Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Gaylord DuBois
Artist: Russ Manning
Cover Art: Mo Gollub
Retail Price: $49.99
Dark Horse continues their archival record of Tarzan with the publication of the first volume of Korak, Son of Tarzan from 1964. The six issues reprinted, written by Gaylord DuBois and drawn by Russ Manning, were originally published by Gold Key comics – king of the licensed comics of the ‘60s – are…well…most definitely products of 1960’s Gold Key. Now that’s not to say that they’re bad, just that, as Steve Rude points out in his introduction, they’re definitely a product of a different time.
The collection does not start off strong at all. Now it’s possible that some people, more familiar with the movie Tarzan’s Boy character rather than the novel-derived Korak, would be a little confused by the Son of Tarzan moniker, and since this is a Tarzan spin-off, it’s nice to have daddy guest star in the first issue; but unfortunately, after a clumsy introduction of the Tarzan family (typical dialogue – Tarzan: “Korak is as near as our ape friends can come to saying Jack, which is our son’s given name.” Thank you Basil Exposition.), Korak is immediately captured and becomes a supporting player in his own book as Tarzan comes to his rescue. I was a little worried at first that this would be a typical storyline, repeating itself and being as predictable as an episode of Scooby Doo, but luckily the very next story is much more entertaining and focused on Korak, who stumbles upon miners using natives as slave labor, battles a territorial gorilla, and has to use his considerable survival skills to battle evil. Not a Tarzan to be seen.
The second issue contains one of those great coincidences often found in fiction, in which the brother and niece of Paul D’Arnot (the marooned Frenchman who brought Tarzan back to civilization in the very first Tarzan novel) are marooned on an island with Korak. Small world. We also discover Korak speaks fluent French, in addition to English, whatever native language is convenient, and…well, ape. I don’t really want to get into the whole talking animal thing because…well, let’s just move on. Anyway, the danger grows when Arab pirates also wash ashore and attempt to steal the grounded yacht that brought the Europeans. It’s actually pretty nice to have different settings other than the jungle and plots that go beyond the typical Tarzan-like story, although the second story deals with Korak helping a wounded buffalo find his herd. Overall, the stories are jumpy and a little silly and more than a little simple, but nothing offensive or flat out bad. Although we’re talking about the very competent, clean, and smooth Russ Manning art, it’s all very straightforward – backgrounds disappear into bizarre coloring choices (It’s all yellow – is it day? The next panel is all green – I guess he’s standing on grass that goes on forever even though it’s a straight-ahead perspective. Then the background is grey, then black…then three different shades of blue.), but the art is dynamic – there is a feeling of movement and perspective and grace. The collection also includes the beautiful painted cover art that was a Gold Key tradition – they really are stunning pieces that actually have something to do with the contents of the issue, something that didn’t always happen.
The remaining stories in the book certainly run the gamut from the mundane (poachers!) to the fantastic (man-eating giant vulture gods with their kidnapped white priestess!). My favorite story is “Wizard’s Gorge”, a tale of a witch doctor who tries to scam natives by healing using White Man’s Medicine while wrapping it up in the trappings of mysticism, such as injecting patients with a hypodermic needle while sitting under a smoke-filled skeleton of an elephant. It’s a cute idea, and Korak’s line when dismissing the ranting witch doctor, “The hyena raves…but who listens?” is one I plan on adding to my every day conversations. Unfortunately, we learn that Korak also speaks fluent baboon in addition to the half dozen or so other languages he speaks. *Sigh* Talking animals.
Overall, the collection is on the correct side of fun, but it doesn’t have much of a spark to make it a must buy. It has its moments, it sometimes drags and feels tedious, it’s not in the least bit complex or thought-provoking…but sometimes simple is good. If you’re looking for simple adventure, this will work for you.