The Mad and Cracked art of John Severin

I’m sure I speak for many when I say that at a young age, Mad Magazine was pretty much my world.

I loved the comic art of Mad, the work of Mort Drucker, Don Martin, Al Jaffee, Norman Mingo (who was practically the magazine’s Norman Rockwell), and many more. 

Although I always thought it was a somewhat inferior distant cousin, I would also read Cracked magazine, and learned to enjoy it as well.

You may also remember the art of John Severin, who worked for both Mad and Cracked. Unfortunately, Severin just passed away at the age of 90.

According to Comics Alliance, Severin went to school with Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder, who all started out working for EC. Severin was at Mad magazine from ground zero, and worked for them regularly from 1952 to 1954.


Then after leaving EC, Severin went to Cracked, where he worked for some 45 years. As The Onion recalls, Severin worked on Sgt. Fury, The Hulk, Sub-Mariner, and Conan, among others.

Severin kept working late into his life, bringing back the Marvel character The Rawhide Kid, and he also worked on The Punisher, the Dark Horse version of Conan, and Witchfinder.


As The Onion notes, “John Severin was one of the last living, working links to the golden age of pre-Code comic books…Early in his career, Severin became renowned for his careful attention detail, his style was less broadly cartoonish and more naturalistic than the other major contributors to Mad, but in his work there as well, he adapted the skillful draftsmanship and talent for creating sharply defined characters to [Mad’s] humorous scripts.”


In a statement, Stan Lee also wrote, “The minute you looked at his artwork you knew you were looking at a John Severin illustration; it could be no one else…One of my greatest regrets, as an editor, was the fact that John was so busy doing other things that I couldn’t give him as many assignments as I would have wished.”