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100 Years of Blossoming: A Generic History of Comics in Turkey

By Ali Benice

Turkey has a long and complex history of publishing comics, though most Turkish natives are unaware of the industry. Even academic research from Turkey on comics is scarce. This may be due to the lack of understanding of comics by the general public in Turkey. In Turkey, a country with a history of political instabilities and imbalances, many art and media forms have carried the weight of political suppressions on their shoulders, comics included. The unofficial obligation to carry and deliver political and social messages in the form of satire to readers has led comics to be tools of propaganda.

The word karikatür which stands for caricature, is used to define daily comic strips. The general understanding of caricatures in Turkey is two-fold: either a single image or many images which sequentially tell a story with the aid of word balloons, a form most commonly referred to as comic strips.

As Turhan Selçuk (13) states, “anyone who draws an illustration and writes a joke below it, does not have the right to carry the title of caricaturist,” insinuating that caricatures and comic strips should carry messages and have more complex purposes, such as creating political and social awareness, more than just being funny (13).

1. Baby Steps:

People in Turkey are mostly uneducated on the true identity of the periodicals they read. Many who disregard comic books by considering them to be immature or children’s reading materials are unaware that they themselves, in fact, regularly read comics for adults. The obscurity of differences between comics and caricatures has caused adults to alienate comic books. In public opinion, caricatures are for adults and comic books are for children. However, Selçuk defines caricature as “the art of making humor via drawings,” so the choice of label may be rather unimportant (12).

Two publication formats have affected the development of comics in Turkey: magazines and newspapers. From the 1890s to the 1930s, comics only existed as strips in those media. Because there were not many experienced and qualified artists, comic strips of the era were few in number and raw in quality (Cantek 15).

Turkey’s history does not begin with foundation of the republic, nor the end of the Ottoman Empire, and this is also true for its comics tradition. Howeber, searching for early samples of comics from modern Turkey among Ottoman miniatures1 could be considered misleading, for even though both formats had the objective of storytelling, their formats were not relatable. Text played a more important part than image in these miniatures. Pictures were only used as “supplements,” and the wide time gap in or lack of sequentiality in images arguably put miniatures in a position of “picture book illustrations for adults.” Miniatures were also not accessible to the commoners, so they were not open to the public, and most were only used for documenting history and royal incidents, not to tell fictional stories.

Comics had been introduced to the Turkish public during the Tanzimat Era2 and the Second Constitutional Era3, most being imported and translated American stories. Characteristically, speech balloons were absent and text was not a part of the overall graphical set-up, in both local and foreign works of the era. Dialogue was placed beneath the panels. Local pieces, like Ahmet R?fk?’s cartoons, were few in number and all simulated styles of western artists, distancing themselves from traditional Turkish techniques (Cantek 54-55).

The first examples of comic strips that resembled a modern format were published in newspapers and magazines after World War I, which started to gain popularity as mass media became more accessible to the public with the foundation of The Republic of Turkey. These strips were humor-centric. Cemil Cem was one of the first to be considered a “cartoonist” with his caricatures in magazines like Kalem and Cem, which were heavily based on political and moral issues (Selçuk 50). Next, Cemal Nadir Güler came into the picture. Among his notable creations were Akla KaraDalkavuk, and Yeni Zengin, but his most prominent work, which is still remembered by many to this day, is Amcabey. Güler kept on drawing the adventures of Amcabey (see fig. 1) until the year of his death in 1947. In that same era, Ramiz Gökçe created Tombul Teyze ile Sıska Dayı and Çömez, while Sururi Gümen started to work on Can Baba (Alsaç 41). In the fields of design and layout, they were no different than the works published in the Tanizmat and Second Constitutional Eras.

Figure 1. Amcabey – Cemal Nadir

The comic strip format, with speech balloons and continuous stories as we know it today, came to the scene in Turkey in 1930s, via children’s magazines and newspapers (Cantek 55). After the year of 1935, the American comics “craze” had found a place in Turkey, as well as Europe. This interest in foreign pieces may have been influenced by the westernization movement of the era, which was led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. At its early years, the mid 1930s specifically, Haber newspaper had aided comic strips’ growth by publishing Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond’s Secret Agent X9, Lee Falk’s The Phantom and Disney’s Mickey Mouse. During the same years, children’s magazines such as Çocuk Sesi and Afacan had provided space for Flash Gordon and Tarzan in their pages (Güreli 48)4. At the same time, villains had kept their original, foreign names to make it easier for the reader to alienate them (Cantek 58).

The success of comic strips for children did not repeat itself with adults. In 1930s, most newspapers spared small amounts of spaces for comics because publishers were convinced that this format was relevant only to young readers. The fact that pictures and photographs were rarely being printed in newspapers at the time was no help either (Cantek 65).

In 1939, publishers of a magazine named 1001 Roman started reserving 90% of its pages to comics, making it the first magazine to majorly contain and exalt comics. Even though a significant number of other publications were being released at the time, no other had reached the popularity or lifespan of 1001 Roman. The magazine included many American originated strips, but with the arrival of World War II, publishers began to have a hard time importing them, which eventually led to its closing. With the end of its publication, the comics market went through a period of recession until 1950s. It should be noted that with 1001 Roman‘s success, publishing magazines with comics as their flagship contents had become agreeable to publishers (Cantek 67).

During World War II, local creations gained some popularity. Comic strips, such as Karakedi Çetesi and Tepegöz, found themselves in the pages of new children’s magazines, Doğan Kardeş and Çocuk Haftası. The number of American comics published in Turkey decreased because of the restrictions the Italian government placed on their publishing in Italy, where publishers in Turkey imported American comics. Italian comics (a.k.a. fumettis), such as Pecos BillZagorTex and Kinowa, replaced American comics in magazines, ironically with western genre stories featuring even more American characters (Güreli 49-50). With the end of World War II and the mass media’s need to reach out to and catch up with the rest of the world, numerous foreign works started being published in newspapers, most specifically in the weekend editions. Blondie (Fatoş), Bringing Up Father (Güngörmüşler) and Beetle Bailey (Hasbi Tembeler) were some of the many (Alsaç 42).

2. Settling In:

The first comic to feature stand-alone adventures of single characters were published during the beginning of 1950s. Comic books had started to be published as single “solo” titles with only their protagonists’ names on their covers. The first book to focus on a single character in Turkey was Pecos Bill, published in 1951 (Alsaç 42).

In the 1950s, many foreign comics started to be published with their original names, the first examples of which were fumettis. At the time, Pecos Bill had become the most significant and leading books in Turkey. With the popularity of Western movies, the character and his stories gained so much public attention, the number of sales had reached to over 40,000 within mere weeks. One of the reasons behind this rise in popularity was its vivid colors and high-quality printing. These advancements were mostly caused by changes in the importing technique of images. Publishers, who previously printed from copies of the original works, now had the chance to use original materials with colors. Even though this led to a significant increase in quality, importing the original films was rather costly, so the method was rarely used by publishers.

Single books dedicated to a single hero’s adventures were well received by the public. With Pecos Billfumettis became extremely popular in Turkey (Güreli 57). In 1955, two new magazines began publishing, Ceylan and Bill Kid, and the latter sparing two pages to a new character’s debut story: Captain Miki (renamed in Turkey as Kahraman İzci, meaning The Hero Scout). In his early adventures Miki kept his original name, but in later years his name was changed into Tommiks, an ode to the American Western movie star Thomas Edwin Mixi5. The actor’s name has been identified with comics ever since, though many were unaware to whom it originally belonged. Miki was young, just as juvenile as the youth of the time who was inseparable from his books. He represented every single child who demanded to be treated like an adult. It was easy for the younger audience to identify with him (Cantek 123-124). Talat Güreli referred to Miki’s publishing in Turkey with these words:

If the day comes, when someone creates a reliable and correct documentation of every single adventure of Tommiks (not only the ones by Ceylan Yay?nlar?) that has been published in Turkey (why not?), the right thing to do would be to congratulate first, then ask something to annoy him/her! (Güreli 66)

In 1950, another hero’s adventures started to be published by Armağan and Doğan Kardeş magazines. A new face had stepped into the comic book market in Turkey, one of the biggest representatives of the Franco-Belge school: Tintin (renamed in Turkey as Tenten). His first solo comic ever to be published in Turkey debuted in 1958. Tintin was followed by Lucky Luke (renamed Red Kit in Turkey), Asterix and other Franco-Belge books in the 1960s. Not long after, “original” and “copyright violating” stories of Tintin, drawn by local artists, started appearing in Turkey. While Tintin was wandering in İstanbul, its publishers were afraid of facing an international law-case. Their concerns were so high, the audience was being asked not to reveal much about the story in between pages with a very vague request: “Read this story dear readers and do not tell a soul about it.” All in all, with the cheap and low quality prints, Tintin‘s stories had not been shown the respect they deserved in Turkey until Yapı Kredi Yayınları bought their publishing rights and started to reprint in the 1990s (Cantek 149).

Superman’s first adventure, published in Turkey in 1957 in the periodical Pazar, was named Uçan Adam (The Flying Man). A year later, in 1958, Superman took his original name back and took stage in his own comic books. He was followed by Batman (initially Yarasa Adam) and Spider-Man (Örümcek Adam) (Alsaç 43). Still, it may be appropriate to say that American super-hero comics’ rise of popularity in Turkey is a mostly recent phenomenon, beginning at the end of the millenium and caused by several genre movies released every year ever since.

1959 was the year Kinowa started to be published in Turkey, three years after its initial publication in Italy. This racist, vengeful, aggressive and bold man became an icon, but his rage against Native Americans was disregarded by the public because of the general indifference on the matter of racial discrimination at the time. According to Güreli (69), Kinowa‘s popularity could not be denied: “There was a time in İstanbul, when every man who is bold or ringwormed was being called Kinowa!” (69).

The most popular comic book characters with Turkish origin were, and still are, from Abdülcanbaz (see Fig. 2.). Abdülcanbaz was first published in the pages of Milliyet newspaper, in 1957 (Alsaç 43). The character initially appeared in a story named Afrodit, written by Bülent Oran and drawn by Turhan Selçuk. It became the first comic ever to be adapted into theatre internationally. The reason behind this, according to the artist, was its political and social messages, as well as its kinship with literature (Selçuk 71). Selçuk improved Abdülcanbaz by working with many well-known and successful Turkish writers such as Aziz Nesin and Rıfat Ilgaz. Selçuk clarified how Abdülcanbaz had turned into a gentleman from a trickster and con artist, which he initially was:

Abdülcanbaz searches a flat for rent, cannot find any, gets tired, there was no place to sleep. He gets into a doghouse. Dreams while sleeping. That is how he crosses over to his adventures in the Ottoman era. It was a new adventure, so I stretched it a little bit. The readers had forgotten him. Maybe there still were people who had not, but this was how we went on with this new era. Abdülcanbaz was changed as a character. (qtd. in Cantek 142)

Figure 2. Abdülcanbaz – Turhan Selçuk

Towards the end of the 1950s, anti-heroes were becoming popular in comics, such as Oğuz Aral’s Utanmaz Adam and Suavi Süalp’s Çapkın Hırsız. These characters were mirroring the nature and dreams of mid-class students of the era who wished for a better life and to rise in society (Cantek 152-153). People in Turkey were bonding with their local every day heroes in papers.

3. Karaoğlan and His Partners in Crime:

With the military coup of 1960, comic strips, many of which were satirical and political in nature, were just as crucially impacted as any opposing media enterprise. Oğuz Aral explained the atmosphere of the time to Üstün Alsa&ccdil;, which caused the decrease in sale numbers and cancellations of many comic magazines:

Humor magazines were cancelling one by one, while the surviving ones’ sales and quality were decreasing. Newspapers countenanced no cartoons. Cartoonists were unemployed. We thought everyone was laughing at the jokes, inventions, sharpness. Apparently, we only caused a discharge against the overbearing rulings of The Democrat Party6. (qtd. in Cantek 170).

Still, a critical advancement in comics in 1960 was the abandoning of imitations and blatant copyright violations of foreign works in children’s magazines (Cantek 189).

At the time, reader interest in humorous comic strips was in decline and books on heroism were in fashion. In a time period when the social tension (provoked by the political atmosphere) was on rise, this genre offered means for the reader to get away from daily problems. However, it should be remembered that many of the comic book readers of this new heroic genre were children who were mostly, if not entirely, isolated from politics and tension.

Before creating Karaoğlan in 1962, one of the most iconic characters in Turkey, Suat Yalaz had done the illustrations for Abdullah Ziya Kozanoğlu’s historic comic book Cengiz Han’ın Hazineleri (Treasure of Genghiz Khan), with its lead character, Kaan. This experience led Yalaz into creating his own character in later years (Alsaç 43). Karaoğlan‘s creation was the result of a disagreement between Yalaz and Kozanoğlu, caused by creative differences, after which, Kozanoğlu left the project. While the character Kaan was mostly unaltered except for his name, the timeline in which the story takes place switched to the era of Genghis Khan era from the rule of the Hun Empire. The idea of having a dictator as villain appealed to Yalaz (Cantek 162-164). In later years, Karaoğlan was also published abroad in countries such as France, where the character had two names, Kebir and Changor (Cantek 38).

Nationalism, chauvinism, sexism and odes to Turkic history in comics began rising in 1960s. Readers at the time were more invested in stories about the old days: odysseys that led to the gates of Venice from Central Asia, instead of actual topics of the day. With Karaoğlan’s success, new but similar characters came to exist: characters such as Ayhan Başoğlu’s Malkoçoğlu (1965), Sezgin Burak’s (drawn by Ersin Burak in later years) Tarkan (1967) and Abdullah Turan’s Fatih’in Fedaisi Kara Murat (1972). Writers and artists closely followed the trend (Alsaç 43). Karaoğlan was the flagship title behind this new fashion in comics, but the book named Köroğlu (1953) was the first official historic work focusing on heroism and chauvinism, even before Kaan and Karaoğlan. Such characters would kill dozens with a single sword swing and flirt with every single non-Muslim woman. These mostly Christian women were usually the only representations of female characters in these books. They degraded both women and non-Muslims, imposing this belief on young readers that every Turkish man was born to be mighty, and they had the right to “sleep around” with non-Muslims, while women were to be “virtuous” (Cantek 121).

Children’s magazines were becoming popular again in the mid-1960s. In 1965, Zıp Zıp magazine started its publishing life and a year later, Erdoğan Egeli’s Ceylan restarted in 1966. In 1967, Tina was released, which was a magazine published specifically for young girls, the first of its kind. The book included stories of strong female role models, such as Jane Bond: Secret Agent. Cantek shares this recollection about Tina: “I could not buy the comic (Tina), because my friends were mocking me for reading a girls’ book. I made my sister familiarize with it and she started to buy it. So I kept on reading” (187).

In the year 1967, a new comic book named Korku started to be published. Horror and anxiety were engraved into its pages within a dark, gothic atmosphere. Count Dracula, vampires and zombies were introduced to people in Turkey, along with stories influenced by H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe (Cantek 200). The fear, sexuality and violence in American comics, such as Vault of Horror, found their way into comics in Turkey via this new publication. The new trend was imported a decade after the Comics Code Authority terminated the genre in The United States. Korku and its successors had introduced characters like The Zombie (Simon William Garth) and Conan to Turkey (Alsaç 44). Among them, one of the most notable ones was the introduction of Vampirella (initially Vampiyenge, or, roughly translated: Aunty-vampy) in 1976 (Çoruk 325). All the aforementioned comics were imported into Turkey, and they did not affect the works of local artists. At the time, native cartoonists were mostly focused on comedic works.

Three years after the initial release of Korku, three new comics reached grand sale numbers and became major publications. These were Süper Teks (published as Teks in 1955), Zagor and Kaptan Swing (Comandante Mark). All three of them were printed in high quality and on bright, coated paper, giving them an advantage over the other comics in the market.

Times were interesting: Çetin Karakoç of Süper Teks, hosted writer Gian Luigi Bonelli in İstanbul, while Sezen Yalçıner, owner of Tay Yayınları, became a guest of the EsseGesse trio in Italy. Publishers in Turkey were contacting and staying in touch with the creators of their publications for the first time. Comic strips in newspapers were being dissociated from regular comic books, and with the increase of political oppression on the press, humor was on the rise again (Cantek 211).

4. Rise of Gırgır7 and Uproar:

Oğuz Aral’s Gırgır started to be published in 1972 as a promotional item of Gün newspaper and, a year later, beceme a genuine magazine by itself. The political tension in society regularly induced brawls, lynches and even murders. Streets were not safe, but Gırgır somehow became a common ground which the supporters of both rival parties—the Justice Party8 and the Republican People’s Party9—enjoyed and laughed at. Gırgır stood in the middle of two magazines, moderate Akbaba and the mischievous Salata, founding its own customs of humor which survived to this day via its successors (Cantek 212).

Gırgır and its founder Aral had played an important role in teaching the trade of comics to new cartoonists, employing and tutoring them at the same time and playing a vital role in many important artists’ “coming of age.” Aral was not only publishing the works of aspiring artists; he also graded them as if he was a school teacher (Alsaç 61). In time, Oğuz Aral had given these amateur cartoonists their own pages in Gırgır. Many new characters were born, including Nuri Kurtcebe’s Gaddar Davut, İlban Ertem’s Küçük Adam and Engin Ergönültaş’s Zalim Şevki. Generations of artists grew up in the pages of Gırgır. Aral evaluated every young and aspiring artist’s works and paid high amounts of royalties to encourage them (Cantek 213). With this in mind, it should also be noted that Aral was an authoritarian in his work environment. His stiff behavior against the “students” at Gırgır not only created a disciplined workplace, but also all the cartoonists faced Aral’s impatience. Aral did not allow any of his students to create their own unique styles and reacted harshly whenever he was shown works dissimilar to his. Most of the unofficial students of Gırgır were subject to Aral’s feudal system, rarely becoming more than Aral’s mirror images in style (Şen 54-57).

According to Aral, the cartoons in Gırgır, even though they mostly consisted of humorous material, were comics, not caricatures. His need to make a stance on such a matter must have been caused by the vagueness of the definitions of, and differences between, comics and caricatures in public eye.

Gırgır told stories of the “little man” and his everyday life. Avanak Avni (see Fig. 3.) was the first character to be embraced by society, as a part of society instead of a sword fighter with heroic deeds. He was barely older than a toddler and not wealthy. Avni somehow became the voice of the oppressed “little men”, even though he could not speak. He was the Yellow Kid of Turkey. Avni was created by Aral himself, who mentioned his creative process in the words below:

Avni was born to be a representative of the average man of the time, bullied, dump but cunning. This characterization eventually became a national personage. He was blond and short, had carnal issues. …It was good, people loved it. But then one day, I got bored. It was not easy to come up with new stories for the same character and not drop the quality every week. I decided to make a change, turned Avni into a toddler of three years of age (1979). The day when the issue was published I received telephone calls and telegrams. Young Avni had defeated Old Avni. …Young Avni became a symbol for Turkish people. His readers were varied. There are children who learn how to read through Avni. I suppose the issue of communication which many people has made them familiarize with Avni. He also has issues with communication, and his naivety endears him. (qtd. in Cantek 217)

Figure 3. Avanak Avni – Oguz Aral.

Galip Tekin was one of the cartoonists who mastered his craft in Gırgır. He was among the few who broke the chains of humor that was dictated by Aral and created a new and less cartoonish style for himself. He was able to fulfill the desires of his readers (Akıllı). Another artist educated in the tradition of Gırgır and who found his own way is İlban Ertem. From the beginnings of 1980s, Ertem created masterpieces of comic books that reflected city life, its routine and daily violence. Dark alleys, peddlers, pickpockets, molesters, magandas10 and the unsolvable traffic problem were so vital to his stories, they almost appeared to be separate characters to readers. Gökhan Demirkol interprets Ertem’s comics: “Ertem’s İstanbul is a headless Leviathan. Casual in daylight, but haunted at night, showing its true colours” (59). In Ertem’s stories, little men always perished.

As artists who refused to replicate the leading art tone and humor-centric movement of their times, Tekin and Ertem came close to emerging as an underground act in Turkey with their pessimistic styles and stories.

Since the day it began publishing, Gırgır had opposed the outdated art and humor of its day. It filled the void left by its predecessor Akbaba, which had expired because of its overused prose, far-fetched language and unnatural characters who still wore bowler hats as if they were fixed in the beginnings of the 1900s. The “real world” was carried into Gırgır’s pages. While the upper-class considered it to be degenerate, Gırgır brought the critical point of view, which was considered relevant only to the educated, to the streets (Şen 53). Being easy to reach and relate to, caricatures and comics are arts of community, and their popularity comes from their relevance to the taste of common folk, which led to Gırgır’s success (Alsaç 63).

Among the other humor magazines of the era were Mikrop (a magazine founded by a few cartoonists who left Gırgır) and Çarşaf (successor of the elitist Akbaba). Çarşaf’s humor was outdated and its low sales caused it to be closed down in 1992, and Mikrop’s employees returned to work at Gırgır. Even though they failed in publishing, they succeeded in proving a point, stating that it was possible (if not successful) to make comics outside of Gırgır (Cantek 222).

5. The Grotesque and Vulgar:

Yaman Çocuk Dergisi, which was established in 1979, became the first children’s magazine to publish comic strips along with providing information about their creators and techniques. Though it was published specifically for children, its creators never treated comics as “child’s play” (Mutlu 96). Among the many comic strips printed in the magazine, there were pieces from the schools of Franco-Belge and American super heroes (Cantek 237). Another comic book published in the same years was Süper Korku, successor of horror magazine Korku. Its later editions were books, akin to Süper Korku Dracula and Süper Korku Alfa. While other horror comics went on being published at the beginning of the 1980s as well, they did not last long (Çoruk 330).

In 1982, comics were again solely maintaining existence in humor magazines. The little momentum gained was caused by Güneş newspaper, giving space to Suat Yalaz’s Karaoğlan, Haldun Sevel’s Ustura Kemal and Yalçın Didman’s Fatoş (not to be confused with Blondie/Fatoş). Still, the market required new blood to survive (Cantek 239). Sales were decreasing. Conan was the only comic that continued printing until the early 1990s.

When the 1980s were nearing their end, other groups of artists left Gırgır and just like their predecessors at Mikrop, founded new magazines named Limon (in later years, Leman), Hıbır (in later years, HBR Maymun) and Pişmiş Kelle. These new publications were obstinate and adverse, both politically and humor-wise. None had reached the level of success Gırgır had, but they all have composed their own styles, while still following the “school of Gırgır” (Cantek 248).

As the 1990s were beginning, the older audience was being replaced by the next generation. New and young readers, however, were less political and more headstrong. They opposed not the authority of the government, but their parents, teachers, landlords, Sharia supporters. To put it simply, they opposed anyone who intervened with their earrings, hairstyles, romantic relationships, and other aspects of their daily lives. To them, the fight was not about any form of left or right-wing politics, but the society trying to architect their lifestyles. Among this era’s cartoonists are Selçuk Erdem and Erdil Yaşaroğlu (Cantek 273).

Except for humor magazines, the 1990s were unproductive years in the field of comic books. Zeplin was one of the failed attempts of the era. The book was initially published in 1991 and was shut down a year later for insufficiency in sale numbers. Zeplin did not only print works and interviews of internationally regarded artists such as Moebius and Enki Bilal, but it was also considered a scholarly periodical because of the articles and columns it provided on the art and movements of comic books (Tellan 50). Zeplin and its coeval Rh+ (1993) were short termed adventures for their publishers. According to Cantek (274), the main reason behind this was their outlandishness, which did not help them harmonize with the local understanding of comics, making them unnatural in public eye. Another short lived magazine was Hasan Kaçan’s Ustura (1994), the first politically and religiously conservative comics magazine.

The 1990s were also a time period when the ethos of fanzine settled in. Among these hardly legal comics were Çizgi Roman (1990), Comic Art (1990), Korsan (1992), ID (1992), Koloni (1992) and Yeni Dalga (1994). Even though they were effective in increasing the comic book culture’s credibility and recognition, they did not have the vital facilities to survive. As always, artists had no other option but to work for humor magazines. Bülent Morgök defined the era with these words:

I have met many publishers for my first critical comic book project. But nobody was willing to give it a chance and publish. Even though Oğuz Aral enjoyed my art, he kept complaining that it was too similar to the heavy metal style. According to him, Heavy Metal was the tragedy of the West and that I should be continuing with caricatures. (qtd. in Cantek 290-291)

A similar book to Zeplin was Resimli Roman. While Zeplin was being supported by many humor magazines such as Leman for its unpretentiousness, Resimli Roman‘s familiarity with graphic novels for mature readers and their literary side prevented it from being paid the same attention. In fact, cartoonists of Leman objected to its existence by stating that graphic novels had no place in Turkish culture (Cantek 295-296). Ergün Gündüz, one of its managers, made this statement after Resimli Roman was shut down:

I do not understand whether if the reason behind these criticisms were their concerns for the life spans of the magazines which they published. Comics are not made of a single line and style. A Auivre is a literary book, L’echo De Savanes is mostly erotic. How could anyone say how a book shoul or should not be?.. (qtd. in Cantek 296)

The rise of eroticism was another point of interest in 1990s, and European comics of this nature were finding their way into Turkey again. Serpieri’s Druuna was printed in the pages of Üff, an erotic book, and Horacio Altuna’s stories were published in the Turkish edition of Playboy, while Bernet-Trillo’s works were appearing in Yorgan. Their common features were the sexual basis of the stories. Among local artists who made erotic comics were Soner Tuna, who at the time was working at Deli; OKY at Pişmiş Kelle, Memo Tembelçizer and Yılmaz Arslantürk (Cantek 302-304).

In later years, comics were again cramped in humor magazines, such as Leman and its by-product L-Manyak (1996). Bülent Üstün’s character Kötü Kedi Şerafettin (whose name was translated into English as Bad Cat in the 2015 movie adaptation) was the first character to reach popularity in L-Manyak (Cantek 312). The sense of humor was becoming more and more grotesque, while the concept of beauty was turned upside down. Sex and repulsiveness were hot topics. These magazine’s political stances were just as rebellious and underground, which brought a more literary feeling to their genuine usage of mild language. Faith in the sincerity of the ghettos were fading. L-Manyak was shut down with its creator Bahadır Baruter’s departure and the foundation of Lombak (see Fig. 4.) (Cantek 321).

Figure 4. Lombak #27 (2003).

During the late 1990s, publishers became more interested in obtaining the publishing rights of foreign comics. Fumettis such as Dylan DogNathan NeverMartin MystereZagor and Teks were being published by Rodeo along with Spider-ManSupermanX-Men, and Batman being printed by Büyük Mavi Yayıncılık. Local artists were also on the rise with Leman Yayıncılık’s Karaoğlan, Dünya Kitabevi’s Tarkan and Yapı Kredi Yayınları’s Abdülcanbaz, most being nostalgic works. Other publishers, such as RemziİnkılapİthakiOğlakÇınarİletişim and Arkabahçe, brought back the works of Moebius and Enki Bilal to Turkey (Cantek 321-323).

6. Generation Next:

In the 21st century, comics are still limited resources in Turkey. Even though NTV Yayınları‘s graphic novel adaptations of literary classics raised the number of sales by 65%, they did not have any positive or negative effects on the sales rates of other comic genres. An increase in the publishing of native comics was not triggered, and these adaptations were marketed as books instead of comics in order to make them sound more reputable. In time, with the decrease in sale numbers, NTV Yayınları made the decision to put less effort into publishing comics. Few adaptations from native literary works were printed by Everest Yayınları in these years, such as Ayşe Kulin’s Veda, Hüseyin Rahmi’s Gulyabani and Recaizade Ekrem’s Araba Sevdası (Cantek 326-327). Recent additions to these are adaptations of Filibeli Ahmet Hilmi’s A’mâk-ı Hayal by Mustafa A. Kara and İhsan Oktay Anar’s Puslu Kıtalar Atlası by İlban Ertem.

Humor magazines increased in number in 2000, and it should be noted that this increase was mostly caused by them dividing like cells. A group of artists who had left Leman established Penguen in 2002 and, in 2007, another group of even younger artists who had left Penguen established Uykusuz. With Penguen’s recent cancellation, the latter has been able to survive up to this day. Other books published in recent years were: Harakiri, which closed down due to suppressive governmental law-cases, Hortlak, which has been marketed as a “comics magazine,” Naber by Umut Sarıkaya, and Türk Mucizesi by M. K. Perker. The latter two were created by single artists, and many of the books mentioned have ceased to exist.

In recent times, comics have been used as tools by artists for “unofficial confessions,” to speak about personal issues and experiences. Ersin Karabulut’s Sandıkiçi and M. K. Perker’s Öyle Bir Geçer Zaman Ki are examples of this new trend among creators. These comics are mostly used by their creator’s to share personal experiences almost in a narcissistical manner. Nurşen Güllüoğlu has described this new trend among cartoonists as “self-centered” and their works as “exposition of privacy” (83).

From 1996 to this day, a more organized sense of publishing and management compared to earlier days has been accepted by publishers. In Turkey, comics have only lately been accepted as a form of art and media, and been embraced by society. The role of translated foreign publications in this trend cannot be denied (Polat 71-72).

Comics are a part of the everyday life in today’s Turkey and the main reason behind this is their accessibility, intelligibility, sincerity, and as mentioned before, status as a part of society instead of higher culture. Even though number of sales have always been rising and decreasing repeatedly, people in Turkey have never felt an absence of humor magazines, and comics have always found a place for themselves in pages of periodicals, though at times they still have trouble coming out of there.

Today, comics are still mostly an imported format. Native cartoonists are regularly employed solely in humor magazines, while single books are usually, but not exclusively, collections of strips published in these periodicals. A recent monthly released book named Yabani followed the school of Heavy Metal until it was cancelled by the publishers in 2017, while Gölge E-Dergi, an online periodical of/about comics has recently released its 119th issue. Beyond those, comics rarely take place in media. It should also be noted that cartoonists are commonly expected to be their own writers and marketers as well. Due to the absence of specialized agencies, it is usually an artist’s own responsibility to look for suitable publishers and to market.

Except for the previously mentioned books which consist of collections of an artist’s works in weekly humor magazines, few other comics have been published, most of them being in graphic novel format. Some notable examples are Hakan Tacal and Yıldıray Çınar’s Karabasan (2003), Ankara Üçlemesi, written by Levent Cantek [a trilogy; Dumankara/Collective (2015), Emanet Şehir/Berat Pekmezci (2015) and Uzak Şehir/Berat Pekmezci (2016)], Devrim Kunter’s Seyfettin Efendi ve Olağanüstü Maceraları (2014) series (see Fig. 5.), Doğu Yürür’s İstanbul Odyssey (2014), Hikmet Yamansavaşçılar’s Karabala (2016) and Selçuk Ören’s Şehzade Yangını (2015) series. Excluding Ankara Üçlemesi, a common point among these books is their writers and artists are the same people. Additionally, cartoonists such as Melike Acar, Sümeyye Kesgin, M.K. Perker, Mahmud Asrar and Yıldıray Çınar have been working on international projects actively, most commonly for the American market.

Today, some of the most notable comics publishers in Turkey are İletişim Yayınları, Desen YayınlarıMarmara ÇizgiKarakarga YayınlarıSırtlan Kitap, Arkabahçe Yayıncılık and Flaneur Yayınları. Some of them have comic book stores with their own names as well, such as Arkabahçe and Flaneur, and the number of these stores are regularly increasing. Among their publications are both works of regional creators and Turkish translations of world-wide known American publishers (such as Marvel Comics, DC, Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics), European comics, and manga series.

In a country where political and social tension had become a norm, and a region consistenly unstable such as Turkey, the practitioners of such a rebellious art form still often feel the necessity to be the voice of reason, either by themselves, or because of the pressure inflicted on them by the public. While some cartoonists, specifically Salih Memecan, continue their works in newspapers that support the government, several lawsuits have been filed to oppress the artists who have openly critizised the government. The most notable examples of these cases are the lawsuits against Musa Kart (2004), cartoonists at Uykusuz magazine (2005) and Mehmet Çağçağ (2006). All these trials have one thing in common; they represent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the forms of animals.

Today, there are hardly any publishers dominating the comics market and, frankly, whether a market exists or not is also debatable. Within such a small and low-paying industry, one could easily argue that creating and publishing native comics in Turkey is an underground act of contumacy by itself.

In conclusion, with the increase of public awareness, a new generation of principled publishers and readers coming into the picture, and geek culture’s international rise in popularity, the future of comics as a prominent art form in Turkey appears brighter than ever, even though governmental constraints still effect many artists who make political cartoons in humor magazines, which have always been at the center of comics culture.

It may be appropriate to say that comic books have ultimately been accepted in Turkey, but they still need time to be embraced in general.


[1] Art of painting small sizde pictures on materials such as paper, parchement, ivory etc. which was prominent in the Ottoman Empire untill the rise of western art in the late 19th century (“Minyatür”, 1989).

[2] Tanzimat: Arabic for “Regulation.” The Tanzimat Era is initiated by the release of The Decree of Tanzimat, a pack of reforms executed to westernize Ottoman Empire’s political, social and economical structures (“Tanzimat”, 1989)

[3] Reinitiation of the constitutional and parliamentarian era, between the dates of 23rd of Jul. 1908 to 21 Dec. 1918 (“Meşrutiyet İkinci”, 1989).

[4] It should be noted that all of these comics’ and characters’ names had been translated to Turkish, either in exact form such as Gizli Ajan X9 (Secret Agent X9) and Miki Fare (Mickey Mouse), or roughly, giving the names new meanings and angles such as Gokler Hakimi Bay Tekin(Mr. Tekin The Ruler of Skys/Flash Gordon) and Kizilmaske (The Redmask/The Phantom).

[5] Samim Utkun, who at the time was responsible for the cover art for many comics, had renamed Miki after Thomas Mix.

[6] Democrat Party (Demokrat Parti) was the first political party to be elected by public vote after twenty two years of single party ruling in Turkey. Democrat Party carried cetre-right policies and was elected three times in a row; in 1950, 1954 and 1957, staying in power for ten years before the Military Coup of 1960.

[7] A slang word for mockery.

[8] Justice Party (Adalet Partisi) was a centre-right political party which ruled solely between 1965 and 1971, keeping its power throughout 1970s by prticipating in coalitions untill it was shut down among with many other with the Military Coup of 1980.

[9] Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi) is a left-wing political party founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923.

[10] Maganda: A Turkish word which roughly stands for “Redneck.”

Works Cited

Akıllı, Kutsi. “Galip Tekin, Türk Çizgi Romanındaki Fantastik Sürgün”. FRPNET, http://frpnet.n…i-fantastik-surgun Web. Accessed 31 Mar. 2016

Alsaç, Üstün. Cep Üniversitesi – Türkiye’de Karikatür, Çizgi Roman ve Çizgi Film. İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 1996. Print.

Cantek, Levent. Türkiye’de Çizgi Roman. Edited by Levent Cantek. İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2002. Print.

—. (2012). Türkiye’de Çizgi Roman. İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2012. Print.

Çoruk, Hüsnü. Türkiye’de Çizgi Roman. Edited by Levent Cantek, İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2002. Print.

Demirkol, Gökhan. “Küçük Adamların Tanrısı”, Serüven Çizgi Roman Araştırmaları Dergisi 1, Spring 2004, pp. 59-67. Print.

Güllüoğlu, Nurşen. “Kitap Eleştirisi”, Serüven Çizgi Roman Araştırmaları Dergisi 1, Spring 2004. pp. 82-83. Print.

Güreli, Talat. “Türkiye’de Çizgi Roman”, Sanat Dünyamız 64, 1997, pp. 41-77. Print.

“Minyatür.” AnaBritannica Genel Kültür Ansiklopedisi. 15th ed., 1989. Print.

“Meşrutiyet İkinci.” AnaBritannica Genel Kültür Ansiklopedisi. 15th ed., 1989. Print.

Mutlu, Tanyel Ali. “Yaman Haftalık “Çocuk” Dergisi”, Serüven Çizgi Roman Araştırmaları Dergisi 6, Summer 2005. pp. 96-97. Print.

Polat, Hasan Ali. “Süreç Odaklı Bir Bakışla Türkiye’de Çizgi Roman Çevirileri”, Master’s Thesis, T.C. İstanbul Üniversitesi. 2006. Web.

Selçuk, Turhan. Grafik Mizah, İstanbul: İris Yayınları, 1998. Print.

Şen, N. (2004). “Gırgır Bir “Okul” Muydu?”, Serüven Çizgi Roman Araştırmaları Dergisi 6, Summer 2005. pp 52-58. Print.

“Tanzimat.” AnaBritannica Genel Kültür Ansiklopedisi. 15th ed., 1989. Print.

Tellan, B. (2005). “Zeplin”, Serüven Çizgi Roman Araştırmaları Dergisi 6, Spring 2004. pp 48-50. Print.

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