When DW asked everyone at CFC what creator we wanted to discuss for Women’s History Month there was really only one option for me, Ramona Fradon. Fradon was born on the 2nd of October 1926, making her undoubtedly one of the oldest women that will be discussed here. Fradon has had a pretty legendary career despite not being a name that everyone seems to be familiar with. She’s perhaps most well known for her work on Aquaman in the Silver Age, but also co created Metamorpho and drew for the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter. She also made many wonderful Plastic Man and Super Friends comics and numerous other delightful comics, spanning a decades long career.
So why choose Ramona Fradon? What made me instantly gravitate towards discussing her work? Well part of that is because of my childhood hero, Aquaman. Arthur Curry WAS created in 1941 by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris in the golden age, but I don’t think it was until Ramona Fradon came onto Adventure Comics for the Aquaman backups, that the character REALLY came into his own. Fradon began drawing the character in 1951 and what would follow was one of the absolute best eras for the character. Over the course of an over a decade long run, Fradon would define the character and establish many elements of Aquaman’s canon like Atlantis and Aqualad alongside writers such as Jack Miller and Robert Bernstein. So much of the iconography surrounding this character came directly from Fradon.
A lot of modern Aquaman has been defined by it’s attempts to be “cool” and/or “serious.” Fradon depicted Aquaman playing in a band with an Octopus. There is such a gleeful campy spirit to all of Fradon’s Aquaman work that is so delightfully infectious. She compliments Bernstein’s stories with clean lines and expressive characters, making Aquaman a warm book, which is what gave him immediate appeal to me as a child. In a lot of ways Fradon’s work reminds me of C.C Beck’s Captain Marvel or Curt Swan’s Superman. The same way that both of those characters are defined by those artists, so too is Aquaman defined by Fradon.
That’s not all she did however as Fradon co created another DC favourite of mine, Metamorpho, alongside the equally amazing Bob Haney. Together they would create one of DC’s greatest Silver Age comics. While Fradon’s time on the book would be short she was absolutely perfect for the constantly shifting visual style of Metamorpho as a character, easily keeping up with the insane plots that Haney threw at her. These stories are a total blast and a testament to the unique creativity that comics can allow.
Of course this run made her perfectly suited for another wacky shapeshifter, Plastic Man. Fradon worked on a really fun 10 issue run with the character in 1976 through to 1977. Fradon even had the opportunity to draw the wider DC Universe with the Super Friends tie in comics.
It should be clear from all of this that Fradon worked largely on the outskirts of DC comics. She drew the weird characters, the goofy and eccentric oddities. The kinds of characters that many creators would shy away from, instead preferring to draw a brooding Batman or a kickass Green Lantern. But Fradon thrived with these stories. Laser beam guitars and Aquaman meeting Noah was just all in a day’s work for Fradon. None of it was stupid and none of it needed a wink to the audience to say “we know this is dumb.” She embraced it. She totally owned the inherent silliness of superhero comics. In a time where women in comics were a rarity, Fradon kept up with the best of them, making her mark on DC’s characters and ever expanding universe, and the best part? She’s still doing it. Seriously at the age of 94, Fradon is still doing top notch commissions. Fradon is a creator who had a pure joy for what she was doing. There’s a palpable youthful energy seen in everything she did, and I’ll always revisit her work because of that warm, kind and vibrant style that defined her career. Reading a Fradon story is like putting on a warm blanket and putting your feet up by the fire. To me she’s the ultimate comfort food creator, someone I come back to again and again to remind me why I love this medium.
“I loved it. The goofier the better.” – Ramona Fradon