Ratip Tahir Burak was a Turkish comic artist, caricaturist, painter and journalist, who worked for many papers and magazines from the 1920s through the 1960s. One of the pioneers of Turkish comics, Burak originated the historical adventure genre in his home country. His many serials about Ottoman heroes (including several wrestlers!) ran in newspapers like Hürriyet, Yeni Sabah and Akşam, while the party magazine Ulus contained his political satire. He often signed with only "Ratip Tahir".

Early life
Burak was born in 1904 in Istanbul as the son of a Navy officer of Circassian descent. Before his career took an artistic direction, it seemed that he would follow in his father's footsteps. In 1921 the boy graduated from the Naval High School on Heybeliada, the second largest of the Prince Island in the Sea of Marmara. At age 17, he had already climbed up to the rank of captain. This formal background would provide much inspiration for his later comics serials; many dealt with naval subjects.

Early cartooning career
On 13 July 1922, Ratip Tahir Burak published his first cartoon in the pages of the satirical magazine Aydede. Debuting in the middle of the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923), Burak's cartoon output quickly expanded to other magazines such as Akbaba, Zümrüdrüdüanka and Karagöz, between 1922 and 1925. With support of Turkish prime minister İsmet İnönü, the young artist attended art school in Paris between 1926 and 1928. Upon his return home, he began giving drawing lessons himself to the kids in the Istanbul's Kabataş quarter. He also resumed his work as a cartoonist and illustrator for the magazines Karagöz and Karikatür, but also for publishing houses. By 1936, Ratip Tahir Burak moved to Ankara, where he worked as an illustrator for several government agencies. He also made illustrations for historical serials and picture stories, but his actual career as a comic artist didn't take off until his return to Istanbul in 1950.

'Barbaros'un Son Seferi'.

Hürriyet newspaper
Back in Istanbul, Burak began an association with the newspaper Hürriyet. For its Sunday supplement, he launched an adventure comic serial based on the great 16th-century Ottoman admiral Khayr ad-Din Barberousse (Hayreddin Barbarossa). It debuted on 30 April 1950. The epic story, titled 'Barbaros'un Son Seferi' ("Barbarossa's Last Expedition") was reprinted in book format by the publishing house Atlas in 1963. Also in 1950, he published a historical serial based on the famous Ottoman wrestler 'Koca Yusuf' (1857-1898), followed in 1951 by 'Cem Sultan', about the 15th-century pretender to the Ottoman throne. Other historical serials by Ratip Tahir Burak for Hürriyet were 'Saray Kadınları' ("Women of the Palace", 1951) and 'Bir Yemin Uğruna' ("For An Oath", 1953).

'Şanli Plevne' (1953).

Yeni Sabah and other publications
He then transferred to the newspaper Yeni Sabah, for which he also made serials about heroes and events from the days of the Ottoman Empire. Yeni Sabah ran 'Lale Devri' ("The Tulip Age", 1953), and 'Şanli Plevne' (1953). Throughout the decade, Burak's comics also appeared in the children's magazine Kumbara, a publication of the investment bank Türkiye İş Bankası, and the satirical magazines Taş and Taş-Karikatür.

The 'Oldu da Bitti Maşallah' cartoon, which caused Burak's prison sentence in 1956.

Political work
For many years, Burak was a caricaturist for Ulus, the official newspaper of the Republican People's Party (CHP). The CHP had been the governing party since the Turkish independence in 1923. Besides cartoons, caricatures and illustrations, Burak contributed the humorous historical adventure serial 'Sihirli Kaftan' ("The Magical Kaftan", 1951). His cartoons became more biting and critical after the CHP lost the 1950 elections to the Demokrat Parti (DP). The defeat marked the end of Turkey's one-party era, and the start of the privatization of state industries, a less secular administration and the resurgence of Islam. The harsh tone of Burak's satire was not without consequences. His 1956 cartoon 'Oldu da Bitti Maşallah' ("It's all over, Maşallah") shows a young boy in tears, because he is about to be circumcised. The kid represents the press ("Basın" is written on his cap, meaning press), while the medical team consists of members of the new government. It was ironically this cartoon, warning against censorship, that caused the cartoonist to serve a prison sentence of 485 days. Many of his political drawings were collected in the book 'Karikatur Albumu' (1952).

'Kırk Şehitler Kalesi'.

By the late 1950s, Tahir Ratip Burak returned to making adventure comics serials, this time for the newspaper Akşam. One of his most notable productions was a collaboration with the great novelist and scriptwriter Abdullah Ziya Kozanoğlu. Their historic adventure serial 'Kırk Şehitler Kalesi' ("The Fort of 40 Martyrs", 1959) told the legend of the Turkish martyr Kırk Akıncı, who stopped the armies of Charles V near Vienna. Burak subsequenly contributed the serials 'Bize Barbaroslu derler' (1960), 'Kara İbo' (1964), another story about a famous wrestler, 'İstanbul'un Fethi' ("The Conquest of Istanbul", 1964) and 'Hürrem Sultan' (1964), about Roxelane, the 16th-century chief consort and legal wife of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Several of Burak's comics for both Yeni Sabah and Akşam were also published in book format, as was his comics adaptation of Abdullah Ziya Kozanoğlu's novel 'Hilal ve Salip' (1967).

Final years and death
Among Burak's final comics serials were 'Kara Ahmet' (1968), the tale of yet another 19th-century wrestler, 'Timur' (1969) and 'Timur ve Yıldırım' ("Timur and Yildirim", 1970); all published in Akşam. The newspaper Milliyet ran Burak's picture story/text serial 'Tarihten Çizgiler' (AKA 'Tarihten Yapraklar') in 1970. Shortly before his death, Burak wrote and drew an illustrated serial called 'Solak Reis' (1976) for the Sarmaşık supplement of the newspaper Yeni Asır. The productive artist passed away on 28 October 1977.

Ratip Tahir Burak goes down in history as one of the founders of the Turkish adventure comic. Together with other masters like Sahap Ayhan and Orhan Ural, he was one of the most prominent authors of his generation. He has served as an inspiration and mentor for a new group of artists, most notably Abdullah Turhan and Suat Yalaz. Ten years after his death, the Turkish daily Günaydın reprinted his classic comics serial 'Cem Sultan', in 1986.

Series and books by Ratip Tahir Burak you can order today:


If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.