Aquaman, Metamorpho, and Brenda Starr cartoonist Ramona Fradon retires

Famed cartoonist Ramona Fradon is retiring at the age of 97, according to a January 3 announcement from her comic art dealer Catskill Comics.

After an extremely long run in the comic industry, at 97, Ramona has decided it's time for her to retire. She will no longer be doing commissions. She apologizes to all the fans who have been waiting patiently on her wait list to get one. She did say though from time to time she'll do a drawing or two to put up for sale on the website.

An extremely long run, indeed. Her comic book career started in 1950, and her career highlights include a 1959 revamp and long run on Aquaman, the co-creation of DC's offbeat superhero Metamorpho with writer Bob Haney in 1965, a run on Super Friends in the 1970s, and the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter from 1980-1995.

She also was a pioneer, as one of the only women working in comics during the first decades of her career.

Cartoonist and curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco Andrew Farago wrote on BlueSky, "Ramona Fradon retires today at the age of 97, just a little shy of Al Jaffee's retirement age of 99. Not sure if that means that cartooning keeps you young or if it just means that cartooning keeps you broke, but what a body of work she's produced over the past eight decades!"

Fradon did work for DC as recently as last year, drawing this variant cover for Superman #4 (2023)

My favorite of Fradon's work is her run on the Silver Age Aquaman. These comics had a more cartoony, fun tone than other superheroes of the time, and her artwork was just fantastic.

In 1988, Fradon related an interesting insight about being a female cartoonist in the male-dominated world of grim, violent superhero comics. (Link at Wikipedia and source)

"[Trina Robbins] made the observation that most women tend to have a more open style, use less shadow, and work in bigger open patterns. I think that's probably true—at least I always did (work in that style). I thought that was a big failing of mine, that I couldn't emulate that kind of photographic reproduction style. When I read that this seemed to be a characteristic of women cartoonists, it made me feel a bit better about it. … Something that always jarred my eyes is to see the kind of heaviness and ugliness about most comic art. There's not much sweetness to it. It's the tradition, and I don't think it has anything to do with the individual artists. It's just the tradition … the look. That always troubled me."

Rather than failing to emulate that pervasive style, Fradon succeeded in offering a fresh perspective on superhero comics.