Welcome back to the annual ComicBook.com Golden Issue Awards. Every year, the staff at ComicBook takes a look back at the year, and selects the best of what comics, movies, television, anime, games, and the rest of pop culture had to offer. While many are celebrating the end of a difficult year, the brilliant creators of the comics industry released an impressive selection of comics, including some that were written and drawn by one creator. While the bulk of comics are made by a team of creators, some cartoonists do the bulk of the creative work on their own. Cartoonists are separate from other comics creator categories, in that they write, draw, and ink their own work. There were a ton of great candidates this year, many of whom were responsible for the best comics written this year.
And the winner of the 2020 ComicBook.com Golden Issue Award for Best Cartoonist is…
Stan Sakai is best known as the creator of the long-running Usagi Yojimbo series, which moved from Dark Horse over to IDW in the summer of 2019. Usagi Yojimbo is a timeless tale of a Japanese samurai who wanders the countryside, helping the needy and striking down the unjust. In 2020, Usagi battled ninja and then confronted his past in an epic four-part storyline that returned to Usagi to his hometown, meeting up with his lost love Mariko, his friend turned rival Kenichi, his old sensei Kasuichi, and his illegitimate son Jontaro. "The Return" was a fantastic callback to older Usagi Yojimbo plotlines, showing how far the samurai had come since his early days. Usagi Yojimbo looks even more brilliant in full color - while Sakai provides the pencils, inks, and letters, Tom Luth handles the colors. As Luth previously colored the covers of Usagi Yojimbo, this change makes the issues look even more amazing without sacrificing any quality or drastic style changes. These were some of the best comics released in 2021 and showed why Sakai truly is an unparalleled master of his craft.
In addition to another fantastic year on Usagi Yojimbo, Sakai also joined prestigious company when he entered the Will Eisner Hall of Fame this year. The honor formalizes his place as one of comic's greats. Sakai also an Eisner Award for Best Letterer, and Usagi Yojimbo won an Eisner Award for Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo: Grasscutter Artist Select, which collected some of the best Usagi Yojimbo tales. IDW has more plans to re-release older Usagi Yojimbo comics in collected editions, giving even more readers a chance to enjoy this timeless and fantastic series.
As Usagi Yojimbo enters its 37th year, we can only hope that Sakai continues to weave more memorable tales. Netflix announced last year that it would be developing the series into a TV show, so we hope that new generations of fans will flock to the comics after seeing the show. Meanwhile, let's all enjoy even more Usagi Yojimbo (now in full color!) in 2021.
- Adrian Tomine (The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist)
- Derf Backderf (Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio)
- Jesse Lonergan (Planet Paradise)
- Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo) -- WINNER
- Zander Cannon (Kaijumax: Season Five)