The return of Abdülcanbaz, the Formidable Turk

The return of Abdülcanbaz, the Formidable Turk

EMRAH GÜLER ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
The return of Abdülcanbaz, the Formidable Turk

Abdülcanbaz blossomed into a true hero, with the manners of a true gentleman. He soon developed a character that was courageous in the face of injustice, always standing side by side with the downtrodden.

He is an Istanbul gentleman. He is the Formidable Turk, the man of steel from the Old World. He is Abdülcanbaz, the ultimate Turkish comic book hero, who has managed to stay relevant for over half a century.

Today, we are remembering Turhan Selçuk, the mind that brought to life Abdülcanbaz, on the second anniversary of his death. Selçuk began drawing Abdülcanbaz for daily Milliyet in 1957, with Aziz Nesin, the doyen of humor in Turkish literature, as his writing partner.

For a brief period in the beginning, Abdülcanbaz’s character was far from the virtuous, charismatic, honest and courageous character that he has since come to be known as, instead being simply a tourist guide with shady morals. But it would not stay like this for long, as Abdülcanbaz underwent a 180-degree makeover when Selçuk began writing and drawing the strip on his own.

Abdülcanbaz blossomed into a true hero, with the manners of a true gentleman. He soon developed a character that was courageous in the face of injustice, always standing side by side with the downtrodden. He was both the idealized and caricatured version of a Turkish man, with his sleek moustache reminiscent of the janissaries of the Ottoman era. Sometimes wearing a fez, and wearing it very well, Abdülcanbaz was a fashion icon long before men were expected to be chic.

Turhan Selçuk, early on in the life of the strip, let a penniless Abdülcanbaz sleep in a dog’s kennel.

During this unusually uncomfortable night, Abdülcanbaz had a dream in which he was living in the Ottoman Empire, which marked the beginning of his adventures in the Ottoman world. Selçuk must have gotten a kick out of sending his hero to a different era, as the adventures soon turned into a comic reader’s postmodern dream.

From then on, Abdülcanbaz and his friends broke free from the boundaries of time and place. They traveled to a distant future, to a World War between the two supposed superpowers America and Japan, to outer space, to the Turkish War of Independence, to a 1930s gangster scene in America, to ancient Mesopotamia, to a place seven layers beneath the Earth’s surface, and to the mystical land of Foncistan.

HDN Carrying cartoons to epic dimensions

Abdülcanbaz and his weirdly-eclectic friends and enemies also met with historical figures such as 17th century Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi, 16th century Ottoman Admiral Turgut Reis, Al Capone, as well as the Knights of St. John. They also shared adventures with other fictional heroes such as the gentleman thief, Arsène Lupin.

Abdülcanbaz is a man possessing physical prowess, and even superpowers at times, though he generally prefers to use his wits and the famous Ottoman slap across the face with the speech balloon of “Şraaak!” covering the panel to dramatic effect.

He is also the epitome of a ladies’ man, not unlike another gentleman hero James Bond. Voluptuous, sensuous women grace Abdülcanbaz’s strips in nearly every adventure. The names of these women are well suited to their larger-than-life characters, with monikers such as Earthshattering Saliha, Raziyah the Peddler, Ramona, and Elefteria.

Abdülcanbaz’s adventures in print have reached the Formidable Turk’s fans through the pages of the dailies Milliyet, Yeni İstanbul, Akşam, and Cumhuriyet, as well as of independent publications.

Abdülcanbaz was adapted for the screen in 1966, and was turned into stage productions in 1972 and 1994. The Turkish Post Office also issued a stamp honoring this timeless Turkish hero.

Turhan Selçuk won his first award in 1955, and went on to accumulate the accolades over decades. He was also the founder of the Turkish Cartoonists Association, along with Semih Balcıoğlu and Ferit Öngören. The great Turkish writer and a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, Yaşar Kemal, has described Selçuk as a “Master of Lines.”

“One can very well be a Chekhov, a Sait Faik [20th century Turkish writer], a Mansfield, while drawing cartoons. One can take the potential of cartoon to epic dimensions. I believe that is what Turhan achieved, that is where he took cartoons.”

Before his death, Turhan Selçuk transferred all rights to his work on Abdülcanbaz to Group Biz Art Collection, in order to ensure that all aspects of his legacy were protected and promoted. The group has been doing quite an impressive job revamping Abdülcanbaz for new media, and introducing him to new readers. His adventures have been reprinted, with selected adventures available first in English and later in 10 other languages. The Facebook page is a tour-de-force, and there is even an Abdülcanbaz iPad app for fans.

Check for a glimpse into this new epic.