Tuesday, December 23, 2008
YUGOSLAVIAN COMICS IN TURKEY - PART 1: COUNTESS MARGO
Several pre-war comics of Yugoslavian origin were among the many comics published in Turkey's major war-time weekly comics magazine 1001 Roman during the last two years of its first series (1939-46). Especially the works of artist Konstantin Kuznjecov appear to have been featured regularly between 1945-46. The first comics by Kuznjecov that I have been able to identify as being reprinted in 1001 Roman is the outstanding 'Grofica Margo (Countess Margo)' which was serialized in no.'s 283-327 in 1945 as 'Kontes Margo'. It had originally been published in Yugoslavia's Mika Miš comics magazine in 1938.
'Grofica Margo' is remarkable for both its story and for its graphic qualities. The non-conventional page layout with playing cards imaginatively scattered amongst the panels in the above scan is a good example of the latter quality. As for the story, it is built on a terrific mystery plot with some delicious gothic trappings, both in terms of themes and of motifs. The comics begins with an elderly count living alone in a castle dying of fright at the appearance of a ghosly female figure at midnight. His heirs come to the castle and learn the terrible curse haunting the family. The recounting of origin of the curse entails a very long flashback, running 17 full pages in the Turkish edition. More than 300 hundred years ago, an ancester of the family had married a peasant girl named Margo. Unfortunately, she couldn't bear him a male child and, worried that she might lose her husband because of this reason, the misguided young woman, assisted by her grandmother, kill her female newborn with the intention of replacing the poor infant with a male baby! I guess the theme of maternal infanticide is very rare in comics. This shocking murder is depicted as such in the below panel:
The gruesomely cruel actions do not end here as the husband, who happens to fall onto the scene just too late, has poor Margo walled up in a chamber alive... Her grandmother curses the whole family as a result.
After the long flashback ends, the plot resumes with further appearances of a ghost in the castle terrorizing the new owners as well as some less supernatural-looking attempts on their lives. With secret passages and black hooded figures, it reminds me the best of Edgar Wallace mysteries, esp. The Black Abbot (1926).
The Turkish edition in 1001 Roman is a flawed reprint unfortunately. Some sequences during the flashback appear to be abridged with a few pages completely redrawn ineptly for some reason. Furthermore, roughly halfway through the story, the format changes from full page (as in the first scan at the top of this blog) to 2/3rds of a page with standartly neat row/panel design (as in the above scan) at the expense of the free-style layout of the earlier pages.
Prior to its run at 1001 Roman, 'Grofica Margo' had also been reprinted in the French comics magazine Gavroche (no. 13-54) in 1941 in a colorized edition which foregoes the subtleties of the original black&white art.
'Kontes Margo' was followed in 1001 Roman by yet another Kuznjecov comics, but that will be covered in the next post in this blog, so stay tuned on...