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I was invited to be a guest of the Unicomix Festival in Mendoza, Argentina. This was just the second year of the festival, so I was surprised they had an international guest. I was even more surprised that it was me. It was sponsored in part by the Ministry of Culture, and the event took place at the National University of Cuyo.

Sharon and I took a LAN, Chilean Airlines, flight. We had a stop over in Lima and a layover in Santiago, reaching Western Argentina about 22 hours after we had arrived at LAX. We had crossed over into 4 time zones, traveled to another continent, and switched from summer to winter. The snow capped Andes were beautiful as we flew over the range.

Gabriel, the organizer of Unicomix, met us at the airport and took us to the hotel, then to lunch. I had a beef chorizo steak. The meat was very thick, but grilled to perfection. Argentina is known for its grass-fed beef, much tastier than the US's corn-fed beef. Sharon and I spent the rest of the day exploring the city on our own. Mendoza is an oasis surrounded by desert. Stone lined irrigation ditches criss-cross the city alongside the streets for plants and to provide water for fountains in each of the city's many parks. We found a deli-type store and bought empanadas for dinner. This would be our regular routine for meals--a light breakfast, a heavy lunch, and empanadas for dinner.

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It's been a week, but I've finally had time to write up my Montreal Comic-con travel report.

Sergio Aragones and I met at the Air Canada terminal at LAX at about 6 in the morning, Friday, September 16. We were flying to Eastern Canada as guests of the Montreal Comic-con. On the plane were also cartoonist Joe Benitez and actress Erin Gray. The flight was uneventful, something we always hope for, but the line for customs in Montreal took about an hour. I was worried when Sergio took an extra long time with the customs agent, but it turned out that the agent had recognized Sergio and just wanted to chat.

A con staff drove us the half hour to the Delta Centre-Ville Hotel, just across the street from the Place Bonaventure Convention Center. Sergio and I took a walk around the area until we found a French restaurant and brewery. We each had the onion soup, and Sergio had escargot with cheese while I had mussels in white wine and garlic.

The con opened to the public at 10 AM on Saturday. My editor, Diana Schutz, shared my table, between Sergio and Neal Adams. I have a terrible memory for names and faces, especially at conventions, and I assume others do as well. I reminded Neal that we went to Spain together. He replied, "Of course I remember you, Stan. You take pictures of your food." I guess he does remember. Gail Simone was a couple of tables down, as was Joe. Stan Lee dropped by to say, "Hello." Sergio received a neat gift--a balloon Groo-- from a fan, who has a day job as a party magician. Despite the dealers' room being three times larger than the previous year, the Fire Marshal closed registration for three hours because of the crowded conditions. I did a television and a couple of print and audio interviews, and Sergio and I had a panel in the afternoon. The predominant language is French, but most people also spoke English. Sergio spoke in both languages, but I stuck to English. My friend Suley had driven up from Toronto, and he and I went out for a dinner of smoked meats, what we in the States would call pastrami and corned beef. I was tempted to order the poutine, but decided against it.

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Like a lot of artists, I self-publish an annual sketchbook. This was to have been the front cover of my 8th book, but I liked the vines at the top and did not want it to be covered by a logo so used it as the back cover instead. If you were at the Boston Comic-Con, you might have seen me pencilling the drawing. If you were at the Phoenix Comic-con, you might have seen me inking it.

The sketchbooks contain never-published or little seen art. Some contain new stories. One has an alternate ending to a story arc, and another has a step-by-step look at how I create a story from how I got an idea while traveling in Spain with Sergio to the outline to thumbnails to a finished, new story.

No doubt some of these sketchbook entries will be reprinted down the line, maybe in another Art of Usagi book.
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The reception for my exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum was last night, and very well attended. There were a few cartoonists there, including Floyd Norman, Sergio Aragones, Jim McQuarrie, and Neal Yamamoto. Sergio said a few words at the opening, a lot about traveling together and some of the foods we ate. I did a few print, radio, and TV interviews and signed a bunch of books, so haven't had time to enjoy the show or see the video.

There is a Coney Island-type cut-out for a photo op.

Today (Saturday) is the public opening. Target is sponsoring is, and admission is free. I'm doing a presentation in the afternoon.
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Year of the Rabbit: Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo, my exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum in LA, opens this Saturday and runs through October 30. Target is sponsoring the opening, so there will be no charge for admission that day. I will be giving a presentation in the afternoon.

I have been in a lot of exhibits, but this one will be the most comprehensive. It will not only display a lot of art in all phases of production, but also merchandising such as UY toys, pajamas, and statues. There will even be a section of Usagi art by other creators such as Frank Miller and even Stan Lee. A mini-documentary will be shown in the theater, with interviews with friends such as Sergio Aragones, Scott Shaw, Stan Lee, Geoff Darrow, and others.

Here is a link to the details:

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I get about three requests a month to donate art for some cause, charity or organization. I can't accommodate everyone, but one I really wanted to do was this "Labbit" for the Japanese American National Museum. A number of artists were given a blank "labbit" (it is year of the rabbit, after all), and we could design it any way we chose. I, of course, did an Usagi labbit. The pieces will will exhibited at the museum in LA this summer, then sold off.

This was painted with spray paint and acrylics. The swords were taken from the last TMNT UY figure which came with blades and scabbards, so the swords can be unsheathed. The swords also had to be painted, by the way.

I'm looking forward to this exhibit, and to see what other artists did.
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I was a guest at the Boston Comic-con this past weekend. My table neighbor was Gahan Wilson, one of my favorite cartoonists ever. He is a very nice guy, and it was great getting to know him. We are both in the cartoon nursery rhyme anthology from First Second, coming out in the fall. He did his version of my Usagi Yojimbo:

My favorite Gahan Wilson strip ever is the Wolf U-Boat strip from Nuts. Nuts will be released in a brand new collection very soon.

Speaking of cartoonists, today, May 5, is National Cartoonists Day! The Yellow Kid, the first color comic strip, was first published this day in 1895. Do we still celebrate this? The news did not report school holidays, and, I think, the post office is open, and I have not seen ads for Cartoonists Day sales at the mall.
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It's been awhile since I last posted, but some of you who follow my Face Book or some of the comic book websites already know that I received the Japanese American National Museum Cultural Ambassador Award earlier this month at a dinner at the JW Marriott in LA.

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I just received this e-mail, forwarded by a friend:

I was just sent a block of Japanese messages submitted by people throughout the country. I needed to share these, as they brought tears to my eyes, so here is my best translation. It is sad to say but you would never see this type of behavior in so much of America these days. I want Americans to see what America could be (and perhaps used to be)! -----

仙台のみんな、上を向くん だ。

It's so dark that I can see stars that I've never seen and it's so beautiful. People of Sendai, look up!

ディズニーランドでは、ショップのお菓子なども配給された。ちょっと派手目な 女子高生たちが必要以上にたくさんもらってて「何だ?」って一瞬思ったけど、 その後その子たちが、避難所の子供たちにお菓子を配っていたところを見て感 動。子供連れは動けない状況だったから、本当にありがたい心配りだった。

At Disneyland, the sweets in the gift shop had just been replenished, when I saw a group of gaudily dressed high school girls start hoarding all the boxes. For a second, I thought, "What's up with that?" Then I saw the girls go over and make arrangements for all the boxes to be delivered to the children in the evacuation centers. And that moved me. It was a beautiful example of kindness towards others, especially for those with children who literally can go no where.

物が散乱しているスーパーで、落ちているものを律儀に拾い、そして列に黙って 並んでお金を払って買い物をする。運転再開した電車で混んでるのに妊婦に席を 譲るお年寄り。この光景を見て外国人は絶句したようだ。本当だろう、この話。 すごいよ日本。

People are picking up scattered things at stores and putting them back on shelves, then standing in line silently to wait to pay. When the trains started running, despite the crowded conditions, elderly people were giving up their seats to pregnant women. Foreigners seeing this behavior are getting all choked up. It's all true, all of those stories! Japan truly is an amazing place.

「日本は今まで世界中に援助をしてきた援助大国だ。今回は国連が全力で日本を 援助する。」

A Message from the United Nations, "Japan has always been there to assist other nations in their time of need. This time, the United Nations will do everything it can to help Japan."

一回の青信号で1台しか前に進めないなんてザラだったけど、誰もが譲り合い穏 やかに運転している姿に感動した。複雑な交差点で交通が 5分以上完全にマヒす るシーンもあったけど、10時間の間お礼以外のクラクションの音を耳にしなかっ た。恐怖と同時に心温まる時間で、日本がますます好きになった。

Though it is common to see green traffic lights where only one car could get through, it is heartening to see this warm give-and-take among the drivers. There are scenes in congested intersections where nothing moves for five full minutes, but in ten hours, I never heard any honking and nothing beyond words of appreciation. I am loving Japan more and more as I spend time that is simultaneously frightening yet deeply warming.

昨日の夜中、大学から徒歩で帰宅する道すがら、とっくに閉店したパン屋のおば ちゃんが無料でパン配給していた。こんな喧噪のなかでも自分にできることを見 つけて実践している人に感動。心温まった。東京も捨てたもんじゃないな

Last night, as I made my way home from the university on foot, I saw an elderly woman out in front of a closed bread shop, giving away free bread to people. It is moving to see people who have found what little they can do to help in the middle of this clamorous situation. It warms my heart. Tokyo is not lost!

韓国人の友達からさっききたメール。「世界唯一の核被爆国。大戦にも負けた。 毎年台風がくる。地震だってくる。津波もくる・・・小さい島国だけど、それで も立ち上がってきたのが日本なんじゃないの。頑張れ。超頑張れ。」ちなみに僕 いま泣いている。

This came in from a Korean friend. "The sole victim of the atomic bomb. The loser to the Great War. Typhoons come every year. So do earthquakes. So do tsunami. It's a small country, but Japan stands tall. Keep going! Please keep going!" For what it's worth, I'm in tears now....

ホームで待ちくたびれていたら、ホームレスの人達が寒いから敷けって段ボール をくれた。いつも私達は横目で流してるのに。あたたかいです。

I was worn out, waiting on the platform for the train, when some homeless people came by distributing boxes because it was cold. And this is despite the fact that we always glance at them out of the corner of our eyes. I'm all warm now.

サントリーの自販機無料化、softbankWi-Fiスポット解放、色んな人達が全力で 頑張っててそれに海外が感動・協力してる。海外からの援助受け入れに躊躇した り自衛隊派遣を遅らせたりしてた阪神淡路大震災の頃より日本は確実に強い国に なってるんだ。

Suntory made all its vending machines work for free and Softbank unlocked all of its Wi-Fi spots. Lots of people are putting their all into their efforts and the world is moved by those efforts and looking to help as well. Compared to a country that Japan was during the great Hanshin earthquake, which hesitated to accept foreign assistance and was late in dispatching its Self Defense Forces, Japan truly has become a strong nation.

終夜運転のメトロの駅員に、大変ですねって声かけたら、笑顔で、こんな時です から! だって。捨てたもんじゃないね、感動した。

I quipped to the train conductor "Things sure are tough" regarding the decision to run the trains all night. He smiled and said, "The times call for it." Nothing lost here! How moving is that...

都心から4時間かけて歩いて思った。歩道は溢れんばかりの人だったが、皆整然 と黙々と歩いていた。コンビニはじめ各店舗も淡々と仕事していた。ネットのイ ンフラは揺れに耐え抜き、各地では帰宅困難者受け入れ施設が開設され、鉄道 も復 旧して終夜運転するという。凄い国だよ。GDP何位とか関係ない。

I had a four hour walk home from the city today where I lots of time to think. The streets are overflowing with walkers, but everyone is orderly and remains silent during their walk. The convenience stores and various other shops are doing their business without fanfare. The net infrastructure withstood the trembles, various facilities to take in those who cannot return home have opened up in several regions, the trains are back and running, and they say they will be running all night now. This is an incredible country, and it has nothing to do with what rank we are in GDP.

2歳の息子が独りでシューズを履いて外に出ようとしていた。「地震を逮捕しに 行く!」とのこと。小さな体に宿る勇気と正義感に力をもらう。みなさん、気持 ちを強く持って 頑張りましょう。

My two year old son put on his shoes by himself and started to head out the door. "I'm going to go arrest the earthquake!" he told me. Let's all take strength from the courage and sense of justice coming out of such a small body. Everyone, let's all pluck up and get through this!

4時間の道のりを歩いて帰るときに、トイレのご利用どうぞ!と書いたスケッチ ブックを持って、自宅のお手洗いを開放していた女性がいた。日本って、やはり 世界一あたたかい 国だよね。あれみた時は感動して泣けてきた。

During my four hour walk home today, I saw a young lady holding a sketch pad with the words "Restroom Available!" scrawled on it; here she was opening the restroom to her own home! Japan truly is the warmest country in the world. I was moved to tears seeing that.

停電すると、それを直す人がいて、断水すると、それを直す人がいて、原発で事 故が起きると、それを直しに行く人がいる。勝手に復旧しているわけじゃない。 俺らが室内でマダカナーとか言ってる間クソ寒い中死ぬ気で頑張ってくれてる人 がいる。

When the power goes out, there is someone to fix that. When the water goes out, there is someone to fix that. And when there is a nuclear accident, there is someone who goes to fix that as well. Things don't just restore themselves by themselves. When we are sitting in our homes, complaining about when things will be fixed, there are people working as if their lives depended on it in the frigid cold trying to do just that.

NHKの男性アナウンサーが被災状況や現況を淡々と読み上げる中、「ストレスで 母乳が出なくなった母親が夜通しスーパーの開店待ちの列に並んでミルクが手に 入った」と紹介後、絶句。沈黙が流れ、放送事故のようになった。すぐに立ち 直ったけ ど泣いている のがわかった。目頭が熱くなった。

One of the male announcers on NHK started to describe the situation with the calamity and how things were going presently, "New mothers who have stopped lactating due to the stress were finally able to get a hold of some milk after lining up all night at a roadside supermarket," he said. Then silence.... As if there were some technical difficulties. He straightened himself out and continued the broadcast, but it was clear that he had been crying. Tears welled up in my eyes as well.

千葉の友達から。避難所でおじいさんが「これからどうなるんだろう」と漏らし た時、横に居た高校生ぐらいの男の子が「大丈夫、大人になったら僕らが絶対元 に戻します」って背中さすって 言ってたらしい。大丈夫、未来あるよ

This anecdote comes from a friend in Chiba (outside Tokyo). At one of the evacuation centers, an old man sat crying, "What's going to happen in the future?" Beside him, a high school boy rubbed the man's shoulder, saying, "Everything will be fine. After we become adults, we'll put back everything the way it was." It looks like the future will be all right.

家屋に取り残され、42時間ぶりに救出された高齢の男性の映像。「チリ津波も経 験してきたから、だいじょぶです。また、再建しましょう」と笑顔で答えてい た。私たちが、これから何をするかが 大事。

After 42 hours of being trapped, an elderly man is captured on video. Smiling for the camera, he says, "I experienced the tsunami in Chile as well. Everything's going to be fine. We'll just rebuild." It is really important what we do moving forward.

駅員さんに「昨日一生懸命電車を走らせてくれてありがとう」って言ってる小さ い子達を見た。 駅員さん泣いてた。俺は号泣してた。

I saw some small children speaking to the train conductor. They said, "Thank you for working so hard yesterday to keep the trains running." The conductor started to cry. I did, too.
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I was alerted by quite a few people, including a couple of LJ buddies, that an Usagi comic was on Hawaii Five-0 last night. Neat.

A few months ago, I received a request from Dark Horse to use Usagi, along with a few other DH books, as props for an episode of Hawaii Five-0. Of course, I said, "Yes.", and forgot about it. I get these requests every so often, and usually the comic or merchandise is used as background and you can't see it at all. However, I had written that I was a fan of the original series when I lived in Hawaii, and would even see Jack Lord shopping at the market. Maybe it was the comment that led the producers to give Usagi a nice cameo.

You could also see Usagi in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, and was very prominent in the movie Sydney White, and mentioned a couple of times in The Middle Man TV series.


I later met Middle Man creator and writer Javier Gillo-Marxuach, and it turns out he is an Usagi fan.

One of my friends who alerted me to this just sent me a screen shot from the Hawaii Five-0 episode:
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