– by Sammie Wetherell –
There have been many women that have taken on Marvel’s bullpen, but none as great as Marie Severin. She worked in comics at a time when women in comics was not really heard of. She set the silver age of comics ablaze with her work on some major titles and creating some iconic characters. For a woman working in comics at the time she did, and what she accomplished, is something to be remembered and celebrated.
Marie Severin entered this world when born on August 21, 1929 in New York, . She grew up in an extremely artistic family. Her brother is the great John Severin, and her father was a designer for ‘Elizabeth Arden’ during the 1930s. Marie was incredibly intelligent and finished school earlier than she was meant too. You could say she always had an idea of what she wanted to do, as she took cartoon and illustration classes as a teenager. For a brief time she worked on Wall Street until her brother, who was working for EC Comics at the time, needed her to take over some colouring duties. The first known work done at EC Comics by Marie was A Moon, A Girl . . . Romance. She would continue to contribute to various EC Comics issues, including their horror and war comics.
Things would take a dramatic turn not just for Marie but the whole industry. The publication of Seduction of the Innocent brought attention to the U.S. senate the effects of comics on children, and in turn the establishment of the ‘comics code.’ EC Comics took a huge hit to where they had to cease publication and close its doors. Marie would go work for Marvel in the 1950s but this wouldn’t last long. The Comic code put a huge dent in comic sales, which saw Marie leave Marvel comics and work for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
After the Comics Code Authority was enforced comic sales dipped terribly low for the times. Comic creators had to come up with even more new idea’s to keep comics alive. They got around the Comics Code by doing a whole new genre of superhero comics. As the demand got greater, Marvel needed more workers. Sol Brodsky brought Marie Severin back to Marvel ahead of any other artist, as he knew they had crazy deadlines and she was the woman who would meet those deadlines!
Her work ethic caught the attention of Marvel’s editor-in-chief Stan Lee. Nicknaming her “Mirthful Marie”, he assigned her to Doctor Strange in Strange Tales, where she took over art duties from Bill Everett. She didn’t just work on the comic but would also go onto co-create the cosmic entity the Living Tribunal in Strange Tales #157. Over time Marie worked her way to head colourist until she would hand the reigns to George Roussos, as she wanted to do more pencilling assignments. This shows to me how well respected Marie was in Marvel. That a woman in 1972 could make her way to the head of a department, then switch to move on to something new within the company. It seems like Marie had a lot of pull in Marvel, but for all the right reasons. She continued to work on pencilling but would expand onto lettering and inking. During this time she would work on The Incredible Hulk (formerly Tales to Astonish), Sub-Mariner and Daredevil to name a few. In 1976, along with Archie Goodwin she would go onto create one of my favourite Marvel female characters (besides Carol Danvers) in Jessica Drew, also known as Spider-Woman. In the 1980s Marie would step away from comics and work on designing Marvels toy’s as well as in their TV and film department. She eventually retired in early 2000s, but would still make contributions to comics by re-colouring the comics from the EC era. After her retirement she was inducted into the Will Eisner comics Hall of Fame in 2001. Anyone who knows Marie’s bio they will know she did do some work for DC Comics, however her Marvel career far out ways her DC work, and during my research it was certainly the more interesting part of her career.
I’ve been engrossed in Marie over the last few weeks, to prepare for this article. In my readings I never encountered any stories of discrimination, to be honest I don’t think she would have stood for it. This woman didn’t let her gender get in the way of her work. She was a hard worker and incredibly talented at what she did. The more I read about her, the more I fell in love with this woman. She is a true inspiration for any woman trying to get into the comic industry, or any industry for that matter. As you may have noticed I haven’t talked about her drawing style. I’m no artist and couldn’t really give you an idea of her style and techniques. If you are interested in that side of her, she does have a book called Marie Severin: The Mirthful Mistress of Comics.
She is a name that will always be remembered in Marvel’s history, and resonate in the history of comics. A name that I will say in my head when I feel like giving up. A woman who broke barriers and opened doors for many other female creators. She is a true inspiration and I’m glad I got to know her a little better.
Until Next Time —
Peace, Love & Peanut Butter