'MAD' Founder and Noted Comics Artist John Severin Passes Away at 90

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The legendary illustrator helped found MAD and CRACKED and drew "The Incredible Hulk", "Sub-Mariner" and "Conan."

Esteemed comics artist John Severin, whose sixty-year career included gritty war comics, humor magazines like MAD and CRACKED and superhero titles like The Incredible Hulk and Sub-Mariner, passed away on Feb. 12 at age 90, according to a statement released by his family.

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Stan Lee, Severin's former boss at Marvel Comics. praised his friend in the statement.

“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. … 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."

Severin got his first professional gig in 1932, at age 10 when Hobo News purchased some of his drawings. He later attended New York City’s High School of Music and Art, where his classmates included future comics legends Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Al Jaffee and Al Feldstein.

After World War II, Severin became widely known for his work illustrating war comics and MAD magazine at EC Comics. He illustrated such popular titles as Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat. In 1952, he was part of the original group of five artists who launched MAD magazine under Harvey Kurtzman and William Gaines.

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After EC cancelled its comic books in the mid-1950s in response to the public outcry over delinquency started by Fredrick Wertheim over the their content, Severin went to work for Marvel Comics forerunner Atlas Comics.  His work at Marvel included illustrations for titles ranging from The Incredible Hulk and Sub-Mariner to the popular war anthology The Nam.  He continued drawing comics into his eighties, including work on The Punisher, Conan, and the controversial 2003 Rawhide Kid mini-series that re-imagined the Western hero as a gay gunslinger. He also helped launch MAD-competitor CRACKED in 1958. He drew for the magazine for 45 years. 

Severin was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. After he graduated from the High School of Music and Art in 1940, he enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific in World War II. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Michelina, 6 children, 13 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren, and a step great granddaughter. In addition, he is survived by his sister Marie Severin, who is also a well-known comic illustrator and cartoonist.