Paul S. Newman, 75, comic book writer tagged as `king' for 4,000-tale output

June 05, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Paul S. Newman -- known as "King of the Comic Book Writers" and listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific comic book author of all time with 4,121 tales to his credit -- died Sunday of a heart attack at Howard County General Hospital. He was 75.

Mr. Newman, who was fond of saying, "I made the name famous," is not related to the movie actor of the same name.

Though his aspiration was to become a Broadway playwright, Mr. Newman's comic book career began in 1947 after the director of a radio show sent a script Mr. Newman had written to DC Comics.

His narratives appeared under more than 360 titles and gave life to such icons as Superman, the Lone Ranger, Mighty Mouse, Archie, Daniel Boone, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Zorro and Flash Gordon.

In a 1995 interview, Mr. Newman said it was unlikely that he would be dethroned. He explained: "Few writers, except old-timers like myself, write all three elements -- plot, layout and dialogue -- of a comic book script."

Once his work was completed, it was turned over to an artist for illustration.

Despite his enormous output over nearly 50 years, his name was not well-known in the industry. It wasn't until 1976 that the byline Paul Newman appeared in the credits for "Turok, Son of Stone," whose scripts he'd been producing since 1954.

Born and raised in New York City, Mr. Newman served with a bomb-disposal unit during World War II. After the war, he earned his bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College, where he wrote a play performed by the Dartmouth Players.

"My desire was always to be a playwright or a movie scriptwriter," said Mr. Newman, a Columbia resident since moving there from New York in the early 1990s. "Writing comic books was just bread and butter for me."

Comic book writing allowed him to work at home, and he was paid $5 or $6 a page. He also wrote children's books, television and radio sketches, industrial video productions, corporate speeches and song lyrics.

In 1993, Robin Snyder, a comic book historian, named Mr. Newman "King of the Comic Book Writers." He was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records last year.

He was an avid collector of contemporary Latin American art, especially the works of Botero and Soto. He also collected first editions of 17th- and 18th-century English comedies.

Displeased with the current trend in comics, Mr. Newman shunned writing about Sylvester Stallone-type superheroes.

"They all come from the school of angst and anger," he said. "The only dysfunctional family I write about [is] Tweety and Sylvester."

His marriage to Zoe Erving ended in divorce.

A memorial service was held Monday.

He is survived by his wife of 14 years, Carol Newman; a son, Peter Newman; a daughter, Lisa Newman; three stepdaughters; two grandchildren; and five step-grandchildren.

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