Respect The Architects…

utagawa kuniyoshi

Last night Chocolate Snowflake took me to the Japan Society for an exhibition they are hosting titled ‘Graphic Heroes, Magic Monsters: Japanese Prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi‘.

It’s a display of these incredible painting by this master artist in a style called Ukiyo-e. These are graphic depictions of myths and ancient parables that were cut into woodblocks for mass printing. The Ukiyo-e are totally the fathers to the comic books and the graphic novels we enjoy so much today.

As I walked thru the exhibition and viewed Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s prints and especially his sketchbooks I had total recall of Frank Miller’s graphic novel Ronin from the early 1980’s. Kuniyoshi was describing epic samaurai battles with mystical apparitions and mega beasts 150 years prior to Miller but Kuniyoshi’s work looked as contemporary as the comics he inspired.

miller ronin
miller ronin

Where Frank Miller was influenced by the Ukiyo-e art wasn’t just in the concept, layouts and paneling of the stories, but most importantly in the printing of the images. A Ukiyo-e woodblock template is a precision based item hand-carved by an artist. Can you imagine the technique you must have to employ in order to print text from the woodblock? You have to carve the characters in reverse so that when the woodblock is printed it reads correctly.

Frank Miller was unhappy with the production of comicbooks. Because the process was so assembly-line oriented things like color separations and penciling details would get lost in the sauce. Peep the pages from the Wolverine mini-series that Miller did with Chris Claremont. See how the page coloring bleeds thru the paper?

miller wolverine
miller wolverine

click on image for larger version

Frank Miller wanted to use a different technique for the presentation of the Ronin graphic novel. He wanted to implement the Ukiyo-e style of hand painting each individual page and then have these pages printed on a premium stock of paper. Frank Miller’s Ronin became the inspirational format for the modern graphic novel.

Go to the Japan Society and see the artist that inspired Frank Miller.

6 Responses to “Respect The Architects…”

  1. Children of Sanchez says:

    good shit dallas, is this show travelling at all to your knowledge or NY-based?

  2. That shit is official DP, mayyy have to take my East Village Comic-nerd broad out that way to peep. Just gotta figure out how to replace the pre-game Starbucks stop with a liquor pick up…

  3. BIGNAT says:

    tham it’s over already

  4. Fausto says:

    He will ukiyo-e is amazing, I love, especially artists kunichika Toyohara and Yoshitoshi Taiso

  5. Frank Miller’s Ronin became the inspirational format for the modern graphic novel

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