Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Marie Severin

Yes, I know -- you've already heard that Marie had a hospitalizing stroke last week. What I'd like to do here is something of an appreciation of her contributions to comicdom. Although I'll be the first to admit it will be sorely inadequate...

I don't recall exactly where I first saw Marie's name or her work. I suspect it was in some 1970s marvel books, but anything beyond that would be complete speculation. I know I was familiar with her brother's work from Cracked and, at the time, briefly wondered about the connection between them. Were they brother and sister, husband and wife, cousins...? The question lay idle for years, as I was too young to really seek out the body of comic fandom and, thus, my resources were extremely limited. But a few short years later, when I did start realizing the breadth of people who read comics, I stopped seeing Marie's name for whatever reasons.

As time went on, I began getting older comics and seeing Marie's name again. Again, I don't recall where exactly, but I know it was pervasive. It seemingly popped up everywhere. (I was reading almost exclusively "classic" marvel books at this point.) She'd do a cover here, or interior pencils there, or inks, or coloring... Her name became almost ubiquitous with marvel.

And the shame of it is, she was always floating just beyond the limelight. Stan Lee was marvel for many years, and his famed Bullpen consisted of guys who he could count on for all sorts of things. Jack Kirby and John Buscema and John Romita... these guys were marvel second only to Stan. But Marie was there, too, pushed into their shadows.

The potential question of sexism arises. Were Marie's talents squandered or overlooked because of her gender? It's possible that some element of that was in play but, to be fair, the shadows that she was pushed into were those of incredible talents. I mean, it's like saying you came in last place in a foot race with the Quicksilver, Flash, and Hermes! Maybe there was some sexism there, but she was working next to some phenomenally talented people whose stars happened to shine brighter anyway.

And by no means should that diminish her work. That she was as ever-present -- if not as center stage -- as Romita says a lot, I think, about her own abilities and what Stan Lee (and later Roy Thomas) thought of them. And, now, looking back at her body of work from that time with a somewhat more critical eye, it's easy to see that talent shine through. Good grief, she was doing layouts for Jack Kirby at one point! It boggles my mind that he would even consider following somebody else's lead like that!

It was some time after that when I learned of Marie's even earlier history with EC. And, when I went back to study her color work there, it was powerful stuff. I was actually rather disappointed when I realized that most of my EC reprints are in black and white, and there's no evidence of Marie's handiwork which clearly and repeatedly highlighted what was being done in the storytelling.

Later still, people seemed to start realizing what a great talent and treasure Marie was and I began seeing more interviews and such with her. (I'm personally quite partial to her extended interview on the extras of Tales from the Crypt: From Comic Books to Television. She was friendly and charming and she struck me as exactly the type of woman I would've loved to have had as my grandmother!) I expect over the next days and weeks, you'll be hearing more about Marie as people remember just how great a talent she was and how limited our time with her will be (regardless of how well she recovers from her stroke). Even now, I realize that I haven't studied her work as closely as I should like -- that's why this commentary is so vague when it comes to tauting specific highlights from her body of work. But she's one of the great veterans of comicdom whose work was never less than exemplary, and I don't think there's enough good things that can be said about the woman.

Get well soon, Marie.

2 comments:

Joel Bryan said...

Nice! I learned about Marie Severin in the EXACT same way you did, and had the same questions. TwoMorrows' "Comic Book Artist" magazine had a great double interview with her and Ramona Fradon that's a must-read if you haven't already!

Joel Bryan said...

Oh... now I see you get "The Jack Kirby Collector," so you must've seen that interview!