Before there was Usagi Yojimbo, there was Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy. For those of you who don’t know either of these names, read on.
Comics master Stan Sakai created a series about a rabbit ronin, Usagi Yojimbo, which is hugely popular among tweens and teens (and adults). He writes and illustrates his own stories, and is pretty amazing all around. For anyone – like myself – who is still catching up with Usagi Yojimbo’s adventures and wants a more welcoming entry point – and something they can share with their kids, on top of it – there is this Dark Horse Collected edition of Sakai’s first pair of adventurers, a rabbit named Nilson Groundthumper, and his guinea pig sidekick, Hermy.
The Dark Horse edition collects previously published Nilson and Hermy stories from the ’70s and ’80s, and a gallery of unpublished work, previous covers, convention sketches and more. It’s a great piece for any Sakai fan to have on his or her shelf, and a great way to introduce younger readers to the world of Sakai, and manga in general.
While Yojimbo wanders 17th century feudal Japan, Nilson and Hermy are causing trouble in Medieval Europe. The story is simple and to the point: Nilson Groundthumper is an adventurer who thinks he’s far more clever than he really is. He saves Hermy, a guinea pig, from a “mole-mangler” who had designs on eating Hermy for dinner; Hermy is grateful and becomes Nilson’s servant-cum-sidekick. They go in search of adventures, most of which Hermy manages to bungle.
Hermy is that bumbling, lovable doofus that always ends up coming out unscathed. Nilson is a brash, fast-talking wannabe smooth adventurer that usually ends up with egg on his face. They’re an odd couple that works, whether they’re being duped into stealing the crown jewels, or confounding an evil wizard.
The art is pure Sakai. It’s cartoony, the animals are adorable, and kids will love it. The writing is fun, goofy, and – most importantly – smart. Sakai never talks down to his audience; his writing reminds me of some of the better Bugs Bunny cartoons I grew up with; there’s snappy, fast-paced dialogue and wacky situations galore.
If you have kids in your life, introduce them to Nilson and Hermy. If you don’t, pick them up for yourself, and just kick back and enjoy the storytelling from a master. Four out of five stars. The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy hit shelves on March 26, so go pick up your copy now!
THE ADVENTURES OF NILSON GROUNDTHUMPER AND HERMY
Writer: Stan Sakai
Artist: Stan Sakai
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Pub Date: March 26, 2014