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Today we look at the cover stories of the main weekly comics magazines from Turkey. It is by no means out of the ordinary for these weeklies, namely Leman, Uykusuz, Gırgır and Penguen, to criticize the government and offer a satirical perspective on social and political affairs in Turkey. This is what they stand for, and such magazines have a long and rich tradition in Turkey.
Turkish satirical publications can be traced back 140 years to the Ottoman period. Cartoonists in the late 19th century were vocal critics of the Sultan Abdülhamid II, who forbid all forms of satirical publications. Many of these magazines responded by moving from Istanbul to publish in Cairo, London and Geneva, sneaking their magazines back into Istanbul and the rest of the Empire. Although these early examples were very popular, it wasn’t until the magazine Gırgır came along in 1972 that satirical comics experienced their golden age. Published until 1993, Gırgır can be credited for establishing modern political cartooning in Turkey during the tumultuous 70’s and 80’s. In 2008, independently from its earlier incarnation, Gırgır restarted its publication and joined the cadre of other similar magazines founded by its former contributors and their students, among them Leman, Uykusuz and Penguen.
These weekly comics magazines can be found on every newsstand in Turkey, from the street corner kiosk in Beyoğlu to chain bookshops in shopping malls and airports. They contain both comic strips and columnists. The comic art they feature includes both single-panel gags and ongoing story lines. Many of their contributors enjoy a cult following, and periodically they publish their collections of single-panel comics and complete arcs of their ongoing series.
The owners, relying solely on magazine sales, have had their share of trials and prosecutions throughout the years. They are even forced to remain discreet when advertising their office place as some have already been under attack (see for instance the arson attack on Leman offices in May 2012).
It is also important to note that Leman has also founded a monthly magazine focused on women comics artists titled Bayan Yanı (The Woman’s Side), with Ramize Erer as editor in chief. Erer, who is also the wife of Leman editor in chief Tuncay Akgün, lives in Paris with her children because she felt under too much pressure in Turkey.
These magazines remained critical and irreverent throughout the decade Erdoğan has been in power, so there was no reason why they should have kept silent, like the mainstream Turkish media, when protests began sprouting up all over Turkey last week. Here, then, are this week’s cover stories:
Leman: “There’s a menace called Twitter, all the worst lies are there. What they call social media is in reality the major menace on societies” (Direct quote from RTE captioning the magazine’s cover art)
Penguen: Turkey, you look so beautiful when your resist!
Gırgır: “It stinks like freedom”
Uykusuz: “Come on Prime Minister, let’s for once not do something your way, it’s been years since we had our say… Relax mate”
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Susan Sheahan is the winner of the 2017 Observer/Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism, and is on a six-month residency at Free Word.
As a writer and critic, she contributes to The Observer and The Guardian, exploring visual culture, novels, …