A Cartoonist on the Stump

Russ Manning was one busy guy as the 1970s morphed into the ’80s, since he began transitioning away from working on the Tarzan strip as he helped develop and launch the new Star Wars newspaper series. I know, I know — like that’s news! All you have to do is look at those listings in our complete catalogue to get that picture …

… But did you know that in the spring of 1980 Manning threw his hat into the political ring? The Los Angeles Times gave coverage throughout that year of his campaign for the 3rd District seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Here’s the Times breaking the surprising news to their readership on March 7th, under the banner, “Unexpected New Twist”:

Four days later the March 11th Times features Manning’s photo in a more detailed article describing the structure of the artist’s campaign organization (or lack of it), the areas that compelled him to run, and his views of his two opponents. You can click the images for an isolated view of each:

One month later Manning had put together a significant fund-raising activity — and he called on other members of his primary profession to help drive attendance. You’ll see familiar names in this pertinent excerpt from the longer April 18th Times article:

While long shots sometimes pay off, too often they fail to unseat an entrenched favorite — and Manning’s Quixotic run for the 3rd District Supervisor was no exception, as shown by the last sentence in this June 4th article:

During that same month, Russ stepped down from his Star Wars duties in order to address health issues that were plaguing them. The Times did a brief September follow-up, discussing the artist’s surgery due to “a bout with a serious illness”:

While Russ Manning won that short-term battle, he lost the longer-term war: cancer claimed his life on December 1, 1981. Though the comics world is richer for the significant body of newspaper strip and comic book work he left behind, it’s easy to wonder what other accomplishments, in comics — and perhaps in politics as well — the artist might have achieved had he lived beyond his fifty-two years.

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