Co-creator of Aquaman dies.

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Paul Norris, who co-created the comic book character Aquaman, and who produced the Brick Bradford newspaper strip for a little over 35 years, died about four hours ago at the age of 93. He’d had a series of strokes in the last few months and had just been hospitalized for his most recent.

Paul was born April 26, 1914 in Greenville, Ohio. He studied at Midland Lutheran College and at the Dayton Art Institute before landing a job as an illustrator and cartoonist for the Dayton Daily News in 1936. Three years later, he assembled a portfolio of his best work and took it to New York in search of better prospects, which turned out to be comic books. No one, not even Paul, was ever certain what his first job was in that medium but by 1940, he was drawing for Prize Publications, where he launched several of their star strips — Yank and Doodle, Power Nelson and Futureman.

A year later, he was at DC Comics where his most memorable assignment was Aquaman, which he and editor-writer Mort Weisinger created. (DC now puts a “created by Paul Norris” credit on all Aquaman comics. The absence of Weisinger’s name is apparently a legal problem on DC’s end, not a case of Norris squeezing out his former collaborator.) Paul also worked on, among others, the Sandman in Adventure Comics. He was the artist who revamped the character from his old costume — a business suit and a device that looked like a gas mask — and turned him, at editorial insistence, into a Batman knock-off. When Norris left the strip, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby took it over. During this period, Paul also worked on the Vic Jordan newspaper strip for the New York Daily PM.

Paul then spent some years in the Army. Upon his return, his main work was with the King Features Syndicate, initially as a kind of troubleshooter. Whenever one of their adventure strips was behind or in need of a temporary artist, they’d have Paul Norris draw some weeks of it. This included stints on Flash Gordon and Secret Agent X-9. In 1948, he took over the Jungle Jim Sunday feature for a few years when Austin Briggs gave it up and in 1952, he took over Brick Bradford from Clarence Gray. Paul wrote and drew Brick Bradford until the strip ended on April 25, 1987. During all that time, he never missed a deadline or even came close to being late.

That would be remarkable enough if that’s all he did but beginning in 1947, he also worked for Western Publishing Company, beginning with comic books based on the newspaper strips he was ghosting. Eventually, he became a mainstay of Western’s Los Angeles office, drawing westerns and TV-based comics. Many fans recalled his work in the sixties and seventies on Tarzan of the Apes and Magnus, Robot Fighter, as well as a short-lived book he drew called The Jungle Twins. He also occasionally dabbled in funny animals such as Woodsy Owl and illustrated childrens’ books for the firm.

In the seventies, I had the pleasure of working with Paul on a comic book of the Hanna-Barbera feature, Dynomutt. He was a lovely man who worked very hard on his art but always managed to have it in on time. He usually delivered the work by mail but once or twice, when he was worried the work might not be early, he drove up to Los Angeles with it from his home near San Diego — three hours each way. Please note that he was not afraid of the work being late. He was afraid of it not being early.

For several years, we were honored to have Paul as a guest on the annual Golden Age Panel at the Comic-Con International in San Diego. He’d come to the con for just one day…and we’d schedule the panel for that day, whatever day he could make it, just so we’d have him on it. His last appearance on one was in 1999, I believe. He was supposed to be on the panel in 2000 but he drove to the convention that day, couldn’t find a parking space and wound up going home without going in. He only called me about eleven times to apologize…and every year after that, he’d phone a few weeks before the con to say he was sorry but his health would not allow him to attend.

I think I oughta point out that he was the last of the great creators of Golden Age DC super-heroes. The guys who created Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman are all gone…and now we’ve lost the guy who designed and first drew Aquaman.

In 1995, Paul insisted on doing a favor for me and I asked him to do a drawing of Aquaman. He said it was the first he’d done of the character in more than fifty years and I don’t know how many, if any, he did after that one. It’s up atop this obit. I just wanted to share it with you because it will always remind me of that lovely, wonderful man.

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2 Responses

  1. Nicely put.

  2. […] Co-creator of Aquaman dies. « Hellions Magazine Co-creator of Aquaman dies. « Hellions Magazine […]

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