Last month Michele and I went to the Society of Illustrators to see the Comic Art Sale and Exhibit. It was a great opportunity to see a very impressive & diverse selection of original artwork from comic books was on display, both from mainstream and alternative creators.
Here are just a few highlights from the Comic Art Sale and Exhibit, which ran from July 15th to October 23rd…
The unpublished cover artwork originally intended for Avengers #37 (Feb 1967) drawn by Don Heck for Marvel Comics that was eventually used as a cover by editor Roy Thomas for his comic book history magazine Alter Ego #118 (July 2013) from TwoMorrows Publishing.
A page from the Doctor Strange story “The Many Traps of Baron Mordo” drawn by Steve Ditko from Strange Tales #117 (Feb 1964) published by Marvel Comics.
The cover artwork for Green Lantern #56 (Oct 1967) penciled by Gil Kane and inked by Murphy Anderson, published by DC Comics.
The cover artwork for Hawkman #8 (June-July 1965) drawn by Murphy Anderson, published by DC Comics.
Two pages from Fantastic Four #116 (Nov 1971) penciled by John Busema and inked by Joe Sinnott, published by Marvel Comics.
A page from Incredible Hulk #196 (Feb 1976) pencil breakdowns by Sal Buscema and finishes by Joe Staton, published by Marvel Comics.
Two pages from the underground comix series The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers created by Gilbert Shelton.
The cover artwork for Laugh Comics #182 (May 1966) drawn by Dan DeCarlo, published by Archie Comics.
A daily installment of the newspaper comic strip Sky Masters penciled by Jack Kirby and inked by Wallace Wood that ran from September 1958 to December 1961.
The cover artwork for Not Brand Echh #9 (Aug 1968) drawn by Marie Severin, published by Marvel Comics.
A page from Red Sonja #6 (Nov 1977) drawn by Frank Thorne, published by Marvel Comics.
While I definitely enjoyed this exhibit, it was slightly sobering to realize that in many cases the artists sold their original artwork many years ago for a fraction of the current asking prices. In some cases some of this artwork was given away by the publishers as gifts to fans, or flat-out stolen. It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances. So I can certainly understand why in recent decades comic book artists have chosen to sell their original work at much higher prices.
Longtime comic book artist Marie Severin passed away on August 30 at the age of 89. Severin, a very talented artist who was possessed of a wonderful sense of humor, was one of the few women to work in the comic book industry in the 1950s and 60s.
Severin got her start in the 1950s as a colorist at EC Comics, where her brother, John Severin, was working as an artist. Following that, Severin began working at Marvel in the late 1950s. Initially working as a colorist and in the production department, in the mid 1960s she also began drawing for the House of Ideas.
Severin had a decidedly unconventional, often wacky style to her artwork. She also acknowledged that she really did not care all that much for super-heroes. That made her the perfect fit for Marvel’s outlier characters. She became only the third artist on the Doctor Strange feature in Strange Tales beginning with issue #153, cover-dated Feb 1967. Soon afterwards, Severin began drawing the adventures of Marvel’s two moody, violent anti-heroes, Namor the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk.
In the early 1970s Severin penciled several stories written by Roy Thomas featuring Robert E. Howard’s introspective warrior king Kull the Conqueror. On the Kull stories Severin was inked by her brother John, and it was a beautiful collaboration.
However, it was in the humor field that Severin really found her calling. Her style was perfectly suited for comedy, and for sending up the characters at Marvel and their competitors. Severin’s work appeared in all but one issue of Not Brand Echh, which ran for 13 issues in the late 1960s. All these years later the wacky, satirical stories from Not Brand Echh are well-remembered, in major part because of Severin’s distinctively crazy artwork.
I was born in 1976, so I only discovered Not Brand Echh years later via reprints. I think once I reached my 30s and started taking super-heroes a lot less seriously was when I finally began to really appreciate the parodies of the genre that Severin & her colleagues had done.
However, for the thoughts of someone who did read Not Brand Echh when it was being published, I recommend reading Alan Stewart’s blog Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books. Earlier this year Alan did a blog post looking back at Not Brand Echh #9. Severin’s drew the cover artwork for on Not Brand Echh #9 and penciled “Bet They’ll Be Battle!” featuring the Inedible Bulk and Prince No-More the Skunk-Mariner, a parody of the Hulk vs. Sub-Mariner story published in Tales to Astonish #100 a year and a half earlier, which Severin had also penciled.
Nevertheless, of the Not Brand Echh material I have seen via reprints, one of my favorite pieces is the satirical two page “How to Be a Comic Book Artist” vignette which Severin drew, and which she apparently also wrote and colored. It was originally published in Not Brand Echh #11 (Dec 1968). Here it is…
“How to Be a Comic Book Artist” always leaves me chuckling, especially the second panel on the first page. “Work in pleasant, inspiring surroundings – to keep your thoughts alive and creative!” Yes, yes… of course! 😛
I showed this two-pager to my girlfriend Michele, who is an artist. She shook her head and muttered, “Yeah, that sounds like everybody I know.”
Severin continued her humor work at Marvel in the 1970s, contributing to the short-lived color comics Spoof and Arrgh! and the long-running black & white Crazy Magazine. In the early 1990s she also drew a few stories for Marvel’s later-day humor comic What The–?!
Much of Severin’s work for Marvel in the 1980s and early 90s was on titles geared towards younger readers. Her artwork appeared in the Muppet Babies, Fraggle Rock and Alf comic books. Once again, her style was very well-suited to that material.
On occasion Severin did return to straightforward super-heroes. In the mid 1990s she worked on a few stories during David Quinn’s memorable run writing Doctor Strange, doing nice work. I especially enjoyed her artwork on the Doctor Strange & Clea story that appeared in Midnight Sons Unlimited #6 (July 1994) which, although it was a mostly-serious tale, was drawn in a semi-cartoony style, and which had a fair amount of comedic background details, such as the depictions of late 1960s counter-culture elements.
I only met Severin once, briefly, at a comic book convention in June 2000. At the time the only book I had on hand which contained her work was the graphic novel Dignifying Science. Written by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by a talented line-up of female artists, Dignifying Science spotlighted several important female scientists. Severin drew the book’s prologue & epilogue, which touched upon the life of Marie Curie. I got my copy autographed by Severin. I wish I’d had some of the other books she worked on to also get signed, but at least I did get to meet her that one time.
Marie Severin had a very lengthy career in comic books as an artist and colorist, and I’ve only briefly touched upon a few highlights in this blog. For an in-depth examination of her career, I highly recommend the book Marie Severin: The Mirthful Mistress of Comics written by Dewey Cassell with Aaron Sultan from TwoMorrows Publishing. In addition, Severin was recently interviewed by Jon B. Cooke in Comic Book Creator #16 (Winter 2018) also from TwoMorrows. Please check them out.