The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya
The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya by Reimena Yee is one of those lovely discoveries that remind me why I still have a slush pile. It’s a vampire story, but it’s not about being a vampire; it’s actually an inspiring love story. It’s well-designed, with a unique premise and setting. And it’s got believable characters with varied motivations that I want to spend more time with.
Zeynel is a carpet seller in 17th century Istanbul. Well, first, he’s growing up in a family of scholars, but when he meets Ayse, they marry and form a partnership, with Zeynel joining her family business. He likes people more than studying books, and she likes finding someone who values her business talents as a salesperson.
After 25 years together, Zeynel sets out on a business trip, where a good deed goes wrong. He helps a stranger, who feeds on him. When he returns home, he has to resolve his new life with his family and his religion. The comic’s visuals are influenced by and decorated with carpet designs, which are impressively executed, as well as “Ottoman illumination and miniature, and [it] heavily incorporates Ottoman era decorative arts.”
The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya is currently collecting pledges for hardcopy books via Unbound, a crowd-funding site out of London I wasn’t previously familiar with. Instead of a set time period, it allows collection until the project comes out — but those who pledge are charged immediately. And unfortunately, print copy shipping to the US is expensive. But if you’re in the UK, you may want to check it out. Or you can get the PDF, which comes with a booklet of supplementary material that explains more about the historical setting and artistic influences.
For the rest of us, start with the webcomic. It actually completes tomorrow with, as the author put it, “3 years, 2 volumes, 670 pages, an Eisner nomination.” You won’t realize how much you’ve read, if your experience is anything like mine; I sunk into it and zoomed through, ready to see what happened next, because it was that easy to read and that involving.