Hall of Fame artist John Severin, one of the last of the legendary EC artists, has died at age 90. Severin—whose sister Marie was also a famed artist and colorist for Marvel—was among the greatest draftsmen of the EC crew. He was especially well known for his Western comics, which were meticulously researched and elegant in their line, but he also excelled at barbarian comics (KULL was a Marvel hit) and humor: his work for Cracked Magazine was inspired and almost singlehandedly made it a worthy competitor for MAD.

In recent years he had continued to work, notably on THE RAWHIDE KID in 2003, a controversial gay western; he also worked on THE PUNISHER and B.P.R.D.

UPDATE: Quite simply, Severin was one of the finest artists ever to become a cartoonist, and the testimonials have been pouring in all day. Here’s a fine obituary by Steve Ringgenberg.

The family has released a statement:


Internationally  acclaimed  illustrator-­‐cartoonist,  John  Powers  Severin  (1921-­‐ 2012),  passed  away  Sunday,  February  12,  2012  at  his  home  in  Denver,  Colorado  with  his  family  by   his  side.

 He  was  90  years  old.

 Throughout  his  sixty  plus  year  career  in  comic  illustration  and  cartooning,  Severin  gained   world-­‐wide  notoriety  and  is  regarded  by  many  fans,  friends,  historians,  and  colleagues  as  a  truly distinctive  and  brilliant  artist.


 Long-­‐time  friend  and  former  president  and  chairman  of  Marvel   Comics,  Stan  Lee  states,  
“He  had  an  art  style  that  was   uniquely  and  distinctly  his  own.The  minute  you  looked  at  his  artwork  you  knew  you  were  looking   at  a  John  Severin  illustration;  it  could  be  no  one  else. Besides  his  inimitable  style,  there  was  a   feeling  of  total  authenticity  to  whatever  he  drew,  whether  it  was  a  Western,  a  crime  story,  a   superhero  saga  or  a  science  fiction  yarn. Not only was his penciling the very finest, but his inking, too, had a distinctive Severin touch that made every strip he rendered stand out like a winner”.

Severin’s professional career was launched early in high school when he contributed cartoons for the Hobo News. Early in his career, his works were also published by Jack Kirby at Crestwood Publications’ Prize Comics. He co-created the long-running Native American feature American Eagle and continued drawing stories for Prize Comics through 1955.

Called an “artist’s artist”, Severin gained a reputation for his historical knowledge and detail in all genres, most notably war and western. Sharing a Manhattan studio with fellow classmates Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder from New York’s famed High School of Music and Art; Severin began drawing for EC Comics. His illustrations graced the covers and inside pages of several EC comic series’ including Two-fisted Tales and Frontline Combat. It was also during this time Severin’s colleagues, Harvey Kurtzman and William Gaines co-created MAD Magazine. Severin was one of the five original artists who played a part in launching the infamous magazine, illustrating features for MAD Magazine between 1952 and 1954.

Upon leaving EC Comics, Severin was sought after to help launch CRACKED Magazine, a new publication that would become the prime competitor to MAD Magazine. Severin, using the pseudonyms “Nireves”, “Le Poer”, and “Noel”, was the lead artist for CRACKED Magazine for an unprecedented 45 years.

Following the cancellation of EC’s comic book line in the mid-1950’s, Severin began working for Atlas Comics, the company that would eventually become Marvel Comics. After the transition to Marvel Comics, Severin contributed his illustrations to several popular titles including the Incredible Hulk, The Nam, Kull the Conqueror, Captain Savage, What The?!, and Semper Fi.

Harvey Kurtzman, John Severin and René Goscinny in 1940

In 2003, Severin revived an outlaw character he created fifty years prior, for Marvel’s controversial Rawhide Kid in the groundbreaking edition Slap Leather. Also in the 2000’s, Severin contributed to Marvel’s The Punisher; DC Comics’ Suicide Squad, American Century, Caper, and Bat Lash; and Dark Horse Comics’ Conan, B.P.R.D. and Witchfinder. Severin’s final illustrations were for Marvel’s Witchfinder Lost and Gone Forever, published in early 2012.

“One of my greatest regrets, as an editor, was the fact that John was so busy doing other things that I couldn’t give him as many assignments as I would have wished. If it were up to me, I’d have kept him busy drawing for Marvel seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year,” states Lee.

Throughout his life, Severin received numerous honors, recognitions, and awards for his illustrations and contribution to the comic book industry. In 2003 he was inducted into the Eisner Comic Industry Awards – Hall of Fame. His other accolades include:
Best Western – Desperadoes
1967 Alley Award – Sgt. Fury
1968 Alley Award – Sgt. Fury of Shield
1998 American Association of Comic Book Collectors – Hall of Fame
1998 National Inkpot
Marvel Shazam – Conan
2000 American Association of Comicbook Collectors Hall of Fame – Historical Contribution
2000 International Inkpot
2001/2002 Charles M. Shultz “Sparky” Lifetime Achievement
Jules Verne Estate Lifetime Achievement
Marvel Shazam – Kull

“John Severin’s distinguished work is personified by the quality of the man himself. “John Severin was one of the nicest, most decent, honorable, straight-shooting men you’d ever hope to meet,” states Lee. “Truly, the art world has suffered a great loss with John’s passing – but so has the human race. To John’s friends and fans worldwide, he has been greatly loved and will surely be greatly missed.”

John Powers Severin was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. After attending the High School of Music and Art he enlisted in the United States Army where he served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He moved to Denver, Colorado in 1970. As a freelance comic illustrator and cartoonist, thousands of Severin’s illustrations have been published and admired by fans worldwide. John Severin is survived by his wife of 60 years, Michelina, 6 children, 13 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren, a step great granddaughter and Severin’s sister, Marie Severin, who is also a comic illustrator and cartoonist.



  1. John, Russ Heath and Gene Colan were 3 examples I’d use to highlight a rarity: artists who were just as good into their senior years as they were when they started. Soon, all connected to the 1940s/50s are going to be gone. Appreciate ’em while you got ’em!

  2. WOW! What incredibly sad news!! Mr.Severin was one of my ALL time favorite artist. His drawing and inking were just beautiful to look at. I’m almost speechless. He will be sorely missed! But his work and passion will live on forever. May he R.I.P.

  3. One of the best comic book artists ever, and one of my personal favorites for more than 40 years. He could do it all!

  4. My first exposure to Severin was in a MAD paperback that included the classic “Melvin! of the Apes.” His humor work was just as good as his western and war work–if not better!

  5. Uncle John’s work was so incredibly detailed and accurate that when he drew a horse you could smell the manure or when he drew soldiers in combat you could hear the gunfire. Rest in peace, you will be missed.

  6. Another of the giants of my youth has gone…

    John Severin was an early influence and a lifelong inspiration for me and countless other artists in the field. He made it look easy and had such unique hand that he lent real character and richness to every story he touched.

    His passing is yet another reminder to all of us who still struggle in this industry- We should be grateful for the contributions of those who came before us and forged the path…

    We stand on the shoulders of giants… and their great strides cast long shadows that we must all work within.

    He will be missed.


  7. Another great artist of the past has left us. A lot of artists, like me, are better as a result of John. Along with Frazetta, Davis, Wood, Kurtzman, Ingels and others, Severin paved the way for artists and writers to excel at their craft. RIP John, job well done.

  8. I confess I have only got into his newer stuff recently. Amazing that even in his 80s the guy was cranking out artwork better than many of the young artists drawing comics now could only dream of. You almost forget that comics can look so nice until you see a master like him. May he be at rest now. He sure worked hard as a masterful artist his whole life.

  9. @Greg: “We stand on the shoulders of giants… and their great strides cast long shadows that we must all work within.” Well said.

    Should any of us be fortunate to meet those who are still among us at a convention somewhere, make sure to shake their hands and say thanks.

    Lance Roger Axt
    The AudioComics Company

  10. @Snikt Snakt: It’s Kull.

    My first exposure to JS’s work was an early Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. His patented air of verisimilitude gave the strip a real-world espionage feel that was sadly lacking at the hands of later artists. Condolences to his family & friends.

  11. The Master humor illustrater of all time. What an honor it was to work with him on Cracked for so many years. The pleasure of opening packages from John and unveiling masterpiece after masterpiece was incredible. We lost my father (Bob Sproul) in Sept.’07 they would have been the same age. My family’s warmest thoughts go out to the Severin family.

  12. Had the good fortune to meet Mr. Severin as part of arranging his appearance at a Denver comic convention and later at the San Diego Comic-Con where he was honored at one of the DC Big 5 war dinners. Because John and I both lived in Denver, I had access to him through his graciousness. I remember visiting his townhome near the Denver Country Club. His hallway walls were covered with other artists renditions of men in military uniforms – John was fascinated with these depictions and was fastidiously accurate in his own work. I remember sitting down with him in a very large dining area where he was working on an incomplete oversize re-creation of one of the Prize Western comic book covers – it was absolutely astounding. I’ll always remember him as a composed gentleman who made time for his fans. Family please let us Denver locals know of funeral arrangements – would appreciate the chance to pay last respects.

  13. Sounds like Mr. Severin lived a long, good life. A life of making art, and telling stories. A big family. No sense being sad. Be happy at the great work he left behind.

  14. Very sorry to hear about Mr. Severin’s passing. He was a master illustrator! When I worked for CRACKED Magazine it was a true joy to look at his original art. He could sure use that duoshade paper. He was a true original and will be missed. On the other hand, he was lucky enough to make a living at something he obviously loved up to his 90th! God bless!

  15. My favorite artist. In the late 90’s, I called him cold and spoke to him for about an hour. I was on cloud nine.

    He was a big part of my early teens.

    RIP Mr. Severin.

  16. A great talent and an undeniable influence upon untold artists over the past half century. That CRACKED magazine was successful with the longevity it sustained was, with all respect, not due to anything moreso than Mr. Severin’s amazing artistic skill. He possessed a style that was instantly recognizable yet uniquely his own…I daresay no other artist comes close to his style, with the exception of his sister Marie, another amazing talent. Condolences to his entire family.

  17. Like many, I must have first encountered his work in CRACKED— but finding out about his MAD work was a discovery. His art was more finessed and ‘delicate’ in his line work than his fellow Usual Gang of Idiots parodists— moreso than Jack Davis,and certainly less fershulugginy chicken-fatty than Elder and Woods…

    RIP, “Melvin Severin”.

  18. John was one of the BEST and truly deserving of his legend. His style was crisp, clean and authorative. I’ll always be partial to his work at EC and CRACKED (which without him would never have survived). R.I.P. John Severin. You will always be remembered and missed!
    ~jim vanhollebeke

  19. My family appreciates the kind thoughts and respect expressed here. My father was a talented man but a humble man; in fact he always told his children that he was lucky to have a job which he could do the very thing he loved to do and how many can say that?

    * In response to Snikt Snakt’s question regarding the last illustration shown… it is “Kull the Conquerer” (Conan’s ancestor).

  20. My Father was a true original, it was as interesting to talk to him as it was fascinating to watch him draw. He was a great thinker as well as a talented and loyal human being. We were privileged that God let us borrow him for a while.

  21. I don’t know how I didn’t hear of his passing back when it happened back in February. The only thing I can draw is a paycheck [and not even doing that very well lately] and am amazed at people that can draw, well, anything! Mr Severin’s artwork first caught my eye back in the 60s in Cracked magazine [although Mad was my first love, Cracked ranked way up there also]. I’m going to have to go digging through my boxes because I have saved almost all my issues of Cracked & Mad from the late 60s onwards and re-read a few and admire his work. Too bad Cracked is only online now, it just doesn’t seem the same without holding and feeling and turning the pages. Mr Severin will be truly missed by all.

  22. John Severin was one of my “hero artists” when I was growing up in the 50’s with all the EC comics I could afford. His style never changed and was always recognizable and his attention to detail was incredible. When he drew a Single Action Colt .45, you could almost read the serial number. His work will live on in the generations of fans that he inspired and entertained.