'Çetin Kaptan' from Yavrüturk (1941)

The illustrator, caricaturist and comics artist Orhan Halil Tolon was one of the founding fathers of the Turkish comic strip during the 1930s. He was one of the few local contributors to children's magazines like Afacan and Çocuk Sesi. With 'Zıpzıp Ali'nin Oyunları' (1933-1935), he made the first Turkish humor comic with no political undertone. He also pioneered adventure and science fiction comics in his home country with heroes like 'Eciş & Bücüş', 'Lük-Lük' and 'Çetin Kaptan'. Tolon's work was heavily influenced by Western-European and American comics, with his 'Professor Nimbus' copy 'Tektel Amca' as prime example.

Early life and career
Orhan Tolon was born in 1912 in Istanbul. His father was Halil Fikri, the commander of the local gendarmerie. Already during his years at Galatasaray High School, the talented boy exhibited his paintings. They caught the attention of Mehmet Faruk Gürtunca, who immediately hired Tolon as a cover illustrator for his children's magazines Afacan, Çocuk Sesi and Gelincik. The young cartoonist/caricaturist also saw his drawings published in several humor magazines, all during Turkey's transition from Arabic to Latin script.

Comics in Turkey
The Ottoman Empire had come to an end in 1920, and the newly established Turkish Republic heralded in a period of modernization and more Westernised culture. From the 1930s on this was also noticeable in the Turkish children's magazines. Traditionally, cartoons and comic strips had been vehicles of propaganda. Cemal Nadir Güler's 'Amcabey' (1929-1947) was one of the country's first recognizable comics characters, but was still used to reflect its cartoonist's views on society. Çocuk Sesi ("Child's Voice") was the first children's magazine of the Turkish Republic, and one of the first publications to use comics as mere entertainment. Orhan Tolon was the only local artist, and one of innovators of the Turkish comic strip.


Cover illustration starring Donald Duck for Gelincik (12 September 1936)

Zıpzıp Ali
In the pages of Çocuk Sesi, Tolon introduced Turkey's first full-blown humor comic. He had begun working on 'Zıpzıp Ali' (1933-1935) in 1928, but it took until 17 April 1933 before the first page was published in Çocuk Sesi. It first appeared on the backpage of issue #172 as 'Zıpzıp Ali'nin Serüvenleri' ("The Adventures of Ali the Hopper"). But despite the mention "Continues next week", the feature didn't return until issue #221 of 19 March 1934, from now on under the title 'Zıpzıp Ali'nin Oyunları' ("The Games of Ali the Hopper"). The feature also briefly appeared in Afacan in 1934, but ended its run back in Çocuk Sesi in 1935. 'Zıpzıp Ali'nin Oyunları' consisted of one-page gags, and was inspired by American kids gang comics like Martin Branner's 'Perry and his Rinky-dinks'. The comic strip still had text captions underneath the images, but also made use of speech balloons, albeit limited.

Other comics for Çocuk Sesi
One of Tolon's other comics for Çocuk Sesi was 'Komik Fahri Polis Hafiyesi' ("Funny Honorary Police Week", issues #251-275 in 1935), a series with police humor about luck and disaster starring the character Fahri Gülünç. In September 1934 he also pioneered the science fiction genre with 'Eciş ile Bücüş Gök Yüzü Yolculuğu' ("The Sky Journey of Eciş and Bücüş"), which was serialized in Çocuk Sesi from issue #227 of 15 April 1935 on. His last new hero for the magazine was 'Lük-Lük', whose first adventure had him fighting gangsters in New York. 'Lük-Lük Altın Arıyor' ("Lük-Lük searches for gold") began publication in issue 309 of 25 November 1935.

Foreign inspirations
Tolon had a sharp eye for foreign comics, and either used them as inspiration for his own creations or to tip his editors to print them. As Turkey didn't join the Berne Convention for copyrights until 1952, local authors and publishers took the liberty to use foreign properties at will, either in newly produced stories or in redrawn originals. Tolon for instance used Walt Disney's Donald Duck on one of his cover illustrations for Gelincik magazine on 12 September 1936. When Tolon took over the adventures of the young sailor kid 'Çetin Kaptan' ("Captain Çetin") from Rakım Çalapala and Ercüment Kalmuk in Yavrutürk Çocuk Gazetesi, he also adopted the style of the French school. He even went so far as to introduce a new character called 'Tektel Amca' ("Uncle Tektel"), which was the spitting image of 'Professor Nimbus' from the French pantomime newspaper strip by André Daix! 'Tektel Amca' later also starred in his own humor strips. For the magazines Afacan and Gelincik, Orhan Halil Tolon furthermore made cover illustrations and even comic stories with William Ritt and Clarence Gray's 'Brick Bradford' ('Birad Buzlar Ülkesinde') and Alex Raymond's 'Jungle Jim' ('Avcı Baytekin'). In Afacan he additionally copied foreign 'Laurel & Hardy' comic strips.


'Afacan Dünyayı Dolaşıyor' (Afacan #9, 1935)

Comics for Afacan
Besides copying foreign material, Orhan Talil Tolon also introduced original creations to the readers of Afacan. He for instance drew the title comic 'Afacan Dünyayı Dolaşıyor' ("Afacan Roaming The World", 1934-1935). This was a typical text comic with heavy captions underneath the images. The adventures of Tolon's new hero 'Civa' were more modern and appeared from issue #73. He also continued 'Komik Fahri Polis Hafiyesi' in Afacan, while 'Çitinya Kralı Çetin' (starting in issue #237) was comical and fantasy-flavored. The 'Afacan' feature was revived by the artist Turhan Şimga in the new children's weekly Yeni Afacan in 1950.

Other comics
For the children's magazine Yavrutürk, launched in March 1936, he not only took over the adventures of 'Çetin Kaptan', but also created new kid heroes such as 'Acar' and 'Yavuz'. By 1939 Tolon was present in the magazine Cumhuriyet Çocuğu with the adventures of 'Cingöz'. Four years later he was present in Çocuk Haftası Dergisi with the new heroes 'Deniz Kurtları' (1943) and 'Totoş' (1943), both made in cooperation with scriptwriter Reşat Ekrem Koçu.

Later life
In 1941 Orhan Halil Tolon graduated from the Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts (Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi'nden) as an architect, and worked mainly in this profession for the rest of his career. He passed away in his late nineties in Istanbul on 29 January 2011.

Series and books by Orhan Halil Tolon in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

X

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