Marie Severin: The Mirthful Mistress Of Comics by Denny Cassell with Arron Sultan (book review).

When I was a youngster, I was captivated by Marie Severin when she did a stint as penciller on ‘Doctor Strange’ in ‘Strange Tales’, mostly because she was the only lady comicbook artist I had seen and she was on par with the male artists. It always seemed odd that she would work far more behind the scenes than on the frontline, although looking at her credits in the back of this book about her life, she was so good that you couldn’t tell her from the boys. Well, actually there was. When she was let loose in ‘Not Brand Eeech!’, Marie shown she was also a great cartoonist as well.

Production wise, Marie could do everything. Pencil. Ink. Colour. Correction. Versatile and professional. The fact that was also a good colourist is how she started working at EC Comics and coloured most of their line until they were effectively shut down by Fredric Wertham.

It isn’t difficult to divide her career up. First at EC Comics and then at Marvel under exclusive contract until the 1990s. That alone should be an indication of her worth to them.

The interviews here tend to be more about EC Comics than Marie’s work there but it gives a fascinating insight to how the work was done. The stories were written, word balloon lettered and laid out ever before the pencil artist got to work and finally ink them. Back when I was younger, the reprints were a little expensive for me but I find all of this very interesting and if I can ever fit them into my schedule, I really ought to look at what they did for Science Fiction.


One thing that is common to both EC Comics and Marvel is that it was rare for the artists to work at their offices unless you were also in production as well. Indeed, Stan Lee himself was only there a couple days a week, no doubt finding it easier to write at home. As such, the interviews with these artists, even from Marvel, about their dealings with Marie are also sparse. It is when it comes to those who had the dual role that you get a better insight into the bullpen office life and its small beginnings. After all, when Marvel started its early successes, it was relying on DC for their distribution and limited to eight titles a month. It was only when they changed distributor that the massive expansion occurred. The rest is history as they say.

With Marie Severin there, doing colouring and the likes of drawing Doctor Strange, Hulk and Sub-Mariner amongst other things, she was also a dab hand at in-house cartooning of incidents or things that annoyed her. Reading this, I got the feeling that she was also the humour and moral centre and no one was beyond her reach, including upper management, and you would have felt insulted had she not included you in a cartoon.

Looking through her body of work here, if you have your old comicbook collections or even gathered the reprints of same, you would see how much she influenced the course of Marvel Comics, even to training other colourists who worked there. Something I hadn’t known before and learnt here was the extra colour notes indicated with the colours was to inform the printers of the colour mix used and to avoid stripping and not something needed for all colours. Having played around with Dr. Martin designer colours a couple decades ago, I appreciated their richness and got a little carried away with the effects of mixing them together. From what Marie says here and something I’ll have to bear in mind if I use them again is that they rarely need to be mixed other than to make a flesh tint. Something that even digital doesn’t really do.

Her eye for design had her as cover designer at Marvel for a few years, too. Seeing the samples here compared to the finished article again shows her influence. It goes without saying that there is a lot of ground covered with her cartoon material and a sixteen page colour insert of her work as well.

David Anthony Kraft points out in his interview that in the comicbook industry that becoming pigeon-holed in particular jobs was a way of life and probably stopped Marie from progressing up the ladder. Then again, considering that she had her hand in everything and was one of the first ladies in comicbooks clearly showed she was more than capable against the male of the species.

I found this book extremely insightful of both Marie Severin and of the industry as a whole and a book such as this has been a long time in coming. Grab and enjoy with both arms and eyes as this is simply a brilliant book.

GF Willmetts

December 2012

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 175 page illustrated softcover. Price: $24.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60549-042-7)

check out website: www.TwoMorrows.com



Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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