Turkish special Zone 5300

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Illustration: MK Perker

The celebration of 400 years of diplomatic relations between Turkey and The Netherlands might tempt a magazine’s editors, looking for fresh angles, to dedicate an issue to the topic… Zone 5300 did, and struck gold.

The thing about European comics is that the genre seems to have just a few torchbearers, Belgium being the Mount Olympus and The Netherlands, France, Spain and maybe Italy the foothills. Discovering that there is another country on the continent with a rich comic traditions (and a narrative of adversity to boot—censorship being a day-to-day reality in Turkey)? This is just the thing I am reading Zone 5300 for, baby!

Illustration: Bahadır Baruter

Issue 98 has comics by MK Perker, Bahadır Baruter, Memo Tembelçizer, Betül Yilmaz (who writes and draws for Bayan Yanı, a magazine filled only by female cartoonists), Kenan Yarar and Ersin Karabalut. The issue also contains a six page history of Turkish comics and an interview with Dutch illustrator Gijs Kast about his drawn portraits of the streets of Istanbul.

I especially liked Ersin Karabulut’s comic Under the Skin about a skin disease that manifests itself as a life form that can speak. It does this by forming letters on the skin of its carrier. Although Karabulut does not shy away entirely from the farcical possibilities his idea offers, the comic really is an exploration of how the carriers respond to their new predicament, specifically how they change under the pressures of their environment… or do they? I really don’t want to give away too much, but this comic alone packs a lot of punch in only six pages. I would not mind reading more from Karabulut to see if he can keep up this level of story telling.

Illustration: Gijs Kast

Illustration: Ersin Karabulut. The disease says: "Why don't you ever make filled eggplant?"

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