Ramona Fradon is one of the greatest comic book artists of DC's Silver Age, and indeed one of the most important comics artists of all time. She was a woman working in a male-dominated industry back in what we 21st Century folks like to call the Mad Men era. As such, she hasn't always gotten the same respect as her male peers, but her work nevertheless helped built what we now think of as the language of superhero comics.
Q: I've always felt like Metamorpho could be a much bigger star, but he's just too ugly. And not like The Thing, who's ugly in universe; Metamorpho is a truly awful design. Are there characters who you think could be better if they didn't look horrendous? — @EvilKeaton
A: Whoa whoa whoa, my dude. It's all well and good to ask a question about good ideas for characters that were held back by bad designs, but you can't just roll up in here and disrespect Rex Mason like this! It's certainly true that he's never quite caught on the way he probably should've for how good his original appearances were, and there are plenty of reasons for that, but to chalk it up to a "truly awful design?" I have to disagree.
It might not be the best design to ever hit the comics page, but that affable ugliness is only part of what makes it work --- not just for the character, but as a visual signifier of one of the most interesting eras in comics.
It's no secret that women have long been underrepresented in superhero comics, both as characters and as creators. In the case of the latter, in the Silver Age of comics, your options were more or less limited to two: Marie Severin, who did her groundbreaking work largely at Marvel, and the brilliant Ramona Fradon over at DC.
Ramona Fradon was born on October 1, 1926, and studied art at the Parsons School of Design in New York, as well as the New York Students' Art League. She never read comic books as a child, but had a love for newspaper strips, including The Phantom, Li'l Abner, Prince Valiant, Terry and the Pirates, and The Spirit.
Welcome to Cast Party, the feature that imagines a world with even more live action comic book adaptations than we currently have, and comes up with arguably the best casting suggestions you’re ever going to find for the movies and shows we wish could exist. This week, I'm turning to the best DC comic of the SIlver Age, Metamorpho, created by Bob Haney and Ramona Fradon.
Q: What is your high water mark for DC's Silver Age? Mine is the publication of Atom #1 in 1961. --- @batmite1
A: When you get right down to it, it's pretty difficult to separate the Silver Age from the Superman. Even when Batman was translating the era's pop-art aesthetics and biff-pow sound effects to a mass media audience on television, it was the Superman titles that were defining the era in comics, and providing some of the true high points of the era. Chances are pretty good that when you think of the Silver Age, the image you get in your head is going to be from a Superman title, whether it's the time he was walking around with a lion head, a far-future adventure with the Legion of Super-Heroes, or even the very existence of Jimmy Olsen.
But while Superman provided most of the memorable highlights of the era, there was a lot going on beneath the surface in books like Doom Patrol or Metal Men that were stone cold classics. And pound for pound, the best comic of the Silver Age wasn't Superman. It was Metamorpho.
Things are messed up right now, so let’s talk about comfort comics. Comics as escapism. There are a lot of current and recent comics that could work for this — All-Star Superman, Lumberjanes, and Squirrel Girl come to mind — but I want to go back a little farther.
Because here’s the cool thing about comics: They all used to be for kids. Which means that a lot of the classic comics, the influential ones that made the medium what it is, are also escapist fun. So when you want to read something that’s going to let you forget your problems and get lost in fantasy, you can also read something that will help you become well versed in comics canon. This is literally how I became who I am today.
Ramona Fradon is one of the great living legends of comics, a creator with an instantly recognizable style who has worked on some of DC Comics' best-loved series -- and co-created a few classic characters along the way. Her crisp, lyrical line has elevated every book she's touched over her six-and-a-half decades in the business, and her work continues to influence and inspire creators to this day.
Fradon graduated from Parsons School Of Design in 1950, and began working at DC almost immediately, pencilling the Shining Knight backup story in Adventure Comics #165 – and when that feature was replaced by Aquaman two issues later, Fradon found her first signature character.
I think I've made it pretty clear over the past few years that I'm something of a connoisseur of strange comic book stories. I love comics where things get weird with that sort of cheerful rejection of all logic, where things don't quite add up, but the truth is, I sometimes get to a point where I think I've seen it all. I start to get jaded, and think that nothing can ever match the weirdness that I've already seen. But every time, I run across a story that makes me realize that in all my years, I've only hit the tip of the iceberg of bizarre stories. And it usually happens when I'm reading a Bob Haney comic.
Case in point: Bob Haney and Jim Aparo's "How To Make A Super-Hero," where the World's Greatest Detective decides it would be a good idea to let a homeless Plastic Man fill in for him while he's out of Gotham City, and guess what? It goes horribly wrong.
Like any great medium, comics has a give-and-take relationship with the zeitgeist. Comics can shape fashion, culture, and even politics -- but the industry is always changed by those things as well...
The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson will be following along to see how he fares.
This week, it's a spooooooky Halloween episode with a serial killer, people running out into live shellings and at least one hilarious text message.