You can also make donations directly to the Sakais with Paypal.
According to his Facebook, he gave the cupcake away to a deserving fan. I was so honored to meet him and add my own personal experience to the stories I heard growing up. I also found a pamphlet from his 1986 artist showcase among my mother’s things, and I brought it along to show him how much my family appreciates his work.
I told him I wish him many more years of artistic creation, and I can’t wait to see how other artists honor him in The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate Thirty Years of “Usagi Yojimbo”.