Comic Book Artist Edited by Jon B. Cooke Comic Book Artist, Eisner Award winner for "Best Comics-Related Magazine", celebrates the lives and works of great cartoonists, writers and editors from all eras through in-depth interviews, feature articles, and unpublished art.

Perhaps most diehard '60s Marvel fans' first introduction to Marie's art was her rendition of Dr. Strange in the pages of Strange Tales. Here's a Doc Strange commission piece (courtesy of Jerry "The K" Boyd) by Marie. Art © 2000 Marie Severin. Dr. Strange © 2000 Marvel Characters, Inc.

The Great Women Cartoonists' Slumber Party of 1999!

Ramona Fradon, Marie Severin and Trina Robbins Talk About Their Experiences in Comics

Conducted by Trina Robbins
Transcribed by Jon B. Knutson

From Comic Book Artist #10

In September, 1999, Marie Severin, Ramona Fradon and your guest editor got together in New York City to spend the weekend at the house of a friend and we recorded the event. I brought along the traditional accouterments of a slumber party: blue and green nail polish and cheap hair ornaments, while the more sophisticated Ms Fradon and Severin contributed wine. Ramona and Marie did most of the talking, with me popping in occasionally as agent provocateur. The start of the tape catches us already in mid-conversation... - TR

TRINA ROBBINS: Ramona, you were saying something about...?

MARIE SEVERIN: The people there in production, stuff would come back from Chemical [the printing company] and if you were around, you could swipe something.

TRINA: And what people swiped, it was just because they wanted the art? There was no market then, was there?

MARIE: They wanted it for themselves. There were always collectors in comics and they usually worked in the industry. They managed to swipe art wherever it wasn't nailed down; in warehouses where newspaper and comic book art usually was stored. In the 1960s, the field was filling up with talent who were intense fans... the value was becoming known to a growing number. One older pro, rumor has it, walked out of the office with art before it was printed!

RAMONA FRADON: Some people were smart, they knew what they had, whereas I didn't know from anything.

TRINA: In the beginning, was your work ever returned to you?

RAMONA: The Aquaman [art was] returned for a while, then they stopped doing it.

TRINA: And it didn't even occur to you to ask, right?

MARIE: Where would you put them?

RAMONA: That's right. Exactly. They were just meaningless stuff that you kept grinding out. But then, they began to return them....

MARIE: You're talking the '70s, right?

RAMONA: Yeah, the '70s. I think the thing that upsets me more than anything else are people who come and ask you for your autograph, and then they go sell it at an auction. That really upsets me! Not that I want to sell my autograph, but I don't like to think that every part of me is a commodity that somebody's going to snatch off and sell!

TRINA: So you have discovered this is happening?

RAMONA: Yeah. Somebody showed me one they bought at an auction, and I saw another one auctioned off at a convention. And one time I gave my work to a woman's brother who was at Yale, and he was going to sell some drawings for me. Well, I never saw those drawings again, or any money. Every once in a while, somebody brings one of them to show me. I suppose that's the way people feel who are in any kind of public life, they get parts of them taken away and sold.

MARIE: Oh, recording artists, it's the same thing.

RAMONA: Oh, yeah, that's even worse, sure.

TRINA: A question: Can we refuse to do free art, for that reason?

RAMONA: Well, I'd do it for kids, you know, when they come up.

MARIE: Oh, but the kids might be the very ones who are doing this!

RAMONA: Yeah, probably! [laughs] Smart little buggers!

MARIE: Kirby one time at a convention-I'd heard this story-that a little kid came up to him, a real cute little kid, and asked, "Please, could I have a drawing?" and Kirby did a little fast sketch... anything he did was great, you know? A half-hour later, the kid comes back, and he says, "See? I colored it!"

RAMONA: Well, I wouldn't mind that, I really wouldn't! Although, as you know...

TRINA: On the other hand, he means well, instead of taking it and selling it.

RAMONA: Yeah, exactly.

TRINA: He cared enough to color it.

RAMONA: I think that's great.

MARIE: He's not the normal fan, though. It's not like he turned the corner and said, "How much do you want for it?" [laughter]

TRINA: But I know someone called my attention to some little Wonder Woman sketch I had done for someone at a convention was up for auction on eBay. I don't even remember who I did it for, and personally, it was a lousy sketch. When I draw at conventions, I'm not that good.

RAMONA: It's hard, because you've got that noise. That's why I like to bring pre-drawn sketches.

MARIE: Same here.

RAMONA: And if they see something they'd like that's already been sold, and I have a Xerox, I'd say, "If you're coming back tomorrow, I'll do it tonight at my hotel."

MARIE: Take an order, yeah.

TRINA: Some guys can do it, and at auctions and conventions, these guys will get up and do it... in front of everyone, these incredible finished drawings!

MARIE: I can do it, but when I get away, I see it's completely cockeyed. But most of the audience doesn't care.

RAMONA: Oh, I sat and watched you at that convention drawing, and you draw effortlessly. It just comes tumbling...

MARIE: But sometimes it's cockeyed.

RAMONA: Oh, it looks great. You really can do that.

MARIE: Well, I've done it in classrooms and halls a lot.

RAMONA: Well, you're just good at it. She's a performer.

MARIE: Oh, I'm a show-off. [laughter]

TRINA: So, Ramona, in the early days, nobody even asked for their work back?

RAMONA: As far as I know, they didn't. Well, we were all so anonymous, we never had our name on anything, it was just total anonymity. I happen to think it made for some of the richness of comics in those days, because when you're sitting all by yourself in a room, you're going to think of things that you're not going to think of if you think the whole world's looking. You almost felt there was no audience, that's the way I felt.

MARIE: I never experienced that.

RAMONA: Really? See, my father wanted me to be a fashion artist, out in the open in New York Times Lord & Taylor ads, that kind of thing. But when I went into comics, I had a very strong feeling of relief that this was anonymous, that nobody knew that I was doing this, they weren't going to see my work, no adults were going to, that the public wouldn't be aware of it.

TRINA: Not like you were proud of your work?

RAMONA: No, I was always embarrassed. I still am, I can't stand to see my stuff in print.

MARIE: You always feel it wasn't good enough?

RAMONA: Yeah. I never wanted anybody to look at it.

TRINA: Oh, Ramona, that's not true. You're an excellent...

RAMONA: I mean, one part of my brain knows that, I just hate to have... I mean, I think I'm over that now, fairly well, but I used to draw with one hand covering the drawing, [laughs] because I was so embarrassed by it.

MARIE: Oh, Ramona, it's awful that you should feel that way. It should be enjoyable!

RAMONA: No, I don't think I ever drew... now, when I'm drawing, I enjoy it. When people ask me to do drawings, and I draw what I want, I really enjoy it. But I don't think I ever enjoyed it before that. It was something I was supposed to be doing, because my father wanted me to be an artist. So I did it. Went to art school, I had no idea why I was in art school, and I had no idea what I was going to do when I got out of art school.

MARIE: Both of us, I didn't have that much ambition, and you...

RAMONA: I didn't have any!

MARIE: You didn't have any?

RAMONA: No, zero.

MARIE: But you are proud of your work, aren't you?

RAMONA: Well, I like what I'm doing now. Yeah, I look back on some of it... I keep the good stuff, you know? [laughter]

MARIE: Well, you have to!

RAMONA: I've gotten rid of all my other... it's buried in the attic.

TRINA: Well, I was just going to say, can I have the bad stuff? [laughs]

MARIE: Yeah! I mean, people want it, there must be a lot to be said for it.

RAMONA: Well, for my own benefit, I just take out the good ones, and then I look at them and say, "Gee, I was really good, wasn't I?" [laughs] And I don't look at the bad ones.

MARIE: Yeah.

RAMONA: There are an awful lot of them.

MARIE: But you see the ambition in women is-at least, I find-is much less, usually.

RAMONA: Like Trina, for instance...

MARIE: Oh, Trina is strong, and she's fiery, because they put her down. The door was closed at times for me. With you and I, we just happened to fall into it.

RAMONA: Well, we were able to do what they wanted.

MARIE: You could do super-heroes. And we didn't go in and hassle the boss for, "I want to do Superman, I don't care what you do; I have to do Superman."

RAMONA: Oh, no. I used to do just the opposite.

MARIE: I didn't give a darn what they gave me, as long as I was being paid. If I could do it, well, it was a challenge. I loved the challenge of it, to do it, and then I'd feel, "I'm not doing this as good as Buscema, ooooohh." I followed him on Sub-Mariner, I followed him on "The Incredible Hulk."

RAMONA: See, you were interested enough to do that.

MARIE: Well, I wanted to show off! How can you show off if you don't do it? I wasn't that crazy to have my name on it, I don't care. But for my own...

TRINA: But if you wanted to show off, then you did have ambition, you did have ambition.

MARIE: Maybe, but not for... I couldn't be bothered fighting and competing, I just couldn't.

TRINA: Couldn't that be because both of you as women were brought up to be nice girls, and not to fight? Because that's how girls were brought up?

RAMONA: Well, I'm a Libra, so I'm just naturally accommodating.

TRINA: [To Marie] You're a Leo, right?

RAMONA: She's a super Leo.

MARIE: Leos don't like competition.

TRINA: Plus, we try to eat up the competition. [laughter]

MARIE: Now, you're going to pull your psychiatry on me.

TRINA: I think it's interesting that you both worked in hospitals.

RAMONA: It is. Yeah. And we were both doing underwater characters at the same time.

MARIE: I thought of that, too.

RAMONA: We have these parallel lives.

TRINA: Yeah. Do you think it's a thing about women and water? I mean... you're the shrink...

RAMONA: I just thought of that.

MARIE: I ain't havin' no babies! You guys...

TRINA: Doesn't matter, though, it's in you... the woman and water combination.

RAMONA: I didn't ask for "Aquaman"; it was inflicted on me.

TRINA: But you did it so well.

RAMONA: Because it was embarrassing not to.

TRINA: Ah-ha!

RAMONA: Did you like to see your work in print?

MARIE: Yeah, I did. I liked to see that it came out as well as could be expected, because some of the stuff you were following, it was so good. I mean, how can you draw after Kirby, how can you draw after Buscema?

TRINA: But you did! You did it after Ditko, too!

MARIE: But it satisfied me; it was the best I could do at the time.

RAMONA: You know, it's funny, because you were holding yourself up to a different type of drawing than I was. At DC, when I was in Adventure Comics, I was working against the old Superboy drawings, and Green Arrow, so that was a relatively comic style, it wasn't hard-driving, what I consider masculine style, and it wasn't as proficient as, let's say, illustrative. I was doing stories for younger readers which called for a simpler more open style.

MARIE: Yeah, boys had completely different... Trina's type of book, the girls were being completely ignored. Now, we did have some girl fans that really liked what Roy Thomas was writing in The Avengers, and a few other guys that really wrote... I think Marv Wolfman had some people who were crazy about his [Tomb of] Dracula, this was all in the '70s. When the young people were coming in, and they were... the stories were more and more for the guys, and the girls, I think, stopped reading when they were all of a sudden drawing girls that... these guys knew not woman! I mean... I often thought, what do they do with themselves, these poor little boys? They draw these-well, you all know what they look like. So, the guys were coming in in the '70s, and they completely took over and they missed-as you really brought up, Trina-50% of the population has been ignored. If they had catered to women's comics when this thing all fell through, they would have the Barbies and whatever, girl adventures making money! A lot of the new people coming into the States, all the Hispanic and Asian people, the love stories, the girls used to love those! The immigrants would love them! They'd be learning English, and I remember they had a lot of those photography [fumetti] books, love stories, they loved that stuff! It's not out there. Unless they do it in underground stuff now.

RAMONA: Oh, yes. Well, Marie, I have to tell you: I really admire... I don't know if it's admire, but I'm in awe of your knowledge of the business.

MARIE: I was shut out of most information, even the slightest talent would come in to Marvel and know what was going on. Oh, sure. And yet, I was on staff so I'd see a lot of stuff, but it was on the peripheral.

RAMONA: You understand production, and the whole thing.

MARIE: Yeah.

TRINA: What I think Marie is saying is that she didn't get to do the networking that all the guys did.

MARIE: I took what was handed to me, for the most part. It was only when something would happen in the office, like the time there were bad words in the margin, and I didn't want that to get printed! I went in to Stan, "Stan, look at this! Suppose this wasn't cropped off? Do you want this printed? We'd be up to here [in trouble]! All you need is for that to be printed, because maybe the printer would think it was a joke and wouldn't cut it off, either. And... I have to look at this, and clean up pages and bring them in for stats, I don't want it!" Well, he wrote a memo that anybody who does this is going to be immediately fired, which is a marvel, because nobody got fired just for that. But he scared a few guys, because they were smart-asses, you know? Not all of them, but the young ones would come in and be jolly with the editor, and "I met Jack Kirby twice, huh, huh, huh." That sort of stuff. I was mad at Jack Kirby the first time I was there.

TRINA: Why were you mad at Jack Kirby?

MARIE: The first time I met him-this is going back almost 30 years ago-and I love the guy, he's really nice, well... I always wanted to look like Mary Astor. Jack Kirby's coming out of the room, and I almost bump into him, and they said, "Oh, Marie, this is Jack Kirby." I said, "Oh, Jack Kirby! I'm John Severin's sister." He looked at me, and he says, "Judy Garland." [laughter] I wanted him to say, "Mary Astor!" [laughter]

TRINA: I would've taken Judy Garland! I'd be okay with that.

MARIE: Well, I wouldn't!

TRINA: I would have immediately burst into "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"!

MARIE: See my red shoes?

RAMONA: You were never scared of being in the bullpen with all these men, were you?

MARIE: No, because I grew up drawing and my father and my brother treated me great; they were just delighted that I drew, and it was a family thing.

RAMONA: Being the only woman, surrounded by all these men, it didn't affect you at all, did it?

MARIE: At EC the times were different... at Marvel... no, they never intimidated me. I have disdain for the silly ones, and respect for the good ones. I always respected my boss, even if he was a loon. I'm not saying any particular one, but... [laughter]

RAMONA: As you were saying... I forgot what we were saying...

TRINA: It was the boys, working with the boys, it was networking that you never got to do, and you never did, either!

RAMONA: I never did any. I never knew anybody.

MARIE: Well, it was an entirely different work environment.

RAMONA: The few times I went in when I was working on Metamorpho, George Kashdan always used to have me go in the bullpen and sketch out covers. I used to dread doing that, I'd absolutely dread it.


RAMONA: Because at that time, the bullpen was in the center of this building, and there were no windows.

MARIE: And there were no women in there, either.

RAMONA: There were no women in there. These guys in there were on the verge of insanity, sitting there drawing this stuff all day long, and after a while, they'd start hurling ethnic jokes and insults back and forth, throwing...

MARIE: So you were going down into the snake pit.

RAMONA: ... and I just crept into the back, huddled and tried to think, you know? It was terrifying!

MARIE: The bullpen people in my day were production people; the most artists we had in the '70s was when Herb Trimpe-and then he started working at home-John Romita, and myself were there. Some artists would come in, and they'd think, "Oh, a rough sketcher, they'd work on something that had to be changed." But it wasn't going into a typists' pool, like in those days, they did have comics like that, that I never worked in a place that was like a typists' pool...


RAMONA: It was all production.

MARIE: Yeah, all artists working on stuff, and then production people would do paste-up and stuff. Ours was production and some artists, and I did a little bit of everything. That's why I was designing covers.

RAMONA: That's so amazing. You're so versatile.

MARIE: Well, it always meant I got a job!

RAMONA: Yeah, but you always dismiss it that way, when you really have an enormous amount of versatility, and talent. You can do a lot of different things.

TRINA: What I always see, though, is they ask Marie to do all these things, and the guys didn't have to do it. The guys didn't have to be inkers and colorists and pencilers.

MARIE: They didn't have to be because they couldn't! But I could, and I'd do it. I didn't consider that they didn't have to. I wanted to do it; I was getting paid for it. There wasn't anybody... sometimes [Stan] Goldberg would come in to color a cover, George Roussos was taking inks and excellent colors (I don't like George's scheme of coloring sometimes, but that doesn't mean it's not good. I don't like Rembrandt, either, but he's fantastic. It doesn't mean it's not good.)

TRINA: A little on the dark side, I know what you mean.

MARIE: I think I would be intimidated going into that atmosphere that Ramona describes, because first of all, they were all pieces of the chess game, and they all did work together, and then all of a sudden, this little flower of the universe... hah! It was a typical "all guy" daily atmosphere.

RAMONA: Oh, I just thought if they see me, and if they start turning their attention on me, and I'll die, absolutely die.

MARIE: They wouldn't do that, though.

RAMONA: I don't know.

MARIE: Not before the '60s, late-'60s. The guys wouldn't...

RAMONA: This was in the '70s... oh, no, it was the '60s.

MARIE: They wouldn't have done that. You were just intimidated because you didn't know what they were talking about; they had their own jokes...

RAMONA: And sometimes they did decide to tease, you know? That used to scare me to death!

MARIE: They never teased me that I recall, because it never worked.

RAMONA: Well, you're sassy. I was very shy.

MARIE: Oh, I'm shy, but...

RAMONA: You're shy?

MARIE: Well, a little... well, like a guy came to me once-they were always trying to shock me-and he had the top of a pushpin in his hand with red, and he said, "Oh God, nobody will pull this out, Marie! Nobody will pull this out!" And I said, "Oh, gee whiz!" and then I looked and I see the rubber cement. I knew right away! Because if he had a thing in his hand, it would be, "Ow! Aiugh!" They're babies! They're babies! But it was so weird they couldn't get me. I grew up with a brother who was always a big tease, and my father was funny.

RAMONA: Well, I had a big brother, and it hurt, [laughs] let me tell you. It didn't always work that way. It was just a nightmare experience for me.

MARIE: The bullpen, not your brother.

RAMONA: Yeah, the bullpen.

MARIE: Now, does your brother draw?

RAMONA: He was a lettering man. My father was a lettering man.

MARIE: Ah-ha! That paid well.

RAMONA: Oh, he was tops. He designed the Camel, Chesterfield and Elizabeth Arden logos and the Dom Casual typeface that's still being used.

MARIE: Really? My father worked for Elizabeth Arden.

RAMONA: Really?

MARIE: And he used to design things... He was her staff artist.

TRINA: Oh, my God! So both of your fathers were doing art for Elizabeth Arden?

MARIE: My father did beautiful lettering. He didn't like to do it, but it was beautiful.

RAMONA: I wonder if he knew my father.

MARIE: I don't know. My father worked for Arden for 30 years.

RAMONA: Is that right?

MARIE: Yeah. He was also mathematical, which is odd. I was too when I was a kid. My father had his own department for a while, and at Christmas parties, he would draw these things for their parties, and Elizabeth Arden would come, and she said, "Oh, where did you get these lovely decorations?" and they said, "Mr. Severin." She said, "What is he doing at a desk?" So he was brought over to the salon, he had his own little studio. He was just used for stuff that she wanted right away, or if they didn't have time-in those days, they didn't have all the Xeroxes, etc... when they were photographing something for an ad, he would do an actual bottle of perfume, and he'd put the name "Blue Grass Hand Creme," and "Elizabeth Arden," and he'd do it actual size and they'd photograph it for the ad, and I'd think, "How do you do that, Dad? Your eyes must be fantastic!" I'd never have the patience. He was a Virgo.

RAMONA: Ah-ha, there you go. [laughter]

MARIE: I'm on the cusp of Leo.

TRINA: I think of you as Leo rather than Virgo.

RAMONA: Oh, yeah, clearly. No question.

TRINA: So what else? Oh, I wanted to get back to you with those kids. Did you ever get an outlet in comics that satisfied you like the art for the kids?

RAMONA: Oh, well, no... I mean, it's a completely...

MARIE: You never had a job where they asked you to do it for a...

RAMONA: No, I didn't.

TRINA: I know Marie has done some things the she's really, really proud of, like you did that thing on Pope Paul, right?

MARIE: No, I colored that... I did St. Francis, but that was me just inking Buscema, which was a joy. That was just a job. I tell you, my personal satisfaction has always been Not Brand Ecch. All that I wanted to do...

TRINA: Oh, that cartoon stuff!

MARIE: ...Not Brand Ecch was making fun of Marvel. Also, I loved Kull, that was my favorite all-time, because my brother inked it, and he put the masculine side in, and he made the figures even stronger. Kull was a property of Robert E. Howard. But that was the best thing I did, and it only lasted about six issues.

RAMONA: Well, I liked doing the mysteries when I was working for Joe Orlando, and I was really getting into doing them, and then they switched back to super-heroes. I knew my time was up... you used to go in and beg to do certain things, I used to beg not to do the super-heroes. I mean, I really did, and it didn't work.

MARIE: I didn't go in to bother them much, but when I did, I very carefully chose something-and I usually got it-but I didn't go often, because there wasn't much, frankly, that I wanted to do. I'd do what they told me, but I wasn't that interested. It is so male, it is so male... and also, these fans, they had crushes on the artists, you know? There was a following with Neal Adams for example that was absolutely weird! He's awfully good, but I think the situation with some of these people, they turned him into god.

RAMONA: But I see that even today, with some of the current big artists, you know? The kids come up to them, and they just hang around them all day long! They don't worship girls that way.

MARIE: No. That's the whole difference, too, and I don't think people look at guys the same... they want to be like the guys, they want to be able to draw... . they don't want to be like us, even though we can do it. They look at us like we're so odd.

TRINA: I know that the feminist line has always been that men and women are exactly equal, and women can do anything men can do, yadda, yadda...

RAMONA: Oh, that is so true.

TRINA: ... but I happen to disagree, and I feel like you're both saying what I have always felt, which is women really don't like super-heroes, we don't relate to them. I mean, do you feel that?

RAMONA: I think it's absolutely stupid, one-dimensional characters constantly battling evil. What a world! But that doesn't mean we can't do it.

MARIE: I never took it that serious. I always wanted to fly as a kid. [laughter]

TRINA: Flying isn't the same as super-heroes. We'd all like to fly, that's what our dreams are all about.

MARIE: But that part of super-heroes I liked.

RAMONA: No, I feel as if I'm violating my nature, drawing this muscle-bound stuff and I'm probably reacting to some deep violence of my own that I don't want to deal with.

MARIE: This psychology course you took, I didn't think... [laughter] cut that out! [laughs]

RAMONA: Listen, I've given a lot of thought to this, Marie, and I have real issues around it: It wasn't just a job, and it wasn't just stupid; it was... I look at some of the stuff that I've drawn, and I think, "This is grotesque, and this is coming out of me," and it horrifies me! Then, I get past that, and I get into enjoying it, and then I go back and forth from one attitude to another.

MARIE: Well, I've never done anything that I thought was horrific.

RAMONA: There's a... I draw from my body, you know; I don't draw intellectually, I have to feel what I'm doing, and when I'm feeling myself smashing somebody in the face, or somebody with grotesque features... I get really upset!

MARIE: I think it's almost therapeutic with me. It's never a particular person, you know? Never! I feel a release...

RAMONA: Well, I guess I do too, but I fight it.

MARIE: ... and I know it's on a subliminal plane that I'll hit if I have to draw like that. I know that I'm doing it in my dream, but it happens to be coming out on paper. I'm smashing somebody, that's a very good release... I don't like to do it often, though, and page after page after page... Once in a while, you want to give somebody a good kick, you know? I like endings where somebody gets what they're supposed to get. And the more viciously the better, but I couldn't draw them being impaled or anything like that, that would be disgusting.

RAMONA: Now, that I wouldn't mind as much.

MARIE: You see? [laughter] You probably, deep down, are worse than all of us. [laughter] You'd like to draw somebody being impaled? That's terrible!

RAMONA: I could do it, I could get into that. [laughter] You know, the last time I saw Joe Orlando, he asked me if I'd be interested in doing a female version of Beavis and Butt-Head." [laughter]

MARIE: Wasn't that an icky thing?

RAMONA: But I love Beavis and Butt-Head! I think they're wonderful. They're poor little neglected kids, you know, nobody ever took care of them.

MARIE: But they're obnoxious! They're super-hero fans!

RAMONA: And they probably smell! [laughter]

TRINA: Both of you are very tolerant of different things. Marie is tolerant of super-heroes, and you're tolerant to things like Beavis and Butt-head and Vlad the Impaler, which is amazing!

RAMONA: Here's what I don't like, this is it in a nutshell: I don't like ugliness in drawings. That's what I don't like. When I see that I'm drawing something that's ugly, it really, really upsets me. Now, you can draw somebody being impaled, and it can be a beautiful drawing.

TRINA: Gorgeously impaled.

RAMONA: Look at some of the Gothic painters.

TRINA: Oh, yes, some of the exquisitely twisted Christ suffering...

MARIE: Those things upset me.

RAMONA: And Hieronymous Bosch? I mean, it's beautiful art, and the subject matter is absolutely gruesome. It's not the subject matter that bothers me, it's the rigidity.

MARIE: It's not like Beavis and Butthead with snot on their faces.

RAMONA: That I don't mind. That's okay. Because I think the Beavis and Butthead drawing is fine.

TRINA: You're talking on a plane that really is...

RAMONA: More of an aesthetic plane, really. That's good, and I'm glad that it's suddenly clarified for me. There's a rigidity, a tight, mechanical, muscle-bound quality that I can't stand.

TRINA: That's what you see in super-hero comics.

RAMONA: Yeah. When I'm not doing good drawing, that's how my drawing comes out, and I hate that. I don't want to get psychological about it....

MARIE: I think you'd like to do correct drawing, and so much of it has to be exaggerated.

TRINA: But you like the art on Beavis and Butthead?

RAMONA: I think it's fine. Really, I do. It's minimalist, but the characters are alive and expressive... and funny. The style is perfect for the subject matter.

MARIE: And it's hard to emulate something like that if you don't have that technique.

RAMONA: Right, [Mike Judge] designed that, and it works.

MARIE: I hate it, but I understand what you're talking about. You don't like something insincerely drawn.

RAMONA: Or there's a stiffness, a lifelessness...

MARIE: Or they're doing it just for money, not for personal...

TRINA: Maybe they're just not talented, there are artists who aren't...

MARIE: Oh, gee whiz, who? Who in the business isn't talented? [laughter] Who?

RAMONA: I really am enjoying the drawings I'm doing now, especially the pencil drawings, because they're soft. I'm drawing super-heroes, but the drawing is soft, it has a kind of flow, and it's not that dead muscle-bound kind of a thing that really upsets me.

MARIE: You get really into your art, and I can separate myself from my art in a lot of cases, I can separate some things, and some things I don't. One piece I did that was for a magazine that was coming out was sad things at Christmas, and it was right after a death in my family, and I drew something that they wouldn't print.

RAMONA: Really?

MARIE: I figured... I'm glad they didn't, now.

RAMONA: Why? Because you revealed yourself through it?

MARIE: It was my mourning, and it was a radiator, and a window with a hole in it, with the snow coming in, the radiator was off, and there was this kid sitting there with one leg, the kid was a skull practically, opening a shoebox with one shoe for Christmas.

RAMONA: Oh my god.

MARIE: Isn't that terrible?

RAMONA: It's not.

MARIE: But I got rid of a big thing, and I couldn't believe it. I have never before or since done something like that. [laughs]

RAMONA: You mean drawn from...?

MARIE: It just came out, it was something that had built up, and when I had the subject matter I had to do it at the office, and I just sat down and drew it, and-holy mackerel!-I thought, "Well, it's an honest drawing." But it's just as well they didn't print it. It's the complete opposite of what I'd normally...

RAMONA: But why do you say it's just as well they didn't print it?

MARIE: Because it made people unhappy. Yes, it was private, but not too private. I gave it up, if they wanted to print it, but the bullpen all looked at it saying, "Oh, how sad!"

RAMONA: You did well. You did what you set out to do.

MARIE: When you have a good storyline and/or script it's satisfying to draw a good story-but when in a script it has within one panel, "...the hero grappling with someone on a rooftop; identify them, as the hero doesn't know he has the wrong guy... show a particular gas station on the street, as the hero will blow it up next page; on the horizon it's dawn and a helicopter is coming with the cast of Everybody Loves Raymond"-seriously, some writers do not make use of continuity-

RAMONA: It isn't that; it's that they grew up on television, they don't think in stills, in graphic static images.

MARIE: They go too far and expect patience from the artist.

TRINA: Isn't that just bad writing?

RAMONA: It is bad writing, or a failure to understand the limits of the medium.

MARIE: As Ramona said, they should be writing for television.

RAMONA: In all the time I was doing Brenda Starr, Dale Messick was the only writer I had who knew how to write for comics. She was brilliant, she knew the format. The other writers grew up on television, they were used to the moving image, and they would give me a scene with a close-up of a character saying four different things in one balloon, so what am I supposed to illustrate? Nowadays they solve it by putting 16 balloons in one panel and letting the drawing take care of itself.

TRINA: Dale was a real exception, she was a writer. Brenda Starr was her baby, her brainchild, drawn from life. She totally understood that strip.

RAMONA: She knew, she was a strip cartoonist, she knew. I mean, everything that she wrote was for a still picture that told the story, whereas the other writers I've had were more interested in the words.

MARIE: Also, another thing to think about: In the old days, we were brought up on movies. I think the continuity that we had watching the old black-&-white movies was a different continuity completely than TV.

RAMONA: Which is kaleidoscopic.

MARIE: I went to the movies, God, about three times a week!

RAMONA: And we also read the Sunday comics.

MARIE: And your favorite books.

RAMONA: And now, kids don't read as much.

TRINA: You can see what you said about the movies, with Will Eisner, for instance, and I think also Milton Caniff, his influence was totally movies. I mean, I can see certain movies and they look like a Will Eisner comic, you know?

RAMONA: And yet, they turned around and influenced the movies, too, with the angles. Cross-pollination.

MARIE: Right, and there's a page that Wally Wood did-because he had a bunch of clones that he worked with-and it was a panel of all the shortcuts of the page, how to do the heads, and a down shot, a side shot, the side of the head, and I mean, it's basically movie shots. That was the best way, if you had talking heads... nobody could do a talking heads page better than Kirby... he'd make it so interesting! There'd be some gobbledygook machinery, there'd be an angle going down the spaceship as they're talking, or pressing a dial and they're talking, and there's something really weird going on down there, and you really listened to what they were saying, and you were into it, you know?


Very fondly recalled by many a Silver Age Fradon fan, here's a recent pencil portrait by Ramona of the Metamorpho crew. Art © 2000 Ramona Fradon. Characters © 2000 DC Comics.

RAMONA: I remember my favorite scene, probably, from all comics that I can ever remember was a close-up of Pat Ryan's profile with his pipe in the foreground, and then in the background, the characters! [laughter]

TRINA: That was Terry and the Pirates.

RAMONA: Yes. That's a camera angle. Except the movies weren't doing stuff like that then! The movies were doing relatively flat, straight-on scenes back in the '30s.

TRINA: But Caniff got a lot of stuff... I can see old movies and say, "Ah-ha, Caniff got something from that, he got something from that... "

RAMONA: And the camera, by its nature, records depth.

TRINA: It's like he went to see this movie called China Seas or something, and he went back and used it in Terry and the Pirates.

MARIE: There was a lot of things, like when they'd have somebody playing the piano, they'd have it taken from upstairs... or somebody coming down the staircase, you'd see her come out and down, and you felt you were walking down the stairs, or on a highway, terrified the cars were coming at you, it was very... and the trains, they're going to hit me! I believed everything up to about three or four...

RAMONA: Yesterday. [Marie laughs] And then you're supposed to get over it.

MARIE: Yes. [laughs] But we never do.

RAMONA: The movies have carried the angle shots to the nth degree, you can't go any farther. But comics have flattened out, and become less dynamic, more one-dimensional... more like posters. They're not getting depth any more, or a sense of movement.

MARIE: They're television people, and it goes so quickly, those scenes...

RAMONA: I wonder if that's what it is.

MARIE: I don't know what it could be, maybe a lack of imagination.

RAMONA: They're getting...

MARIE: But I think reading a book is like working on track, running a track through your head, reading a book.

RAMONA: It's linear. These drawings that a lot of the artists are making today are kaleidoscopic, with all the swirling lines and... you know, it's art nouveau all over again, but they're also static. They're drawing posters ... originals for sale.

MARIE: One of the biggest shocks to me in the early '70s ... Trimpe, Romita and myself worked in one room, a guy comes in-fairly new to it, I can't remember who it was-and Romita says, "You're putting so much stuff on the page! You've got spattering, you've got scratching, you've got Zip-A-Tone... your page rate doesn't cover it!" And he says, "Oh, I don't care how it looks in the book; this is for when I sell it at the conventions." Aaaahhh! I thought, "That's what they're doing, they're drawing for the conventions!" That's when they started getting their artwork back. Neal Adams was pushing that, which everybody was very grateful for him having done, however, when Romita asked Neal, "What do you want with all your pages? What are you going to do, paper the bathroom?" [laughs] But he knew the market, Neal knew what people wanted, especially Neal's work. There's a market out there, and that's when everybody went crazy. The untalented boobs that would do anything, they'd offer to clean the johns if they could say that they work at Marvel or DC, anything. Neal had a whole group of guys working for him, or with him.

RAMONA: Wasn't he paying them?

MARIE: Some of them were very productive. Larry Hama is a great talent, he was there. But there were a couple of poor souls that just would do anything. I think one of them went nuts.

RAMONA: I think there've been more than one who went nuts during that time. [laughter] It's true! I remember when I was working on "Aquaman," one inker flipped out. He was working late into the night. I can't remember who it was.

MARIE: I heard of something like that. What was he drawing?

RAMONA: I don't know, it was something heavy.

MARIE: You're constantly pulling from your guts, pulling all this creativity and you're tired!

RAMONA: I used to feel that way to some extent drawing Metamorpho. He was in the bowels of this pyramid, getting transmogrified... I mean, it's very vivid stuff!

MARIE: And you're thinking.

RAMONA: You're not even thinking. You're absorbing it!

MARIE: You just didn't draw to just fill out the page, you had to get into it.


MARIE: I think the emotional impact in order to have a good story has got to be there. I mean, you can see the emotions, say, and the extreme would be Jack Kirby, you can see the emotion there. I've met people who can't stand his stuff! Women who can't stand it, because it's so obviously wham! So male.

TRINA: But you just said it: I consider him the epitome of the male artists.

MARIE: And yet, he's not offensive. I never got that from Kirby.

TRINA: A lot of that had to do with Jack himself, because he was really such a nice guy.

MARIE: He experienced life, he had a rough upbringing from what I understand.

TRINA: Hell's Kitchen.

MARIE: And then he had experiences in the war! He told me one time-and I've also read it someplace, too-he used to tell stories once in a while in the office about one time he hid in a French oven (he was lagging behind the soldiers) and the Germans came in, and they were there overnight, and he had to stay in the oven, he was hoping they didn't want to bake anything.

For a time during the late-'60s/early-'70s, Marie was also a de facto Marvel art director as she designed the covers for much of the publisher's line. In the spirit of girl power this ish, here's Marie's sketch of Valkyrie and cohorts for the cover of The Avengers #83. Courtesy of the artist. Art © 2000 Marie Severin. Characters, cover © 2000 Marvel Characters, Inc.

RAMONA: So he kept having to relive all of that stuff when he drew?

MARIE: Well, he had all the research first-hand. He was in the thick of it over there.

RAMONA: It's amazing to me that men go to war.

MARIE: Isn't it? And you feel so bad. I always felt guilty that all these guys in the VA hospital and all these guys had to stop their lives, and I didn't have to do it.

RAMONA: I know.

MARIE: A boy I knew since I was five, was killed in the Korean War. He's my age, and I identified with him... we used to be taken for brother and sister, because we looked so much alike. He lived up the street in Brooklyn. He was a nice kid, he played dopey games, and I had the best gun collection because my brother was older than I am, and I had all his toys around, and I used to come out with a belt and all those guns, and all the boys came over to play with me, because I had the best gun collection on the street!

RAMONA: So they let you play.

MARIE: They'd better have, else they wouldn't have any guns!

TRINA: Okay, World War II: I always felt this was a war that had to be fought. But for the most part, wars don't have to be fought. The fact that men fight them is wrong, they shouldn't have to!

MARIE: Why are they so stupid? What's happened all these years?

RAMONA: That's what I want to know. Maybe it's the same thing that makes them like super-heroes.

MARIE: I wouldn't want to do it, I'd be scared to death!

RAMONA: I think that's why we got rid of the draft. Now, we've got volunteers, people who are willing to do it. It was very smart of the powers-that-be to have a volunteer army. Now we can have more wars and the country doesn't get so disrupted.

MARIE: Would you want to get into comics today?

RAMONA: Are you kidding?!? [laughs] Oh, my God!

MARIE: I couldn't take it.

RAMONA: What are they paying now? How much a page?

MARIE: I have no idea. Hundreds.

RAMONA: My timing has always been bad. I left comics just before the pay rates tripled. What is it... $700 or so?

MARIE: Oh, not that much. I would say at least $250. The majority.

RAMONA: $250? I think Mad pays more.

MARIE: That would be the old rate, I'd bet it's more now. I remember hearing Mad paid very well. I never did anything for Mad.

RAMONA: Although they're not doing so well.

MARIE: Then there's the royalties.

RAMONA: Marie, you'd be great for Mad, you know?

MARIE: Been there, I never thought of going back. I never drew for them, but I was on the staff of Mad.

RAMONA: It seems to me when you get to be 70, you shouldn't be drawing for Mad. [laughter]

MARIE: Yes... although the craziness of humor lasts forever-but one really has to be aware of current trends, and I've lost interest in a lot of TV or rock. It's funny though, sometimes an assignment brings out a lot of our talents, sometimes we underrate ourselves.

RAMONA: Maybe so, maybe so. Maybe I should charge more.

TRINA: Well, Ramona, I still remember the feeding frenzy when you needed pages inked for Brenda Starr [at a San Diego Comic con], and people were practically knocking each other out of the way for the honor of inking one of your strips!

RAMONA: Oh, I know, I loved that! I was so touched by it, you know? But just that they all got together and helped me out, my gosh!

TRINA: They were killing each other for the honor of inking your work.

RAMONA: One of the fellas came up to me at the convention this year and asked me if I could find the one that he did, and he should see my attic.

MARIE: Hey, listen, you should go through it, dearie, because you could make a fortune, and do it now. In the year 2000, people are making such a hullabaloo, just a number, but all this stuff is going to be in the 20th century... 20th century art! It's going to be like 19th century art, and it's going to be overnight! So go through it, and catalog everything.

RAMONA: Catalog, forget it. I'm totally disorganized.

MARIE: Oh, I sold a lot of mine for bitsy prices.

RAMONA: Me, too.

MARIE: Yeah, stupid.

RAMONA: I sold my Metamorphos for $1.50 a page. Somebody told me there was one at auction for $6,000.

MARIE: Oh... oh!

RAMONA: I don't believe it sold, but still somebody had the audacity to ask that for it... it hurts.

MARIE: Yeah, that would hurt me.

RAMONA: I have an attic full of Brenda; 15 years of Brenda.

MARIE: People would like that! Why don't you bring it to the convention?

RAMONA: I do! I always bring some. I usually sell one or two. Mostly they're after comic book, not newspaper stuff.

MARIE: You know, having sat next to you twice, and I'm so busy with my own stuff, I didn't know what the heck you were doing.

TRINA: Did either of you read Miss Fury when you were kids?

RAMONA: Yeah, I liked that. I liked the idea that she wore black and was so athletic, I thought that was so wonderful.

TRINA: She was the first super-heroine, really. Of course, you know she was done by a woman!

MARIE: Who did that?

TRINA: Tarpe Mills. Her real name was June Mills, she took her mother's last name, Tarpe... June Tarpe Mills was her full name, she called herself Tarpe Mills because it was a sexually ambiguous name. She didn't want people to know it was done by a woman. Of course, everyone knew anyway.

MARIE: You know what I think is interesting today-or say the last 20 years-you could tell a woman cartoonist... maybe not you and I; but nowadays, most of the time you can tell a woman's art in the comics and everything, while years ago, they all...

RAMONA: Now they're doing their own thing.

MARIE: But in the old days, you couldn't tell a male artist from a female artist. Like in the old engravings and book illustrations, they were all done, they were all trained, they all went to school, and they all had to meet a certain thing, and you didn't know one from the other.

RAMONA: That's true.

MARIE: Once in a while, a very strong... but I've seen drawings that I think are absolutely darling old-fashioned drawings, and it's by a guy! And you'd see these marvelous drawings... some of the flower fairy drawings, a woman did that, but some of them, you'd think, "The technique this guy is using..." and it's a woman!

TRINA: Oh, yeah. Artemisia Gentilleschi's stuff, if you ever see it, you'd never know...

MARIE: Pronouncing and spelling her name is an achievement!

TRINA: She was a Renaissance painter. Her favorite theme was Judith beheading Holofernes, which is really gruesome! She would draw the blood spurting out of his neck, and you'd never know this was a woman, but it was.

MARIE: I think it's wonderful that you know that!

TRINA: I have a whole book on her, she was a very successful Renaissance artist.

RAMONA: I've got to do your chart sometimes and see why you're like you are! [laughter]

MARIE: Order mine up, too, willya? [laughter] And send me yours!

RAMONA: You're such an ardent, passionate advocate of women's rights.

TRINA: I'm not the only one, I hope you realize that! [laughter]

MARIE: But you come on awful strong.

RAMONA: But you don't hate men, which is nice.

TRINA: No, I'm a male-basher, but I don't hate men. [laughter] It's true!

RAMONA: Well, they could use a little bashing.

TRINA: Exactly.

RAMONA: I think it's funny, though, that women... at least, Marie and I have always talked about how comical we thought super-heroes were, they're just funny, and you can't take them seriously!

TRINA: And yet, the guys do take it seriously. But you guys don't.

MARIE: Oh, they go into great lengths about this, and they intertwine their stories, and they can sit for hours... they never enjoyed doing story things with me, it wasn't that they didn't like our art so much...

TRINA: Why is there a difference?

MARIE: Well, their audience, for the most part, are their friends at the locker room or the drinking parties.

TRINA: Yeah, the locker room.

A commission job by Ramona featuring another fan-favorite character, Aquaman, a hero she depicted from the 1950s to early-'60s. Art © 2000 Ramona Fradon. Aquaman © 2000 DC Comics

MARIE: I started to say before, the guys at Marvel... I want to finish my thought on that with the artwork... I think most of them only appreciated my humor stuff, they liked my humor stuff a lot. But then, when they want to start doing their own humor stuff, that was pretty much ignored, and the idiots were doing What Th-? I was still under contract, but I got maybe one or two stories. That didn't bother me; I didn't call up and say I wanted to work with it, because frankly, I was afraid of the kind of stuff they'd ask me to do! But before then, the young kids would prefer having a story conference with the guys. They talked easier together, and also, I was a lot older than they... it's not an excuse for why I didn't get work, it's a fact. They felt uncomfortable talking with me, they couldn't sit around, snort and whatever they'd do.

TRINA: So was that because of your age, or because you were female?

MARIE: Both. And my technique was not polished in the "modern" sense.

RAMONA: I think it's the business, too.

MARIE: Oh, of course it was. I worked at the Federal Reserve Bank, one woman had a mental breakdown because she couldn't get ahead of the guys.

TRINA: You and John Romita are the same age.

MARIE: But I didn't perfect my comic art the way he did. He may take three days to do one cover, and Stan likes it, and it's very polished and comic book anatomically correct, and he can ink beautifully and painstakingly. People have asked,"Why didn't you do more stuff?" Well I did a bit of everything and at 5:00 it was the end of it.

TRINA: You didn't bring your work home?

MARIE: Only once in a while, Brand Ecch and stuff like that. My stuff in the latter part of the '70s was not in demand as much as the new guys coming up, the new blood coming up, the new style of inking... they had all these fine, wonderful lines. I mean, we were into better paper, printing and color meant very involved art could be reproduced. The price of the comic went up. Mcfarlane would not have been printable in the old days. My style isn't like that; my style is fairly crude in a way.

RAMONA: You were competing with some really good artists.

MARIE: Oh, yeah!

RAMONA: I mean, the Marvel guys were a lot better than the DC ones.

MARIE: I did some stuff that was okay, but they never liked my "Dr. Strange" as much, they'd skip it if they can.

TRINA: That's funny, I love your "Dr. Strange."

MARIE: I thought it was fun, because I helped do the stories then, that's when I worked for Stan, and that was fun. I liked the weirdness of it.

TRINA: But you know, Marie, I think you only say, "Well, I don't care. They didn't include me in these things, but I don't care." I think you do care, I think you did care.

MARIE: Only if I wanted to do a particular type thing. But it was mostly just saying, not that they don't like me personally, but they just prefer... I'm not in the club.

RAMONA: Marie, watch out: She's trying to radicalize you! [laughter]

TRINA: Well, sure, after this meeting, what I'm going to do is lead us all in making some pipe bombs [laughter] and once we get to Marvel, we will hurl these bombs... [laughs]

MARIE: They know not what they do, because they're so involved and they hope to produce a money-making project, and they succeeded in the '70s.

RAMONA: Well, don't you think part of the reason it fell apart was because nobody had a script they were working from?

TRINA: The writers... oh, you mean the Marvel Style?

RAMONA: The Marvel Style.

TRINA: I've worked in both styles, and I think they both work.

RAMONA: I can't work that way, with one paragraph. I get off on dialogue.

TRINA: But no, maybe Marie knows, because she worked in the Marvel style. You would describe the whole thing, and the artists felt freer... don't you think the artists felt freer?

MARIE: If they had that much to put on the paper, if it was within themselves. If they were...

TRINA: If they were good.

MARIE: A guy like Buscema, you could say to him, "Conan is coming into these weird, ancient ruins, and it's a jungle, and it's starting the overgrowth, and he's coming in there, and there's something stirring in the bushes, we don't know what it is. On the next page, it'll be a big dinosaur." You'll get the most gorgeous gobbledygook stonework and ruins and foliage, and you can almost hear him walking in the wet damp, and there's something moving, there's a shadow. And he'll get it in. Somebody else would not have the angle, and would have something from Coney Island as the ruins, you know? And still, they'd have a fancy inking technique that would show all the muscles and the sinews and the thighs, and the fancy costume, and have a half-naked woman there.

RAMONA: But I wonder if that hasn't contributed to the state that comics are in now, the fact that the artists took over, in a sense. They began, I think, to get too full of themselves.

TRINA: But if it's a good artist, like she said John Buscema is great. A good artist... I don't think John Buscema got too full of himself, he was a professional.

RAMONA: I'm not talking about one artist specifically, but I think artists in general began to run away with the thing and now they're doing posters!

TRINA: Now they're doing posters, yes. But isn't that just because they're not good?

RAMONA: They're very good; for posters they're great.

MARIE: You know what it is? They do not have-in many cases, I'm always rationalizing-in many cases, there is lack of leadership and editorial direction. And everybody wanted to be Stan Lee, and not everybody is Stan Lee, and maybe Stan's time has passed. But the fact is, you had control in the old days... the editor was the boss, and all of a sudden, these guys are on their own, and the editors are fighting to get a Joe Blow, because Joe Blow's book sold a big thing, I want it, I'll get some money, too. I'll get the glory of him working with me, rather than somebody else.

RAMONA: But how can you have a good story where you've got a whole bunch of pictures, and then somebody comes along and sticks the words on? How can you have a story? But then they're getting two for the price of one. They're getting a writer and an artist for one salary. That's fine if he's a great storyteller, but you just cut artists loose and say, "Now go ahead and dramatize this paragraph over 17 pages..."

MARIE: Lee and Kirby worked that way all the time.

RAMONA: But they're good!

TRINA: But that's the magic word: They're good! That's the magic word.

RAMONA: But you don't have to be that good if you've got a good writer.

MARIE: Well, that's what I'm saying, not everybody can work that way; you need the control. In the old days, they controlled so much that a lot of guys never got the chance to let loose. They controlled Kirby at other companies, Stan let him run loose, because he either recognized it, or he figured, "Hey, let's see what happens... it seems to be working; let him loose!" Also, Stan also had his name on everything anyway, so he didn't care how overworked he might be or might not be. [laughs] But this current lack of editorial leadership... maybe it's not the editor's fault, it could be this guy got 50 million fan letters, and they're afraid they'll lose him to DC, so they'll let him do whatever he wants, and they can ruin a good writer's story. They can take a writer's story and say, "I didn't feel like doing this," because he's got the fans to back him up.

TRINA: But then, you see again, it comes down to is this person a professional?

MARIE: Of course not. He's a spoiled brat.

RAMONA: Well, you're talking about a script, and... I mean, I'm talking about one paragraph.

MARIE: You mean one paragraph for a whole story. Oh, I've gotten that.

RAMONA: I just don't get it, unless you've got an artist who's a writer. Then, you've got a writer writing it.

TRINA: I know you worked on-even though it was never published-you worked on Claws of The Cat.

MARIE: We both worked on The Cat.

TRINA: I know you worked Marvel style.

RAMONA: It was ridiculous! My mind started wandering, and I just...

MARIE: You know, I think she's too honest. I really think that's your problem: You spend so much time thinking of "Is this good?"

RAMONA: I'm limited.

MARIE: I remember getting a paragraph-they were doing The Hulk annual thing [#1], and it wasn't reprints, it was an annual, and the writer [Gary Friedrich]... he gave me a paragraph and disappeared! I had to draw it, and I had a whole book, and he said, "Hulk lands on this other world," and I had to make up a bunch of characters. I did it, barely. But it was terrible, and I wasn't compensated for that, but how I fixed it was I did a lot of it on staff, and the heck with them! I never could stand not being busy. I wasn't invited into the little cliques with the boys and didn't discuss the plots with anyone that I recall-and I can't remember who finally wrote it!

TRINA: I do believe that this did bother you, because you're aware of it, you're very aware of it.

MARIE: Only because people have asked me about it; it's what you want to hear.

TRINA: Sure, it's what I want to hear. [laughter]

MARIE: You know, Ramona, I'm interested: Did you just walk straight into a comic-book outfit?


MARIE: Tell me.

RAMONA: Well, I knew George Ward, who went on to work with Walt Kelly, and he was friends with Joe Maneely...

MARIE: Oh, I love Joe Maneely!

RAMONA: ... and he used to tell us about Maneely. George was doing lettering at the time for comics. And he told us about the money Maneely was making, I mean, he could turn out a 20-page story in minutes. So, we didn't have any money at the time, Dana and I had just gotten married, and Dana was a cartoonist, and he and George encouraged me to make some samples. So, I went out and bought a bunch of comic books and read them for about two weeks, I immersed myself in them.

MARIE: You do everything that way.

RAMONA: Well, I didn't know anything about comics! I wanted to find out who was publishing, and where to go, and what they looked like. So, I read romances and Westerns, stuff like that, whatever was happening, and made up a page of Western vignettes... somebody socking somebody...

MARIE: Did it bother you to do that because it was a little violent?

RAMONA: Yes, but it also felt perfectly natural. Of course, having been at the League, a fine art school, I mean, the thought of being a cartoonist was just like... becoming a prostitute or something! [laughter]

MARIE: Was this a rebellion on your part, or was it the money-making?

RAMONA: There was money! I was never going to be a painter, I had no talent to be a painter.

TRINA: How do you know that?

RAMONA: Because I couldn't mix two colors together except they'd come out brown.

MARIE: Well, you didn't have anybody coloring in your house!

RAMONA: Well, I didn't, but I took classes, I took painting classes, and I just didn't have it.

MARIE: I can't believe that, because I think you have some wonderful color concepts.

RAMONA: Well, that's very good. [laughs]

MARIE: So continue: You started out, you went to this guy who knew Maneely...

RAMONA: Yeah, so I made up a page of samples, and somebody told me about this place called Fox Features, so I took my samples up there, and they gave me a 12-page script.

MARIE: Right off the bat?

RAMONA: Everywhere I went, I got a job! It was crazy!

TRINA: And you didn't think you were any good.

RAMONA: No, I had no idea. I thought anybody could walk in and get a job in comics.

MARIE: You were a natural!

RAMONA: I guess I was. But see: What I appreciate is that you grew up knowing you were a cartoonist.

MARIE: And there wasn't anything good or bad about it, you still enjoyed it. I loved sculpturing, they bought me clay, I played with that. But I knew if I was a sculptor, I'd have to have a whole basement or an attic to work in, because the stuff is massive. Oil painting is another thing, there's plenty of oil painters, I mean, everybody did oil painting. So it was the money-making thing.

RAMONA: Right. Well, I guess you can tell from our conversations that I have mixed feelings about everything I do.

TRINA: Yeah.

RAMONA: I had that about this. I didn't have any respect for comics, it just never figured in my scheme of things, you know? And there I was...

MARIE: I enjoyed them when I was a kid, but when I discovered movies, I was off into the movies.

RAMONA: Yeah, I loved them when I was a kid, but then I forgot about them. You know, it was just something I could do, and I got these jobs. I got that script from Fox, and somebody told me they didn't pay, so I sent the script back. It was a 12-pager.

TRINA: Do you remember who warned you about them?

RAMONA: No, no. But I was scared to death! I never expected to get this damn 12-page script, and I wouldn't have known what to do with it! I'd never drawn comics!

TRINA: So you mean you never even drew the script, you sent it back undrawn.

RAMONA: I sent it back. Then I went up to Stan Lee at Magazine Management.

TRINA: Were they in the Empire State Building?

RAMONA: Empire State Building, was that Timely? I think it was Timely Comics or something.

MARIE: Atlas maybe.

RAMONA: No, it wasn't Atlas. I think it was Timely. And I got a job, Stan gave me a script right away. He gave me one or two stories, and the second story was a war thing, and I happened to be really against the war that was going on, and I don't know if it was an accident or what, but I spilled ink all over the pages. It was bad, it was really unprofessional you might say, and he didn't give me any more scripts. Then, I went to DC and I got a job, and there was... it was like they wouldn't leave me alone! [laughs]

TRINA: The gods were insisting that you had to draw comics.

RAMONA: Yes, exactly. So that was it, and I stayed at DC.

MARIE: You spilled ink on poor Stan Lee's job?


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