Contents and Publishing details
This book contains the very first Usagi Yojimbo appearance and story by Stan Sakai: "The Goblin of Adachigahara", the illustrated poem "The Lion and the Unicorn" by Lela Dowling, and part two of "Erma Felna, EDF" by Steve Gallacci.
Only 2,000 copies were ever printed of this issue, and these are the only copies that will ever exist. The original negatives have been lost and the original art is scattered. Although Stan never sells original art from his stories, he does sell cover art. In 2001 David "Wily Pueo" Gravatt snatched up the original art for this cover at the San Diego Comic Con. I've added a scan of this to my gallery. To make reprints even more unlikely, Stan used 'zip-a-tone', cut-out sheets of screentone, on the cover and some of the internal art making it impossible to scan these images with any quality. He learned from his mistake and did not continue to use 'zip-a-tone' in later work.
This book is considered the "holy grail" for Usagi collectors due to its rarity. It can be found from time to time, but with extraordinary price tags attached.
Reprints of the stories
The Usagi story was reprinted in the Usagi Yojimbo: Summer Special and in the Usagi Yojimbo TPB #1: The Ronin, although some of the art was altered due to the use of 'zip-a-tone' in the original. Both parts of Steve Gallacci's "Erma Felna, EDF" was reprinted in Gallacci's Command Review volume. The Lela Dowling poem has yet to be reprinted.
Plot of "The Goblin of Adachigahara"
Miyamoto Usagi is out late at night, alone, walking in the snow. He comes across a hut and requests shelter from its inhabitant, an old woman. She agrees, and the two share a meal.
Trading stories, Usagi learns that the woman's husband was killed in the battle at Adachigahara, a battle that he himself had fought in. Usagi shares his recollection of the bloody encounter. He reveals that the forces of his Lord Mifune would likely have been victorious, had not the traitorus General Toda betrayed his lord to the enemy Lord Hikiji. Usagi tells the old woman that there is a goblin in the area, and worries that she is alone. She claims that it is not her karma to be killed by a goblin, and offers him a spare futon to spend the night on. The two retire for the night.
Goblin footsteps approach from outside. The goblin breaks into the hut and destroys the samurai's futon. Finding bundles of firewood instead of his intended prey, the beast finds Usagi prepared for battle. Usagi is victorious. However, much to his surprise, the old woman appears and begins to weep over the corpse of the goblin. It was her husband, General Toda. She tells Usagi the story of Toda's banishment from Lord Hikiji's clan after his betrayal of Lord Mifune. Tortured by his act of betrayal, Toda retired to this mountain hut to be alone with his shame. Over time, Toda became the monster Usagi had just killed. The old woman asks Usagi to kill her for her decit, but he refuses. Having avenged his lord, Usagi departs, but promises to send for a priest to put her husband's soul to rest.