Posts tagged ‘Ramona Fradon’

Adventure 270 – Congorilla begins, and Aqualad turns evil


The Congorilla series had begin life as Congo Bill, the story of a white explorer and hunter in Africa, in More Fun Comics.  It moved to Action Comics, where it had a long run.  He gained a sidekick in Janu, a jungle boy, and eventually acquired a magic ring that allowed him to change bodies with a Golden Gorilla.

After losing his spot in Action Comics to Supergirl, his series moved over to Adventure for a short run.  The best of his days were behind him, and few of the Congorilla stories from Adventure are worth comment.

This story, which pits him against Mau Mau rebels, re-introduces the character to the reader, and happily tows the white colonialist line that the English are the good guys in Kenya, and the blacks the bad ones.




Much more enjoyable is the Aquaman story, in which he becomes convinced that Aqualad is out to kill and replace him.


Aqualad’s actions are mysterious to say the least, and it’s not as unreasonable an assumption as it sounds.  Of course, it proves to be a big misunderstanding, Aqualad was gathering items to furnish the earliest version of the Aquacave, where they live, as a birthday surprise for Aquaman.



Adventure 269 – Green Arrow ends, and the debut of Aqualad


Green Arrow ends his long run in this book with Adventure 269 (Feb 60), but continued his series in World’s Finest Comics, which had been running concurrently since he moved from More Fun Comics.

The story has him and Speedy re-enacting feats from a comic book, the Wizard Archer, that the editor thinks are impossible and unbelievable.

Wizard Archer is published by All-Star Comics, which had been the home of the Justice Society of America in the 1940s.  And just in case the reader was too young to catch the in-house reference, it is made even more obvious that this comic company is meant to be DC.


Although I usually like Lee Elias`art on this strip, this one seems sub-par to me.  Maybe he didn`t care for the story.




Aqualad is introduced in this issue as well, finally providing Aquaman a partner and supporting character that is not an octopus.

The boy was exiled from Atlantis because he is afraid of fish.  Once again we see a child ejected from Atlantis, but this time the device looks just deadly.


And once again, the purple eyes!  Aquaman makes reference to the Aquagirl story, saying that the boy will not be able to survive underwater, but Aqualad, who is not given any other name in this tale, informs him that he can live beneath the waves.  So what do the purple eyes really signify?  That won’t actually be addressed for a long time.


Aquaman helps Aqualad overcome his fear of fish in a sort of cure-or-kill fashion.  I doubt being told I had been tricked into playing with eels would suddenly make me fine around them, but it works for the lad.

At the end of the story, Aquaman takes him back to Atlantis, but the boy refuses to go, wanting to stay with Aquaman.  And after his parents stuffed him in a cylinder and shot him through that cannon, you can’t really blame him for not wanting to go back to them.

And again, great art by Ramona Fradon.

Adventure 268 – Aquaboy!


Adventure 268 (Jan 60) gives the reader a rare glimpse into Aquaman’s youth.  He meets an old sailor, who he encountered as a child.  The sailor has gone blind, and lost his cache of pearls.  Aquaman wants to help him, but that proves easier said than done.  As usual, the art is by Ramona Fradon.


Even when they met years earlier, the man refused to believe the boy had the powers he claimed, and now refuses to believe that Aquaman is who he says he is, believing him to be a thief out to get the pearls for himself.

There are a number of stories in which heroes have to try to prove their identities to blind people, all playing on the concept that the effects of their powers could be faked, if one cannot actually see what they are doing.

This story takes that notion a step further, showing the problems the young Aquaman had in making anyone believe he really could live underwater.


It’s an enjoyable little tale.  Perhaps it does not give one as much insight into Aquaman’s childhood as one might wish, but it’s the only story for decades that even touches this area of his life.

Adventure 267 = The Legion imprison Superboy, and Aquaman and Green Arrow trade locales


Adventure 267 (Dec 59) features not only an early appearance by the Legion of Super-Heroes, but also an interesting not-quite-team-up by Aquaman and Green Arrow.

Of the three stories, the Superboy one is the least impressive; and if a Legion freak like me is saying that, you can be sure it’s true.

The costumes are almost right, but there is really little else to recommend this story.


Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl show up in Smallville again, stopping crimes and treating Superboy badly.  Even Krypto and the Kents turn against him.  He leaves, and discovers a world built in his honour by Legionnaires, who promptly imprison him in a kryptonite cage.  They had seen him on a time viewer destroying military property, so feel he deserves death.  Saturn Girl had used her telepathy to turn everyone against him.

Of course, it’s all a misunderstanding, and everyone is buddies again at the end of the story.

Hate to say it, but this mess was written by Jerry Siegel, although I’m not sure he’s the one to blame for Saturn Girl emitting destructive beams from her eyes, as that detail is in the art, but not the text.


Aquaman’s story begins with Shark Norton and the Wizard, old enemies of Aquaman and Green Arrow respectively (although this was in fact the only appearance of either villain), each deciding to switch their areas of operation.  Shark Norton will evade Aquaman by committing crimes on land, and the Wizard will elude Green Arrow by heading out to sea for his larcenous activities.


This story is also the earliest I can find that specifies the one-hour time limit for Aquaman, so delicately phrased by a police officer, “you gasp for water like a dying fish.”


Nevertheless, Aquaman pursues Shark Norton, and once again Ramona Fradon has fun with Topo, who uses his tentacles to shoot four arrows at the same time.  Aquaman goes through the tale with his head in a bowl of water, but triumphs anyway.


Meanwhile, Green Arrow and Speedy don underwater gear to pursue the Wizard.  Some really nice art by Lee Elias on this, I do like his work on the Green Arrow series.


The Wizard is using an artificial iceberg as his base, and while Green Arrow and Speedy attempt to melt it with arrowheads made of salt, they stumble across a Godzilla-type sea monster awakened by atomic testing, whose fire breath proves more effective at the task.


The two heroes interact only in the very last panel of the story, congratulating each other.  Not a real team-up, but an enjoyable way to link the two back-up features in this issue.

Adventure 266 – Aquaman meets Aquagirl, and Green Arrow gets a surprise guest


Adventure 266 (Oct 59) introduces Aquagirl, a one-shot character who nonetheless lays some important groundwork in the series.


Lisa Morel sees Aquaman trapped by a giant clam, and dives down to rescue him, discovering, to her surprise, that she can breathe underwater and control sea creatures as well.

She adopts a matching costume, and starts calling herself Aquagirl.  Aquaman is not pleased, and it seems as if this story will be like the Johnny Quick – Joanie Swift one, of male insecurity.

But more is going on.  Aquaman has realized that Lisa is really from Atlantis, and that her father has been lying to her about her birth.  She was exiled at birth from the undersea city, because she was incapable of living in the water for an extended period of time.  Her purple eyes are the key to this, the sign of her being a “throwback,” as the story terms it.


While Ramona Fradon once again has fun drawing Topo – love his one-octopus-band – the panel of the baby being  jettisoned from the city just looks funny to me.  And sadly, the panel of the purple eyes was drawn on in the scan I have.  Boo.

The purple eyes would continue as a significant trait in the Aquaman series, though they would not indicate an inability to live in water in later stories.  What do they signify?  Wait and find out.  I’ll get to it.



This issue also features an unusual Green Arrow story.  It seems fairly run-of-the-mill, with Oliver and Speedy dealing with an escaped tiger and some thieves.  They have some new green arrowheads that they are using, which act very strangely.

After the arrows have been used, they keep disappearing, flying up into the sky most often.  Green Arrow and Speedy are completely mystified until the end of the story.


Superman shows up on the last page, and all is made clear.  The green ore that was used for the new arrowheads was kryptonite!  It was Superman who made the arrows vanish, disposing of them from a distance.  And you can’t help but notice that Lee Elias art works better on Green Arrow and Speedy that it does on Superman.


Aside from the unexpected cameo by Superman, this story is also the first to show the Daily Star Building, although it is not labelled as such.  The Daily Star would not become important in the Green Arrow series until the late 70s.

Adventure 264 – Aquaman visits New Venice


After an earthquake partially sinks a city, it adapts to having canals instead of streets, but crime goes rampant.  Aquaman comes to check on how the city is doing, and is asked to help stop the crime wave, in Adventure 264 (Sept 59)


It appears that the city was actually named New Venice even before the earthquake. Certainly no mention is made of changing its name.

This is a breezy, light-hearted tale, with Ramona Fradon clearly having fun with it.  Love the panel with Topo checking an entire crowd at once to find a pickpocket.

When the people discover that a fissure has opened on the sea floor, which will drain the water from the city, they are dismayed, and Aquaman has his sea creatures help seal it, maintaining the canals of New Venice.


What makes this story worth including is that New Venice becomes Aquaman’s base of operations in the early 80s.  The city does not appear between now and then.

New Venice can also be seen as a forerunner of Sub Diego, which takes the concept of the flooded city to its extremes.


Adventure 260 – a new origin for Aquaman


Aquaman gets a new origin in Adventure 260 (May 1959), which also introduced Atlantis into the series.  As with Green Arrow, this origin would remain, with minor deviations, until the current day.  And also, as with Green Arrow, the story is told in flashback, as Aquaman seeks to prevent the US navy from dropping nukes into the ocean above Atlantis.


We learn of Aquaman’s father, Tom Curry, a lighthouse keeper, who rescues a woman, Atlanna,  from the ocean during a storm.  Their child is capable of living underwater, and communicating with sea life.  On her deathbed,  Atlanna confesses that she is an exile from Atlantis.

The young boy hones his powers as he grows up, and after his father’s death takes on the identity of Aquaman.  We also learn that his parents named him Arthur Curry, the first time that name has been ascribed to the hero.

I’ve read this story more times than I can count, but only this time did I look for any mention of the one-hour time limit out of water.  And it’s not there.  Going to have to keep hunting for that.

The story ends with Aquaman just outside the domed city of Atlantis, but we also learn that he has never been to it!  Despite this tease, it’s not until he gains his own comic that Atlantis really becomes a part of his series.  Perversely, Atlantis appears frequently in Superman at this time.


As always, excellent art by Ramona Fradon on this story.

Adventure 256 – Aquaman dries out and a new origin for Green Arrow


Many Aquaman stories made vague reference to him needing to be in water, but none actually played on that until Adventure 256 (Jan 59).


Criminals capture Aquaman and fly him out into a desert, leaving him to die.  Instead of just shooting him, or even dropping him from the airplane, but whatever.

The rest of the story, drawn by Ramona Fradon, relates his struggle to make it back to the ocean, finding enough water along the way to survive.  No specific time limit is set, and at one point the narrative informs us that he has been out of contact with water for three hours, so we are nowhere near the one-hour limit yet.

Essentially, this provides the hero with a weakness, his version of kryptonite or the colour yellow, but at least there is an inherent logic to it, which needs little explanation.  Most sea creatures cannot survive out of water, so why should Aquaman be able to?




Green Arrow gets a new origin in this issue, one that has remained with only minor deviations through all manner of writers and reality changes. Likely because the basic story is so simple, and of course beautifully rendered by Kirby.

His origin is told in flashback, as Oliver and Roy discover that an expedition is heading to the island, and he fears they will discover something that leads to his identity.

Wealthy Oliver Queen was on a cruise and fell overboard, making it to Starfish Island, where he learned archery as a means of survival.  Even to the point of developing trick arrows.


He sees a ship, and swims out to it, only to discover the crew has mutinied.  He defeats them, and is brought back to the mainland, where he gives his identity as Green Arrow, calling himself after the garb he created for himself of out plants.


This is also the end of Kirby’s run on the character in Adventure

Adventure 249 – Aquaman names his octopus


After months of simply calling him octopus, Aquaman finally gives his finny friend a name in the story in Adventure 249 (June 1958), Topo.

Curiously, the previous story featured another octopus working for Aquaman, named Lopo.  In truth, it’s unclear if Lopo or Topo was the one who he took on as a partner.  I know its racist, but all octopi look the same to me.  Anyway, Lopo winds up heading into space at the end of the story in the last issue, never to return, and its Topo who remains in the Aquaman series.


The story has Aquaman suffer from amnesia after being hit in the head by a missile, and being taken in by the Barnacle Gang, who he aids until his memory returns.  Then the gang just take him prisoner.

Topo puts together a squad of sea creatures to rescue Aquaman.  So whether he was the original octopus partner or a replacement, he certainly demonstrates his worth in this tale.


And I just love that undersea car.  Ramona Fradon art again, of course.

Adventure 229 – Aquaman chooses a partner


More than 10 years after the introduction of the character, Aquaman decides he needs a partner.  But with Atlantis still not an element of the series, who can he pick for his water-based activities?  Why, a sea creature of course!

And so, in Adventure 229 (Oct 56) Aquaman gives try-outs to an octopus, a swordfish and a whale.


The octopus is the most eager to help, but Aquaman dismisses him as too clumsy, after he gets his tentacles tangled in a propeller.

Just to be clear, the octopus is not harmed by this.  His tentacles remain intact.  That’s one mighty octopus, but his resistance to injury fails to impress Aquaman.

But neither the swordfish nor whale prove up to the task, and ultimately Aquaman chooses the octopus.

None of the animals talk, or have thought balloons, or anything indicating sentience.  But as they are only expected to obey Aquaman’s commands, I guess that doesn’t matter to him.  It does make them a bit less than sidekicks though.  More like slaves.

The octopus is not named in this story, but will eventually be called Topo, with this marking his debut.  Some comic buffs use this story as the delineating point between the Earth-2 and Earth-1 Aquaman, as there is little difference between the incarnations.


The art on this story is by Ramona Fradon, who had been drawing Aquaman for quite a while now.  While not my favourite artist on Aquaman, her work was certainly the best on the series compared to earlier artists.


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