So I’ve been debating who is the more annoying of two characters, Zuffy from Defenders of the Earth, or Snarf from Thundercats. Both look oddly alike, both were the “cute character” icons on their syndicated 80s action animated series. Both speak in strange ways and like Scrappy-Doo, both are adored by some while alienating others. I just don’t know. I suppose that doesn’t matter and what matters is you are reading this week’s edition of From Friendly Ghosts to Gamma Rays!
For over 20 years now, Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo has delighted us readers and become a milestone in independent American comics. This anthropomorphic samurai-odyssey is just as cool and fresh now as it was in 1987. This month marks its 136th issue with both the start of a great new story arc for Usagi Yojimbo-fans, as well as a great starting point for anybody who has never read the comic before.
In #136, Usagi comes to a school in the countryside whose sensei was an old friend of his own. Usagi is invited into the school to stay on his travels, where he tries in a little friendly sword play with the students and the school’s master. However, not everything is quiet in the countryside, where they are being terrorized by the Red Scorpion Gang, whose leader still has not been identified. I don’t want to give you much more than that or I’ll give too much away here. Stan Sakai’s art and writing is fantastic. I love its anime-meets-Aragones style. His art on the pages is a lot of fun to look at, and it draws you into its world. Writing wise he crafts a good tale that’s entertaining and makes us want to read the next issue right away, not always an easy feat to do after 136 issues, but Sakai has kept it rocking all this time, a credit to his talent.
Usagi Yojimbo issue #136 is out on stands this week, and as mentioned it’s great for both series fans and a perfect starting point in the series for new readers. Pick it up today!
And from one rabbit to another we go to….
American Production company Rankin/Bass Productions have given us numerous productions that have shaped both American pop-culture and of course comic book culture over the years. Rankin/Bass may be most fondly remembered for an array of both cell animated and claymation TV specials like Rudolf, The Red Nose Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, and more (specials which all had a huge inspiration on Tim Burton’s 1993 international hit The Nightmare Before Christmas); but they also produced such feature animated films as The Hobbit, live-action films like King Kong Escapes and The Last Dinosaur, and TV series like the now iconic Thundercats and Silverhawks.
Since this month is Easter-time, I decided to look at a few of Rankin/Bass’s Easter specials. In 1976 on NBC aired their special The First Easter Rabbit, featuring Burl Ives as the narrator and the famous song “Easter Parade” as one of the center pieces. The plot of The First Easter Rabbit follows the story of Stuffy, a toy rabbit given to a little girl for Christmas. After the little girl gets scarlet fever, Stuffy is discarded with her things to be burnt for safety, however he is saved by a fairy and turned into a real rabbit for the purpose of being the first Easter rabbit, for all holidays need a patron symbol. Stuffy meets up with a trio of rabbits and they venture to the North Pole where Santa shows them the door to Easter Valley, where they can work year round to prepare for their holiday (the magic door is through a hollow in a tree, no doubt one of the many inspirations for The Nightmare Before Christmas right here). However, lurking around the North Pole is the trouble making Zero, a magical ice creature who keeps it snowing in the north. He wishes for everything to be covered in cold, and once he discovers the doorway to Easter Valley, things go bad. With Stuffy and his friends trapped in the cold, it’s up to Santa himself to jump in and save Easter, and get the Easter Bunny off on the right foot.
The First Easter Rabbit flies by fast and doesn’t slow down, a lot of story is packed into this half-hour special, so there is never a dull moment. The animation is the standard cell animation, like they used on Frosty The Snowman, which was done in Japan by Top Craft, an off shoot of famed animation studio Toei Animation that would eventually form into the world famous Studio Ghibli. Like most Rankin/Bass specials, this a lot of kids’ fun right here and is one of the better TV specials from their production company. Your something to watch this weekend to kick off your Easter April is The First Easter Rabbit. It was re-released last year on DVD from Warner Brothers.
That’s it for this week! See you soon and remember, King Seesar loves you!
Editor’s Note: ComicAttack.net has been officially nominated for an Eagle Award! Please click here to vote for us in the “Favorite Comic Book Website” category (question #27). Thank you for your continued support!