Marvel Comics artist—and Eisner Comics Hall Of Fame honoree—Marie Severin has died. Severin, whose contributions across decades of work in the comics industry include the co-creation of Spider-Woman, plus many years as Marvel’s head colorist, its most expressive cartoonist, and its go-to “fixer” for projects in a bind, was 89.
Raised Catholic in New York, Severin broke into comics in 1949, when her brother John—then an artist at the legendary EC Comics—asked her to step in to color some of his work at the company. Although a gifted illustrator in her own right, Severin would go on to spend much of her career working as a colorist, the often-unsung craft of applying color to the black and white line art handed in by pencillers, a blend of in-depth technical skill and artistic talent whose application can make or break a book. Severin’s colorist talents stretch all the way back to her early days at EC, where she was often responsible for choosing the lurid hues to underscore (or occasionally downplay) the violent content contained in the company’s famed horror comics. Severin later admitted that she would sometimes use her work to dial back some of the gorier art that passed across her desk, out of what turned out to be well-founded fears that they might provoke a company-destroying public outcry. That being said, she scoffed at the suggestion that it was ever a moral matter, noting, “The main reason these people were buying these books was to see somebody’d head cut off, y’know?”
Both Severins eventually made the move over to Marvel, where Marie expanded her work out into penciling, drawing attention for her designs on Doctor Strange and the Hulk, and her co-creation and costume design on Spider-Woman in 1976. She was also a frequent cover designer and artist, contributing work to Iron Man, Kull The Conqueror, Daredevil, and more. And although she was perfectly comfortable drawing in something approximating the Marvel “house style,” Severin was also a gifted cartoonist; her much sillier and more lively takes on the company’s roster appeared frequently in its self-poking humor title Not Brand Ecch. That’s the closest she ever came to having a “signature” title at Marvel, though; per a profile that ran in The Comics Journal today, Severin’s role at Marvel was often to be a “fixer” for when other books were flagging or falling behind, a frequently uncredited force of competence and stability whose contributions were often ignored in an overwhelmingly male field.
Severin suffered a stroke in 2007, leading to her final retirement from the world of comics. She died last night, with a number of her fellow artists offering tributes to her on social media today: