Reprinted from the April 13, 2007 North County Times
The 92-year-old Oceanside resident created “Aquaman” in 1941 with
DC Comics editor Mort Weisinger, known for his work on Superman.
It was the golden age of comics when Norris was asked to create a
superhuman who lived in the sea.
“I drew up the character, and off he went,” Norris said.
“Aquaman” appeared around the world and developed a following
throughout Europe that still exists today.
Norris has gotten letters from many countries asking about the original
character and his amazing underwater feats.
After launching “Aquaman,” Norris drew and wrote for daily and
Sunday syndicated strips and comic books such as “Tarzan,” “Flash
Gordon,” “Secret Agent X-9,” “Jungle Jim” and “Brick Bradford.”
During World War II, cartooning became his secret weapon, he said.
When one of his comic strips appeared in an Army newspaper, it
caught the attention of a general and Norris was assigned to draw
illustrations for war leaflets that were dropped from aircraft over
“The leaflets were supposed to entice the enemy to give up,” Norris
When the Japanese surrendered, some had in their possession
leaflets Norris had drawn.
Norris' career in cartooning began when he was a teenager. He drew
political cartoons for the Dayton Daily News supporting Franklin
Roosevelt for president.
It was a career that would continue into Norris' 70s.
“Everyone I know who started cartooning is still possessed by it,” he
said. “You have such a desire to draw and develop a character, it gets
In the midst of the Great Depression, Norris attended Midland
Lutheran College in Nebraska. During his two years there in the mid-
1930s, he volunteered as art director for the college yearbook and
came up with the idea of drawing a caricature of each senior.
“It only lasted a year, because after I left, there was no one else to do
it,” Norris said.
Norris left Midland to do six weeks of advance comic strips for a
syndicate that folded just after he finished the work. Later, he
completed his art studies at the Dayton Art Institute School in Ohio,
where he met his wife, Ann, to whom he was married for 61 years.
By 1942, Norris was drawing the newspaper strip “Vic Jordan” for the
New York daily, PM. He worked with Prize Publications creating “Power
Nelson,” “Futureman” and “Yank and Doodle.”
His contract with PM required that he work exclusively for that
publication, which he hadn't realized when he signed up, so he had to
stop working on “Aquaman” about a year after he created it.
But he got other breaks. Norris went on to work for King Features
Syndicate and draw the Sunday feature “Jungle Jim,” by Austin Briggs.
“I was always busy,” Norris said. “I never had a problem working up an
In 1952, he took over the science fiction comic strip “Brick Bradford”
from artist Clarence Gray. For 35 years, until he retired in 1987, he
drew the strip, which covered everything from intergalactic wars and
robots to dinosaurs and subatomic worlds.
“It was the easiest thing on Earth to do,” Norris said. “There was no
limitation on the story line. It was a chance to let your mind go wild.”
Norris is proudest of his work on Tarzan comic books.
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.
late. He was afraid of it not being early.
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.
PAUL NORRIS REMEMBERED
By Charlie Roberts
Paul Norris, 93, passed away Monday night November 5 at 10:30 PM at
Tri-City Medical Center near his home in Oceanside, Ca. Paul's sons Reed
and Mike were at his bedside.
Paul was drafted in 1943, and wound up doing cartoon propaganda leaflets
for the Allied effort which were dropped on Okinawa leading to the surrender
of many Japanese.
After the war Paul went to work for King Features Syndicate . He did the art
chores on " Jungle Jim" and Secret Agent X-9", and also did "Flash Gordon",
"Tarzan", and "The Jungle Twins" for DELL Comics. Clarence Grey retired,
and Paul took over the "Brick Bradford " comic strip which he drew for 35
years between 1952 and 1987. The last daily strip ran on April 25, 1987 and
Paul retired with it .
Paul and Ann moved to Oceanside, California in 1967 . In 1986 he, along
with cartoonists Jim Whiting, Brad Anderson, Sherm Goodrich and writer Lyle
Swiger organized the "Southern California Cartoonist's Society" (SCCS) .
The group, now led by Karyl Miller, brings together San Diego County
cartoonists and writers for informal monthly meetings. Past Presidents have
included Jim Whiting, Janet Williams, Matt Lorentz, and Dean LeCrone.
David Siegel, San Diego Comic-Con Golden Age Panel organizer, was
responsible for getting Paul to the 1993 Comic-Con where he won the
prestigious Inkpot Award. Midland College honored Paul on February 10,
2006 and the "S.C.C.S." celebrated his 93rd birthday with a large party on
April 26, 2007.
It's been my great pleasure to have shared many weekly lunches and
monthly dinners with Paul Norris and friends over the last six years. I can't
recall him ever saying an unkind word about anyone. The phrase
"Gentleman's Gentleman" surely applied with Paul. A true Class Act with a
smile and a gentle laugh, Paul was easy to be friends with and he will be
We will be having a Celebration of Paul Norris' life and
art next Wednesday November 14 at 6 PM at Paul's
favorite meeting place, "Grandma's Hilltop Cafe"
restaurant just off El Camino Real at 639 Vista Bella in
Oceanside, Ca. Paul's son Reed will be setting up a
major exhibit honoring Paul . Please stop by if you're in