The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Fifteen.

§ July 12th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown § 5 Comments

At long last, here is the next installment of our little ’80s indie overview here, as voted upon by YOU, the people what still read the blogs and also a few people I cajoled into voting on Twitter.

And speaking of the Twitter, a couple of you have wondered what happened to my Twitter feed that used to be in the sidebar on this site. Well, I mean, it’s still there, it’s just not working anymore aside from a link that won’t do you any good unless you’re on Twitter, too. For reasons too stupid to go into, Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk decided to no longer 1) feed out tweets through embedded widgets like the thingie I had in the sidebar, and 2) prevent anyone not logged into Twitter from being able to see anyone’s tweets.

So for those of you following my feed there, I’m sorry, it wasn’t my decision to cut you off. With luck Bluesky will open up to the public sometime soon and you can find me there (under, and I’m also on Mastodon, and if you absolutely have to, I’m “mikesterlingjr” on Threads. I really don’t like Threads. Don’t forget you can usually find what I’m up to at

Enough of that nonsense, let’s talk some comical books:

Usagi Yojimbo (Fantagraphics 1987-1993)

Hoo boy, where do I even start. Stan Sakai’s samurai rabbit has been going strong since debuting in Albedo Anthropomorphics #2 in 1984. After some appearances in that anthology, Usagi moved over to Fantagraphics, first in the anthology Critters, then a one-shot special, and then a 38-issue run of his own series (the one noted in the header above). From there the character moved to Mirage (the original publisher of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) for a short run, then it was off to Dark Horse Comics for its longest numbered run from ’96 to 2018. Since then new Usagi has been coming from IDW, in both an ongoing series and various minis.

That’s just a barebones overview of its publishing history, not mentioning stuff like the Space Usagi mini-series (leaving the usual setting of Japan from centuries ago and presenting the adventures of Usagi’s descendant in a sci-fi future), or the various crossovers with the aforementioned Mutant Turtles (one series going on even as I type). There are literally thousands of pages of story produced over the last few decades, and nearly all of it has been reprinted; I direct you to this part of the Wikipedia entry to find what comics show up where.

“Yes yes, but is it any good, Mike?” The answer is “yes, it is excellent.” I missed out on buying it from the start (though I have on very rare occasions held that Albedo #2 in my hands), but I tend to drop in on the character from time to time, at one point several years ago sitting down and reading, like, sixty in-sequence issues that showed up in a collection. Sakai’s storytelling, from his scripts to his art to even his lettering (the last of which very familiar to Groo the Wanderer fans), is flawless. Sakai populates his book with a cast of anthropomorphized animals (including the lead: “Usagi” is Japanese for “rabbit”), and tells a straight, serious (but not without its moment of humor) tale of his lead’s relationships, adventures, and travails.

The character has appeared in various animated adaptions, perhaps most famously in the original 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, and then later in the 2012 TMNT series. Most recently a CGI cartoon has been appearing on Netflix, which, like Space Usagi, is set in the future. Haven’t seen it, but I feel like not putting it in the Japan of the past was a lost opportunity. I don’t know, like I said, I haven’t seen it, maybe someone can tell me if it’s any good.

But what is good is Usagi Yojimbo comics. Well worth your time. I know there’s a lot of material out there, but Sakai’s master storytelling will draw you right in and tell you everything you need to know to enjoy what you’re reading. Easily one of the best comic books ever produced.
Xenozoic Tales (Kitchen Sink 1987-1996)

But Xenozoic Tales ain’t no slouch either. Mark Shultz’s very EC Comics-inspired series is set in a post-apocalyptic future where prehistoric beasts once again roam the Earth. The concept was introduced in a short story in the Kitchen Sink legacy underground title Death Rattle in ’86, before getting its own series in ’87. 14 issues were produced in a ten year span afterwards, taking a while due to the meticulous art, but probably also due…

…to the advent of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, an animated adaptation of the comic that debuted in 1993 and ran for one season. I imagine the development of the show took up some of Mr. Schultz’s time.

The Cadillacs and Dinosaurs name had appeared previously, when Marvel acquired reprint rights and reprinted the first six issues in color. That title was used again on a handful of series published by Topps Comics in the mid-1990s, which were new stories written and drawn by hands other than Schultz.

There have been multiple reprints over the years, but none appear currently available from Diamond. Dark Horse had a two-volume series that reprints all of Schultz’s work from book. There has also been a hardcover edition from Flesk that puts everything under one cover. If you want to go for the original comics, they shouldn’t be expensive, but may be a little harder to find now. But it’s well worth the search…these are some beautiful-looking funnybooks.

• • •

Okay, I should wrap up the two-voters next time. Thanks for reading, folks and I’ll catch you on the flip-flop.

5 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Fifteen.”

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    Usagi Yojimbo is never less than very good, and almost always top notch. I’m amazed at how well Stan Sakai uses different line weights and hatching to denote texture, how well he uses negative space, the way he immersed the reader in the time period, action, the economy of storytelling… If anyone has passed up UJ because it doesn’t look like something you’d like due to the art style or YA-friendly approach, give it a try. I only started reading the comic when Fantagraphics put out a slipcase hardcover collection of the first few issues a few years ago, and I’be bought every omnibus-sized reprint since.

  • Matthew says:

    There was also a Cadillacs and Dinosaurs arcade game in 1993.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Mark Schultz was really able to distill and synthesize the artistic techniques of Frank Frazatta, Al Williamson, and Wally Wood to near perfection in Xenozoic Tales. Each issue is a work of beauty. I was quite happy to discover and buy several issues of this comic at Sterling Silver Comics a few years back–all at great prices, of course. Thanks Mike!

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Xenozoic Tales”

    A M A Z I N G artwork! Great story, too! Only managed to read a few of them.

  • Oliver says:

    At this point, the venerable reputation of ‘Usagi Yojimbo’ is such that to criticise it feels akin to breaking wind in a cathedral (or Shinto shrine)…

    Nevertheless, alas I’ve always found Sakai’s writing to lean too much towards Claremontesque verbosity — his art *is* as assured as everyone says, but too many of his panels are cluttered with overexposition.