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October 18, 1961
West Barnstable, Mass.
Dear Mr. Kurtzman:
I have been a queasy fan of yours for a good while now. I would be enormously pleased if something of mine got into Help. Would the idea of shelter-hopping kits interest you? Families too big or too lazy or too poor to build adequate fallout shelters could buy from our company quite cheap kits guaranteed to open any shelter yet recommended by Civil Defense.
The cheapest kit, selling for $14.95, say, would consist of a World War Two surplus cylinder of Cyklon B, guaranteed by I.G. Farben, and a shaped charge for blowing the lock on any shelter door. More luxurious kits might include C.D. uniforms, all-clear signals; tape recordings of beloved family pets scratching to be let in, tape recordings of old A.B.C. speeches on the harmlessness of fallout; grenades, bazookas, flamethrowers, etc. We recommend that no informed person go anywhere without the basic kit, since the necessity of getting into a shelter is likely to arise at any time. We therefore package the kits to look like attache cases, lunchpails, hatboxes, shopping bags, copies of Dr. Zhivago, etc.
As a rule of thumb, we recommend that, for minimum safety during nuclear war, each person be equipped to take over three shelters. We say this, because there are bound to be disappointments—meagerly equipped shelters, shelters furnished in bad taste, septic tanks mistaken for shelters, etc. One town figured the appalling cost of building community shelters, decided instead to buy enough kits to take over the shelters of an adjoining town, thereby saving enough money to send the high school band to the next Orange Bowl game. With every order goes a subscription to our news letter, which tells who is building shelters where, what they are putting into them, and how the owners intend to defend them.
Etc. More details on request.
— via —
Coming in early 2013 from Fantagraphics:
The publisher describes the book (paperback, 192 pages, 12 x 12 inches) as follows:
Archival interviews with Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Frank Frazetta, Bill Gaines, and many more, as well as contemporary interviews with MAD artists, are reprinted in the first of a beautifully packaged two-volume set.
The Comics Journal Library series is the most comprehensive series of lavishly illustrated interviews conducted with cartoonists ever published. To celebrate our republication of the legendary EC line, we proudly present the first of a two-volume set of interviews with the artists and writers (and publisher!) who made EC great. Included in the first volume: career-spanning conversations with EC legends Will Elder, John Severin, Harvey Kurtzman, and Al Feldstein, as well as short interviews with EC short-timers Frank Frazetta and Joe Kubert. Also: EC Publisher William Gaines on his infamous Senate subcommittee testimony, and probing conversations between Silver Age cartoonist Gil Kane and Harvey Kurtzman, as well as contemporary alternative cartoonist Sam Henderson and MAD great Al Jaffee. Part of what made EC the best publisher in the history of mainstream comics was some of the most beautiful drawing ever published in comic books, and every interview is profusely illustrated by pertinent examples of the work under discussion. The EC artists were renowned for their attention to detail, and the reproduction here takes full advantage of the oversized art book format.
If you’ve been buying every issue of The Comics Journal since the dawn of time like I have, you’ll have a lot of the material in this volume in your collection already. But digging through old magazines is such a chore…
Underground comics, or comix, were typically printed in black and white on cheap pulp paper and stapled together with a colour cover printed on glossier stock. While many underground artists/publishers over the years have reserved the back cover as a showcase for full-page illustrations in colour, others have viewed it as an opportunity to give one carefully selected comics page a more lavish treatment! Here are thirteen “back cover comix” — twelve sequential; one non-sequential — from various underground comics with publication dates ranging from 1970 to 1993; information for each piece is embedded in the file title. Listed in the order their work is displayed below, the artists are Victor Moscoso, Foolbert Sturgeon, Fred Schrier, Skip Williamson, Lee Marrs (with Gail Madonea), Victor Moscoso (x2), B. Kliban, Harvey Kurtzman, Pokkettz, Gilbert Shelton, R. Diggs, and Stephane Blanquet:
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Sad news today that the great cartoonist and illustrator, John Severin, died on Sunday 12 February 2012 at the age of 90, thereby leaving only Al Feldstein and Jack Davis as the last men standing from the legendary “EC Comics” stable of editors and artists. Although he worked as a penciller, inker, or penciller/inker, in nearly every genre comics has to offer, Severin was probably best known and most admired for his award-winning contributions to humour, western, and war comics.
As a visual-verbal tribute to John Severin’s incredible career in comics, RCN is pleased to present Kurtzman and Severin’s amazing “War Machines,” from Frontline Combat #5 (Mar.-Apr. 1952); the story is followed by the biographical feature, “The Artists of the Issue: Severin & Elder,” from the inside front cover of that same comic:
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And while you’re here at RCN, fans of Severin will certainly want to visit — or revisit, as the case may be — this post from 2011 that includes “An Interview with John Severin” that was published in 1973, along with the story “Tower Tamer” from Thrilling Adventure Stories #2 (August 1975).
Finally, via the Beat, here’s the official statement that was released by John Severin’s family:
Internationally acclaimed illustrator-cartoonist, John Powers Severin (1921 – 2012), passed away Sunday, February 12, 2012 at his home in Denver, Colorado with his family by his side.
He was 90 years old.
Throughout his sixty plus year career in comic illustration and cartooning, Severin gained world-wide notoriety and is regarded by many fans, friends, historians, and colleagues as a truly distinctive and brilliant artist.
Long-time friend and former president and chairman of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee states,
“He had an art style that was uniquely and distinctly his own. The minute you looked at his artwork you knew you were looking at a John Severin illustration; it could be no one else. Besides his inimitable style, there was a feeling of total authenticity to whatever he drew, whether it was a Western, a crime story, a superhero saga or a science fiction yarn. Not only was his penciling the very finest, but his inking, too, had a distinctive Severin touch that made every strip he rendered stand out like a winner”.
Severin’s professional career was launched early in high school when he contributed cartoons for the Hobo News. Early in his career, his works were also published by Jack Kirby at Crestwood Publications’ Prize Comics. He co-created the long-running Native American feature American Eagle and continued drawing stories for Prize Comics through 1955.
Called an “artist’s artist”, Severin gained a reputation for his historical knowledge and detail in all genres, most notably war and western. Sharing a Manhattan studio with fellow classmates Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder from New York’s famed High School of Music and Art; Severin began drawing for EC Comics. His illustrations graced the covers and inside pages of several EC comic series’ including Two-fisted Tales and Frontline Combat. It was also during this time Severin’s colleagues, Harvey Kurtzman and William Gaines co-created MAD Magazine. Severin was one of the five original artists who played a part in launching the infamous magazine, illustrating features for MAD Magazine between 1952 and 1954.
Upon leaving EC Comics, Severin was sought after to help launch CRACKED Magazine, a new publication that would become the prime competitor to MAD Magazine. Severin, using the pseudonyms “Nireves”, “Le Poer”, and “Noel”, was the lead artist for CRACKED Magazine for an unprecedented 45 years.
Following the cancellation of EC’s comic book line in the mid-1950’s, Severin began working for Atlas Comics, the company that would eventually become Marvel Comics. After the transition to Marvel Comics, Severin contributed his illustrations to several popular titles including the Incredible Hulk, The Nam, Kull the Conqueror, Captain Savage, What The?!, and Semper Fi.
In 2003, Severin revived an outlaw character he created fifty years prior, for Marvel’s controversial Rawhide Kid in the groundbreaking edition Slap Leather. Also in the 2000’s, Severin contributed to Marvel’s The Punisher; DC Comics’ Suicide Squad, American Century, Caper, and Bat Lash; and Dark Horse Comics’ Conan, B.P.R.D. and Witchfinder. Severin’s final illustrations were for Marvel’s Witchfinder Lost and Gone Forever, published in early 2012.
“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. If it were up to me, I’d have kept him busy drawing for Marvel seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year,” states Lee.
Throughout his life, Severin received numerous honors, recognitions, and awards for his illustrations and contribution to the comic book industry. In 2003 he was inducted into the Eisner Comic Industry Awards – Hall of Fame. His other accolades include:
Best Western – Desperadoes
1967 Alley Award – Sgt. Fury
1968 Alley Award – Sgt. Fury of Shield
1998 American Association of Comic Book Collectors – Hall of Fame
1998 National Inkpot
Marvel Shazam – Conan
2000 American Association of Comic Book Collectors Hall of Fame – Historical Contribution
2000 International Inkpot
2001/2002 Charles M. Schulz “Sparky” Lifetime Achievement
Jules Verne Estate Lifetime Achievement
Marvel Shazam – Kull
“John Severin’s distinguished work is personified by the quality of the man himself. “John Severin was one of the nicest, most decent, honorable, straight-shooting men you’d ever hope to meet,” states Lee. “Truly, the art world has suffered a great loss with John’s passing – but so has the human race. To John’s friends and fans worldwide, he has been greatly loved and will surely be greatly missed.”
John Powers Severin was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. After attending the High School of Music and Art he enlisted in the United States Army where he served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He moved to Denver, Colorado in 1970. As a freelance comic illustrator and cartoonist, thousands of Severin’s illustrations have been published and admired by fans worldwide. John Severin is survived by his wife of 60 years, Michelina, 6 children, 13 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren, a step great granddaughter and Severin’s sister, Marie Severin, who is also a comic illustrator and cartoonist.
My sincere condolences to John Severin’s family and friends.
Harvey Kurtzman created the following full-colour layouts for the story “Little Annie Fanny: Muscle Builders, Part I,” which appeared in the December 1977 issue of Playboy:
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The finished art, as usual, was by Will Elder…
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BTW, I have no plans to post part II of that story/episode; I’ve only included the published pages above for the sake of comparison with Kurtzman’s layouts.
If you’d like to read more, you really ought to consider purchasing the full-colour collection, Little Annie Fanny, Volume 2: 1970-1988 (ISBN-10: 1569715203; ISBN-13: 978-1569715208), which was published by Dark Horse in 2001 and is still available for purchase, new, at various online bookstores.
It’s a little known bit of historical comics trivia that Harvey Kurtzman’s first work for EC appeared in a commercial giveaway comic intended to educate readers on the symptoms and treatment of syphilis. Set in the old West, Lucky Fights It Through reveals a talented young artist — Kurtzman was about 25 at the time — who was already in full command of the bold, energetic, appealing style that would carry him through the rest of his career in comics — although the influence of Milton Caniff, so obvious here, would quickly fade — and it is entirely due to Kurtzman’s artistry and irreverence that, unlike most “educational comics,” Lucky has remained a compelling read for anyone who appreciates great performances in comics no matter what the venue or occasion; so compelling, in fact, that the story was not only reprinted, in its entirety, in colour in the EC fanzine Squa Tront #7 in 1977, but also appeared in glorious black and white in the 112-page “trade paperback” comics reprint collection Teen-Aged Dope Slaves and Reform School Girls in 1989, some forty years after its original publication in 1949. If you’re curious to read the comic for yourself, the blog Hairy Green Eyeball II has had the colour reprint available for your viewing/reading pleasure since 25 August 2008, and as of today, RCN has the black-and-white reprint, posted below. Enjoy!
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From a 1993 reprint of Two-Fisted Tales #22 (EC, 1951), here’s “Dying City!” with script and layouts by Harvey Kurtzman, pencils by Alex Toth, and inks by Kurtzman:
Of course, in the summer of 2012, “Dying City!” will be back in print, this time from Fantagraphics, which recently acquired the reprint rights to the EC Comics Library and has announced plans to publish a series of volumes focused on individual creators. “Corpse on the Imjin” and Other Stories (including “Dying City!”) by Harvey Kurtzman and his various collaborators (ISBN: 978-1-60699-545-7) will be the first volume in the series.
Two big news stories were unleashed yesterday via the Fantagraphics FLOG! Blog!
BIG NEWS STORY #1:
Fantagraphics Books to Publish the EC Comics Library by Gary Groth. Here are a couple of excerpts:
The first four books in the series [writes Groth] will be:
- “Corpse on the Imjin” and Other Stories
by Harvey Kurtzman. This will reprint all the war stories Kurtzman wrote and drew himself in Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, including all 23 of his covers — each a masterpiece in its own right. This volume will also include all the war stories that Kurtzman wrote and laid out but were drawn by artists who weren’t regularly featured in his war books: Gene Colan, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Dave Berg, Ric Estrada, Russ Heath, and others. (The regulars were Jack Davis, John Severin, Wally Wood, and George Evans, each of whom will later be the subject of their own war comics collections). Kurtzman’s war comics are still considered to be the gold standard for the genre, with a devotion not only to historical accuracy but also to resisting any impulse to glamorize wartime; a WWII veteran himself, Kurtzman’s humanistic approach was in stark contrast to the simp- leminded, jingoistic efforts of EC’s rival publishers, and paved the way for other popular media to depict the true face of war.
- “Came the Dawn” and Other Stories by Wally Wood: Though often remembered for his science-fiction work, Wood’s heavy, noirish brushstrokes were perfectly suited for EC’s rough-hewn suspense stories in (the appropriately titled) Shock SuspenStories and this volume will collect them all for the first time.
- Jack Davis’s horror stories (exact title t.b.a.): Jack Davis’s gift for caricature has made him an icon in the advertising world and helped define MAD magazine, but he was also one of the most versatile cartoonists of his generation; after “Ghastly” Graham Ingels, Davis was EC’s most prolific horror artist, appearing in all three of EC’s horror titles — Haunt of Fear, Vault of Horror, and Crypt of Terror. This will collect the entirety of Davis’s horror work, all of which was written by Al Feldstein.
- Al Williamson’s science-fiction stories (exact title t.b.a.): EC published two SF comics — Weird Fantasy and Weird Science — and Williamson was one of the stars, with an illustrative style that carried on the tradition of the great adventure comic strips like Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon. This volume will compile all 174 pages of Williamson’s SF stories.
Fantagraphics will be publishing four EC collections a year, beginning in Summer 2012.
“Corpse on the Imjin” and Other Stories
By: Harvey Kurtzman et al.
Release Date: July 2012
Black & White • Hardcover • 7” x 10”
“Came the Dawn” and Other Stories
By: Wally Wood, Al Feldstein, et al.
Release Date: July 2012
Black & White • Hardcover • 7” x 10”
BIG NEWS STORY #2:
Fantagraphics to Publish The Complete ZAP Comix by Eric Reynolds. Here are a couple of snippets:
The Complete ZAP Comix will be published as a two-volume, slipcased hardcover set, printed slightly larger than the original comics, and shot from the original negatives to the comic books, ensuring the finest reproduction ever seen of the material. It will also include the rarely-seen ZAM, a one-shot mini-comic/jam spinoff of ZAP from 1974, as well as other supplementary features, interviews with the artists, and other surprises.
Fantagraphics will be publishing The Complete ZAP Comix in Fall of 2012.
The Complete ZAP Comix
By: R. Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, Spain Rodriguez,
Gilbert Shelton, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, & Paul Mavrides
Release Date: Fall 2012
Page Count: 800 PP
Black & White • Two-Volume, Slipcased Hardcover Set
According to Reynolds, The Complete ZAP Comix collection will be designed by Victor Moscoso.
Notice the dates of the two comics. Kurtzman’s parody was first.