Özcan Eralp

by Andreas Eriksson

Özcan Eralp is one of the true veterans of the Swedish production of Phantom comics. He was born 1925 in Izmir, Turkey and first studied to become an engineer. However, he dropped out after getting a job at a newspaper. In 1960, he began to work as a commercial artist and has also worked with animated film.

In 1967 he travelled to Sweden to visit his brother who lived there. The visit became longer than he first planned, and after a few months he started to look for work as an artist, and eventually found his way to Semic Press. His first job was simple studio work such as drawing speech bubbles. After a while he also started to assist artist Torsten Bjarre with inking on the very popular Lilla Fridolf comic strip. Sometimes, when Bjarre was ill, he even ghosted entire episodes on his own. (Note: Hans Lindahl is another Phantom artist who would later draw Lilla Fridolf, between 1990 and 1994).

Self-portrait of Eralp

Eralp's dream however was to draw the Phantom, which he had been a fan of ever since he saw the old Tom Tyler serial in Turkey in the 1940s. Ebbe Zetterstad, then editor of Fantomen, first laughed at Eralp's aspirations but less than a year later his dream came true. At first, it was only a matter of drawing extra panels to improve the Italian stories obtained from Fratelli Spada. His first work on the Phantom was published in Fantomen Nr.2/1968, where he had done additional art in a story drawn by Germano Ferri. In the splash page for this story, the top panel was created by Eralp while the two smaller panels at the bottom were by Ferri. After a few years, Semic decided to increase the production of their own Phantom stories, and Eralp got the chance to draw his first complete Phantom story. The Treasure Seeker in Fantomen Nr.4/1970 was both written and drawn by him. Eralp would continue to write or co-write several stories over the years.

Most of his stories from 1970-72 were remakes of old Lee Falk newspaper stories. Unlike more recent remakes, these were not so faithful to the original -- apparently the idea was to make them seem like a brand new story. The panels below show Wilson McCoy's Oogooru and the Witchmen compared with Eralp's redrawn version for Fantomen Nr.8/1970 (the small initials ÖE appear the bottom-right corner, but are not clear in this small image). During this period, Eralp also redrew three short stories originally published in Charlton's Phantom magazine.

D75, 7 Jan 1960 Fantomen Nr.8/1970
art by Wilson McCoy remake by Özcan Eralp

By the time Ulf Granberg became editor of Fantomen and the Swedish production of Phantom stories really took off, Eralp had already returned home to his native Turkey and the city of Istanbul. It was in this exotic environment that he created the artwork for the memorable "cowboy stories" (three stories about the 17th Phantom in the Wild West; Terror in the Desert, Wagon Master and The Indian Hater) and - of course - Intrigue in Istanbul!

In 1976, Eralp and Swedish veteran Bertil Wilhelmsson began to work together with Wilhelmsson pencilling and Eralp inking. The result of their cooperation was often described as being better than when they worked individually. They made several memorable stories together, such as Lethal Dose, The Tyrant in Tiang and Grand Prix, after which Wilhelmsson left the Phantom comic for a few years. A typical example of their collaborative artwork is shown HERE, taken from the 1977 story The Tyrant in Tiang (not published in Australia).

Eralp remained an important and reliable cornerstone for the Semic production of Phantom stories throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. One of his own favourite stories, which also became very popular with the readers, was Guran's Secret from 1985. Guran featured with the leading role in another of Eralp's stories, The Old Bandar in 1987.

Besides working on the Phantom, Eralp also did colour illustrations for various Turkish magazines. In the early 1980s he won a short story competition, but since he was working for the magazine that held the competition he entered under the name of his wife's sister. Naturally, he won and his wife's sister was perplexed when she received offers to write novels! In the mid 1980s he also finished his first novel, a mostly autobiographical story. It is not known if the novel was ever published.

Self-portrait of Eralp When working on a Phantom story, Eralp would first pencil out the story in a small format in caricature style to decide the layout. After the page layout is done, he would pencil the story in full size (about 460mm x 350mm) and ink as he went along through the story from start to finish. He enjoyed inking other artists' work almost as much as doing own stories, and in 1986-88 he once again teamed up with Bertil Wilhelmsson (and Knut Westad, but only for one story before Westad left the Phantom).

Caricatures is something Eralp enjoys, and it is no surprise that he cites Lucky Luke artist Morris (Maurice de Bévere) as one of his inspirations. Eralp sent the self portrait on the right to Ulf Granberg before a meeting in Copenhagen in 1979: the Swedish text says "I look almost like this." Eralp was fluent in Swedish and received many of the scripts in Swedish.

In his 1989 story The Secret of the Volcano Valley (which he also developed the plot for), Eralp experimented by leaving some panels in pencilled form rather than inking over them. The effect was remarkably beautiful, as shown in the example panel below.

Fantomet Nr.2/1990

Another memorable work by Eralp was the Map of Bengali, a giant painting that was published as a poster in Fantomen in 1984. It was officially sanctioned by Lee Falk and has served as the model for all maps of Bengali in Semic/Egmont stories since. It can currently be viewed online here.

In 1991, Eralp's last Phantom story was published, his only one made for colour publishing. The splash page from this story can be viewed here.

After more than 20 years and an admirable amount of work on the character he loved more than any other, Özcan Eralp certainly qualifies as an integral part of the Swedish Phantom production and contributed greatly to the success of Fantomen.

Source: Interview in Fantomen 24/1986

Index of Özcan Eralp's Phantom stories

Eralp's first work on The Phantom was to prepare additional art for stories originally created in Italy. The stories were often largely rewritten (by Janne Lundström and Magnus Knutsson for example) both to improve the storylines and to make them longer, and in some cases to combine two Italian stories. It was Eralp's job to redraw parts of these stories, as well as draw some completely new scenes, all while mimicking the original artist's style as much as possible.

#Story TitlePagesFantomenOriginal ArtistSource
1Uppror i djungeln
Rebellion in the Jungle
31F 2/1968FerriSpada#?+Spada#?
2Banditer på Fantomens ö
Bandits on the Phantom's Island
31F 10/1968?Spada#?+Spada#?
3Järnhandens hämnd
Revenge of the Iron Hand
24F 11/1968?Spada#?
4De gröna monstren
The Green Monsters
24F 12/1968?Spada#?
5Striden i träsket
The Battle in the Swamp
24F 13/1968?Spada#?
6Järnhandens borg
The Castle of the Iron Hand
24F 15/1968?Spada#?
The Jewel Theft
24F 16/1968?Spada#?
The Kidnapper Gang
24F 17/1968?Spada#?
The Gold Thieves
24F 18/1968?Spada#?
10Tigerdalens hemlighet
The Secret of the Tiger Valley
24F 19/1968?Spada#?
The Slavers
24F 20/1968FerriSpada#?
12Fångar i djungeln
Prisoners in the Jungle
24F 22/1968?Spada#?
13Nattens ryttare
Riders of the Night
24F 23/1968?Spada#?
14Farlig gisslan
Dangerous Hostage
24F 24/1968?Spada#?
15Clarence's läxa
Clarence's Lesson
16F 25/1968SciottiSpada#36
The Fire Test
24F 26/1968?Spada#?
17Hämndens testamente
The Testament of Vengeance
24F 1/1969?Spada#?
18Sabotage24F 3/1969?Spada#?
Jungle Spies
24F 4/1969?Spada#?

After this, Eralp got the chance to draw Phantom stories all on his own. Although some of them are based on American stories, the artwork is completely new unlike the Italian stories above. The Team Fantomen story number is shown in the first column. Only a handful of these 76 stories have been published in Frew's Phantom comic, with the issue numbers indicated in the last column.

F#Story titleWriterArtistPagesFantomenFrew
The Treasure Seeker
EralpEralp25F 4/1970 
022ADen flygande hästen
The Flying Horse
Falk (D75)Eralp30F 8/1970 
The Gladiators
EralpEralp24F 10/1970 
026ADiana kidnappad
Diana Kidnapped
Falk (D40)Eralp24F 12/1970 
The Fencing Master
Falk (D64)Eralp16F 16/1970 
The Jungle King
Falk (S27)Eralp14F 16/1970 
030ADödens gudinna
The Goddess of Death
Falk (D36,S24)Eralp24F 18/1970 
031AFlickan utan minne
The Girl Without Memory
Falk (D6)Eralp24F 22/1970 
032AMysteriet med pilringen
The Mystery of the Arrow Ring
Falk (D11)Eralp22F 23/1970 
035AKuppen i Volara
The Coup In Volara
Falk (D27)Eralp24F 5/1971 
036ADödens ö
The Island of Death
Falk (D69)Eralp24F 8/1971 
The Boxing Mystery
Falk (D33)Eralp24F 10/1971 
039ADjungelligans återkomst
Return of the Jungle League
Falk (D37,S25)Eralp25F 12/1971 
041ADöd eller levande
Dead or Alive
Falk (D53)Eralp24F 18/1971 
042ADrama i öknen
Drama in the Desert
Falk (D9)Eralp25F 21/1971 
The Diamond Heist
Falk (D72)Eralp24F 24/1971 
The Diamond Mystery
Falk (D46)Eralp15F 5/1972 
049Singhpiraternas skatt
The Treasure of the Singh Pirates
LundströmEralp17F 11/1972 
The Pygmy Ruby
Gill (Charlton #45)Eralp8F 11/1972 
053AGeneralernas jakt
The Generals' Hunt
Falk (D35,S23)Eralp24F 16/1972 
054AMannen i träsket
The Man in the Swamp
?Eralp9F 18/1972 
056ADet begravda vittnet
The Buried Witness
Falk (S33)Eralp16F 21/1972 
057AKonungarnas grotta
The Cave of Kings
Gill (Charlton #45)Eralp7F 21/1972 
The Gold of Destiny
Falk (D34,S22)Eralp23F 26/1972 
061Den försvunna guldtransporten
The Missing Gold Transport
EralpEralp12F 2/1973 
064Intrig i Istanbul
Intrigue in Istanbul
LundströmEralp23F 6/1973 
070Joomba försvunnen
Joomba Missing
EralpEralp9F 19/1973 
The Jungle Demon
EralpEralp10F 3/1974 
The Elephant's Graveyard
EralpEralp16F 6/1974 
The Pirate Treasure
EralpEralp13F 6/1974 
The Escape
EralpEralp10F 11/1974 
087Terror i öknen
Terror in the Desert
LundströmEralp10F 17/1974 
088Nattens gäster
Guests of the Night
EralpEralp11F 21/1974 
089Ondskans lustgård
The Guarden of Evil
EralpEralp15F 21/1974 
091Kolgruvans hemlighet
The Secret of the Coal Mine
LundströmEralp25F 23/1974 
The Slavers
Eralp/LundströmEralp19F 3/1975 
098Diana gift
Diana Married
Eralp/LundströmEralp18F 6/1975 
100Wagon MasterGranberg/LundströmEralp24F 9/1975 
105Lauranns bröllop
Laurann's Wedding
Granberg/LundströmEralp18F 15/1975 
110Statyetternas gåta
The Secret of the Statues
LundströmEralp17F 21/1975 
The Indian Hater
LundströmEralp19F 24/1975 
122Luaga kidnappad
Luaga Kidnapped
Wilhelmsson/LundströmWilhelmsson/Eralp 28F 16/1976789
The Witch
Eralp/GranbergEralp20F 19/1976 
The Traitor
Eralp/GranbergEralp14F 19/1976 
127Skräckens stad
The City of Horror
WorkerWilhelmsson/Eralp 32F 22/1976 
Atomic Terror
EklundWilhelmsson/Eralp 32F 24/1976 
133Sista uppdraget
Last Mission
WorkerWilhelmsson/Eralp 29F 2/1977776
137Tyrannen i Tiang
The Tyrant in Tiang
WorkerWilhelmsson/Eralp 31F 9/1977 
142Dödens triangel
The Triangle of Death
EklundWilhelmsson/Eralp 27F 18/1977731
144Farlig seglats
Dangerous Cruise
WorkerWilhelmsson/Eralp 31F 20/1977882
147Dödlig dos
Fatal Dose
EklundWilhelmsson/Eralp 31F 26/1977891A
151Den falske Fantomen
The False Phantom
WorkerWilhelmsson/Eralp 31F 8/1978791
154Den stora kapplöpningen
The Great Race
WorkerWilhelmsson/Eralp 32F 11/1978880
159Svindlande affärer
Dizzying Affairs
AvenellEralp33F 20/1978 
167Falskt spel
False Play
AvenellEralp31F 5/1979 
175Grand PrixWorkerWilhelmsson/Eralp 32F 17/1979 
The Youth Elixir
WorkerEralp31F 24/1979805
187De gåtfulla morden
The Mysterious Murders
AvenellEralp32F 12/1980 
The Moon Herb
AvenellEralp34F 23/1981  
238Död mans guld
Dead Man's Gold
WorkerEralp32F 17/1983  
The Curse
DarellEralp22F 12/1984  
262Poker med en vålnad
Poker with a Ghost
WorkerEralp34F 20/1984  
280Yohimbas gåva eller
Gurans hemlighet
Yohimba's Gift or
Guran's Secret
KharelliEralp30F 14/1985  
295Quabars hemlighet
Quabar's Secret
DarellEralp26F 6/1986 894
300Dimöns demon
The Demon of Fog Island
TierresWestad/Eralp34F 11/1986 
309Fasornas träsk
The Swamp of Horrors
TierresWilhelmsson/Eralp 30F 23/1986 927
313Den gamle bandaren
The Old Bandar
AvenellEralp26F 3/1987917
The Ghost Ship
TierresWilhelmsson/Eralp 34F 7/1987  
The Elephant Cult
TierresWilhelmsson/Eralp 29F 13/1987929
330Farornas flod
The River of Horrors
TierresWilhelmsson/Eralp 32F 22/1987  
The Elixir Maker
TierresWilhelmsson/Eralp 26F 1/1988 
The Wharf Rats
TierresWilhelmsson/Eralp 30F 7/1988  
353Dödligt uppsåt
Deadly Intent
TierresWilhelmsson/Eralp 29F 22/1988  
374Vulkandalens hemlighet
Secret of the Volcano Valley
Eralp/TierresEralp34F 18/1989  
The Oracle
AvenellEralp30F 9/1990  
411Huggtandsrevets gåta
Mystery of the Reef
GoodallEralp27F 7/1991 

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Bryan Shedden / guran@deepwoods.org
Last updated 3 April 2004