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.
Things were weird for everyone in the Silver Age, but they were all the weirder for Aquaman. Living under the ocean, surrounded by sea life, and in an era when accurate science was even less of a priority for comic book storytelling, basically anything could happen to Aquaman as long as it involved water.
This gallery showcases some of his strangest moments from the Silver Age, featuring material from Adventure Comics and Aquaman's solo title.
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.
I've made my share of jokes about him before, but I'm really starting to think that 2017 is going to be the year that I do my best to get into Aquaman. As much as I love DC's Silver Age, he's my biggest blind spot of the entire era, and it's time to fix that. There's just one problem: I don't think I actually like reading about underwater adventure, and that's... that's gonna be an issue.
But maybe there's hope. This week, Twitter's own @YellFeat and Local Aquaman Expert Megan Nielsen alerted me to the existence of "Manhunt On Land," a story where Aquaman takes on a landlocked crime spree by loading up a pickup truck with his underwater friends and driving around with a fishbowl on his head. And it's amazing.
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.
All right, look. I have made my share of jokes about Aquaman over the years. Heck, if you really want to get down to it, I've made several people's share of jokes about Aquaman, to the point where I may have been personally responsible for the Great Aquaman Joke Shortage of '14. But honestly --- I mean honestly --- they're just sitting right there and you can't really blame me for going after the low-hanging fruit every once in a while.
Which brings us to Adventure Comics #262 and "One Hour To Doom," a classic of the Silver Age where Aquaman, King of the Seven Seas, founding member of the Justice League of America, and one of DC's most inexplicably enduring characters, attempts to apprehend a seafaring criminal only to find himself stopped at every turn by the fact that sometimes, he is not actually standing in the water.
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.
When Aquaman debuted on this day in 1941 in More Fun Comics #73, in a story by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris, he was not the first aquatic superhero—Marvel's Namor the Sub-Mariner had him beat by about two years—but thanks to nearly seventy-five years of more or less continual publication, a choice spot as a founder of the Justice League, and starring roles on Super Friends and The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, he is surely the best-known underwater adventurer in comics. This fame, however, has proven to be a double-edged sword (trident? harpoon?) for the king of the seven seas.
Aquaman ran as a feature first in More Fun Comics, then Adventure Comics and World's Finest Comics before finally landing his own title in 1962. Not many superheroes survived the post-Wertham interregnum between the Golden and Silver Ages—Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman being notable exceptions—but Aquaman (and his long-time co-feature Green Arrow) survived the superhero drought unscathed, perhaps because he was a pet creation of editor Mort Weisinger, or perhaps because he kept his head down as a modest supporting feature in a string of anthology titles who didn't even appear on a cover until nineteen years after his first appearance (not even in his own title, but in the first appearance of the Justice League in Brave and the Bold).
On June 30th, 1940, a new feature named Brenda Starr: Reporter debuted in the Chicago Tribune's Sunday Comic Book Magazine. The deck was stacked against the strip and creator Dale Messick from the beginning, yet the strip would go on to run for more than seventy years.