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Marie Severin, the Marvel Queen of Likenesses

Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.

Marie Severin broke into the world of comic books as a colorist (I just wrote about her early days as EC Comics' main colorist here), but even while working as a colorist, she also did other touch-up work, both at EC Comics and later, when she went to work in production for Marvel. She had grown up drawing her entire life, so it was always something that she wanted to do, she just became a colorist because there was a need for her at that gig and she was really good at it. If she had her druthers, though, she would have preferred to pencil more and eventually she was able to make that decision and go to work for Marvel as primarily an artist for many years.

During this time, Severin revealed a trait that she shared with her older brother, John, who was also a comic book artist for Marvel (he was the one who got her her initial gig at EC Comics as a colorist). That trait is that the Severins were both really good at doing likenesses of people. It is not an easy thing to do and yet both of them were masters at it.

Heck, in the book ABOUT her a few years back, she even drew herself for the cover!

In the world of comic books, being good at likenesses mostly comes in handy for a particular type of comic book, which is the parody comic book. Severin was not only great at likenesses, but she was really good at specifically caricatures. You know, the ability to capture someone's likeness while still making it exagerrated and hilarious. Severin was great at that, which served her well when she worked on Not Brand Echh, Marvel's first attempt to do their version of the popular parody comic book magazine, Mad.

Severin later recalled to Sequential Tart:

I loved Not Brand Ecch because I loved humor. I'm two sided like a coin. I like a little serious stuff and then I like the fun stuff.

ST: How did Not Brand Ecch get started? Now, that's a classic.

MS: I have no idea.

ST: Well, then what do you think about your contributions to it? Your name is practically synonymous with it.

MS: I think it's because I was the silliest person working on it. I really broke forth with the humor. I mean, before, I was doing cartoons insulting everybody in the office, but here I was getting paid for it. I loved it. Really, I still can't take superheroes that seriously, so here was my chance to get it all out.

She worked on pretty much every issue of the series. Here's a page from her first issue...

Of course, what made Not Brand Echh distinct from Mad is that it specifically spoofed other comic book characters, and thus, Severin's likeness skills were not quite as necessary for the book. So Marvel then seemingly created a book just for her!

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