I was saddened to hear about the recent death of Marie Severin. She was 89. Marie was a great cartoonist and illustrator who worked for Marvel comics in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. She illustrated many well-known characters including The Sub-Mariner, The Hulk and Doctor Strange. Marie was also the co-creator of Spider Woman. But, it’s for her humorous work that she is perhaps best remembered.
Marie drew for the now classic comic book, Not Brand Echh, which was a parody of Marvel superheroes as well as those by other companies. Brand Echh was published from 1967 to 1969 and was ground-breaking in many ways. In those days (as now) humor in comic books was a rare occurrence. (Ironic, since the word comic means humor.) Here was a whole comic book dedicated to making fun of superhero comics. It’s hard to imagine, in a world before the internet and thousands of cable TV channels, how much of an impact this had. Marie’s drawings were beautiful and funny. She had the ability to capture the expressions of characters including those of her co-workers, fellow artists and writers who made appearances in Not Brand Echh, breaking the fourth wall at a time when you could almost hear the pieces shattering.
When Marie was at the height of her career there were almost no women in comics. (Ramona Fradon is another artist who comes to mind, working for Marvel’s rival, DC.) Marie’s drawings were whimsical, good-humored, poking fun at a genre she clearly enjoyed, and a business she obviously loved. Without doubt, her gender contributed to her lack of recognition. But, to anyone who saw her work, her style was beautiful and unmistakable.
She entered the comic book business through her brother John Severin, another immensely talented artist, known for his swash-buckling adventure and war comics. He hired Marie to do coloring on a romance comic published by EC comics in 1949. From there she went on to color the whole EC line including their very gruesome horror comics. She then moved to Marvel comics where she continued as a colorist, also doing production work, and then eventually, inking, and penciling. In addition to Not Brand Echh, she drew for some of Marvel’s other short-lived humor comics, Spoof, What The—, and Arrgh! (I’d hate to ask for that title by name over the phone.) Marie was reportedly loved by those who knew her and warm to all her fans. A kind-hearted and whimsical woman who will be remembered not only because she was a pioneer in a male-dominated industry, but because her work was extraordinary. The world has lost a great artist.
One of the worst things about getting older is learning of the death of people you admire. Bernie Wrightson, who recently died at the (I think, young) age of 68, was one of those people. Bernie was a great illustrator and comic book artist. He, along with Len Wein, created the character, Swamp Thing, a very human monster. The character later went on to appear in films and a TV series.
Bernie was known for his horror illustration, which were featured in comic books, (where I first saw them), graphic novels, and books. He illustrated work by Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley, among others. He also designed characters for films, including work for the original Ghostbusters. Bernie’s drawing style was beautifully dark and gothic, yet also, at times, wonderfully humorous. His use of light was masterful. His lyrical brushstrokes were poetic.
Bernie was a kind and gentle guy who frequently encouraged young artists, giving of his time and expertise.
Bernie’s drawings will be loved as long as there are people who appreciate extraordinary art.