Rest in peace, Ramona Fradon

The Hall of Fame comics artist and co-creator of Metamorpho and Aqualad has passed away at 97.

Ramona Fradon, the longtime DC artist and co-creator of Metamorpho, passed away yesterday at the age of 97 — a little more than a month after officially retiring from drawing comics.

The news was announced by her art agent, Scott Kress of Catskill Comics, on Facebook.

“Ramona was 97 and had a long career in the comic book industry and was still drawing just a few days ago. She was a remarkable person in so many ways. I will miss all the great conversations and laughs we had. I am blessed that I was able to work with her on a professional level, but also able to call her my friend,” the post reads.

Ramona Fradon

From an early age, Fradon showed an affinity and talent for art. Her father, Peter Dom, was a commercial artist who designed the font Dom Casual and logos for companies like Lord & Taylor and Elizabeth Arden. He encouraged her to pursue her art by going to art school.

After graduating from Parsons School of Design, she married cartoonist Dana Fradon, whose work appeared in The New Yorker. He encouraged her to try cartooning, and with some help from George Ward, who worked as an assistant to Walt Kelly on Pogo, she submitted samples of her work to several comic companies.

Her first published work appeared in the licensed comic Mr. District Attorney at DC Comics, based on the radio crime drama of the same name, and she soon started drawing features for Adventure Comics. Her artwork brought the Shining Knight and Aquaman to life, and she revamped the King of Atlantis as comics entered the Silver Age. In all, she worked on Adventure Comics for more than 100 issues, co-creating Aqualad in the process.

After Adventure Comics she briefly retired after giving birth, but was asked to return to comics to work with writer Bob Haney to create the character Metamorpho. She drew a couple issues of The Brave and the Bold that featured his debut, and would draw the first four issues of his ongoing series. Her original designs for the character were very different from the Metamorpho we know today.

“I made him a conventional type hero with a cape and tights and whole thing,” Fradon told journalist Jamie Coville. “That didn’t seem to work, then we talked some more. I think I finally figured it out that since he was based on four basic elements that he should be divided into four parts and that he shouldn’t have any clothes on. I mean.. otherwise, how would he do that? So it just evolved as we reasoned it.”

She also drew the first “team-up” issue of The Brave and the Bold, issue #59, which featured Batman and Green Lantern.

She left comics again to raise her daughter, but returned to DC in the early 1970s to draw titles like Plastic Man, Freedom Fighters and Super Friends. She also did a couple projects for Marvel in the 1970s — a fill-in issue of Fantastic Four and an unpublished fifth issue of The Cat, Greer Nelson’s pre-Tigra superhero identity.

“It was the 70s,” she told Coville about getting the call from Marvel. “I was retired for about seven years, and there was the women’s movement. They had a women’s strip and they wanted a women to illustrate it. I heard somewhere that Stan Lee really loved my work on Metamorpho and maybe they were hoping I could still draw that way, but my drawing was really rusty. And besides, it wasn’t the same story.”

In the 1980s, Fradon took over the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter, and drew it for about 15 years after its creator, Dale Messick, left.

Since leaving Brenda Starr, Fradon’s work as appeared sporadically in various comics and graphic novels, including Sonic the Hedgehog, Wonder Woman, Girl Comics and Sea Ghost. She drew several issues of the Spongebob Squarepants comics for Bongo, which featured Mermaid Man, their parody of Aquaman. She also wrote and drew the children’s book The Dinosaur that Got Tired of Being Extinct.

She became a regular on the convention circuit and a commissions artist, and she was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2006.

“Like so many of her fans — and she had a lot o’ them — I loved meeting Ramona and talking with Ramona,” said comics historian Mark Evanier. “We had her on many a panel and today, I can’t help but think that yet another giant of comics’ earlier days is gone. We have so few of them remaining and she was one of the nicest and one of the best.”

One thought on “Rest in peace, Ramona Fradon”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.