John Severin is Drew Friedman's latest subject in his "Portraits of the Legends of Comic Books" series

Drew Friedman says:

This is the latest in my ongoing series of "portraits of the legends of comic books", the late artist John Severin (1921-2012), one of the original MAD/EC comics artists. I portrayed him at work in his studio circa the mid-seventies, putting finishing touches on his latest cover painting for Cracked, the MAD imitation magazine where he worked for 45 years and was their signature artist. My blog from earlier this year on John Severin's Cracked paperback covers.
Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for Cracked:
Cracked was an American humor magazine. Founded in 1958, Cracked proved to be the most durable of the many publications to be launched in the wake of Mad magazine. In print, Cracked conspicuously copied Mad's layouts and style, and even featured a simpleminded, wide-cheeked mascot named Sylvester P. Smythe on its covers (see Alfred E. Neuman). The Smythe character was Cracked's "janitor." Unlike Neuman, who is mute and appears primarily on covers, Smythe sometimes spoke and was frequently seen inside the magazine, interacting with parody subjects and other regular characters. A 1998 reader contest led to Smythe finally getting a full middle name: "Phooey." An article on, the companion website, joked that the magazine was "created as a knock-off of Mad magazine just over 50 years ago", and it "spent nearly half a century with a fan base primarily comprised of people who got to the store after Mad sold out."

Cracked's awesome motto was: "We're number two because we don't try as hard."

Portrait of John Severin



  1. I was always more a CRACKED man than MAD, largely because of Severin. His ability for detail and expression were second to none. I fell off the CRACKED bandwagon when he was usurped by Walter James Brogan, who was inconsistent & cocksure; he later created the Pirate’s Booty mascot. It’s also worth mentioning that Dan Clowes got his start at CRACKED, and Don Martin defected from MAD in his final years and went to CRACKED, too.

  2. John Severin was the man. In more recent years, he did a chapter of Rick Veitch’s Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset (a character that Veitch co-created with Alan Moore), and also drew an issue of Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX run set in vigilante Frank Castle’s childhood. 

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