In Her Element: The Art of Ramona Fradon
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.
Fradon studied art at the Parsons School of Design in New York, after a childhood spent reading newspaper comics like Li’l Abner, Prince Valiant, and The Spirit. After college she married a cartoonist named Dana Fradon, now known for his work at The New Yorker, and he encouraged her to get into the field herself.
She found work at DC Comics, where she would spend virtually all of her career. Her first job was drawing the Shining Knight in Adventure Comics, but it was only when that feature was replaced with one starring Aquaman, with Fradon still on pencils, that she really came into her own as a comics artist. Her Aquaman work is deceptively simple, combining an excellent design sense and flair for narrative with a cartoonist's skill at expressive faces. It's within the DC Comics house style of the time, but never feels constrained by it.
In the 1960s, Fradon co-created Metamorpho with Bob Haney, drawing the first four issues of the element man's solo series. These comics gave Fradon even more room to flex her artistic muscle. Everything about Metamorpho is kooky and jazzy and fun, and Fradon's style keeps pace with that mission spectacularly.
I've focused on her Aquaman and Metamorpho here, although she did plenty more. In some cases I've included whole pages, because the layout is a part of her genius. Also, some of these scans are from very old comics, so the image may be a bit weathered. But that only serves to provide a lesson in how well Ramona Fradon's work shines through.
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