x0x THE CARTOON ADVENTURE IN TURKEY
By Ergun Gunduz
It is raining outside and I am stretched out on the couch in the
sitting-room enjoying the exciting stories of the strip cartoon
character Conan. At the end of the last page those three unwelcome
words, 'To be continued' bring a pang of disappointment. I will have
to wait until next week's magazine comes out. The bookcase in my
sitting-room is full of strip cartoon books and magazines, and there
are more scattered around everywhere. My love of cartoon stories began
as a child and I have never grown out of it. Now I not only read them
but draw them myself. I am a cartoonist, a person for whom thinking is
It is dark now. I look out at the street. The neon sign of one of the
closed shops flashes on and off. Along the cobbled street a girl with
dripping wet hair runs through the rain. I look again and there is no
one there! 'That's it!' I say to myself, and find myself carried off
into another cartoon story.
The cartoonist wanders through his imagination, taking his readers
with him. Everyone has heard of Tarzan. They asked his creator Hal
Foster whether he had ever gone to Africa, and he replied that
unfortunately he never had. Similarly the adventures of Tintin take
place all over the world - in North America, Africa, Tibet, Russia and
England. Yet Herge, like Hal Foster, never went abroad.
The cartoon story is an art form belonging to urban culture. They have
developed in different ways in each country, because they are closely
bound up with the culture of the society to which they belong. Every
kind of change experienced by a society, whether political, economic
or cultural, affects the content and appearance of cartoon stories.
Depending on the circumstances, these changes may make them more
appealing, more aggressive, more realistic, more introverted or more
The cartoon book lies outside the concept of literature as imposed on
pupils by schools. It is something between a picture book and the
popular novel. It is a missing link, a crossbreed. Yet its origins are
venerable, beginning with cave painting, and continuing with ancient
Greek vase paintings, the mediaeval Bayeux Tapestry whose series of
pictures along its 70.4 m length illustrate the conquest of England in
1066 by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, and the Byzantine
frescos illustrating biblical scenes in the Church of St. Saviour in
Chora in Istanbul. Then there is the Spanish painter Goya, and the
popart of the 1960s inspired by the cartoon strip. In Turkey, the
first cartoon stories date from the early 1930s, and they enjoyed
their golden age between 1950 and 1960.
It is still raining. I get up and glance at the bookcase. Its shelves
are filled with strip cartoon magazines, both Turkish and foreign. The
earliest Turkish magazine is '1001 Roman' (1001 Novels) priced at 10
I pull out a copy of Karaoglan, the most popular Turkish cartoon hero,
whose stories began in 1970. His creator, Suat Yalaz, whose style is
masterful and full of warmth, features today in European
encyclopaedias of cartoon art. It is unfortunate that so few cartoon
magazines by Turkish artists have been published. Among them are
notably Rr, between 1991 and 1992, and Joker, between 1992 and 1993.
Cartoon stories share many aspects with theatre, such as dialogue,
stage props, gestures, and time compression; and they anticipated the
art of cinema with the use of montage, arresting angles, showing the
same scene from different angles, close-up, cuts, frames and so on.
But unlike theatre and cinema, the cartoon story is usually the work
of a single artist, or in some cases an artist and a writer.
Speaking of cinema, I am reminded of film directors who are also
cartoonists. Did you know that David Lynch, director of marginal
films, has drawn cartoon strips published in American newspapers, and
that another American offbeat director, Tim Burton, is also a
cartoonist? Or about the contribution of cartoon stories drawn by the
renowned Italian director Federico Fellini to his films?
Eight films about the adventures of the American cartoon hero Dick
Tracy produced between 1937 and 1947 paved the way for a spate of
other films based on cartoon stories. Dick Tracy reappeared again in
recent years in a film starring Warren Beatty and Madonna. Tarzan,
Batman and Superman have all been adapted to the silver screen, along
with Jesuit Joe by the famous Italian cartoonist Hugo Pratt, and the
American cartoon Spawn. In Turkey, too, cartoon heroes like Karaoglan
and Tarkan have appeared in film versions.
The legendary Turkish cartoon magazine Girgir, which appeared in 1972,
and for several years was the world's third best selling cartoon
magazine after Mad and Krokodil, emerged on a wave of momentum
generated by such cartoon characters as Malkocoglu, Kara Murat, Ustura
Kemal, Abdulcanbaz, and Utanmaz Adam. It was with Girgir that I began
my own career as a cartoonist in 1976.
I wonder where the girl who was running through the rain is now? Well,
I have been daydreaming again, and she did not really exist. A
cartoonist's work and life are inseparable, because real life is where
it all begins. The door bell rings. Who can that be? I walked to the
door and open it. Ah! It is the girl I imagined a few moments ago.
Ergun Gunduz is an illustrator.