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Tantor Trumpets - by Ken Webber

THE GOLD KEY "TARZAN" ARTISTS

(Reprinted from ERB-APA #97, Spring 2008)
ERB-ETC. ERB-APA #97 - Spring 2008 - Ken (Tantor) Webber - Centennial, CO

In 1962 Western Publishing ended their long association with Dell Publishing over a financial dispute. Western kept many of the comic titles that they had been publishing, including the Tarzan comic and began to handle the whole process from start to finish.

Dell would regroup and publish their own line of comics.


At Whitman the brand name of Gold Key was chosen and an energetic launch of their new venture made a splash on the comic stands. The title was changed to Tarzan of the Apes.

The Tarzan interior artwork was still done by done by Jesse Marsh. Russ Manning was continuing the Brothers of the Spear serial in the back of the book. Now he also was doing some inside cover features and the glossy paper displayed his art to an advantage. (See Image Below)

Initially—in an odd move—the Gold Key editors decided to change the story dialogue balloons to a rectangular format. This proved to be distracting and was dropped after a few issues.

The biggest eye-opener of the new regime was with their covers. They gave up a page of advertising space and reprinted the comic’s cover art on the back of the book sans the logo and lettering. They called it a pin-up page. (I wonder how many kids cut up their comic to hang the art.)  George Wilson now did the cover art. He had replaced Moe Gollub in the latter DELL years.

The changes were all cosmetic but very noticeable. But the story content remained the same for a few months.

Jesse Marsh’s art began to lose its singular grace as his diabetes worsened and affected his eyesight. His art’s balance, backgrounds, clarity and tightness were becoming more primitive. He finally chose to retire from drawing comics in 1965. Tarzan #153 was his last issue. He had drawn every issue since 1948. He would sadly pass away the following year. It was a huge legacy of work, most of it quite enjoyable.

Meanwhile, Gold Key had added a second ERB title to their lineup, Korak, Son of Tarzan. Gaylord Dubois wrote the stories of a grown up ‘Boy’ now called ‘Korak’ which was explained as the closest that the apes could come to saying ‘Jack’, his given name. If so, why did all the humans also call him Korak and not just Jack? Such questions were put aside as the pleasure of the book was in seeing the art done by Russ Manning. Sales for the quarterly Korak comic soon out sold the Tarzan title.

With Jesse Marsh’s retirement, Chase Craig as editor awarded the Tarzan of the Apes title to Russ Manning. Russ had been Gold Key’s most popular artist with his self-created Magnus, Robot Fighter and his art on Korak. He turned over the art responsibilities on those two titles to concentrate on the Tarzan title. Warren Tufts was first given the Korak book and later Dan Spiegel drew the title for the remaining Gold Key years.

Russ would draw one typical story before a radical move was made in the content and direction of the comic. With Tarzan #155, Gaylord Dubois as the writer teamed with Russ Manning with assists by Mike Royer to adapt the ERB Tarzan novels. Initially the novels were condensed to one issue. Continuing stories beyond one issue was unheard of then. But with Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar the adaptations were expanded to multi-issues. They were brilliant efforts that showed Gaylord and Manning at the top of their form. Those issues were partially reprinted by Dark Horse Comics in recent years, so they can be enjoyed by a new generation. (Sadly DHC re-colored the books to ill effect.)

The NBC Tarzan TV show with Ron Ely was popular at the time and Gold Key interspersed Tarzan TV stories in between the novel adaptations. Albert R. Giollitti (#168, #171), an Italian artist known for his work on Star Trek and Turok, Son of Stone, Dan Spiegel (#165), and Doug Wildey (#162) drew these books. The TV issues featured photo covers and Ron Ely pin-up pages.

Russ Manning was giving new visual life to Tarzan and it paid off for him. He was given the UFS Tarzan newspaper daily and Sunday strip. Back in that day landing a syndicated strip was the dream of every comic book artist. He was in the middle of drawing Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. Mike Royer, Manning’s assistant, finished the art on this title. Manning’s years as an American comic book artist were behind him. In my next ERB ETCs, I will do a full overview of those years on Tarzan and Korak as well as Manning's other Dell and Gold Key work. He would later act as a creative editor for a run of ERB Tarzan comics for the European market.

Doug Wildley was given the unenviable task of following Manning on the Gold Key Tarzan comic. He began with a two-issue adaptation of Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He brought a very solid illustrative style to the book. Wildley could be spotted using photo-swipes of Tarzan movie stills for photo reference throughout the books he did. This gave them an interesting cinematic style. He would also adapt Tarzan and the City of Gold and Tarzan the Invincible.

Paul Norris then became the Tarzan artist, adapting Tarzan and the Lost Empire, Tarzan’s Quest, Tarzan and the Foreign Legion. Then he drew original stories through issue #206, when the rights to all of the ERB characters were contracted to DC Comics.

Tarzan had been published for 206 issues and assorted annuals from 1948 until 1972 by Dell and then Gold Key. It had been a memorial run in art and story from the mundane to the magnificent. Gold Key itself would disappear in another decade from the publishing  as a result of poor distribution.

Now for a brief bio on the Gold Key artists ……


Warren Tufts

He was born in Fresno, California on December 12, 1925. He created Casey Ruggles for UFS in 1949 as a Sunday strip. The syndicate had him add a daily strip due to its popularity. His workload was eighty plus hours a week to create the quality of his strip and he used numerous assistants to share the workload. In 1954 a TV studio wanted to option the character for a western series. UFS vetoed the idea and Tufts angrily quit the syndicate. He then formed his own self-syndicated Sunday strip, Lance. Both were gorgeous full-page western strips highly treasured by collectors. Lance folded in 1960 and he then did comic art for Gold Key. Besides Korak, he worked on The Rifleman, Wagon Train, The Pink Panther, and Zorro. I have some Drag Cartoon work by him also. In 1965 he followed the money to animation working on Captain Fanthom, Superfriends, and other shows under the tutelage of Alex Toth. His hobby was building aircraft and in 1982 he died in a crash of one of his own planes.

Dan Spiegel

He was born in Cosmopolis, Washington on October 12, 1920. He spent his childhood in Honolulu until the Depression caused his family to return to California. In 1946 he left the Navy and enrolled in the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.

In 1949 he met William Boyd and was given the Hopalong Cassidy newspaper strip, which he did until it folded in 1955. He was hired immediately by Western and worked on many of their western and TV tie-in titles, like Maverick, The Hardy Boys, Sea Hunt and Dale Evans. He made the move to Gold Key where he co-created Space Family Robinson. Spiegel also worked on Brothers of the Spear, Korak and the many assorted mystery and occult titles.

Later, at DC Comics, Dan worked on their war and western titles. At Marvel Comics he did the two issue adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes as a tie-in for the Greystoke movie. For Eclipse Comics he co-created Crossfire and then did Indiana Jones for Dark Horse Comics. In the 90s he was the artist for a short-lived revival of Terry and the Pirates. For the last few years he has been doing comic stories for Boy’s Life and enjoying his retirement.

Doug Wildey

He was born in Yonkers, New York on May 2, 1922 and died in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 5, 1994. His most noted early work in comics was a long run for Atlas (later renamed Marvel) Comics on The Outlaw Kid. He used his vast collection of western movie stills as a reference file and his comics had a realistic, mature edge for it.

Wildey ghosted for Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon and did a long run on the newspaper The Saint strip. He worked on the Tarzan of the Apes comic briefly, but those few issues are highly thought of by ERB fans.

In 1962 Alex Toth hired him into animation to work on Space Ghost.  His main claim to fame was the creation of the Hanna-Barbera Johnny Quest cartoon, which was instrumental in helping television animation grow up. He would continue to work on many animation series through the 80s.

Doug did a beautiful newspaper Western strip Ambler that ran for eighteen months, and a graphic western novel, Rio. In his latter years he produced western scene paintings for the fine art market.

Doug Wildey was well spoken of as an artist and friend by everyone who worked with him. Dave Stevens fashioned the mechanic Peevy in his Rocketeer comics after Wildey as a tribute.

Alberto Giolitti

Alberto was born in Itay on November 14, 1923 and died on April 15, 1993. He moved to Argentina in 1946 where he began his illustrating career. In 1949 he migrated to the United States where he began working for Dell and later Gold Key. He drew many western and action titles: Zorro, Indian Chief, Cisco Kid, Tonto, Sergeant Preston, Gunsmoke, Have Gun,Will Travel, Twilight Zone and Boris Karloff.

He is remembered though for his work on Star Trek and Turok, Son of Stone. I love an adaptation he did of King Kong.

In the 1960s Giolitti returned to Italy and started Giolitti Studios where he trained about 55 artists whose work appeared all over Europe. He continued to work for Gold Key and used some of his students as assistants on the US comic work. Besides drawing the aforementioned Gold Key Ron Ely Tarzan issues, Alberto drew two issues adapting Jungle Tales of Tarzan in issues #169 and #170.

In a word of appreciation of his art, I found this quote from Joe Jusko, "He is one of my major influences, especially when it comes to composing a scene or rendering a background. No one did it better than Giolliti!"

Paul Norris

Paul was born on April 26, 1914 in Greenville, Ohio and passed away on November 5, 2007 in Oceanside, California. He studied at the Dayton, Ohio Art Institute and began his art career as a staff cartoonist for the Dayton Daily News. After marrying his sweetheart Ann, they moved to New York City in 1940.

He worked initially for Prize Comics working on Power Nelson, Futureman, and Yank and Doodle. He then moved to National and with Mort Weisinger he co-created Aquaman as well as working on other comics.

Norris was a tech sergeant in the Pacific theater in WWII and drew propaganda leaflets that were dropped from planes. King Features hired him after the war and he worked on comics starring Flash Gordon, and Jungle Jim.

In 1948 he took over the Jungle Jim Sunday page. In 1952 he switched to the Brick Bradford daily strip which he drew until 1987. During this time he freelanced for Dell, and later, Gold Key comics. Besides his run on the Tarzan of the Apes issues, he drew Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, Jungle Jim, Magnus, Robot Fighter and The Jungle Twins.

George Wilson

I found only fragmented information on this artist who painted Gold Key’s covers. I have no birth date or place. He was in Normandy in the European theater in WWII. This suggests that he was born in the 1920s. He passed away on December 7, 1999. He was a prolific artist who did painted acrylic covers for paperback companies like Harlequin and Avon. His painted comic cover work was done for Classic Illustrated, Dell and then Gold Key. He did the covers for Turok, The Twilight Zone, The Phantom, Boris Karloff, The Outer Limits, The Jungle Twins, Brothers of the Spear, Star Trek, etc. His work on the 15 Avon Phantom paperbacks is a favorite series in my collection. Then George painted the Gold Key covers for Tarzan and Korak.  At some point he began doing Dell Tarzan covers either after Moe Gollub or trading issues with him. His volume of Gold Key work was immense as he was doing more than a dozen paintings a month. Generally George would get his drawings assignments and sketch a couple of ideas and submit them. His editor would select one and make suggestions, which would quickly be painted. He did hundreds of painted covers for Gold Key.

Richard Powers was another fellow Gold Key artist sharing the cover chores. I recognize his work on Dr. Solar. He would be remembered for the Ballentine Tarzan paperback covers but I don’t think he did any Tarzan work for Gold Key.

Mike Royer

Mike was born in Oregon in 1941. In an early fan effort he adapted ERB’s Wizard of Venus as a graphic novelette. Mike’s professional comic career began as an inking assistant to Russ Manning during his last few years with Gold Key on Magnus, Robot Fighter, Korak and Tarzan of the Apes.  His own Tarzan work had been mainly inside cover one-pagers. His own Tarzan comic story work was a beautiful single-issue adaptation of Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins in issue #196. Mike would continue assisting Russ on the Tarzan and Star Wars newspaper strips. He then moved on to DC Comics and, in my opinion, became the best inker that ever graced Jack Kirby’s work. He also did a stint in animation. Then Disney hired Mike and he has since spent many years designing Winnie the Pooh among their other freelance advertising campaigns.

I have seen a graphic telling of the novel Tarzan of the Apes told through Jane’s eyes that Mike has done. It was a beautiful rendition and hopefully it will someday see print. I proudly own the last Sunday Tarzan page original done by Manning and Royer.


Gold Key made editorial decisions for the ERB titles that they inherited that were much appreciated by fans. Primarily they were responsible for giving us beautiful graphic interpretations of almost all of the Tarzan novels. I think Tarzan the Magnificent and Tarzan and the Madman were the only novels they did not adapt. These efforts were the high water mark of Gaylord DuBois’ long tenure on the book. And they gave Russ Manning a chance to finally get to pour his heart and talent into Tarzan. The creative result still stands as one of the highest achievements in art and visual accuracy of ERB’s creation among the many talented artists that have taken pen and brush to the Lord of the Jungle. And we got to see other solid talents of the time get a chance to draw Tarzan and company. Burroughs fans got to see at least the comics return to ERB’s source material after decades of frustration with comics and films.

By today’s comic book standards the Gold Key years seem quaint and innocent. They told stories based on characters solving dilemmas of basic good and evil. The lines were clearly drawn and the heroes were pure of heart and stout of limb. When I look at today’s comic shelf I wonder if I want my grandkid to read comics. I’m glad I grew up on Dell and Gold Key comics. I can still pull out an issue and reread it and enjoy it. Many issues have stood the test of time.

In my next couple of submissions I will try and cover Russ Manning’s career, before during and after Tarzan. I hope I have some art you have not seen before and that you will indulge me.