Marie Severin by Michael Netzer
August 21, 1929 |
East Rockaway, New York
|Area(s)||Penciller, Inker, Colourist|
|Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, Hulk, Not Brand Echh|
|Awards||1974 Shazam Award: Best Penciller (Humor Division); Will Eisner Comics Hall of Fame, 2001|
Early life and career
Marie Severin was born in East Rockaway, New York, on Long Island, the second and last child of a father born in Oslo, Norway, who immigrated to the United States at age 3, and a mother, Peg, from Syracuse, New York, whose heritage was Irish. Her older brother, John Severin, was born in 1922. The family moved to Brooklyn, New York City, when Marie was 4. She attended a Catholic grammar school and then the all-girl Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School. The family lived in an apartment in the Bay Ridge neighborhood at the time; it is uncertain if this was the family's original Brooklyn locale from Severin's childhood or if the family moved to that neighborhood in the interim. Due to the high school's staggered schedule, Severin's class graduated in January 1948, rather than in the spring as typical.
Severin grew up in an artistic household where her father, a World War I veteran, eventually became a designer for the fashion company Elizabeth Arden during the 1930s. In her teens, Severin took "a couple of months" of cartooning and illustration classes, and attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn "for one day and said, 'This is a college', and I wanted to draw and make money". Her first job was doing clerical work for an insurance company in downtown Manhattan "for a couple of years" while still living at home. She continued living there after her father died.
Severin was working on Wall Street when her brother John, then an artist for EC Comics, needed a colorist for his work there. Marie Severin's earliest recorded comic-book work is coloring EC Comics' A Moon, a Girl... Romance #9 (Oct. 1949). In a 2001 interview, she recalled she broke in as a colorist
...for all the war books at EC with [Harvey] Kurtzman. I went on to color all their books, they were happy with it, and I learned a lot about production color and how everything worked. ... I believe the color chart for the printed pages had a range of up to 48 colors. I had the full range; I would mix colors — golds, greens, blues, and so on — and you would intensify them so that the separators could see the difference. ... What they liked is that I really studied which colors looked best and sharper next to one another, the subtleties of it. I would also proofread the colors.
She would contribute coloring across the company's line, including its war comics and its celebrated but notoriously graphic horror comics, and also worked on the comics' production end, as well as "doing little touch ups and stuff" on the art. When EC ceased publication in the wake of the U.S. Senate hearings on the effects of comic books on children and the establishment of the Comics Code, Severin worked briefly for Marvel Comics' 1950s predecessor, Atlas Comics. After an industry downturn circa 1957, she left and found work with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. She recalled in 2001, "I did a little bit of everything for them — I did television graphics on economics [and] I did a lot of drawing. I did a[n educational] comic book that my brother did the finished art on... about checks".
Frank Jacobs, in his 1972 biography of EC publisher William M. Gaines, wrote, "There was Marie Severin, Gaines's colorist, and a very moral Catholic, who made her feelings known by coloring dark blue any panel she thought was in bad taste. [EC editor Al] Feldstein called her 'the conscience of EC.'"
Severin has repeatedly refuted that assertion, which became part of comics lore, while also saying she sometimes used coloring to "kind of shield" some gruesome content, noting,
I would never assume an editorial position. What I would do very often is, if somebody was being dismembered, I would rather color it in yellow because it's garish, and also [so] you could see what was going on. Or red, for the blood element, but not to subdue the artwork. ... I mean, the main reason these people were buying these books was to see somebody'd head cut off, y'know? ... And [the editors] trusted me with a lot a stuff. They knew that I wouldn't subdue artwork; I would just kind of shield it a little bit so if a parent picked up the book in the drug store, they wouldn't see that somebody's stomach was all red.
In 1959, when the industry had picked up again during the period fans and historians call the Silver Age of comic books, Severin again worked for Marvel Comics in production. Severin recalled in 2001 that when Esquire magazine requested an artist to illustrate a story "on the college drug culture", Marvel production manager Sol Brodsky offered Severin rather than one of the regular artists, who were on deadline. Her illustration for the magazine led to Marvel editor-in-chief Stan Lee to assign her the feature "Doctor Strange" in Strange Tales, replacing Bill Everett, who had succeeded character co-creator Steve Ditko. With Lee, Severin co-created the fictional cosmic entity the Living Tribunal in Strange Tales #157 (June 1967).
Severin was Marvel's head colorist until 1972, as which point she turned most of her coloring duties over to George Roussos so that she could do more penciling assignments. She continued to expand from colorist to do penciling and inking, and occasionally also lettering, on various titles. She drew stories of the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk, and the covers or interiors of titles including Iron Man, Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Conqueror, The Cat, and Daredevil. Additionally, she worked on Marvel's satiric humor magazine Crazy, as well as the company's self-lampooning comic book, Not Brand Echh.
Later life and career
In 1976, Severin co-created Spider-Woman, designing her original costume. She co-created Howard the Duck villain Doctor Bong in 1977. Two years later she provided the art for the Spider-Man and the Hulk toilet paper
In the 1980s, she was assigned to Marvel's Special Projects division, which handled non-comic book licensing. She helped design toy maquettes and film and television tie-ins products, and worked on the short-lived children's book imprint, Marvel Books. During this time she also drew the Fraggle Rock and Muppet Babies comics for Marvel's Star Comics imprint and collaborated with cartoonist Nate Butler on some Muppet coloring books and a "Crocodile Kermie" comic strip for Muppet Magazine.
During the following decade, Severin penciled the "Impossible Tale" of the "Li'l Soulsearchers" in issue #31 (Aug. 1998) of Claypool Comics' superhero-humor comic Soulsearchers and Company, inked by fellow Silver Age veteran Jim Mooney; and she inked Dave Cockrum's penciling in issue #43 (July 2000). She also inked Richard Howell's pencils on the story "Favor of the Month" in Elvira #144 (April 2005).
Severin retired sometime afterward, but continued into the mid-2000s to make occasional contributions, such as recoloring many of the comics stories reprinted in the EC-era retrospective books B. Krigstein and B. Krigstein Comics. The former won both the Harvey and Eisner comic-industry awards in 2003.
Awards and honors
Severin spoke at a 1974 New York Comic Art Convention panel on the role of women in comics, alongside Flo Steinberg, Jean Thomas (sometime-collaborator with then-husband Roy Thomas), Linda Fite (writer of The Claws of the Cat) and fan representative Irene Vartanoff. She also participated in the Women of Comics Symposium at the 2006 Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon.
- Cassell, Dewey (2012). Marie Severin: The Mirthful Mistress of Comics. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 978-1605490427.
- Cassell, p. 8
- Cassell, p. 19
- Cassell, p. 21.
- Cassell, p. 12
- The school closed circa 1973 with the building then housing the St. Francis De Sales School for the Deaf: Morris, Montrose (February 20, 2013). "Building of the Day: 260 Eastern Parkway". Brownstoner.com. Retrieved 2014-01-09.
- Cassell, p. 18
- Severin in Keller, Katherine (May 2002). "The Chromatic Queen". SequentialTart.com. Archived from the original on October 25, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
- Cassell, p. 13
- Marie Severin at the Grand Comics Database
- Shaw, Scott (December 2, 2005). "The Story Of Checks". "Oddball Comics" (column) #1097, ComicBookResources.com. Archived from the original on December 10, 2005.
- Jacobs, Frank (1972). The Mad World of William M. Gaines. Lyle Stuart, Inc. p. 83. Library of Congress Card No 72-91781
- Geissman, Grant (2005). Foul Play!: The Art and Artists of the Notorious 1950s E.C. Comics!. Harper Collins. p. 239. ISBN 978-0060746988.
- Cassell, p. 26
- Meth, Clifford (October 17, 2007). "Marie Severin: Comics' First Lady". Comics Bulletin. Archived from the original on December 3, 2008.
- Cooke, Jon B. (2004). "Marie Severin Interview". The Collected Jack Kirby Collector Vol. 4. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 170. ISBN 978-1893905320.
- Gruenwald, Mark (April 1983). "George Roussos". Comics Interview (2). Fictioneer Books. p. 50.
- Sanderson, Peter; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1970s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 150. ISBN 978-0756641238.
- Sanderson "1970s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 157: "Written by Linda Fite and originally drawn by Marie Severin, the series lasted merely four issues, but the Cat later became Tigra."
- Daniels, Les (1991). "The Marvel Age (1961-1970)". Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. New York, New York: Harry N. Abrams. p. 139. ISBN 9780810938212.
In 1967, [Marvel] launched Not Brand Echh, a monthly comic book devoted to spoofs of the company's own heroes...one of the mainstays of the series was Marie Severin, a gifted caricaturist who had worked for years on Marvel's production staff.
- Johnson, Dan (August 2006). "Marvel's Dark Angel: Back Issue Gets Caught in Spider-Woman's Web". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (17): 57–63.
- Field, Tom (2005). Secrets in the Shadows: The Art & Life of Gene Colan. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 116. ISBN 978-1893905450.
- Saffel, Steve (2007). "Licensing Galore!". Spider-Man the Icon: The Life and Times of a Pop Culture Phenomenon. London, United Kingdom: Titan Books. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-84576-324-4.
To many fans the Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk toilet paper is the ultimate '70s oddity, coming as it did at the tail end of the decade. For long visits to the bathroom, the roll actually featured a comic strip with art by Marie Severin - no doubt something she kept on her résumé for years.
- Lamar, Cyriaque (June 23, 2010). "This Hulk toilet paper comic is the apex of bathroom reading". io9. Archived from the original on February 3, 2013. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
In 1979, Oh Dawn! Inc. released "The Amazing Spider-Man & the Incredible Hulk" in "The Gamma Gambit," a short comic printed entirely on toilet tissue.
- "Marie Severin". Lambiek Comiclopedia. September 5, 2012. Archived from the original on October 30, 2013.
- Gold, Mike (October 16, 2007). "Comics Great Marie Severin Suffers Stroke". ComicMix.com. Archived from the original on September 20, 2012. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
- "1974 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on December 12, 2013.
- Lovece, Frank (1974). "Cons: New York 1974!". The Journal Summer Special. Paul Kowtiuk, Maple Leaf Publications; editorial office then at Box 1286, Essex, Ontario, Canada N0R 1E0.
- "Inkpot Award Winners". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012.
- "Will Eisner Hall of Fame". San Diego Comic-Con International. 2014. Archived from the original on June 4, 2013. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
- Baker, R. C. (July 6, 2006). "Women's Work". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on October 11, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- "A Life's Work: 12 Women Who Deserve Lifetime Achievement Recognition". ComicsAlliance. January 29, 2016. Archived from the original on June 30, 2016.
At a time when we’re still discussing the problems facing women in comics, it’s important to remember Marie Severin, who for a time was probably the woman in mainstream comics.
- Storniolo, Mike (January 7, 2005). "A Voyage Of A Million Miles". Comics Bulletin. Archived from the original on August 10, 2011.
...John Severin, Jr., son of legendary comic book and Cracked magazine artist John Severin, came into the picture. John, along with business partner and sister Ruth Larenas, had the notion to complete the remaining six chapters of the story and, along with the original six issues, publish them under one cover.