The Phantom debuted in number 502 of Ülkü Yayınevi’s children’s magazine Çocuk Sesi on the 3rd of August, 1939 under the odd title of ‘Dev Adam’ (translating to ‘Giant Man’).
In 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the 2nd World War, Tahsin Demiray’s Türkiye Yayınevi launched 1001 Roman which devoted the majority of its pages, as well as its covers, to comics.
The Phantom soon took its place in the pages of this highly popular publication, named as ‘Kızılmaske’ (Red Mask), which indicates that the source material might have come from Italy as the Phantom is known under a similar name there.
The Phantom would also be published in two short-lived children’s magazines, as ‘Fantoma’ in Asrın Çocuğu between 1939-40 and as ‘Kızıl Gölge’ (Red Shadow) in Yeni Macera Dünyası and its successor Çocuk Dünyası in 1940. In addition to the large formatted weekly periodical which serialized several different comics, Türkiye Yayınları also published medium-sized monthly special issues featuring a single hero in each issue; several of these were devoted to the Phantom.
1001 Roman survived throughout the war years, ceasing in 1952. Afterwards, Demiray launched a weekly comics periodical simply titled as Haftalık Albüm (Weekly Album) along the line of 1001 Roman’s ‘special issues’, which again frequently featured the Phantom. The covers of these weekly ‘albums’ were illustrated by an unknown Turkish.
In the same decade, Kemal Uzcan, an apparently pirate publisher also launched a weekly comics magazine titled as 1001 Özel (1001 Special), obviously to cash in on the popularity of the famous magazine. This magazine, which actually presented poorly traced comics packaged under generally attractive covers, also included the Phantom. Traced Phantom comics would also be used for filler purpose among the pages of Red Kit, the Turkish edition of Lucky Luke, in 1965.
The peak time of the Phantom comics in Turkey would be 1970’s when Tay Yayınları, Turkey’s leading comics publisher of the decade, would pick up the Phantom with license from Opera Mundi. Tay’s Kızılmaske would begin its weekly run in 1973.
It began with strips from a few years back, but as the magazines naturally caught up with the American run of the strip quickly, the backlog of strips stretching back to the previous decades were also used. Part of the credit for the success enjoyed by Tay’s publications must be given to covers by Turkish artists, most notably Aslan Sukur who illustrated most, if not all of the Kızılmaske covers.
In 1970s, when the Turkish market was flooded with comics of Italian origin (such as Zagor, Tex, Mister No, etc), the Phantom, as well as Mandrake, were arguably the only American-origin comics that managed to take a foothold; it is interesting to note that Superman was used as filler space among the pages of Kızılmaske!
Kızılmaske lasted until 1979 in the weekly format. Old issues were repackaged and sold as ‘albums’, and later, after the weekly run of the magazine ceased, the albums continued their run with reprints and occasional brand new adventures for several additional years. The weekly format would also be revived briefly in the coming years. Tay ceased operating in the 1990s.
A few years ago, Milliyet daily gave away one Kızılmaske comic. Recent color Phantom strips appeared in the Çizgi Film children’s magazine whose 1st issue came on August 2005.
In 2013, Büyülü Çizgi Roman published a 44 series comic book set, ending in 2017, containing mainly reprinted newspaper strip stories which had previously appeared in other Turkish publications, but with different story titles. Later in the series, unpublished stories also appeared, translated to Turkey. All issues from this series have covers drawn by Ertuğrul Edirne, previously unseen on other publications. Illustrations by Sy Barry can be found on the inside covers for all 44 issues.
1001 Roman weekly is a legendary title in the history of comic publications in Turkey. It was highly popular, very influential and is still fondly remembered by older generations. And for the new generation of comics fans, it radiates a magnetism so powerful as to make them nostalgic for an era they have missed.
Türkiye Yayınevi’s founder and owner Tahsin Demiray was actually a quite shadowy figure. Self-confessed to working for the secret intelligence service spying on Communists in Turkey in the early 1920’s, he would be involved with extreme right-wing politics in his later life. He is said to have built his fortunes by receiving the monopoly of publishing alphabet material from the government in the late 1920’s, quite a big business in Turkey in those years as the Arabic script was banned and the Latin script made obligatory as part of westernization reforms.
In 1936, Demiray’s Türkiye Yayınevi began publishing two children’s magazines, Yavrutürk and Ateş, both of which featured some comics among their pages alongside stories. While Yavrutürk, which appealed to a more juvenile readership, ran ‘Kara Kedi’ (Felix the Cat), as well as ‘Vakvak Kardeş’ (Donald Duck), Ateş’s 1st series (1936-37) serialized Mandrake’s first-ever adventure as well as some obscure comics; its 2nd series (1937-38) only featured Mandrake as comics material.
1001 Roman which began on the 10th of July, 1939 less than two months prior to the outbreak of the 2nd World War, devoted the majority of its pages to comic strips. The stable of comics featured in 1001 Roman over the years includes Brik Bradford, Alptekin (Buck Rogers), Sevim Gazeteci (Connie), Mandrake, Kartal İzciler (Eagle Scout Roy Powers), Maskeli Süvari (Lone Ranger), Gizli Polis X-9, Yıldırım Polis (King of the Royal Mounted), İki İzci (Tim Tyler’s Luck), Kızılmaske (the Phantom) and Tarzan.
Beginning with 1940, Türkiye Yayınevi also began to publish monthly ‘special issues’ of 1001 Roman, each issue of which was devoted to a single character.
1001 Roman survived throughout the war years thanks to high sales, which was said to be in “tens of thousands”, even though paper scarcity eventually necessitated a cutback in the number of pages. With this in mind however, 1001 Roman ceased in 1946 with edition number 350 due to the continuing economic hardship following the WW2.
1946 also saw the cancellation of the special issues, with the final edition being number 75.
1001 Roman’s 2nd series included only negligible amount of comics. As promised, the 3rd series (1948-52) emerged in the original format. A novelty of the 3rd series was the introduction of romance comics, but another highlight was ‘Nat Pinkerton’ (Rip Kirby).
The production techniques in 1001 Roman were various. It is not known if any of the comics were licensed or not; the magazine carried no copyright claims, so it can assumed that they were unlicensed. However, unlike the unlicensed comics of the 1950’s and onwards, most were printed from originals, and not from traced copies even though some were, and increasingly more so over the years.
The 3rd series ended in 1952 after no. 213. That year, Türkiye Yayınevi began to publish Haftalık Albüm (Weekly Album) similar to the format of 1001 Roman’s monthly special issues from the war years. It lasted for about a year, after which Türkiye Yayınevi seems to have pulled back from comics publishing.