Sunday, January 05, 2014

Happy Birthday Russ Manning!

   Today is Russ Manning's birthday. Russ is one of those almost legendary comic book artists, known for his work on Magnus:Robot Fighter and Brothers of the Spear and as the original artist on the Star Wars Newspaper comic strip. However to me he is first and foremost my favorite Tarzan comics artist.
   Manning took over the Dell/Gold Key Tarzan comic book after long time artist Jesse Marsh had left the feature, drawing adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels such as Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, Tarzan the Terrible, and Tarzan and the Golden Lion. he also drew the first dozen or so issues of Korak: Son of Tarzan.
   He later left comic books to draw the Tarzan newspaper strip for an amazing run, and later he drew several one shot Tarzan graphic novels and worked on the British Tarzan weekly comics for the UK.
   When I was just a kid, my mom collected the Gold Key issues that Manning illustrated. They reside today in my collection. Manning's art was quite possibly the first comic book art I ever saw. I remember looking through my mom's comics long before I could even read.
   If Manning's work was the first I saw, I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to comic book art. Manning's comics were classically beautiful in the way that Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon strips were. His heroes were handsome and stalwart, particularly Tarzan, who Manning rendered as a Greek god, not a musclebound brute, just as Burroughs had described the character. Manning's women were gorgeous and his villains suitably sinister. He was highly skilled at drawing the apes, lions, elephants, and other animals that inhabited Tarzan's world. And he could sure draw a mean dinosaur when called upon too.
   All of this was rendered in a slick, professional style and an amazing control of pen & brush inking. Manning's work was clean, energetic, and stylish.
   Anyway, it's Manning's Tarzan that I still see in my mind whenever I think of the character. Happy Birthday, Russ. You're one of the artists who made my childhood wonderful and I still love your stuff all these years later.

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