A unique and imaginative exhibit that brings together original graphic novel art from the collection of local Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles enthusiast Elias Derby and the Museums’ own world-famous collection of Japanese artwork, arms and armor.
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were both living in nearby Northampton, Massachusetts, when they formed Mirage Studios and issued their first TMNT comic book in 1984. Since then, the characters of Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo have become cult heroes among aficionados of comics and graphic novels. Known for their swashbuckling style, their “Cowabunga” rallying cry, and their love of pizza, the characters have been featured in numerous comic books, graphic novels, and movies over the past three decades. Their commitment to protecting the innocent as well as their adherence to the bushido code of honor, discipline, and morality harkens back to the age of the samurai (1185-1867). The exhibit includes 80 original illustrations including examples by Eastman, Laird, and over 20 renowned graphic novel and comic book artists.
These modern representations of the warriors take on new meaning when juxtaposed with the imagery and trappings of their samurai ancestors. Numerous scholars have lauded the Springfield Museums for the quality and depth of their Japanese collections, particularly in the areas of ukiyo-e prints and samurai arms and armor, and have ranked their holdings of Meiji-era art as among the finest of any public institution in the world. The exhibit’s inclusion of prints featuring legendary samurai heroes by the famed ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), underscore the importance of the collection.
George Walter Vincent Smith, whose collection is housed in the museum that bears his name, was fascinated by Japanese arms and armor, especially swords. Many of the weapons date back to the 14 and 15th centuries, and feature intricate embellishments of dragons, flames, and other decorative motifs on the blades, handles, and scabbards. The exhibit will display a selection of swords and will also include three complete suits of samurai armor as well as examples of traditional samurai helmets.
An interactive, Saturday morning TMNT cartoon area and activities based on samurai warriors will be offered for children and families within the exhibition gallery.