riddler13: (Tomoe Ame as a kid)
[personal profile] riddler13 posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Before I continue my Usagi Yojimbo posts, I want to show you something very interesting: Stan Sakai's "The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy".

Set in the very same world and age of Usagi Yojimbo, "Nilson and Hermy" happens in Northern Europe. It follows the exploits of Nilson, a rabbit swordsmith's apprentice who stumbles on slow-witted Hermy, the guinea pig. Together the unlikely pair wanders offering their services to anyone who is foolish enough to hire them.

Nilson and Hermy were actually created before Usagi, back in 1984, In fact, according to the author himself, "Usagi was to have been a secondary character in 'The Nilson Chronicles', a 2,500-page graphic novel, imagined even before the term 'graphic novel' was coined". He would show up at around page 1,000, where our protagonist would be in Japan gathering other skilled warriors to help retrieve the kidnapped Hermy. Later on, Usagi would die a glorious death. However, Stan fell in love with Usagi before using him in any Nilson stories, and moved on to dedicate himself to the rabbit ronin - a decision I thank him for.

You see, "Nilson and Hermy" is not bad by any standards, but it is more comedic and episode-driven than Usagi Yojimbo. It also does not show the restraint and careful research that goes into UY and, in my opinion, sets Stan's most famous work apart from the majority of comics.

It is nevertheless a fun ride, and it is interesting to see how Mr. Sakai matured as an artist.

The first story is, of course, how they met each other:

You can see how the art is "cuter" and more "rounded" than the deft masterstrokes he uses for Usagi. It is similar to his early Usagi as well, but still a bit more primitive.

Also, he didn't shy away from more adult drawings on his first two or three Nilson and Hermy stories (you won't find these in Usagi Yojimbo):

This adventure, despite following the last one, looks a bit more "modern Usagi" to me:

There's only one recurring character, apart from the protagonists, in the short 12-story run: Sènogara the wizard.

As for the best Nilson and Hermy story, for me, is "Mother Pearl", when they are tasked with transporting a giant pearl to a temple and, through sheer luck, beat the thugs of the Oyster Liberation Front.

In 2013, Stan did "The Re-Return of the Wizard", in which Sènogara makes his comeback. It is interesting to see Nilson and Hermy done by a Stan with 20+ years of experience drawing Usagi at that point.

(Oh, BTW, the tokagé lizards, omnipresent in Usagi Yojimbo, were created initially to be used in NG&H).

Last but not least, Stan found a way to do a small homage to the European bunny and his sidekick in UY #80 (2004), as toys in Dr. Takenoko's workshop (bottom right corner).

So, there you go. Not in the same league as UY, but pure fun. Dark Horse collected all the material in the TPB "The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy" in 2014, and it is available for sale online, with bonus features such as this one:

Tomorrow, as I promised, a short self-contained Usagi Yojimbo story, in which we learn about... seaweed farming?!
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