andrewfarago (andrewfarago) wrote,

RIP John Severin

Just found out that John Severin passed away on Sunday.  He was a longtime favorite of mine, dating back to my discovery of his work in Cracked Magazine.  I'm sure that I read Cracked for at least a year beyond when I stopped really enjoying it because I knew there'd be new material from Severin.

I read Marvel's US Marine Corps counterpart to their war comic The 'Nam, Semper Fi', based on seeing house ads with Severin's cover art from the first issue:

I don't remember being especially impressed with the writing, but I read the book up until cancellation (or when the local pharmacy stopped carrying it, which amounted to the same thing).  There aren't a lot of artists whose work I'd buy regardless of the quality of the writing, but I've picked up a lot of beautifully drawn, not so beautifully written Severin comics over the past 20 years.  It was a real treat when some of his peak material started appearing in collected editions, like Marvel's Essential reprint line, with Severin's inking over Herb Trimpe's pencils and the just-released-although-I'm-not-sure-if-he's-in-the-first-collection Sgt. Fury collection.  And it was great to get my hands on some early Mad collections, so that I could see what Severin could do with a top-notch writer like Harvey Kurtzman.  Even better is his work on EC's war titles, and I'm hoping that Fantagraphics puts out a single-artist collection of his work in the near future.

Last month, John's wife called me at work.  My immediate reaction, especially with all the elder statesmen of the comics industry who've passed away in recent months, was that she was going to be the bearer of bad news.  I was relieved to find out that she was calling to make an art donation to the Cartoon Art Museum.  "Do you know my husband's work?  He drew a Rawhide Kid comic book about ten years ago, and there was a lot of press about it at the time."  We chatted about it, talked about the weather in Colorado (where the Severins live, and where I attended college), and a week later, she sent us every single page of John's recent Rawhide Kid mini-series.  Every.  Single.  Page. 

In hindsight, I realize that his health must have been in decline by that point, and that his wife wanted to get his artwork somewhere that could benefit the artistic community, and where it would be preserved for future generations.  But really, John Severin's legacy is secure.  His EC work, his humor comics, his westerns, his war comics...  I worry that it's damning with faint praise to say that he was the best artist in Cracked Magazine, but several generations worth of kids who couldn't wait another couple of weeks to buy MAD loved his stuff.

Rest in peace, John. 
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