|Born||Paul Leroy Norris
April 26, 1914
Greenville, Ohio, United States
|Died||November 5, 2007
|Notable works||Aquaman, Brick Bradford|
Paul Leroy Norris (April 26, 1914 – November 5, 2007) was an American comic book artist best known as co-creator of the DC Comics superhero Aquaman, and for a 35-year run as artist of the newspaper comic strip Brick Bradford.
Early life and career
Paul Norris was born in Greenville, Ohio. Beginning 1934, during the Great Depression, he spent two years at Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, Nebraska at the behest of his cousin, Dr. Emerson Reck, a journalism professor and director of the school's news bureau. Self-described as having been "drawing pictures from the first time I could hold a pencil," Norris became art director of The Warrior, the college yearbook, and also performed in plays, served as president of the campus YMCA, and painted signs for businesses.
After two years, Norris left college in an aborted attempt to pursue a career as comic strip cartoonist. He recalled in 2006,
|“||I left Midland ... to pursue the publication of a comic strip (Hobo Cupboard). Emerson’s brother Myron was in radio in Chicago. He had written a script for a comic strip and I was to draw it, which I did. Myron sold it to a syndicate in Ohio. As was the custom the syndicate wanted six weeks of the strip in advance. I couldn't get that much work done and keep up the chores and studies I had [at] Midland. So I returned to Ohio to get the strip ready for publication. Well, before I finished the six weeks of artwork the syndicate folded. I was out of college and out of work...."||”|
Norris worked on his grandmother's farm before obtaining a job at an electric-motor assembly plant in Dayton, Ohio. He also enrolled at the Dayton Art Institute School, where met his wife of 61 years, Ann, whom he married in 1939. He went on to become an illustrator and cartoonist for the Dayton Daily News.
Aquaman and Sandman
In 1940, Norris and his wife moved to New York City, New York, where he created the features "Futureman", "Power Nelson", and "Yank and Doodle" for the comic-book publisher Prize Publications. Historians tentatively identify Norris' comic-book debut as penciling and inking the cover of Prize Publications' Prize Comics #6 (Aug. 1940), with his first confirmed credit the Power Nelson story "Introducing Gene West" two issues later. Norris' first confirmed credit for DC Comics (then National Comics) is the story "The Sandman at Sea", starring DC's original Sandman, Wesley Dodds, in Adventure Comics #65 (Aug. 1941). Norris and writer Mort Weisinger revamped that character in superhero attire and introduced sidekick Sandy the Golden Boy in issue #69 (Dec. 1941).
Norris and Weisinger introduced the undersea superhero Aquaman in the eight-page story "The Submarine Strikes" in More Fun Comics # 73 (Nov. 1941). That same year, Norris began drawing the adventure comic strip Vic Jordan for PM, one of the New York's daily afternoon papers. Norris said in 2007 that he had inadvertently signed an exclusive contract with PM and not realized this for year, after which he had to give up the "Aquaman" feature. In 1943, King Features Syndicate assigned Norris to write and draw the existing strip Secret Agent X-9, on which he worked for three months before being drafted into the U.S. Army.
World War II
Norris said that during his World War II military service as a tech sergeant, "I did a little [comic] strip for the ship newspaper" that came to the attention of Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. "He saw it and made the order that I be transferred from the 82nd Signal Battalion to JIC POA 10th Army", where Norris illustrated propaganda leaflets to be dropped from aircraft over Okinawa, urging Japanese soldiers to surrender. "I worked with a prisoner of war. We wanted the translations to be authentic". Norris in 2006 recalled the POW as George Totari, formerly a reporter for an English language newspaper in Japan.
While Norris told one interviewer that, "The Japanese came in with these things in their hands and wanted to surrender", he told another that the leaflet, designed to look like a comic-book page, had not yet gone into print when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, scuttling the project.
Brick Bradford and Gold Key
Following the war, Norris was rehired by King Features Syndicate, and in 1948 began drawing the Sunday edition of Austin Briggs' comic strip Jungle Jim. He continued to freelance for DC Comics through 1953, drawing the detective feature "Captain Compass" in most issues of Star Spangled Comics #106-130 (July 1950 - July 1952), and the super-speedster feature "Johnny Quick" in Adventure Comics #171-186 (Dec. 1951 - March 1953).
In 1952, Norris succeeded artist Clarence Gray on the science-fiction comic strip Brick Bradford, continuing to draw it for 35 years until his and the strip's retirement in 1987. The final daily appeared April 25, 1987.
As well in the 1950s, Norris drew issues of Dell Comics' Tom Corbett, Space Cadet and Jungle Jim, the latter of which he had previously drawn as a newspaper comic strip. The following decade, he drew stories of jungle adventurer Tarzan and science-fiction hero Magnus, Robot Fighter in comic books for Gold Key Comics.
With writer Gaylord DuBois, Norris co-created the Gold Key jungle characters Kono and Tono in the namesake series The Jungle Twins, which ran 17 original issues (April 1972 - Nov. 1975), followed by reprints.
Norris' last known comics story is co-penciling (with Roman Arambula and Scott Shaw) the cover and the 17-page funny animal feature "Now You See Them...", starring Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, and a plethora of other Hanna-Barbera animated TV series characters, in Marvel Comics' Laff-A-Lympics #10 (Dec. 1978). His last comics work was a drawing of Aquaman in DC Comics' multi-artist, multi-character "History of the DC Universe" poster in 1987.
- "POV Online (Nov. 6, 2007): "News from Me" (column) - "Paul Norris, R.I.P.", by Mark Evanier". Newsfromme.com. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
- Co-creator with Mort Weisinger per sources including Don Markstein's Toonopedia: Aquaman, Grand Comics Database: More Fun Comics #73, The Comics Journal (Oct. 6, 1999): "Ripples on the Golden Age Pond: Repercussions in Comic-Book Copyrights", by Darren Hick, and Comic Book Resources (Oct. 28, 2007): "Comics Should Be Good" (section): "365 Reasons to Love Comics #301", by Bill Reed. Beginning with Aquaman vol. 6, #7 (Aug. 2003), DC Comics began including the credit line "Aquaman created by Paul Norris". Writer Julian Darian in an undated article at SeqArt: Aquaman published March 5, 2004 or later, suggests the discrepancy arose from uncertainty over the then-uncredited writer: "Paul Norris is now officially credited by DC as the character's creator, and Norris certainly drew Aquaman's first stories. Some suspect a writer's hand, however, and have pointed to Mort Weisinger, thought to be the writer of Aquaman's first tale, though we will probably never know for certain due to the scarcity of records from the period".
- Midland Lutheran College: "Paul Norris: Minister of Morality" — biography in conjunction with art exhibition, Feb. 10-24, 2006
- Fremont Tribune (Nebraska) (Feb. 11, 2006): "Norris gives new meaning to 'comic book hero'", by Tammy Real-McKeighan, via ZoomInfo.com and (longer version) via ComicBlock.com
- McIntosh, Linda (2007-04-13). "/ ''The San Diego Union-Tribune'' (April 13, 2007): "Classic comics continue to draw a following of fans", by Linda McIntosh". Signonsandiego.com. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
- Paul Norris at Grand Comics Database
- ""History of the DC Universe" poster". Vu.morrissey-solo.com. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
- The Lambiek Comiclopedia: Paul Norris (Note: incorrectly refers to non-existent comic strip "Secret Agent K-9")
- ERBZine #1014
- Career Retrospective, Gold & Silver: Overstreet's Comic Book Quarterly #6 (December 1994). p. 114. Overstreet Publications.