The tweet above was sent out by @NXOnNetflix early Wednesday announcing that the long-running comic property Usagi Yojimbo will be adapted as an animated cartoon for Netflix.
For those who aren’t aware, Usagi Yojimbo is a somewhat globally famous comics property created by Stan Sakai. It’s outside the main meat and potatoes of American comic shop fare of Marvel and DC superheroes but is an iconic series in its own right.
Usagi Yojimbo “is set primarily at the beginning of the Edo period of Japanese history and features anthropomorphic animals replacing humans. The main character is a rabbit rōnin, Miyamoto Usagi, whom Sakai based partially on the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi…. Usagi wanders the land on a musha shugyō (warrior’s pilgrimage), occasionally selling his services as a bodyguard.” (Wiki)
For those looking to speculate on the source comics becoming valuable, you may be a bit behind the times. There is already a pretty strong collector market out there for this property.
Usagi Yojimbo’s first appearance was in issue 2 of the anthology Albedo Anthropomorphics in 1984. This particular issue is, for my money, in the realm of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1. It’s not really an eBay find and it’s more rare than the average key comic from DC and Marvel some of us are used to picking up. As of the writing of this article, Albedo #2 copies were listed and selling for between $4,000 (CGC 8.0) and $10,000-$11,000 (CGC SS 9.4 and 9.2 SS). A best offer on a 7.5 listed at $3,400 was accepted on July 10, 2020. Recalledcomics.com states that Albedo #2 “ is a real rare modern collectable.” The print run was actually printed on the inside of this issue as “2000 copies, but there’s always the chance of reprints if sales demand it.” (RecalledComics)
So, if you’re not going to pay well above Hulk 181 money to speculate on Usagi Yojimbo, what are some key issues you can reasonably buy?
Albedo #3 is no slouch of a key comic contender either. Yojimbo’s second appearance and the first appearance of Tomoe Ame, a recurring character in Yojimbo’s stories. This book is currently running between $120 and $500 on eBay. There have been recent sales of CGC SS issues signed and remarked by Stan Sakai himself as low as $270.
After that, the Usagi Yojimbo Summer Special #1 (1986) is your best bet at getting the early Albedo stories as it reprints Yojimbo’s adventures from Albedo 2-4. It’s currently a $15-20 book.
There is, of course, Usagi Yojimbo 1 from Fantagraphics in 1985. Currently selling for between $20 and $140 depending on if you want raw, slabbed, signed, and what condition you’re looking for, this issue is the first in Yojimbo’s own self-titled book, with the origin of Usagi Yojimbo.
Critters 1, 7, and 10 also contain first appearances (Murakami Gennosuke (Gen), Zato Ino, Mariko, and Jotaro respectively). 1 goes for around $20-40, 7 for around $10, and 10 for between $4-10.
Turtle Soup #1 (1987 Mirage) is an interesting book because it’s the first USagi Yojimbo/TMNT cross-over. Of course, TMNT and Yojimbo have a long history of crossing over, but here is where it started. This is currently a $5-20 book.
Usagi Yojimbo 10 is another TMNT appearance and also the first appearance of Jei. This is about a $15-20 currently.
To round this all out, Usagi Yojimbo issue 32 (1987) is the first appearance of Kitsune and Usagi Yojimbo 26 (1996) is the first appearance of inspector Ishida.
I hope that gives all the brand spanking new Yojimbo fans and Netflix speculators out there some investments to sink their teeth into! Let me know what you think. Will the animated show move prices? Are these books good investments regardless of Netflix deals?