Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How the Comic Books Found Tarzan's Son

The immense popularity of Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan movies from 1932 to 1948 tended to overshadow Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original novels, which were already 20 years old when Weissmuller put on his first loincloth.
Those movies continued to air on local television through the 1960s, giving several generations of Americans the impression that Tarzan was a kind of jungle caveman whose chimpanzee, Cheeta, found him a son in a plane crash. Unimaginatively, Tarzan and Jane named the orphan “Boy” in the 1939 film Tarzan Finds a Son!
What most didn’t know was that Tarzan’s son had been born in the usual way in 1914 in the ERB novel The Beasts of Tarzan, and that his name was John “Jack” Clayton, Viscount Greystoke — or, in ape-speak, Korak.
The long-running Tarzan comic book series, first published by Dell and then by Gold Key, leaned toward the Hollywood interpretation of Tarzan. But by 1962, the out-of-print Tarzan novels, some of which had fallen into the public domain, were being reissued by no fewer than four publishers: Canaveral, Dover, Ace and Ballantine. Snapped up by readers, the original Tarzan swung back into action.
Gold Key chose that moment to publish their second Tarzan-related series, Korak, Son of Tarzan. In the first issue (cover-dated Jan. 1964), artist Russ Manning and writer Gaylord Du Bois evolved the “Boy” of previous comics into the Korak of Burroughs’ novels. The title, essentially the adventures of a teenaged Tarzan, was popular enough to last 45 issues, through 1972.
Both Tarzan and Korak fit my working definition of a superhero, by the way, which is a protagonist who possesses superhuman powers and/or a dual identity (although not necessarily a secret one). Tarzan and his son fit on both counts. They share the infrahuman ability to talk to animals, and they have dual identities as English aristocrats and jungle lords.

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