by Robert “Rob Base” Greenwood
Welcome to the first article in a series talking about great comics that never had a truly great toy franchise. Today I want to talk about a book that’s pushing 30 years now.
Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai
A brief history – 兎用心棒 Usagi Yōjinbō (pronounced oo-SA-gi) “The Rabbit Bodyguard” created by Stan Sakai that first appeared in Albedo Anthropomorphics #2 published by Thoughts and Images in November 1984. Stan Sakai accepted an offer to move his warrior rabbit to Fantagraphics Books where he appeared in several issues of the new anthropomorphic anthology series, Critters. Usagi’s popularity influenced Fantagraphics to then release the Usagi Yojimbo Summer Special in October 1986. Finally, Fantagraphics gave the ronin rabbit his own ongoing series with issue #1 being published in July 1987.
The adventures of this talented anthropomorphic biped have captivated comic fans for a long time yet he has never seen a proper toy line. Don’t get me wrong he’s been made into a few figures over the years. In the TMNT vintage line, he appeared twice. Nothing groundbreaking. One issue that diehard fans have is that Usagi is neither dressed nor resembles his comic book counterpart other than the ears in a bun.
I make exceptions for toys that are really out there and Space Usagi gets the pass for just being too quirky and over the top!
When characters who basically are in the same vein as Usagi, like Bucky O’Hare, get a full fledge toy line, why didn’t our beloved Rabbit warrior?
In the late 90’s, Antarctic Press released a Usagi Yojimbo figure that did its best to capture the comic book.
Of course, being it was the 90’s, comic book fans couldn’t escape the dreaded variant versions.
In the early 2000’s, the return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (re-dubbed “TMNT”) brought new and more adult themes into the world of the Fab Four. With their return, they brought their totally awesome rabbit friend in to the modern toy world.
Needless to say that with the rise of direct market and high-end action figures, Usagi and the gang could very well be made into an awesome toy line in the year 2013.
In 2003 Dark Horse released a PVC of Usagi.
Unfortunately, this has almost no articulation but does retain a lot of what makes Usagi who he is.
Who would I pick to handle such a monumental undertaking event? Minimates! Having a full line of 2 inch figures makes me smile from ear to ear. Mininates, who first out could capture the cartoon style of Sakai and give a robust collection which could then be incorporated into any pre-existing Minimates toy line.
With its parent company Diamond Select, we could also get a 7 inch tall highly detailed collectors figure of Usagi to add as well.
We’ve been treated to Usagi in statue form but a proper figure still alludes us. With Sakai doing Usagi right for so long and his new series, 47 Ronin, being a modern masterpiece, plus Usagi getting his own hack and slash app game, a proper figure would just be the icing on the cake.
Let us also not forget that in 2011, IGN ranked Miyamoto Usagi 92nd in the top 100 comic books heroes.
There is no time like the present to bring action figures back to Usagi Yojimbo.