I have enjoyed talkng to Ron Frenz about his career. His time working with Tom DeFalco has been significant, but I learnt so much about his experiences and his time working in the comics industry.
Paul: Could I start by asking how your relationship with comics began? What were the first comics you especially enjoyed reading? Can you remember where they were from or how old you might have been?
Ron: This may be slightly apocryphal but the first comic my brother and I remember owning was World's Finest 141 1964. He would have been seven and I would've been four. Comics cartoon and anything involving superheroes were a major part of my childhood from that point forward.
Paul: Did you have an interest in becoming an artist from a young age, or did your interest in comics actually inspire your career choice?
Ron: I don't remember a time I didn't draw, so that was always part of the attraction for me of comic strips, comic books and animated cartoons. From the age of six or seven young Ron wanted to grow up working for Marvel and to draw Spiderman. I had no other ambition and so I pusued it doggedly. I guess you could say the two interests inspired each other.
Paul: So can I ask,how did you get your foot in the door at Marvel? Who was your first editor?
Ron: I showed samples and took great feedback from Ron Wilson and Marie Severin at separate Pittsburg comic conventions during high school. Upon graduating from a two year art school, I showred more samples to then Editor In Chief Jim Shooter at a Pittsburg comic shop appearance, which I then sent off to the Marvel offices at his request. Roughly a year later I was called by editor Al Milgrom who handed the phone to Louise Jones (now Simonson.)
Paul: In terms of notoriety, and I'd imagine sales, some of the biggest comics on your CV must be from your time on Amazing Spiderman. Did you have a hand in plotting the stories?
Ron: Mr De-Falco and I had many, many phone conversations about how we saw Peter and who by canon and his behaviour Peter had shown himself to be. Often plot ideas would grow out of these discusussions, but early on the plots were solely the responsibility of Mr Defalco and any input I had was given in developing the pencils. That arrangement would grow and change as our partnership evolved
Paul: You and Tom Defalco moved onto Thor. It felt like you changed your storytelling tools for the new challenge? Would that be a fair question? As in did you alter your art style to fit an era of comics that was missed at the time?
Ron: Yes, the more intimate sometimes nine panels to a page that Steve Dikto piloted on Spiderman weren't appropriate to the widescreen Kirby grandeur of an epic Thor story. The change was not era specific but character specific to my mind.
Paul: There is one storyline in that epic Thor run I wish to ask you about. It was three issues with Thor battling the Celestials. Artistically you knocked every page outof the park if you will excuse the expression. Can you speak about those issues at all? To many fans they were especially epic in every good way.
NOTE: The storyline mentioned are Thor issues 387, 388 and 389.
Ron: As we began the Thor run Defalco was not sure he could write "cosmic" so he deliberately jumped into the deep end with the God War and the Celestial three parter. The whole idea was for Tom and I to "go big or go home!" So we tried our best to increase the scope and increase the drama as any good story should do.
Paul: May I say you utterly nailed it. I used to run comic shops and they were back issues everyone loved. How did the creation of Thunderstrike come about? Or Eric to his friends?
Ron: One of the ideas we wanted to implement was to re-connect Thor with humanity without going back to Don Blake who had been revealed as a creation of Odin, so not entirely human. We wanted an everyman, a single father to parallel and contrast Thor's relationship with Odin and a decent representation for the reader who through whom we could explore Thor's love and respect for the human race. We wanted the reader to get to know and hopefully like Eric before merging them. The rest was a natural evolution of ideas and popularity.
Paul:I think Eric is missed in current Marvel continuity. I believe he deserves a comeback. Can I ask you about the Thor Movies please? Do you have a favourite?
Ron: My favourites would be the first two Thor movies and his appearances in all the Avengers film.
Paul: So not Thor: Love and Thunder?
Ron: Not so much.
Paul: I'm guessing Thor: Ragnarok was not your cup of tea either in that case case to use an English expression.
Ron: Not as such, no. I enjoyed it though.
Paul: In due course you and Tom DeFalco created Spidergirl. She was an "amazing" character. How was she created? Was it a collaborative creation?
Ron: Spider-Girl. Never forget the hyphen. The idea came from DeFalco during the time of the clone saga and his desire to explore the life of the child, and legacy, of the Spiderman character. Once he approached me with the basic concept it became a hugely collaborative and fun project to develop the "pilot" episode and the basics of May's personality.
Paul: it was meant to be apart of the future Marvel universe. There were other titles. Why was she so successful? After all it is a very impressive writer and artist run in any era of comics. Why was she specifically so popular for so long?
Ron: Our feeling was that long time readers would respond to seeing Pete and M.J. age with them and younger readers would identify with Mayday and the next generation of superheroes. We were right. The digests of Spider-Girl were outrageously popular with new readers. Only the corporate greed of Marvel brought it crashing down.
Paul: I was going to ask why the series stopped? Did it involve the "One More Day" storyline?
Ron: Not at all. Marvel pulled some shenanigans in wanting to rename Arana as Spidergirl. It made it easier for them to pull the plug on Mayday on that misbegotten goal. Ultimately, as with all periodicals, the sales must justify the costs. Ours finally didn't. Overall Joe Quesada and Marvel were very supportive for the duration of it's run.
Paul: Despite COVID throwing a spanner in the works recently, do you enjoy conventions and meeting fans?
Ron: I have always enjoyed meeting fans and thanking them for making my dreams possible. As I've grown older I find conventions exhausting and chose them very carefully, and regrettably infrequently.
Paul: Do you have any fun convention stories you are allowed to share?
Ron: None that immediately leap to mind. If you watch the Spiderman Crawlspace triblute to Tom Defalco's 50 years in comics on YouTube you may hear one or two.
Paul: Has technology altered the way you create art at all? It believe it may have done for many artists.
Ron: It definitely has for many, many illustrators. Aside from scanning and emailing instead of faxing it hasn't changed my production at all.
Paul: So you are quite traditional in your approach to your art?
Ron: A pencil, an eraser and an 11x17 sheet of two ply bristol board. Yep.
Paul: What are your current projects?
Ron: I'm pencilling for the Sitcomics/Bingebook title called The Unbeatable Blue Baron, doing private commissions through catskillcomics.com and still dabbling with Marvel on the occasional variant cover or ten page story.
Paul: My final question is simple. What does the future hold for Ron Frenz? Where do you see yourself in perhaps five years time?
Ron: Older and hopefully maintaining a comparable workload. I'm very content. Ambition is for the young. I climbed my mountain and truly deeply enjoyed the view.
Paul: Ron, I thank you for the interview.