Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mad Artist John Severin Passes On

John Severin, who was one of Mad magazine's original artists and contributed work to both E.C. Comics and Marvel Comics, passed on 12 February 2012 at the age of 90.

John Severin was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on 26 December 1921. John Severin did his first professional work as an artist when he was only 10 years old. He contributed drawings to Hobo News. He attended The High School of Music and Art in New York City. Among his classmates were fellow future E.C. Comics artists Will Elder, Al Feldstein, Al Jaffee, and Harvey Kurtzman. During World War II he served in the United States Army.

Following World War II, John Severin worked in advertising, designing logos for everything from candy boxes to lunch boxes. When he did not have an advertising assignment he would contribute "Hey Look!" gags to Stan Lee for use in comics published by what would become Marvel Comics. The money he made in creating these gags led him to create comic books samples, which were inked by Will Elder. It was in late 1947 that the team of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon gave them their first job at Crestwood Publications. At Crestwood Publications Will Elder and John Severin would work on Prize Comics Western and Headline Comic. They also worked on Boy Commandos at National Periodical Publications (what would become DC Comics) and Actual Romances at what would become Marvel Comics. It was in 1951 inker Will Elder and penciller John Severin did their first work for E.C.Comics on Two-Fisted Tales.

At E. C. Comics John Severin would continue to work on Two-Fisted Tales. He would also contributed to Frontline Combat as well. Will Elder and John Severin would be one of the first five artists to work on Harvey Kurtzman's Mad, the other artists being Harvey Kurtzman himself, Jack Davis, and Wally Wood. He worked on the first ten issues of Mad, leaving after having a falling out with Harvey Kurtzman.

After E.C.Comics cancelled its entire comic book line (retaining only Mad, which switched to more of a magazine format), John Severin worked extensively for Atlas Comics and its successor Marvel Comics. He worked as a penciller, inker, or both on such titles as The Incredible Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos, King Kull, Conan the Barbarian, The 'Nam, and others. In the Sixties and Seventies he also contributed to Warren Publications' Blazing Combat and Creepy.

It was in the Sixties and Seventies that John Severin would become the most prolific contributor to Cracked Magazine. He illustrated almost every cover of Cracked and usually contributed several features to each issue as well. He would even illustrate the covers for the Cracked paperback reprints. In all Mr. Severin worked for Cracked for around 45 years.

In the Naughts John Severin would work on Desperadoes: Quiet of the Grave, Suicide Squad, American Century, Caper, and Bat Lash for DC Comics. He also worked the controversial 2003  limited series Rawhide Kid for Marvel Comics, as well as The Punisher. At Dark Horse Comics he worked on B.P.R.D. and Witchfinder.

Of  the many legendary artists who emerged from E.C. Comics, John Severin was by far the most prolific and had the longest career. Indeed, he continued to work well into his eighties. His style was never flamboyant, but it was also very, very detailed. This gave a realism to his war stories and Westerns that was lacking in other artists' work. While he is perhaps best known for his work in the war comics genre, he worked in nearly every comic book genre that existed: Westerns, detective stories, superheroes, and so on. In fact, it is a testament to John Severin's versatility that he is best known for his work in war comics and on Cracked Magazine. What is more he did as well with realistic war stories as he did the humorous, satirical material in Cracked. With one of the longest careers in comic books and as one of the most talented comic book artists ever, John Severin will be remembered.

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