Samurai Penguins? A Rabbit Ronin? I found these (and more!) while searching through the Library of Congress’ comic book collection in preparation for a special display hosted here that featured Samurais, warriors, and festivals from across our collections. I was surprised that there are so many Samurai animals in our comic book collection! It was so much fun to find them and have a chance to show them to both fans and newcomers alike. The comics ranged from the more historically based to the satirical and irreverent.
Tomoe Ame, the anthropomorphic female samurai cat featured in Usagi Yojimbo, is loosely based on Tomoe Gozen, a famous 12th century samurai warrior. The Asian Division exhibited a 19th century text, “Portraits of Leading Warriors Part 2,” that included an illustration of Tomoe Gozen – which was just down the table from the issue of Usagi Yojimbo. The Library also preserves a beautiful Kuniyoshi ukiyo-e woodblock showing a kabuki actor portraying Gozen.. One of my favorite parts about working here at the Library is getting to make these types of connections across our collections!
This two-day display was a part of “Anime for All,” a celebration of East Asian culture, mythology, and pop culture that also featured special speakers, a movie screening, and even a Library of Congress panel at the 2019 Otakon annual convention here in Washington DC. In addition to the Samurai (and ninja!) animals, there were also more traditional images of Samurai, swords, warriors, and more in the form of wood block prints, books, scrolls, and yes more comic books.
I’m frequently finding unique, interesting, and fun comics through my work on displays like this or by working with researchers. Who knows what I’ll find next? What would you look for in the Library’s comic book collection?