interviewed by BRADLEY MASON HAMLIN for MYSTERY ISLAND PUBLICATIONS
Ramona Fradon is one of the most treasured artists in the comic book biz, and a genuine Mystery Island favorite. She is the artist most associated with the classic Aquaman character from DC Comics and she even designed his sidekick pal, Aqualad. Her work for DC also includes: Batman, The Freedom Fighters, Metamorpho [co-creator and artist], Plastic Man, The Shining Knight, The Super Friends, and Superman. For Marvel Comics she worked on The Cat and Fantastic Four before moving on to taking over the artistic duties on the Brenda Starr comic strip. In 2006, Ramona Fradon was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame.
Bradley: All of us Ramona fans know you started your career at DC Comics (National Publications) with the dynamic Shining Knight and then surfed on over to one of Mystery Islandís favorite characters Ö AQUAMAN Ö but we also know plenty of people have already bugged you about that stuff, repeatedly, so letís jump forward a moment and find out what you did for Nickelodeon (Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy) and Bongo Comics (Radioactive Man) Ö
Ramona: I did some Lunch Lady fillers and a Mermaid Man for Nick and another Mermaid Man for [Spongebob Comics #3], which is out on the stands now. I canít remember the date of that Radioactive Man story; it was either '06 or '07. It was a take off on Metamorpho, whose body was divided into four elements. The character in Radioactive Man was Mufsletto and he was made up of four food groups. It was a lot of fun to draw.
Bradley: We have our natives searching the cyber jungles for the exact issues at this very moment!
I suppose one of the first questions you get hit with is: Was it hard to be a woman in the comic industry? Did the guys treat you poorly, etc.? But I also know you havenít had a negative thing to say about that aspect, and thatís awesome, so letís skip that part, and talk about the work.
You like mysteries. So do we. Please tell us about working on House of Mystery with Joe Orlando. Is there a standout story for you from that period? Also, what other mystery-type books did you get to work with?
Ramona: Thanks for not asking me that. As for the mysteries, I enjoyed working with Joe Orlando. He was a great editor. He was more interested in the art work than other editors I had and he taught me a lot, especially about inking. The mysteries were written very melodramatically and I preferred working on them more than the superheroes.
Bradley: Metamorpho is almost a horror/monster title itself, such a genre blend. Must have been fun drawing with such an open door. Did working on Metamorpho lead you to House of Mystery and Orlando? I know he did some of the covers for Metamorpho with Charles Paris.
Ramona: I did stories for House of Secrets and House of Mystery. I think that what led me to working with Joe was that mysteries were big when I went back to DC, so thatís what they assigned me. I never thought the mysteries were scary. The ones I worked on were too melodramatic to be scary and were almost funny.
Bradley: Many of them were definitely funny in a totally fun ďcomicĒ way.
As cool as Metamorpho is himself, Iím a big Sapphire fan. I really think Sapphire Stagg is one of the hottest chicks in comics. Is there some Ramona in Sapphire?
Ramona: Of course Sapphire was me.
Bradley: Just fun to hear you say it. :)
Another goofy character you worked on was Plastic Man. Was there any key difference, enjoyment, or advantage between working on Metamorpho vs. Plastic Man?
Ramona: Plastic Man was fun in a different way. His stories were satirical and he was a total goof, while Metamorpho was sexy and involved a lot of interaction among the characters. I enjoyed them both but in different ways.
Bradley: Metamorpho sexy? You really are Sapphire!
Now, about Aquaman, we know you didnít pick the King of the Sea. Atlantis was thrust upon you, but honestly, when I think of Aquaman, I think of your drawings, be it back in Adventure Comics or later on in Super Friends. Thatís Aquaman, and I really go nuts when I see him drawn dramatically different.
Ramona: If I remember, I had a kind of crush on Aquaman.
Bradley: Donít worry. We wonít tell Rex Mason Ė the Element Man!
Ramona: He was such a clean cut Ď50s-ish kind of guy. I agree about seeing him drawn the way he sometimes is today, especially with the hook and beard and looking kind of psychotic.
Bradley: Could not agree more. We have to ask, what were some standout moments for you in drawing the underwater material? Is there a superlative Aquaman story that still resonates as your favorite?
Ramona: I canít think of a story that stands out for me. They all blend into each other at this point.
Bradley: For sure, pretty blurry underwater, but what a great blend Ö
Do you ever regret not giving Aqualad pants Ė even though, he was probably better off swimming-wise without Ďem?
Ramona: What do mean by pants? I put him in shorts like all the superheroes. I know he had a skirt on in the first Aquaman cover, but that was not something I did.
Bradley: I meant he didnít have the shorts on the outside of the costume like Aquaman. Heís bare-legged like Robin, which did give him a different look from A-Man, so Iím not complaining. I actually donít think thereís been a better modern version of that character, either. But guys with bare legs and boots do tend to get picked on when theyíre out of water for an hour.
As far as the kooky skirt is concerned, you can blame Howard Purcell and Sheldon Moldoff for that one, although, itís still a pretty cool cover.
Did you come up with any of the offbeat Super Friends that werenít a part of the regular DC Universe? There were some pretty great ones.
Ramona: No. Those characters were all Nelson Bridwellís inventions. He was very particular about how they should be drawn and made sure I got all the costume details right.
Bradley: Interesting, thanks for that info. Tell us what Ramona does on a typical day off for relaxation.
Ramona: Well, I live in an old house and thereís never a day off for relaxation. I do love to read, though, mostly non-fiction, and to travel in Europe, mostly Italy.
Bradley: Bravo, sounds molto bene. Whatís the last/latest comic book youíve read?
Ramona: The Adventures of Unemployed Man. I illustrated part of it but never had the chance to see the rest of it until it was published. It was a very clever satire on our dysfunctional economic system.
Bradley: Sounds funny. Weíll check it out!
[Editorís note: The Adventures of Unemployed Man, written by Erich Origen and Gan Golan with art by: Ramona Fradon, Rick Veitch, Michael Netzer, Terry Beatty, Josef Rubenstein, Benton Jew, Thomas Yeates, Shawn Martinbrough, Clem Robins, Tom Orzechowski, Thomas Mauer and Lee Loughridge. See: http://www.unemployedman.com for more details].
What kind of drawings give you the most enjoyment today?
Ramona: I like doing commissions and drawings for conventions. I can draw what I want to and have all the time I need to get the drawings right. When you draw for publication, thereís never enough time to get it right.
Bradley: Still wanna draw weird heroes? The Secret Society on Mystery Island needs a girl that can draw Ö
Ramona: In general, Iíve become allergic to scripts, but you can show me what youíre doing.
Bradley: You bet, and thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us on Mystery Island.
"Ramona Fradon Interview" by Bradley Mason Hamlin © 2011 Mystery Island Publications.
Edited by Lucy Hell. Published July 02, 2011. All rights reserved.
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