Marie Severin, 1929–2018
The pioneering comic book artist who created Spider-Woman
Marie Severin was the unsung hero of Marvel Comics. One of the first women to become a major comic book artist, she worked as an illustrator for more than 50 years, creating iconic art for superhero characters such as Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and Doctor Strange. Yet she struggled to win recognition in a male-dominated industry. For the first part of her career, she worked as a colorist, which was considered a secondary role. Severin used a palette of 48 colors to give vibrancy to the black-and-white drawings begun by the pencilers and finished by the inkers. “If fury is building up in the story, I use deep reds and stuff like that,” she explained. “I think of coloring as the music in comic books. It gives that little oomph to it.”
Born on Long Island, N.Y., Severin and her older brother John “often drew together at the kitchen table,” said The Washington Post. In 1949, she joined him at horror, war, and romance publisher EC Comics before moving in the 1950s to the company that would become Marvel. Severin remained stuck in the production department until the end of the decade, when an illustration she drew for an Esquire story on college drug culture caught the eye of Marvel publisher Martin Goodman.
Her “career at Marvel gathered steam in the mid-1960s,” said The New York Times. She drew covers for titles like Daredevil and Captain America and later “designed the first Spider-Woman, drawing her with a skintight red-and-yellow costume.” Yet despite her skill, Severin never received the acclaim given to her Marvel contemporaries, such as Jack Kirby and John Romita Sr. “The guys, they say that women gossip,” Severin said of her co-workers. “Well, networking is male gossip, and they ‘networked’ all the time.”