Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Marie Severin and Bill Everett

In the early 1970’s Marie Severin was producing a plethora of covers for Marvel’s growing line of comics. Severin not only created cover roughs for other artists to complete (including Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Dick Ayers and Neal Adams), but penciled many of her own covers as well. Some of the early 1970s covers were clearly rushed; lettering was often sloppy and word balloons and copy added distracted the eye from the art. There were also some gems that appeared, and some of the best bore the stylized signature “7-EV” or 7 in between EV", translating to Marie Severin pencils; Bill Everett inks.

Marie Severin cover preliminary for John Buscema, for Thor # 186. While some artists changed some of her compositions, many followed her design quite closely.  

 Marie Severin cut her teeth at EC comics, working in production and coloring the line of horror, science fiction and war titles. Her vibrant coloring added another level of quality to EC’s already exceptional creators. In the 1960’s Marie began working for Marvel full-time, at first as production assistant to Sol Brodsky, and soon getting penciling work on strips such as Dr. Strange, the Hulk and Sub-Mariner. Her storytelling skills were strong, but there was always a sense that she was winking at the audience and not taking all this “long underwear” stuff too seriously.  This was exemplified by her exceptional satire of Marvel’s heroes in Not Brand Echh.  Marie Severin continued to be a force at Marvel for many years. She contributed greatly to the comic book field in so many ways, but her greatest talent, perhaps, is her ability to find humor in the absurdities of life and share that with pen and brush.  
Marie's caricatures most of the Marvel heroes of the period on the cover of Not Brand Echh # 9, Aug 1968

 Aside from being one of the pioneers of comics and creating Sub-Mariner, one of the most original and long lasting comic book characters, Bill Everett was a versatile and unique talent. Everett’s art was distinctive from the beginning, and he continued to produce excellent work into the 1970s, when he died at the all too young age of 56. Over the decades Everett contributed greatly to Timely/Atlas/Marvel and Editor Stan Lee had him working in practically every genre, from horror to westerns to war (and even the occasional funny animal) and kept him busy. Everett left the business for a short time, but returned in the early 1960s, working manly for Marvel. By the late 1960s Everett was often employed to ink other artist’s pencils, and his crisp, detailed rendering made him one of the best in the field. Everett inked some of Marvel’s top artist’s, including Jim Steranko, Gene Colan and Jack Kirby.  While his inking style was elaborate, Everett never overpowered the pencils; instead he complimented the art and added another layer, like frosting on a cake.

Gene Colan and Bill Everett's rendition of Spider-Man, from Captain America and the Falcon # 137, May 1971

Everett added a layer to Kirby's roughness in his Thor pages. Here he gets to ink the oceans he so loved. Wouldn't it have been wonderful if Sub-Mariner had guest-starred in a Everett inked Thor story? From Thor # 179, Nov 1969. 
Everett inked a series of covers over Marie Severin’s pencils, and it was always a treat to see these two dynamic artists working together. While many other inkers did a fine job working on Marie’s pencils, including Frank Giacoia, Herb Trimpe, Dan Adkins and Tom Palmer, Everett’s inking seemed to mesh completely with her style. Marie often had busy covers with background characters, and Everett added to the scenery with his intricate inks. They lent their talents to a number of superhero covers, including Daredevil, Iron-Man and Spider-Man (in Marvel Tales) and produced exceptional art for the mystery and monster line, including Tower of Shadows, Chamber of Darkness and Where Monsters Dwell. Oddly enough, with one exception (seen below) the team never drew covers together of their signature characters such as Sub-Mariner of the Hulk.  
The only instance I know of that Marie pencilled an Everett inked Sub-Mariner. Their signature can be seen next to Iron-Man's left foot. From Iron-Man Special # 1, Aug 1970 

Another water based background. Signature on the sunken ship to the right. Daredevil # 67, Aug 1970.  


Close-up of the stylized E7V signature. A variation of this signature appeared on all their covers.

One of three Severin-Everett Iron-Man covers (including the special). I suspect the cover would have worked just as well without word balloons. Their signature is on the building to the right. Iron-Man # 30, Oct 1970  



Severin and Everett's Spider-Man, from Marvel Tales # 28, Oct 1970. Note the detailed buildings and characters looking out the windows. Their signature is on the truck in the lower left hand corner.

While the Severin-Everett team did some fine work on the superhero covers, I feel they really outdid themselves on the mystery and monster covers. Bill Everett was at home in the horror and suspense genre, having drawn many exceptional covers for Stan Lee in the 1950s. Here we have detailed buildings and fearful citizens, with more faces popping out of windows. Chamber of Darkness # 4, Apr 1970.   

A deliciously rendered Everett cover, with a busy and interesting background. And, no, that's not the Puppet Master applying the makeup (although it might be his brother Norman). Can YOU spot the Severin-Everett signature? Tower of Shadows # 5, May 1970. 
Everett’s inking over Marie eventually ended and in 1972 he was brought back to work on Sub-Mariner for a final time. His art on the early issues was some of the finest, most impressive of his career (which is saying a lot). His rendering of Namor’s undersea world is breathtaking and those issues deserve a more detailed post of their own.
Everett's final go-round on his creation was perhaps his artistic height, if that's possible. Although Everett had been drawing the undersea land for decades, he seems to add even more atmosphere on these pages. Script and art by Everett, Sub-Mariner #  50, June 1972.     

Both separately and together, Bill Everett and Marie Severin are examples of the endlessly creative mind of an artist at work. They produced work that continues to resonate – worthy of study, appreciation and analysis. Quite simply, they are one of a kind.    

A sight many New Yorkers see every day, a giant ant outside their apartment house. Clearly, Marie must have loved drawing buildings with people looking out of windows. I close with this image because a have a soft spot in my heart for giant ants, and because it's MY blog! Incidentally, the interior story, from Strange Tales # 73, Feb 1960, drawn by Jack Kirby, was inked by Bill Everett! The Sev/Ev signature can be seen on the lower right side, next to the building steps. From Where Monsters Dwell # 3, May 1970

8 comments:

Kid said...

Interesting post, Nick. However, I have to confess that I much preferred Colletta's inks to Everett's on Thor, which looked much too cartoony when Bill inked it. I read somewhere that the Everett-inked issues of Thor didn't sell as well, but I've no idea by how much the sales dropped if it's true.

His 'Sufferin' Shad!" Sub-Mariner strips were classy stuff indeed, and I even enjoyed his '60s strips - although his depiction of technology seemed out-dated, being very 1950-ish in design. (Cast your mind back to that robot from outer-space he fought as an example.)

Keep up the good work.

Nick Caputo said...

Kid,

always a pleasure to have tour input here. Colletta certainly brought a distinctive look to Kirby's Thor, and some of the work was quite nice, but I really enjoyed Everett's inking over Kirby. Along with Stone, Ditko, Wood and Sinnott, he is one of my favorite inkers over Kirby.

Everett's style did seem more antiquated than more contemporary artists, but it added a charm of its own, in my opinion.

John Porcellino said...

Where Monsters Dwell #3 is my favorite comic book cover of all time-- Glad to see it remarked upon here!

Nick Caputo said...

John,

You have excellent taste!

benjaminherman said...

Great blog post. I appreciate you putting in so many different examples of Marie Severin and Bill Everett's work. They really did make a great team. I'm a huge old-school Marvel Zombie, but even so I am not really familiar with either Severin or Everett's contribbutions at the company in the 1970s. So I found this to be a very informative piece.

Nick Caputo said...

Hi benjaminherman,

I'm very glad you enjoyed the post and hope you'll find future posts equally interesting.

The Old Curmudgeon said...

I think the "7-Ev" signature was intended to be read as "Sev 'n' Ev," meaning Severin and Everett.

Everett was one of the all-time greats. He not only was one of Kirby's best inkers ever, but was my favorite inker over Colan's pencils. Colan and Everett teamed on a great early Sub-Mariner strip in Tales to Astonish, and did wonderful work on the Black Widow strip in Amazing Adventures.

I couldn't agree more about Everett's work on Sub-Mariner shortly before his death. That, and his 1950's Sub-Mariner issues, were his career best in my opinion.

I never did understand the point of creating new cover art for reprint titles. For example, compare the cover of Where Monsters Dwell No. 3 with the cover of Strange Tales 73, found at http://www.comics.org/issue/15509/cover/4/
Sev 'n' Ev's rendition of Grotto was almost copied from Kirby's original. I can't think of any instances in which a Marvel reprint cover in the late 60's or 70's improved on the original. Did Stan think a new cover somehow would help sales?

Nick Caputo said...

Hi Old Crumudgeon,

There were probably a number of reasons why new covers were used instead of originals. Sometimes it might have been Stan wanting to use new artwork, but other times it may have been because they couldn't find (or didn't have a good stat) of the original.

While I agree that often the originals were better than the new versions, there were quite a few worthwhile new covers by the likes of Gil Kane, Jim Starlin, John Buscema and others. The western reprints, in particular, have some excellent cover art by John Severin and Gil Kane.