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Great Comic Artist John Severin Dies

February 17, 2012

Saddly for comic fans artist John Severin passed away at age 90.

Rarely has an individual been known for two so distinctly different genres of work in the field of comic art, but John Severin is known equally for illustrating action-adventure tales and humorous stories. From his days as one of the original artists on EC's MAD (often with Will Elder providing the inking) to a lengthy run at Cracked, Severin became one of the prime send-up artists working in the business. Due to the wider circulation of MAD and Cracked compared to many comic books, it's safe to think that many know him for that work rather than the action-adventure genre, but comic book fans have had a deep appreciation for his westerns, war stories, horror, and other pieces in Two-Fisted Tales, Blazing Combat, Creepy, King Kull, The 'Nam, Sgt. Fury, and Conan, setting standards whether providing pencil art, inking, or supplying both. Well into recent times his work on such series as Desperadoes: Quiet of the Grave and Bat Lash showed that he had not lost any of his craft.

“He had an art style that was uniquely and distinctly his own. The minute you looked at his artwork you knew you were looking at a John Severin illustration; it could be no one else. Besides his inimitable style, there was a feeling of total authenticity to whatever he drew, whether it was a Western, a crime story, a superhero saga or a science fiction yarn. Not only was his penciling the very finest, but his inking, too, had a distinctive Severin touch that made every strip he rendered stand out like a winner,” said Stan Lee in a statement released by Severin’s family.

“John Severin was one of my favorite artists for one of my favorite lines of comics. His awesome storytelling ability infused both action-adventure tales and humorous parodies with a sense of realism in a way that made them immediately accessible. His western and war comics stories remain among the best ever, and his humor work has also stood the test of time. My sympathies go out to his wife, Michelina, and his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, as well as to his sister, Marie Severin,” said Steve Geppi, President and CEO of Diamond Comic Distributors.

“I've been privileged, during my comics writing career, to work with some of the industry's greatest talents, among them Jim Lee, John Cassaday, Gil Kane, and others. But I'll readily admit that the one that stands out as the best experience--the artist I am most proud to have collaborated with, and more than that, to have helped draw back into mainstream comics after his years of working for Cracked--is John Severin. His work was a critical part of my early comics reading and I've never stopped loving it. From his earliest days to his last, and certainly through the four issues of Desperadoes that he did with me, he never lost a sliver of his great talent. His energy, his storytelling, his attention to detail, his work ethic, his dedication to character and to craft--these were traits every artist could learn from. Any John Severin story shone with a special light. Now those stories are finite in number, but they will live on as some of the finest examples of comic book art we'll ever see,” said writer Jeff Mariotte.

“Like his peers from his days at EC, John Severin was and remains an influential artist, shaping not only the enjoyment of generations, but the artists and other comic book professionals who followed him. His public legacy is one of relentless professionalism in the creation of compelling art in the service of the stories he told. If you look at his recent works, it is clear that he was still a master craftsman. His profound influence on popular culture, both in the realms of humor and gritty adventure, will be remembered,” said Melissa Bowersox, Executive Vice-President of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum.

“I don't have enough words to describe how much I admired John Severin and loved his work. A complete professional. No higher praise. Thanks for everything, John,” writer-artist Walter Simonson posted on his Facebook page.

“He was as illustrative a talent as our industry will ever see,” said artist Joe Jusko.

He was inducted into Eisner Awards Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Overstreet Hall of Fame in 2009.

According to the family, Severin is survived by his wife of 60 years, Michelina, six children, 13 grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, a step great granddaughter and his sister, EC and Marvel veteran artist Marie Severin.

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