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Monday, June 23, 2008

Aquaman Shrine Interview with Ramona Fradon - 2008

sgAnyone who reads this blog had heard of the legendary Ramona Fradon--in addition to her work on Metamorpho, Plastic Man, The Super Friends, and Brenda Starr, she was the artist on Aquaman's run in Adventure Comics from 1951 to 1961, the longest unbroken tenure any artist has had on the character.

During her work on Aquaman, she was the one who visualized Aquaman's "modern" origin, as well as his sidekick, Aqualad. Her uber-clean line and bold, dynamic layouts
set a visual standard for the character.

I have been fortunate enough to meet Ms. Fradon at comic cons three times; the first two times resulting in some sweet, sweet sketches for my sketchbook. They are among my most treasured pieces.
So when I saw her again at the 2008 New York Comic Con, I thought about asking her this time if she'd be willing to do an interview with me for the Shrine.

But I was very hesitant to do--first off, she was always very busy at her table, talking to fans. Second, she's been interviewed so many times just about Aquaman that I figured she'd be bored to tears doing one more. So every time I got near her table, I wandered away, having chickened out.

Then, while I at the con, I ran into my blogging pal Richard Bensam (he of the blog
Estoreal), who I had never met in person. After talking a little while, I told him of my desire to talk to Ramona, but couldn't muster the courage.

Richard then gave me half a dozen reasons why she'd probably be willing to talk to me, and I should go ahead. Having someone back me up was just enough for me to go up to her, at a moment where I saw she was alone.

Of course, Ramona couldn't have been nicer and friendlier. She agreed to talk to me for the Shrine, as long as I "kept it short." No problem there--even though in the following questions I don't ask her anything she hasn't been asked before, I feel like The Aquaman Shrine wouldn't be complete without a word or two from the legendary Ramona Fradon:

The Aquaman Shrine: Did you pursue working in comics?

Ramona Fradon: I had never thought of working in comics. I submitted a sample to some comic houses because my husband and I were living on the G.I bill at the time and we needed money.

AMS: Even today, comic books are a heavily male-dominated field. Did DC--or any other publisher--offer any resistance to hiring a woman artist when you were getting started?

RF: I never experienced any resistance while I was working in comics. My impression was that editors and writers were only interested in whether you could do the job.

AMS: You got into comics just a lot of people were getting out, were you doing other kinds of illustration work to make a living?

RF: I didn't realize that, maybe that explains why it was so easy for me to get a job.

AMS: Do you remember how you ended up with the Aquaman assignment?
RF: I had never heard of Aquaman. One day Murray Boltinoff, the editor at DC who had hired me and gave me work, handed me an Aquaman script and I drew it for the next seven or eight years.

AMS: Did you have much interaction with the writers, like Jack Miller and Robert Bernstein?

RF: The only writer I ever interacted with, let alone met, was Bob Haney when we worked together on Metamorpho.
AMS: You drew the first appearance of Aqualad. Was there a lot of direction on what he should look like, or was it completely up to you?

RF: No. I just muddled through by myself.

AMS: Was there a particular comics assignment or character (Super Friends, Aquaman, Metamorpho) that you had the most fun working on?

RF: I enjoyed drawing Plastic Man because he was goofy--not "serious" like other superheroes. I liked drawing mysteries, too, because I was able to exaggerate the drawing and make it melodramatic.

I particularly liked drawing funny comics for Bongo and Nickolodeon and wish I had done more of that kind of thing during the years I drew for publication.

It's a real honor to have talked to Ramona Fradon, and I thank her so much for her time and all her fantastic work over the decades.

And I also have to thank Richard for the pep talk; without him, I wouldn't have done it at all. Thanks Richard!

sgFor Further Reading: For a much longer, career-spanning interview with Ms. Fradon, check out TwoMorrows' Alter Ego #69, which you can order here.

Conducted by Jim Amash, its chock-filled with beautiful Fradon art, along with (as you can see) a new Aquaman cover by her!

It also features an interview (perhaps the last one ever?) with Aquaman's co-creator Paul Norris. So for those of you who missed it when it came out last year, the Shrine recommends this issue to any and all Aqua-Fans!


Fleerfan said...


I'm glad you got the courage up to speak to Ramona. Thanks for taking the opportunity to speak to her and share her responses with your readers.

Jon H.

Anonymous said...

Rob, ALWAYS try to approach folks! If they blow you off, you've still done nothing wrong!

Once again, A Rob Kelly Family Site remains a Site Of Record.

Great week,
-Craig W.

Plaidstallions said...

Well done Rob, Romona Fradon is hugely important to this place.

rob! said...


i'm inherently shy, so going up to people asking them for an interview is always going to be an uphill struggle for me.

luckily, there have been a few pros i've met who have been so friendly and so cool that i'm not nervous anymore when asking them for something, like Paul Kupperberg or JM DeMatteis, but most of the time i'm still reined in by my shyness. this blog has been a huge help getting over that.


yep. even tho the interview is very brief, i felt like i had to get at least a few words from RF, she's such a huge part of Aquaman's history that the blog would be incomplete without it!

plus her art is just so awesome...

Anonymous said...

I am so jealous. Ramona Fradon was one of my favorite artists when I was a young man reading SUPER FRIENDS. For a while that was my favorite book.

Richard said...

Considering that I'm so inherently self-conscious and insecure in public it takes me some effort just to work up enough nerve to talk to the illustrious blogger and graphic artist Rob Kelly, I'm honored to have contributed in some small way to helping bring this conversation about. But yes, I did feel very strongly that Ms. Fradon needed to be represented here, and I knew you'd regret it if you didn't take the chance.