Fans of the DCU and superheroes worldwide are excited about the release of the new Justice League. Here in Malaysia and Indonesia, some talented artists have redesigned these superheroes in the old theatre art of 'wayang kulit.'
In the past, wayang kulit or shadow puppet play was a popular art form of storytelling and entertainment for various cultures, particularly in Southeast Asia. Long before the first electronic television was invented, the ancient art of wayang kulit used the source of light, creating shadows to tell stories with detailed cut-out figures.
The master behind the translucent screen controlling each puppet figure's movements was called 'dalang' (the puppeteer). A crowd would gather together to watch what is projected onto the screen live in action. Stories that were told were predominantly influenced by traditional folklores or tales of local myths. It was often accompanied by a band of musicians playing the drum and flute to enliven the show.
The long-awaited and highly anticipated Zack Synder's Justice League was released on HBO Max on March 18. There are both praises, and less favourable reactions to the latest 4-hour director's cut DC super-flick, but we are not here to discuss that.
Imagine living in the age of wayang kulit, and this blockbuster story is to be told through shadow puppetry; how then would our favourite superheroes look like?
Well, wonder no further. These talented artists from Malaysia and Indonesia have reimagined Justice League characters in the traditional art of wayang kulit. We reckon it is absolutely fantastic and praise-worthy!
Malaysia - Fusion Wayang Kulit @fusionwayangkulit
Fusion Wayang Kulit is a shadow puppet enthusiasts team from Malaysia. This creative ensemble breathes new life into the unique ancient art form by fusing it with modern pop culture and today's digital realm. The team has won multiple awards for its effort in reviving and preserving traditional shadow puppetry art. Other iconic subjects of their creation also include Star Wars, Predator, Bruce Lee, and guess what? They have also created a figure of Ed Sheeran, of which the artist has seen it himself!
Indonesia - Is Yuniarto @is.yuniarto
While in the neighbouring country, famous Indonesian illustrator/comic artist Is Yuniarto has also created many shadow puppet superhero masterpieces of his own.
In 2018, Is was even approached by Disney to present 'Wayang Avengers' to the Avengers actors during their Infinity War press tour in Singapore.
There to receive the specially designed wayang kulit puppets of Marvel characters were director Joe Russo and real-life actors of the world's biggest superhero franchise Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) and Karen Gillan (Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy) themselves!
In one of his interviews, Is has shared that his journey also started with the hope to introduce local time-honoured stories to the younger generation with a different approach. His other wayang kulit artwork also includes Beauty and the Beast, Raya, The Lion King, and more.
Now, joining in the newly released Justice League's hype, Is Yuniarto has also created his version of Batman, Superman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and The Flash wayang kulit puppets!
What a treat for comic art fans, what a fun and commendable way to keep traditions alive! These talented artists have demonstrated how when 'there's a will, there's always a way.'
Thanks to their creativity and artwork, the art of wayang kulit can remain relevant still today!
Though we may not all have their talent, we sure can help spread the word to play a part in preserving traditions that hold our culture's identity! Stay safe and share away!