Aquaman’s co-creator was born April 28, 1914.
When I saw that Paul Norris, who created the Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean with Mort Weisinger in 1941, was born 102 years ago this week, there was only one person to turn to: Rob Kelly. Rob is not only the writer of our ever-popular REEL RETRO CINEMA column (click here), he’s an amazingly prolific podcaster and blogger, though it hurts my feelings that I’ve only been a guest once. Anyway, at the top of his virtual kingdom sits Aquaman, his all-time favorite character and the central figure of the appropriately named Aquaman Shrine (click here).
Rob eagerly agreed to write a tribute to Norris while I’ve curated 13 COVERS celebrating the artist’s greatest creation. Aquaman didn’t appear on a cover until well after Norris was out of the picture, so these are by some of the Sea King’s greatest chroniclers. It’s all kind of a Brave and the Bold team-up, right?
By the way, it was also Weisinger’s birthday this week, so you can check out 13 COVERS celebrating his extraordinary contributions to the world of Superman by clicking here.
Here’s Rob. — Dan
By ROB KELLY
“Who the hell is Paul Norris?”
Sadly, that was my reaction the first time I heard the name. Other than Superman and Batman, DC Comics didn’t bother much with creator credits, so growing up I had no idea who was involved in the creation of my favorite character, Aquaman. Reprints of the Sea King’s 1940s adventures were scarce to the point of non-existence, so the name “Paul Norris” just never crossed my path, despite reading every Aquaman comic published for more than a decade.
The comics industry has been less than kind to many of its early pioneers, especially ones who moved on to careers outside of comics and didn’t carefully tend to their reputations, either by producing more and more amazing work (Eisner, Kirby) or making sure their name was simply inescapable (Kane). So even after Aquaman became an animated TV star and merchandising mainstay, his co-creator remained mostly anonymous.
Thankfully, Paul Norris lived long enough for the comics industry and fandom to find him again, and in the 1990s he finally began to receive the accolades he so richly deserved for co-creating one of the most enduring superheroes of all time. DC tapped him to draw Aquaman once again for the all-star, multi-character mural that decorated their recently departed NYC offices. Some lucky Aqua-fans got to hire him for private commissions, and if you’ve ever seen any of his later-period Aquaman pin-ups, it’s obvious he had lost none of his artistic touch. After a few years of running the Aquaman Shrine blog, I got the bright idea of trying to reach out to him for an interview—unfortunately, I got the bright idea a little too late, and by the time I put the gears in motion, Paul Norris had passed away at the age of 93. I have always regretted this.
Paul Norris’ name can be seen in every issue of Aquaman, where it belongs. And I look forward to seeing it, bigger than life, on the silver screen when the Aquaman solo film hits theaters. Until then, enjoy this selection of some of his finest work (picked by Dan)—like running your hand along the top of a vast ocean, it only scratches the surface!
As always, if you don’t see your fave cover here, feel free to add it to the comments below or in whichever social-media thread you found this. — Dan
Cover images and credits from the waterlogged Grand Comics Database.