A list of comic book artists inspired by Russ Manning would be a long one, and the fact that San Diego Comic Con gives out an annual award in his name is testament to that influence. Truly, Manning is a comic artist’s “artist,” one whose influence clearly exceeds his stature. Thankfully, the Dark Horse reprints of his Edgar Rice Burroughs works, as well as his own Magnus Robot Fighter series, are rectifying that.
Korak, Son of Tarzan, Vol. 2 is the second Dark Horse volume collecting Manning’s Gold Key Korak comics, and as with the first volume, these are original stories, written by Gaylord Dubois. They’re fun, imaginative, and move along at a brisk pace. However, as with those previous volumes, this collection is really all about the art. Simply, Manning is one of the medium’s masters. His line work is confident and expressive, and his command of the human (and animal) form is right up there with the likes of Hal Foster. Clearly, there wasn’t anything he couldn’t draw, and when one compares him with numerous artists of today who rely on photographic reference, that distinction becomes much more impressive.
Gold Key giving Korak his own (albeit limited) series was most likely borne out of a desire to capitalize on the Johnny Weissmuller (et al) Tarzan movies, which at the time, were rerun around the country on local TV stations, usually on weekend afternoons. In the Weissmuller films, Tarzan and Jane adopted a boy and named him, um, “Boy.” He was a feckless kid, likely inserted into the series for much the same reasons that most superheroes back then had teenage sidekicks.
Therefore, and probably to avoid alienating the young comics reader, the savagery detailed in Korak’s appearances in the Burroughs novels “” he is nicknamed “The Killer,” after all “” is missing. As is the wilder, long-haired visualization of Korak as illustrated by Neal Adams for the Ballantine paperbacks, and Joe Kubert and Frank Thorne, among others, for DC Comics.
In fact, DuBois’ and Manning’s depiction of Korak is nothing like John and Jane Clayton’s son in the Burroughs novels. John Clayton was thrust into a savage world, but always retained his inner humanity. Whereas Jack, his England-born son, was drawn to an inner savagery lurking within him. These character nuances, while intriguing, just wouldn’t have appealed to the sensibilities of the readers, nor fit the editorial mandate, of those times.
In the final analysis, there have been many interpretations of the Clayton family over the decades, and the stories within Korak, Son of Tarzan, Vol. 2, warrant attention, largely due to the incredible artwork of Russ Manning.