'Karaoğlan' #38.

Suat Yalaz was a Turkish comics artist and film producer, who began working for newspapers from a very young age. His first major series, about the historical swordswinger 'Karaoğlan', drew considerable attention since its beginning on 3 January 1962, and opened the doors to the press and cinema. As the creator of one of Turkey's best known comics characters, he was furthermore one of the few local authors with international exposure. During the 1970s he lived and worked in France, where he continued his signature series while also drawing for adult-oriented pocket comic books. In the final stages of his career, he made a series of documentary comic strips, dealing with the history of Islam and of the Ottoman Empire.

Early life
Yalaz was born in 1932 in Çiçekdağı, a town in the Kırşehir Province in Central Anatolia. His official birthdate was 1 January 1932, but at the time remote villagers of Anatolia often didn't declare the birth of a child at the town hall until several months later. As a result, the parents often no longer knew the exact date of birth, and the municipal employee therefore declared that the child was born on 1 January. His father was a clerk who regularly hopped from one administrative post to another. As a result his son spent his youth in Denizli, Adana and Kayseri. At age ten, the boy noticed the caricatures of Cemal Nadir Güler in the newspaper Cumhurriyet and was instantly captivated by cartooning as well as drawing in general. Many were amazed by the talent he already showcased at an early age. First of all his father, who introduced his son at the offices of the local newspaper, Türk Sesi. Browsing through his notebooks, the editors asked whose artwork the boy had copied? Deeply hurt, Suat Yalaz took his drawings and left the offices, crying. At age 16 he sold his first cartoons to the Erciyes Post, while living in Kayseri.

Professional debut
The actual launch of his professional career happened through a similar anecdote. In 1954, Suat Yalaz went to the offices of the newspaper Vatan, which was in need of young artists. Showing the art department the comic he had been working on since he was 17, 'İkizler Çiftliği' ("Gemini Farm"), the editors asked him the same question as the team of Türk Sesi: who did he copy? They were alerted by the fact that no pencil traces could be found on his drawings, only ink. It wasn't until Yalaz drew a horse in front of them without any preliminary sketching, that they were convinced of his capacities. It goes without saying that they immediately took him in, and began serializing his romantic melodrama comic strip. While still a student at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Istanbul, Suat Yalaz began contributing to several newspapers and satirical magazines. He made a comical version of 'Tarzan' (1957) for the new humor magazine Dolmuş in cooperation with scriptwriter Mehmet Bülent Oran. He also contributed many cover illustrations.


'Kaan Cengiz Han'ın Hazineleri' ("Kaan and the Treasures of Genghis Khan").

Kaan - background
In 1959 Yalaz began his career-changing collaboration with the legendary Turkish writer, architect and entrepeneur Abdullah Ziya Kozanoğlu. Kozanoğlu was the author of the historically important Turkish novel 'Kızıltuğ', which was first serialized in the magazine Resimli Mecmua in 1925-1926 and then reprinted on several occasions. The novel was very important in Turkish literature and also the first historical adventure novel from the Turkish republican period. 'Kızıltuğ' tells the Turkish history of Central Asia in the first quarter of the 1200s, focusing on the importance of the Turkish Union while recounting the war between Genghis Khan and China. Since its release, it has acted as an inspiration and a catalyst for comics, literature and as a pioneer for Turkish films produced by Yeşilçam Studios, recounting heroic figures in Turkish history. The novel has influenced generations of novelists and historical cartoonists, but also politicians and intellectuals. In the late 1950s Kozanoğlu himself began writing comics serials set in this same time period, launching  of the historical comics genre in his country. At first he worked with Ratip Tahir Burak on 'Kırk Şehitler Kalesi' ("The Fort of 40 Martyrs"), and then with Suat Yalaz, with whom he adapted his original 'Kızıltuğ' book into the comic 'Kaan Cengiz Han'ın Hazineleri' ("Kaan and the Treasures of Genghis Khan"). Serialization began in the newspaper Akşam on 19 August 1959.


'Karaoğlan'.

Kaan - serial
The story was about the hero Kaan, discovering his own identity, and his father Otsukarcı on the way to Genghis Khan's treasures. Kaan was not afraid of anything, approaching even the most dangerous enemy with a sarcastic attitude. Suat Yalaz felt this was not credible, and made some adjustments to the script, much to the dislike of scrtipwriter Kozanoğlu. The collaboration soured, which coincided with the artist's military service. Akşam's publisher wanted the series to continue, and brought in Galip Bülkat to draw it. This was not a success, so Suat Yalaz came back to the feature upon his return to civilian life. Yalaz and Abdullah Ziya Kozanoğlu worked out their differences, and from then on, the artist adapted the script summaries he had received from the scriptwriter to his own style. After the publication of nine new episodes between 1959 and 1961 the 'Kaan' series came to an end. Abdullah Ziya Kozanoğlu decided to leave because of a disagreement with certain editors of the newspaper.

Karaoğlan
Suat Yalaz however decided to continue the 'Kaan' series on his own, but under another name: 'Karaoğlan' (literally "Black Boy", because of his long black hair). He also changed the names of the other characters. Kaan's father Otsukarcı for instance became Baybora. Other important characters were Karaoğlan's faithful companion Balaban, a former captain from the Mongolian army, and his nemesis, the Mongolian bandit Camoka. The first episode of 'Karaoğlan' was published on 3 January 1962 in the Akşam newspaper. After a while, Yalaz wanted to stand on his own two feet and left the newspaper as well. His assistant at the time, Abdullah Turhan, was assigned to continue the serial. Turhan transformed it into his own series 'Uzun Kılıçlı Kahraman' ("The Hero With the Long Sword"), which later evolved into another classic Turkish adventure comic, 'Tolga' (1971).

Suat Yalaz in the meantime had restarted 'Karaoğlan' as a series of weekly comic books, of which the first issue was released on 1 April 1963. The series was continued by a variety of publishers until 2002, detailing the nomadic travels of the 23-year old Uyghur hero through China, India, Constantinople and Siberia. Hal Foster's 'Prince Valiant' was an obvious inspiration, while Turkish history and folklore were the series' other ingredients. The author tried to remain faithful to the language and daily life of the 12th and 13th century. Aimed at a mature audience, the series was imbued with war, politics, history, humor and eroticism, while the author also subtly addressed the social and political issues of his time in the stories. As a back-up feature, Yalaz additionally created the humor comic 'Bobizoros'.


'Bobizoros'.

Karaoğlan - adaptations
Throughout the years, 'Karaoğlan' has been adapted into several live-action films and TV series. As early as 1962 the original 'Kaan' story made by Suat Yalaz and Abdullah Ziya Kozanoğlu was adapted into the live action film 'Cengiz Han'in hazineleri' ('Treasures of Genghis Khan', 1962), with Orhan Günsiray as Karaoğlan and Atif Yilmaz as director. Yalaz himself served as writer, director and producer for several further adaptations, released between 1965 and 1969. The title role in the first five movies was portrayed by Kartal Tibet, a young actor who would become one of Turkey's leading movie stars. Kuzey Vargın replaced Tibet in Yalaz's sixth film, while Tibet returned to the role of Karaoğlan in the seventh movie, 'Karaoğlan Geliyor' ("Karaoğlan is coming", 1972), directed by Mehmet Aslan. Yalaz also made a spin-off film about the franchise's villain, called 'Camoka'nin dönüsü' ('Return of Camoka', 1968).

Like the comic books, the films were an instigator for the popularity of historical adventure movies in Turkey, while they also created awareness about the history of the Ottoman Empire among youngsters. Years later, in 2002, 'Karaoğlan' was adapted into a TV mini-series directed by Cem Akyoldaş and Erdogan Engin. A new 'Karaoğlan' feature film was directed by Kudret Sabanci and released in 2013, with Volkan Keskin in the starring role.

International success
'Karaoğlan' was one of the few Turkish series to gain fame outside of the borders. In 1971 Suat Yalaz moved to Paris, France, because filming the French-German-Turkish co-production 'Yüzbaşı Kartal' ('Captain Kartal', 1970), a spy movie, had turned into a financial disaster. In France, he continued to work on his 'Karaoğlan' comics. The pubishing house Lutèce released a first series of French translations under the title 'Changor' in 1971. After six issues, the comic was picked up by the Société Française de Presse Illustrée (SFPI) under the title 'Kébir' in a monthly (1971-1975, 73 issues) and a biweekly series (1975-1977, 46 issues). The books also contained back-up features like Gabi Arnao's 'Mol et Dendur' and Nicola Del Principe's 'Kado, petit Prince de la Brousse' and 'Pappys Bill', while Pierre-Léon Dupuis was an additional cover illustrator. From there on, the 'Kébir' books also found their way to the other French-speaking parts of the world, including the North African countries. They were also translated to English and Arabic (in Iraq it was called "Desert Eagle"), while a planned Russian edition was aborted.


'Futurella'.

Work for French and German publishers
Besides 'Kébir', Suat Yalaz also worked on other productions for SFPI. He, for instance, created the new "spaghetti western" heroes 'Ringo' (1971-1972, known in Turkey as 'Soni Ringo') and 'Sony' (1972-1974) for their pocket book line in a style inspired by Jean Giraud, and filled in for Jean-Marie Nadaud as scriptwriter for the 'Zorro' comic book (1971), drawn by Jean Pape. His feature 'Kaana l'Enfant Terrible du Jungle' was a comical 'Tarzan' parody, but it is unknown where or if it was ever published? Under the pen names Gi-Toro, Jimmy Toro or Walter Kimm he worked on many pornographic comic books for publishers like Elvifrance, Cottreau, Edilau, S.P.S., such as 'African Love' (1986), 'Anna' (1980-1982), 'Emma' (1979), 'Eros BD' (1982-1986), 'Futurella' (1984-1985), 'Kora', 'Lady Sex' (1981-1984), 'Lovisex' (1982), 'Privé (Détective strictement privé)' (1979), 'Sadissimo' (1984-1986), 'Satanika', 'Satarella' (1982-1986), 'Sex Negros' (1986-1987), 'Super Flic' (1979-1980) and 'Sylvia' (1981). 'Futurella' and 'Satarella' were obviously inspired by Jean-Claude Forest's 'Barbarella'. 'Privé (Détective strictement privé)' and 'Super Flic' both had the private investigator Pat Magnum as main hero. Yalaz was eventually succeeded on the comic book by the artist Vince Vita (a.k.a. Enolativ Motticella).


Privé #3 - 'Le Naufragé des Bermudes'.

Yalaz was additionally active for the German publisher Bastei. In 1986 he provided artwork for the girls' comic 'Biggi', which was originally Purita Campos' 'Patty's World' , but by then already turned into an original German comic by Trini Tinturé. Yalaz furthermore contributed at least one story to Bastei's horror anthology 'Gespenster Geschichten' (#1451) and was an artist for the kids' titles 'Anton und der kleine Vampir' (1990-1991) and 'Peter Pan und die Piraten' (1991-1992).

Later work
Yalaz eventually returned to Turkey, where he had always continued his association with the press. With the scriptwriter Suavi Süalp, he made the feature 'Çapkın Hırsız' ("The Charming Thief") for the satirical magazine Çarşaf. During the 1980s he worked as a caricaturist and comics artist for the newspaper Güneş. His true history daily strips 'Enver Paşa Efsanesi' ("The Legend of Enver Pasha"), 'Kutsal Savaşlar' ("The Holy Wars") and 'Resimli İslam Tarihi' ("The Illustrated History of the Islam") were syndicated to several papers in the late 1980s. For the newspaper Takvim, he adapted another Abdullah Ziya Kozanoğlu novel to comics format: 'Kolsuz Kahraman', which appeared under the title 'Alpago' (1995).


'Halid Bin Velid'.

Documentary comics
From the late 1980s until the early 2000s he made several so-called "documentary comics" for the newspaper Sabah. Many were religion-themed, others based on historical events, such as the assassination of Atatürk or the life story of 7th century Muslim commander Khalid ibn al-Walid ('Halid Bin Velid'). His true history daily strips 'Enver Paşa Efsanesi' ("The Legend of Enver Pasha"), 'Kutsal Savaşlar' ("The Holy Wars") and 'Resimli İslam Tarihi' ("The Illustrated History of the Islam") were also syndicated to other papers. His best known creation for his documentary comics was 'Son Osmanlı Yandım Ali'. The Navy officer Yandım Ali can be considered a reincarnation of Karaoğlan, whose adventures are set during the last stages of the Ottoman Empire. The stories were well-documented and historically accurate, although the author not directly addresses the life of Atatürk, the War of Independence and the founding of the Republic. The stories were published in newspaper like Sabah, Yeni Asır, Tercüman, Dünden Bugüne and Yeni Çağ in the early 1990s. Yalaz collected several of these stories in comic books under his own Karaoğlan imprint. 'Son Osmanlı Yandım Ali' was successfully adapted into the live action film 'The Last Ottoman: Knockout Ali' (2007), under direction of Mustafa Şevki Doğan.


'Son Osmanlı Yandım Ali'.

Final years
Suat Yalaz retired from most of his drawing activities in 2001. Among his final deeds was the release of his comic strips in book format, and reprinting his 'Karaoğlan' stories in a series of 57 digest-sized books with the publisher Lâl Kitap. He was named "Turkish Cartoonist of the Year" in 2002. In 2006 the Turkish postal services issued a series of memorial stamps with Karaoğlan to honour the comics icon. He spent his final years working on the scripts of the previously mentioned movie projects based on 'Son Osmanlı Yandım Ali' and 'Karaoğlan'.

Suffering from a heart condition, Suat Yalaz passed away in Istanbul on 2 March 2020, at the age of 88. Coincidentally he died on exactly the same day as his colleague Abdullah Turhan, who was one year younger. Both Yalaz and Turhan go down in history as the pioneering grandmasters of the historical adventure comic in Turkey.

Series and books by Suat Yalaz in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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