Following the beginnings of the Turks as a nomadic tribe, Karaoğlan travels throughout a vast portion of the world in his adventures from China to India and Anatolia. His league consists of his friend, Balaban, who fills the role of comic relief, and his father, Baybora, with the Mongolian bandit Camoka as his archenemy. Karaoğlan was also the first Turkish comic book to be published internationally. Karaoğlan's adventures were published for seven years in France under the name Kebir.
'The first Turkish child hero'
Suat Yalaz was careful in portraying daily life and the language of the era as accurate as possible. However, another cartoonist, Sezgin Burak, blended stories from world mythology with Turkish folklore, becoming the most famous of the “Heroes with Swords.” Burak’s hero Tarkan is a Hunnic Turk, although he looks more Scandinavian than Turkish.
Tarkan is a Hunnic warrior who served Attila the Hun in the 4th century. The story of his origin stems from different mythological stories. Born as the son of a Hunnic warlord in the Caucasus Mountains, Tarkan’s parents were slaughtered when he is an infant. He is then raised by grey wolves. He grows up to be a solitary warrior, and his only companion is a wolf, called simply Kurt, which is the Turkish word for wolf.
Most of the adventures of Tarkan were set in northern, northwest and middle Europe, where Vikings and Romans were some of the enemies. While Tarkan called himself a ‘Hunnic Turk,’ the word Turk was not used in the time period he lived in.
"Tarkan's stories were published once again last year," says Ertuğ. "It's amazing to see how popular he continues to be. He has fans from those who want to capture the nostalgia of their childhood in the 1960s to teenagers obsessed with ‘Dungeons and Dragons.’"
What could be the appeal? As Cesur Koprulu believes, "Tarkan captures a sense of nationalism and heroism that is not violent, racist nor discriminatory while still advocating a sense of importance of being a Turk."
While the two heroes from half a century before are being revamped and meeting old and new comic book fans, there is a brand new Turkish hero who has recently hit the bookshelves. Created by journalist Fehmi Demirbağ with the novels written by another journalist Hasan Taşkın, HeroTürk, the adventures of a Turkish child hero has been published both in prose and as a comic book.
The story of HeroTürk, the little Turkish hero, goes back to 13th century Beijing, during the reign of the Mongol Empire’s famous khagan Kublai Khan. The adventures take the little hero and his culturally diverse friends on a historically rich journey from meeting Marco Polo to Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II and his conquest of Istanbul.
Demirbağ says that the Turkish comic book heroes of the 1960s and 1970s were "all created for grown-ups. There was a lack of a Turkish hero appealing to children. HeroTürk is the first Turkish child hero." With a club consisting of six children from different nations, including Greece, China and Nigeria, the comic book hopes to enhance Turkey’s image abroad.