Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Russ Manning's Tarzan

Everybody says Joe Kubert did the best Tarzan, with Burne Hogarth's version drawing nearly equal praise. But the few times I got to see it, it was the Russ Manning one that did it for me. Not that I knew it was Manning at the time: I have vague memories of a british weekly Tarzan comic in the mid '70's, black & white, with a Korak back-up. It was a short lived book, and the art style was so clearly american, that it was obviously a reprint.
But the drawing was so memorable & clearly defined, that it's stuck with me ever since. All I really remember about the story was a scene of Tarzan standing at the gates of a huge lost city (which could be any Tarzan story, right?) But I'm convinced it was Russ Manning I was reading, the style is just too strong for it to be anybody else. Whether it was reprints of the work he did for Dell, or of the newspaper strips, I don't know, but his is the Tarzan that comes to mind when I think of the Jungle Lord.
Here's some of the newspaper work. There's interesting touches of Gil Kane in Manning's style, but not enough to counter it's originality, and it's the kind of craftsmanship you don't often see anymore. You know you're in good hands with an artist like this.


  1. Lovely pages. A perfect assessment.

  2. For me the Manning's Tarzan is the most imaginative, elegant and full of fantasy. I like the Kubert work and the Foster work too but for me the great Tarzan is the Manning era.

  3. It sounds like you were reading Tarzan Weekly, which printed stories produced by ERB Inc for overseas syndication. Manning was in charge, and did a lot of the drawing. Other artists included Dave Stevens, Mike Ploog, Alex Nino and, on the Korak stories, the sublime DAn Spiegle. The weekly later became a montyhly, then a series of specials, when it reprinted a lot of Manning's Tarzan newspaper strip in a hideously hacked-about format.

    David Simpson

  4. Now that you say that, Dan Spiegle on Korak sounds right. MUST scour the cons for some copies of Tarzan weekly!

  5. I could not agree with you more. Whenever I read a Tarzan novel, it was always Russ Manning's version of Tarzan in my mind. How I wish that someone would take his layouts and do a live action or even a CGI movie, like Beowolf was done, based on them.

  6. My back can't take much more of this !!
    You've sent me searching through comic boxes again Pete !! :)
    It does sound like Tarzan Weekly as David said.
    As far as I know it looks like it only lasted 20 issues before it become a Monthly but as with most UK titles in the 70s they stopped numbering them after issue 2 so lots of help there !!
    It was full of great stuff all the more intriguing because most, if not all, of the strips were never printed in the US.
    The Dan Spiegle Korak was stunning always a favorite and written by Mark Evanier.
    There's even a Pat Boyette Korak I had forgotten about !!
    I'll send across a few scans.
    Best, Graham.

  7. You're absolutely right, Russ Manning's pages are a joy to look at, too bad the originals were destroyed by the publisher as was the custom at the time...
    Russ Manning is up there with Alex Raymond and Hal Foster.

  8. Manning's Tarzan is my Tarzan. I grew up on Manning's art in the old Gold Key comics. Wish I could lay my hands on some of those oldies but goodies now.

  9. I Think most of the Tarzan artists had their strengths. Kubert was a great storyteller and his work is very skilful and portrays the chaos and danger of the jungle extremely well. Manning, however, is my favourite artist on Tarzan, however, because I think he conveys the sense of wonder and joy which the Tarzan stories have. His artwork shares a cinematic quality with Kubert though his style portrays the beauty of perfection whereas Kubert portrays the beauty in imperfection. The only Trazan artist I wasn't wild about was Jesse Marshe whose style is just too primitive for me. Buscema's work at Marvel also lacked oomph.
    I assume the old Tarzan comics you read was the black and white Byblos run rather than the colour Top Sellers/ Williams publishing editions. I reckon the Byblos ones probably had some work by the great Dave Stevens who was an assistant to Manning and a brilliant artist in his own right.

  10. Long live Russ Manning's Tarzan - there's just no equal!