A guest feature by Littlestone.
Obelix, from Asterix the Gaul. Image credit Albert Uderzo and René Goscinny
With the rise of manga, cartoons and graphic novels featuring megaliths as their central theme it might be of interest to look at some of the origins of this genre – starting not with manga, cartoons or graphic novels at all, but with a 13th century Japanese handscroll which portrays animals (mainly hares, monkeys and frogs) in a satirical, manga-style. The scroll is known as the Chōjū-giga (鳥獣戯画) and the Wikipedia entry describes it as –
Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga (鳥獣人物戯画?, lit. “Animal-person Caricatures”), commonly shortened to Chōjū-giga (鳥獣戯画?, lit. “Animal Caricatures”) is a famous set of four picture scrolls, or emakimono, belonging to Kōzan-ji temple in Kyoto, Japan. The Chōjū-giga scrolls are also referred to as Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Humans in English. Some think that Toba Sōjō created the scrolls, however it is hard to verify this. The right-to-left reading direction of Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga is still a standard method seen in modern manga and novels in Japan. Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga is also credited as the oldest work of manga. The scrolls are now entrusted to the Kyoto National Museum and Tokyo National Museum.
Scene from the 13th century Chōjū-giga Japanese handscroll showing a monkey priest paying homage to a frog Buddha
Detail of the frog Buddha from the 13th century Chōjū-giga handscroll
Japanese handscrolls have their origin in Chinese handscrolls (usually depicting long landscape scenes which the viewer ‘travels’ through as he or she unrolls the scroll. The Chinese may in turn owe the origins of their own handscrolls to an even earlier Indian tradition (see the horizontal cross members of the 3bce Sanchi Gate in central India which show scenes carved in stone in the form of a formalised handscroll). What all these traditions, from the earliest handscrolls to the modern manga and graphic novels, have in common is an element of progression – from one scene, or frame, to another, pictorially and sequentially (see Links and further reading below, Far Eastern Pictorial Art: Form and Function).
A Cricket Match from Prehistoric Peeps by Edward Tennyson Reed. Punch Magazine circa 1890
Pictorially and sequentially are the key words in manga and graphic novels, where the narrative flows from one frame to the next. Not so in standalone cartoons such as the Cricket Match above or STONEHENGE – AND WHAT IT MAY BECOME! below.
STONEHENGE – AND WHAT IT MAY BECOME! Punch Magazine 1899
Manga and graphic novels don’t necessarily need to be long (nor contain a dialogue); comic strips such as the one below featuring Herman by Jim Unger deliver their message in just four frames…
Herman by Jim Unger
…while the Tom and Jerry special edition BT phonecard does it cleverly in just two (frame one on the recto of the card and the punch-line image on the verso).
Tom and Jerry at Stonehenge. Special edition BT Phonecard (recto)
Tom and Jerry at Stonehenge. Special edition BT Phonecard (verso)
In Part II of this series we’ll be looking again at manga, cartoons and graphic novels and showing how they continue to draw on the megalithic theme.
Links and further reading:
Avebury – Graphic Novel: A short novel about the mysterious village of Avebury by Tom Manning. Tom writes that, “This is a university project that was given out in order to induct us into the second year of the Illustration course. The theme of the project was that it should be based in the strange village of Avebury, north of Stonehenge, UK. Avebury is a very mysterious and ‘weird’ place filled with standing stones, deep trenches, rampaging druids and man made hills, there’s no knowing what you might find there. With this in my mind I planned to introduce Avebury as an isolated, desolate area of wilderness, not unlike ‘the Zone’ in the 1979 Russian film ‘STALKER’.”
Hoshino Yukinobu’s British Museum Adventure: an article by Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere (research director at the Sainsbury Institute, Norwich) in the September-October 2011 edition of the British Archaeology Magazine (pp. 32-35). The article provides a sneak preview of the English version of Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure (see below). Also a lecture given last year at the BritishMuseum by Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere here.
hyōgu: the japanese tradition in picture conservation, Far Eastern Pictorial Art: Form and Function by P. Wills. The Paper Conservator Vol. 9. London: Institute of Paper Conservation, 1985, pp. 6-8.
MEZOLITH by Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank.
10,000 years ago, the Kansa tribe live on the western shores of the North Sea Basin, where danger is never far away. Each season brings new adventure, each hunt has its risks, and each grim encounter with the neighbouring tribe is fraught with threats. Poika, a boy on the verge of manhood, must play his part and trust the strength and wisdom of his elders. This is a tale of beasts and beauty, man, magic and… horror.
Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure by Hoshino Yukinobu. Published in English by the British Museum Press on 14 October 2011.
The Chōjū-giga by Tsuguro Miya. Volume III in the Japanese Scroll Paintings series. Kadokawa Publishing Co. Tokyo, Japan; 1959. In Japanese but with a three page introduction in English and five pages, also in English, of plate explanations.
The Kyoto International Manga Museum (京都国際マンガミュージアム, Kyōto Kokusai Manga Myūjiamu) is located in Nakagyō-ku, Kyoto, Japan. The building housing the museum is the former Tatsuike Elementary School. The museum opened on November 25, 2006. Its collection of 200,000 items includes such rarities as Meiji period magazines and postwar rental books. The museum holds many items of historical, as well as contemporary, interest. Highlights of the museum’s collection include Japan Punch. Published by Charles Wirgman in Yokohama, it ran from the year Bunkyū 2 (1862) to Meiji 20 (1887).
Japan’s first manga magazine was Eshinbun Nihonchi from 1874. The nation’s first children’s manga magazine was Tokyo Pakku (established in 1907). Source: Wikipedia.