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Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: Underappreciated Artist Spotlight – Paul Norris

This time around, I’m highlighting the work of one of the original underappreciated artists: Paul Norris.

You may only be vaguely familiar with the name Paul Norris, perhaps best known as the co-creator of Aquaman. Paul Norris passed away in 2007 at age 93, leaving behind an impressive body of work in a variety of genres. Norris’ work has that classic Golden Age style that sneaks up on you. It may lack much of the detail and depth that we’ve come to expect over the years, but the solid design work and focus on storytelling helps to create an enjoyable reading experience.

Much of Norris’ best known Golden Age work was at National/DC. Aside from co-creating Aquaman, he also contributed to the ‘new look’ of the Wesley Dodds Sandman. He was also the regular penciller on the Captain Compass strip in Star Spangled Comics. Norris continued the long line of quality artists, including Mort Meskin and Ralph Mayo, to work on Johnny Quick.

During the 1950s, Norris produced quite a bit of work for Dell. I am particularly fond of his work on the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet series. He was also heavily involved in newspaper strips during this era, working on Secret Agent X-9, Flash Gordon and the Jungle Jim Sunday page. In the 1952, Norris began an incredible 30+ year tenure on Brick Bradford.

From the perspective of my own personal comic book history, I am most familiar with Paul Norris’ work for Gold Key in the late 60s and into the 70s. He had the rather unenviable task of following legendary runs by Russ Manning on both Tarzan and Magnus, Robot Fighter. Throw Doug Wildey into the mix on Tarzan, and you can see that Norris was asked to fill in some big shoes.

I truly feel that Norris did an admirable job on both titles. Perhaps his figures lacked the sleek athleticism of Manning’s artwork, but his layouts were terrific and he was a consistently strong storyteller. As far as I can tell, Mike Royer provided the inks on a good number of the stories, giving the strips a consistent look.

In the early 70s, Paul Norris was assigned the Jungle Twins series. At first glance, the artwork on this strip might seem a bit anachronistic in the world of Neal Adams and Berni Wrightson, but Norris’ skill at world building and storytelling remain strong. It is an enjoyable series and available for relative peanuts on the back issue market.

Last week, I was flipping through a bunch of comics I have in a box set aside for my kids. I was vetting them to see which ones were appropriate to read with them. As I perused a few titles licensed to Marvel by Hanna-Barbera, I spotted a familiar name. It turns out that Paul Norris teamed up with Mark Evanier on a number of these fun stories, proving that Norris was an extremely versatile artist.

I hope you enjoy this brief look at Paul Norris’ career. There’s a lot of information out there on the man, so get Googling! For more comic book chatter, stop by my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent

6 Comments

Dynomutt…! Awesome.

As always, my heart lies with Aquaman. Love that boot to the jaw he gives that guy as he jovially hops out of the sea, armed merely with two fists and a pun.

So DC has a character named Captain Compass around? Gee, why don’t they bring him out of retirement?

This is some nice looking stuff.

About Dynomutt: I assume, if Royer did ink Norris’s Gold Key stuff, that that’s how Evanier knew him (Royer being Kirby’s inker for years), and knew to use him for the Hanna Barbera stuff. I have some back issues of DNAgents (good stuff, but I believe out of your purview)(is that the right word?), and in some text piece Evanier talks about the Hanna Barbera stuff. I like how he talks about trying to convince Overstreet that Dynomutt didn’t last past issue 6 or 7 (I forget which one), but because the issue was advertised, Overstreet listed it in the Price Guide for years. (Also, Evanier told a story about how whoever was in charge of Marvel at the time yelling at him about the sales on this same, non-existent, Dynomutt issue, and Evanier having to gently point out that no, that issue wasn’t published. Funny stuff. Maybe Mr Evanier could pop in here and expand on my drastically paraphrased and truncated version of these stories?

The design work on BRICK BRADFORD is fantastic.

Paul Norris was a very nice, super-reliable artist who never came close to missing deadlines and really knew how to tell a story in pictures.

I did not hire him for DYNOMUTT. The editor of that comic was Chase Craig, who had been the editor for years at Gold Key’s West Coast office. He knew Paul from working with him there for decades and he had the idea to have Paul draw DYNOMUTT. I liked working with him a lot and later used him on some of the material I edited for Hanna-Barbera.

Everything else you (Travis) say is correct.

Wow, I’m amazed I got that much of the story right. I guess it was fairly recently that I read those DNAgents issues (good stuff, Mr Evanier!), so I must have retained it well.

I’ll have to check out your site, Mr Evanier, because I’ve got a question about Garfield and Friends…

Paul Norris’ name isn’t bandied about much, but I’ve always enjoyed his work. (I remember that page from the Aquaman reprint; that might explain where my love of bad puns originates!)

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