August 28, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra
One aspect of my nerd-dom that has never been fully developed is a fascination with superheroes. I never read comics as a kid, barely watched superhero cartoons and only occasionally went to see a superhero movie. It’s a shame, really, because the mythos behind a lot of superheroes is fascinating and complex – probably more than a kid can grasp all at once – probably something that can and does foster a healthy creativity and lively imagination in a lot of young comic-readers.
No, I’m afraid my superhero literacy is weak relative to anyone who spent years following Batman through the streets of Gotham, or the many adventures of the X-Men, but one of the other staples of my nerdy upbringing did actually expose me to a world of heroes, villains and adventure – an element that, even to me, didn’t seem to even be in the same league as the costumed crusaders of Marvel and DC – I loved video games.
Think about it – what is a dragon-fighting, princess-saving, fireball-throwing, long-jumping, star-collecting plumber in a red hat if not a superhero? How about a horse-riding, sword-wielding, monster-killing, fairy-toting elf? Heroes, at least. Super, if you ask me. The fact is, good video games (of which there are many) have intricate and deep storylines – stories that, like those of the costumed crusaders of comicbook lore – could have existed in almost any time throughout human history. Angels, titans, demigods – these are the archaic incarnations of characters in modern culture and entertainment. Fictional as they may be, heroes inspire us, and have done so for centuries. Today’s project is uniting the old with the new – bringing heroes from modern video games into an ancient and beautiful form.
Ukiyo-e Heroes is a series of hand-drawn (and hand-carved) illustrations depicting familiar video game characters including Mario and Bowser, Starfox and his team, Samus Aran and others in the ancient Japanese artform of ukiyo-e woodblock prints.
To celebrate Japan’s contribution to video games, illustrator Jed Henry has taken his favorite game characters, and returned them to the ukiyo-e style. Modern costuming has been traded for the medieval, but the essence of each character remains, proving that you can’t take the Ukiyo out of these modern pop icons.
The designs I’ve seen so far are gorgeous. Whether you’re a fan of this ancient style or of modern-age monster-fighters, or both, these prints would definitely stand out and start conversations. Order a few for yourself and support this artistic revival on Kickstarter before August 30.