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Marie Severin was born in East Rockaway, New York, on Long Island, the second and last child of John Edward Severin, born in Oslo, Norway, who immigrated to the United States at age 3, and a mother, Marguerite (Powers) Severin, from Syracuse, New York, whose heritage was Irish. Her older brother, John Severin, was born in 1922. The family moved to Brooklyn, New York City, when Marie was 4. She attended a Catholic grammar school and then the all-girl Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School. The family lived in an apartment in the Bay Ridge neighborhood at the time; it is uncertain if this was the family's original Brooklyn locale from Severin's childhood or if the family moved to that neighborhood in the interim. Due to the high school's staggered schedule, Severin's class graduated in January 1948, rather than in mid-year as typical.
Severin grew up in an artistic household where her father, a World War I veteran, eventually became a designer for the fashion company Elizabeth Arden during the 1930s. In her teens, Severin took what she recalled as "a couple of months" of cartooning and illustration classes, and attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn "for one day and said, 'This is a college', and I wanted to draw and make money". Her first job was doing clerical work for an insurance company in downtown Manhattan "for a couple of years" while still living at home. She continued living there after her father died.
Severin was working on Wall Street when her brother John, then an artist for EC Comics, needed a colorist for his work there. Marie Severin's earliest recorded comic-book work is coloring EC Comics' A Moon, a Girl ... Romance #9 (Oct. 1949). In a 2001 interview, she recalled she broke in as a colorist
... for all the war books at EC with [Harvey] Kurtzman. I went on to color all their books, they were happy with it, and I learned a lot about production color and how everything worked. ... I believe the color chart for the printed pages had a range of up to 48 colors. I had the full range; I would mix colors -- golds, greens, blues, and so on -- and you would intensify them so that the separators could see the difference. ... What they liked is that I really studied which colors looked best and sharper next to one another, the subtleties of it. I would also proofread the colors.
She would contribute coloring across the company's line, including its war comics and its celebrated but notoriously graphic horror comics, and also worked on the comics' production end, as well as "doing little touch ups and stuff" on the art. When EC ceased publication in the wake of the U.S. Senate hearings on the effects of comic books on children and the establishment of the Comics Code, Severin worked briefly for Marvel Comics' 1950s predecessor, Atlas Comics. After an industry downturn circa 1957, she left and found work with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. She recalled in 2001, "I did a little bit of everything for them -- I did television graphics on economics [and] I did a lot of drawing. I did a[n educational] comic book that my brother did the finished art on ... about checks".
Severin has repeatedly refuted that assertion, which became part of comics lore, while also saying she sometimes used coloring to "kind of shield" some gruesome content, noting,
I would never assume an editorial position. What I would do very often is, if somebody was being dismembered, I would rather color it in yellow because it's garish, and also [so] you could see what was going on. Or red, for the blood element, but not to subdue the artwork. ... I mean, the main reason these people were buying these books was to see somebody's head cut off, y'know? ... And [the editors] trusted me with a lot a stuff. They knew that I wouldn't subdue artwork; I would just kind of shield it a little bit so if a parent picked up the book in the drug store, they wouldn't see that somebody's stomach was all red.
In 1959, when the industry had picked up again during the period fans and historians call the Silver Age of Comic Books, Severin again worked for Marvel Comics in production. Severin recalled in 2001 that when Esquire magazine requested an artist to illustrate a story "on the college drug culture", Marvel production manager Sol Brodsky offered Severin rather than one of the regular artists, who were on deadline. Her illustration for the magazine led Marvel editor-in-chief Stan Lee to assign her the feature "Doctor Strange" in Strange Tales, replacing Bill Everett, who had succeeded character co-creator Steve Ditko. With Lee, Severin co-created the fictional cosmic entity the Living Tribunal in Strange Tales #157 (June 1967).
In the 1980s, she was assigned to Marvel's Special Projects division, which handled non-comic book licensing. She helped design toy maquettes and film and television tie-ins products, and worked on the short-lived Marvel Books imprint of children's coloring books and sticker books. During this time she also drew the Fraggle Rock and Muppet Babies comics for Marvel's Star Comics imprint.
Severin retired sometime afterward, but continued into the mid-2000s to make occasional contributions, such as recoloring many of the comics stories reprinted in the EC-era retrospective books B. Krigstein and B. Krigstein Comics. The former won both the Harvey and Eisner comic-industry awards in 2003.
On October 11, 2007, Severin suffered a stroke, and was taken to Huntington Hospital, in Huntington on Long Island, to recover and recuperate.
Awards and honors
Severin won the Best Penciller (Humor Division) Shazam Award in 1974. The following year, she was nominated for both Best Inker (Humor Division) and Best Colorist.
In consideration of her contributions to comics, Comics Alliance listed Severin as one of twelve women cartoonists deserving of lifetime achievement recognition. She received Comic-Con International's Icon Award in 2017
^The school closed circa 1973 with the building then housing the St. Francis De Sales School for the Deaf: Morris, Montrose (February 20, 2013). "Building of the Day: 260 Eastern Parkway". Brownstoner.com. Retrieved 2014.
^Sanderson "1970s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 157: "Written by Linda Fite and originally drawn by Marie Severin, the series lasted merely four issues, but the Cat later became Tigra."
^Daniels, Les (1991). "The Marvel Age (1961-1970)". Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. New York City: Harry N. Abrams. p. 139. ISBN9780810938212. In 1967, [Marvel] launched Not Brand Echh, a monthly comic book devoted to spoofs of the company's own heroes ... one of the mainstays of the series was Marie Severin, a gifted caricaturist who had worked for years on Marvel's production staff.
^Johnson, Dan (August 2006). "Marvel's Dark Angel: Back Issue Gets Caught in Spider-Woman's Web". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (17): 57-63.
^Field, Tom (2005). Secrets in the Shadows: The Art & Life of Gene Colan. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 116. ISBN978-1893905450.
^Saffel, Steve (2007). "Licensing Galore!". Spider-Man the Icon: The Life and Times of a Pop Culture Phenomenon. London, United Kingdom: Titan Books. p. 92. ISBN978-1-84576-324-4. To many fans the Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk toilet paper is the ultimate '70s oddity, coming as it did at the tail end of the decade. For long visits to the bathroom, the roll actually featured a comic strip with art by Marie Severin - no doubt something she kept on her résumé for years.
^Storniolo, Mike (January 7, 2005). "A Voyage Of A Million Miles". Comics Bulletin. Archived from the original on August 10, 2011. ... John Severin, Jr., son of legendary comic book and Cracked magazine artist John Severin, came into the picture. John, along with business partner and sister Ruth Larenas, had the notion to complete the remaining six chapters of the story and, along with the original six issues, publish them under one cover.