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Stan Sakai and Usagi Yojimbo exit IDW and return to Dark Horse

Sakai will launch his own imprint, Dogu, at the Oregon based publisher as part of the new deal

Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai
Image credit: Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo is on the move again, with the long-running title returning to Dark Horse Comics, and creator Stan Sakai signing a new deal with the Oregon-based publisher to create a new imprint, Dogu, offering new Usagi stories and even more.

As part of the deal, Sakai will concentrate on creating new Usagi Yojimbo material even as Dogu as an imprint expands the Usagi universe with the work of additional creators, including Julie Sakai, co-creator of the Chibi Usagi series, and Daniel Fujii, executive producer of the animated Netflix adaptation Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles. Additionally, Dark Horse and Dogu plan to continue publication of the ongoing Chibi Usagi, Space Usagi, the Color Classics series.

“I'm very excited, honored and thankful to have my own publishing imprint with Dark Horse. As the sole creator and owner of Usagi Yojimbo, this is a significant milestone,” Sakai said in a statement provided by the publisher. “I've known Mike Richardson for more than 30 years and he is one of the pioneers and champions of creator-owned IP. As the industry continues to change, I feel he brings a unique progressive perspective.”

Richardson added, “Stan is one of comics’ legendary creators and we are extremely proud to announce the launch of Dogu Publishing. Stan and his team are preparing new adventures with Usagi Yojimbo, as well as bringing new and important voices to the comics community. Stan and I have been friends for a very long time and I am extremely pleased to renew our partnership at Dark Horse.”

Usagi Yojimbo debuted in 1984’s Albedo Anthropomorphics, from indie publisher Thoughts and Images, before going on to star in a number of solo series from different publishers, all written, drawn, and lettered by Sakai himself. Initially published by Fantagraphics, the character moved to Mirage Comics — the publisher founded by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird — before Dark Horse Comics picked up the rights in 1997.

The publishing deal between Sakai and Dark Horse continued until 2019, when IDW announced that it would take over publication of the character. However, Dark Horse and Sakai continued to work together on the animated Samurai Rabbit for Netflix, with Dark Horse Entertainment one of the producers on the show. The second season of the show launched on Netflix September 1.

Sakai talked to Popverse earlier this year about working on the character for so long, as well as adapting him for the screen.