In celebration of Woman’s History month, What’cha Reading presents a brief history and biography of the pioneering women who made great breakthroughs in the field of comic book illustration and creation, and first made steps into world dominated by men, carving a path for those who followed after.
Ramona Fradon graduated from the Parson School of Design and after her art samples shopped around by a friend of her husbands in the comic biz, received a job from DC comics. She began with an assignment on Shining Knight in Adventure Comics, and then was given the Aquaman back ups in the same title as a regular gig. During this tenure she co-created Aqualad and continued to pencil Aquaman’s adventures for ten years. After creating Metamorpho with Bob Haney and drawing his appearances in Brave and the Bold, Ramona took sometime off from comics to raise her newborn daughter.
In 1972 she returned to DC Comics and went on to have a long and prolific career, penciling everything from House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Worlds Finest, and Brave and the Bold to Plastic Man, and nearly the entire run of Super Friends. She also worked very briefly for Marvel, drawing the never published 5th issue of The Cat and a fill in issue on Fantastic Four. She wasn’t used to Marvel’s writing method and recounts the tale of her short-lived stint at the house of ideas as:
“First of all, I was really rusty. And [on The Cat #5] I was totally confounded by not drawing from a script. They gave me this one paragraph and said go draw this 17-page story. I don’t think I did my best work by any means. I think I had a script on Fantastic Four, but I just don’t think they were satisfied with my work. Then I went back to DC and started doing mysteries with Joe Orlando. I really had a lot of fun doing that. It suited my style, I think.”
When Dale Messick, artist on the Brenda Starr newspaper strip retired in 1980, Ramon became the regular artist on the strip until 1995. She continued to contribute art for Bongo’s Simpsons an Sonic Books, as well as the Mermaid Man stories in their SpongeBob Comics. Ramona was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
Hired by Marvel as an editorial assistant, Linda Fite constantly badgered Roy Thomas for writing assignments, believing she could write comics just as well as any man. After two years, Thomas acquiesced and Linda was given back-up story in two of Marvel’s lesser selling titles; Rawhide Kid and Uncanny X-men (yes folks, there was a time X-books didn’t sell well).
Then in 1972 Linda was offered the writing chores on Claws of the Cat, an editorial experiment to see if a female creative team and a female character would attract the burgeoning number of female comic book collectors. Fite found the assignment slightly demeaning, quoted as saying: “A cat! Oh my God! How original! We’ll have a woman, call her the Cat and she can be in cat-fights…”
But she was happy for the chance, and infused as much woman’s lib into the book as she could. Claws of the Cat was cancelled after four issues due to lack of sales.
Linda Fite is also partly responsible for the career of Barry Windsor-Smith. While working in Marvel’s art department, Linda sent a note of encouragement to Smith after reviewing his art. It was this letter that convinced the young Barry to travel from England with his portfolio to the offices of Marvel in Manhattan. Linda has since retired from comics, and work for the Times Herald-Record in Middleton, N.Y.
And here is a little fan conjecture that came up in conversation between me and my good friend Bart, Florida’s own God of Comics. In 1972, Linda Fite wrote and Marie Severin drew the Cat , later known as Tigra with her costume being passed on to Hellcat. She had cat-like abilities, enhanced senses and was very gymnastic. Her costume consisted of a blue and yellow jumpsuit, a pointed face mask, claws, and lines denoting whiskers:
Linda was also happily married to Marvel’s in house artist; Herb Trimpe. Yes that Herb Trimpe. The one who drew Hulk #181, the first appearance of Wolverine, in 1974, two years later.
Now, History says Romita was involved with the design of both characters and Stan Lee slaps his name on everything, but is it just a coincidence, or is it possible that two woman are the ones actually responsible for one the most popular characters in Comics history.
Marie Severin was born into an artistic family (her father was a designer, and her brother, John, an illustrator) living in Long Island N.Y. After her family moved to Brooklyn, she attended various art classes an even went to the Pratt Institute for one day deciding, ‘this is a college, and I wanted to draw an make money’.
She was paying the bills by working on Wall St. While pursuing her dream, when her brother John, working as an artist for EC comics, needed someone to color his work. Marie was quickly hired, and A Moon, a Girl…. Romance #9 in October 1949 marked her debut as a colorist. She went on to become the companies go-to colorist, coloring most of their books across the company line.
After EC shut down in the post Comics Code era, she went to work for Atlas Comics, and eventually Marvel. After penciling a “college drug culture” illustration for Esquire magazine, Stan Lee quickly assigned her as penciler on Strange Tales, doing the Doctor Strange feature after Bill Everett’s run.
Marie gave up her position as Marvel’s head colorist so she could focus on her penciling career, which extended itself to include inking as well. Most known for her work on Sub-Mariner and the Hulk she did a number of interiors and covers for Marvel on titles such as Iron Man, Daredevil and Conan, designed Spider-Woman’s original costume, as well as co creating the Cat with Linda Fite.
She had a collaborative and classic run on Kull the Conqueror with her brother John. Marie also took a stab at humor, penciling for both Crazy and Not Brand Ecch, for she which she won a Shazam award for in 1974. She was sadly under-utilized for both her artistic skill in comedy and adventure, and would have had ten times more work had she had more support from the then chauvinistic upper management.
In the 1980’s, she worked for Marvel’s Special Projects Division, helping to design toys and T.V. tie in merchandise helped develop Marvel Books, a young readers imprint.
She continued to contribute work here and there until the fall of 2007 when she suffered a Stroke and retired to Huntington Long Island. Marie Severin was inducted into the Will Eisner Comics Hall of Fame in 2001
Stay Tuned for Woman’s History Month Part 3 – Bronze Age Bombshells!