by Jimmm Kelly
the three dimensions of norman maurer
The life story of Norman Maurer is one of those tales they ought to make a movie about–but they never do.
In his lifetime, Maurer was closely involved with the development of comics, animation, 3-D, movie production and the Three Stooges–not necessarily all in that order.
Born May 13 ’26, in New York, Maurer was already on his way to great success when he was a student at the High School of Music and Art.
As explained by Archer St. John himself [on the inside front cover of THE THREE STOOGES No. 1 (September ’53)], Norm and fellow classmate, Joe Kubert, broke into comics when they were only thirteen years old.
Their young age may have worked in Kubert and Maurer’s favour in the early ’40s–because they were too young for military service when the United States got involved in the Second World War–while many other funny book men, of age, were joining up, and publishers were desperate for replacements.
CRIME DOES NOT PAY 28 (July ’43)
Norm got work at the Lev Gleason publishing house, where he did features for DAREDEVIL COMICS, BOY COMICS and CRIME DOES NOT PAY. Maurer continued to work there for well over ten years–even when he got work at St. John.
Handsome is as Handsome Does–n’t, DAREDEVIL COMICS 90 (September ’52)
In ’49, Norm did a THREE STOOGES funny book for Jubilee–a St. John imprint–but it only lasted for two issues.
Curly, Moe and Larry: publicity stills and THE THREE STOOGES No. 2 (May ’49), cover by Norman Maurer.
Those two Jubilee issues were based on the Columbia Pictures shorts featuring Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard–despite Curly having already been forced to leave the trio when he suffered a major stroke on the movie set, May 6 ’46.
Maurer came by his association with the Stooges through marriage. Norm had married Moe Howard’s daughter, Joan, on June 29 ’47. It was around then that his dedication to the Thee Stooges brand began.
By ’53, Joe Kubert had secured a position at St. John as the managing editor, as well as writer and artist–which allowed him to bring in his old friend. Norm Maurer worked with Kubert as an editor, writer and artist.
One of their joint projects was a new THREE STOOGES comic.
THE THREE STOOGES No. 4 (March ’54), art by Maurer: The straight man in the St. John comics was Benedict Bogus. Maurer and Kubert often used double-page centrespreads in their mags.
This second series featured the team of Moe, Larry and Shemp. But Maurer did much more at St. John than just the STOOGES title.
Another St. John comic from Kubert and Maurer was TOR created by Kubert: 1,OOO,OOO YEARS AGO [TOR] No. 1 (September ’53) and TOR No. 3 (May ’54) art by Kubert.
Joe Kubert had the idea to produce 3-D comics–which hadn’t been tried before. The whole story of the 3-D funny book craze is chronicled at length in ATLER EGO Vol. 3, No. 115 (March 2013). Instrumental to Kubert and Maurer’s project was Norm’s brother, Leonard Maurer.
Len came up with his own technique for producing 3-D funnies, called 3-D Illustereo, and St. John was in business. Their first 3-D mag–THREE DIMENSION COMICS No. 1 (September ’53)–was a huge success. So much so that Archer St. John rented two floors of office space on Third Avenue just for production of 3-D comics.
Soon enough, all the other funny book publishers were hopping on the three-dimensional bandwagon. But as quickly as the fad rose it also fell, leaving Archer St. John in a financial mess.
Meanwhile, William Gaines (at EC) believed he had the patent rights for 3-D and pursued legal action against Archer and his publishing house. In the midst of these legal and financial woes, Archer St. John expired in ’55. The publishing house that bore his name survived for a few years more before also expiring, leaving behind a ten year legacy of pioneering comic books.
The debacle over 3-D was mocked by Kubert and Maurer in WHACK No. 2 (December ’53)–their short-lived parody funny book, much in the style of EC’s MAD.
House ad for THREE DIMENSION COMICS No. 1 (September ’53); The 3-D-T’s in WHACK No. 2 (December ’53) by Kubert and Maurer.
Later in the ’50s, with the failures of both Lev Gleason and St. John, Norman Maurer found work at Timely/Atlas/Marvel, where he contributed to their version of WYATT EARP–not to be confused with other comics featuring Earp that came out from other publishers at the same time.
Black Bart from WYATT EARP No. 3 (March ’55), art by Norman Maurer.
At the same time, Len Maurer had taken the 3-D Illustereo company into
. . . the advertising business, and it eventually led to his ownership of a graphic design studio, a career in the advertising business, and work in the fine art printing, computer graphics, and motion picture industries, with new 3-D and other graphic innovations produced along the way.
[from The 3-D-T’s by Ray Zone, in ATLER EGO Vol. 3, No. 115 (March 2013), p. 38.]
In ’58, Norm started to produce movies, beginning with SPACE MASTER X-7–in which Moe Howard had a bit part And then in ’59, using a 3-D process called CineMagic, Norm co-produced THE ANGRY RED PLANET with Sidney W. Pink.
The Three Stooges had met with declining interest in the ’50s. In ’56, Joe Besser replaced Shemp but didn’t really fit with the group. Then in ’57, Columbia terminated their contract with the Three Stooges. But this was a blessing in disguise, as Norm took over management of the Stooges and brought their classic shorts to television. With a whole new generation seeing the Three Stoooges, the trio were in demand again. But what about Curly?
Ad for HAVE ROCKET WILL TRAVEL and the 3-Stooges Fan Club, back cover of FOUR COLOR 1043 (October-December ’59).
Joe DeRita had joined the team as Curly Joe–shaving his head to create a greater resemblance to the late Curly Howard–and the new Three Stooges were featured in HAVE ROCKET WILL TRAVEL (’59) and SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE STOOGES (’61).
After these two feature films, Norman Maurer would write and produce all of the Three Stooges movies to follow: THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES (’62), THE THREE STOOGES IN ORBIT (’62), THE THREE STOOGES GO AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAZE (’63) and THE OUTLAWS IS COMING (’65)–the last two also directed by Maurer.
For THE THREE STOOGES IN ORBIT, Maurer again used the CineMagic effect.
In addition to their featured roles, the Stooges made cameo appearances in other movies and they performed live to packed houses–one of the most in-demand comedy acts of the ’60s.
Of course, the Stooges got their own comic, again–first with Dell and then with Gold Key (once Western Publishing launched their Gold Key imprint). The Gold Key title lasted from ’62 to ’72.
THE THREE STOOGES 46 (March ’70), pencils by Pete Alvarado.
On top of all that, Maurer produced a Saturday morning cartoon series called THE NEW THREE STOOGES (’65-’66), which included live skits performed by Larry, Moe and Curly Joe.
Their last movie–THE OUTLAWS IS COMING, a western send-up–featured an earnest performance by Adam West, who had his share of cowboy roles before starring as Bruce (Batman) Wayne.
the outlaws is coming (’65)
In the ’70s, Norm pursued more work in cartoons, writing for several cartoon shows including SCOOBY-DOO and PLASTIC MAN–and producing a new Three Stooges animated series with the trio as bionic super-heroes: THE ROBONIC STOOGES (’77-’78). Likewise his sons, Jeffrey Scott and Michael Maurer, have been prolific writers for animated programmes.
Besides his animation work, Norman Maurer made a return to comics in the ’70s–again working for Joe Kubert who had become the editor on many DC war titles–Norm wrote and drew various features, but his most notable work was on the recurring Medal of Honor series that appeared in OUR ARMY AT WAR, OUR FIGHTING FORCES, G.I. COMBAT and STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES.
Norman Maurer passed away on November 23 ’86.
WHACK No. 1 (October ’53) by Maurer and Kubert.
THREE STOOGES No. 2 (October ’53) by Norman Maurer. This was the first of two 3-D Stooges issues.
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