PAUL NORRIS (1914-2007)

PAUL NORRIS, creator of DC Comics’ AQUAMAN, died from a stroke on November 6, 2007.

Well, as readers of Mystery Island Magazine must know by now—AQUAMAN is one of the most honored heroes on our shores. He’s a huge hero in terms of name recognition and his overall participation in the DC Universe, but also carries a strange and convoluted history of moving in and out of DC’s “A” list or general popularity, largely due to poor editorial decisions and a lack of ongoing creator-driven continuity. I wrote an article called “The Aquaman Argument” a few years ago about the problems of a great character not getting his due, so I won’t rehash all of that here, but it’s interesting to note that for the bulk of Aquaman’s career—nobody seemed to know who created him, and that is a big problem in terms of creative vision.

Suppose no one knew Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it fell to the producers to randomly insert new writers or “idea people.” What then would have happened to Buffy? Who’s demonic hands would she have fallen into?

As recent as 1992—I still didn’t know who created this great character, Aquaman, whom I loved so much. I’ll pull this paragraph from “The Aquaman Argument” to explain what I learned from Murphy Anderson:

I once asked [in 1992] comic legend Murphy Anderson (creator of the golden age Hawkman) who invented Aquaman? He said, “Uh, I’m not sure, but I think it was Mort Weisinger. Morty was the editor at the time and we think he created Green Arrow and Aquaman, but I’m not sure.” It’s generally accepted now that “Morty” did create Aquaman, or at least had the idea to do a character like Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Then Paul Norris stepped in to create the look for what is believed to be about the first ten appearances in More Fun Comics, but then Aquaman was pretty much sent adrift …

Well, I for one am glad the record was set straight before Paul Norris passed away. His name is now credited on all Aquaman comics—and truth be told—no one ever caught the concept or idea of the character more right or better than Paul’s original design and vision for Aquaman. Paul Norris was clearly a hardworking man and moved on to other projects, thus the due credit getting lost in the shuffle for many years. I wish I could have thanked him in person for creating a character born of such classic and cool creativity, but I’ll just have to say it here and hope Paul is spending a little time surfing the net before moving on to the next big wave.

Thank you Paul Norris. You are remembered.

Bradley Mason Hamlin, November 7, 2007, Mystery Island

p.s. I also wrote a follow up article to “The Aquaman Argument” called “Aquaman vs. Sub-Mariner” where I explain that Namor actually took as much from Aquaman as he gave. Aquaman was the first of the two heroes to hail from Atlantis! It’s true! That should be the biggest revelation since we learned Soylent Green was made out of humans. Come on, people … a little respect.

* The Paul Norris Aquaman art above is the property of Mark Evanier. No rights implied.

"Paul Norris (1914-2007)" article by Bradley Mason Hamlin copyright © 2007
by Mystery Island Publications. All rights reserved.