A Tribute to the of

It's been quite a few years of reviews here at the Silver Age Sage (creeping ever closer to 300 of 'em) and still I manage to find the unexplored title from time to time.

P.T. Boat Skipper Capt. Storm ran for a relatively short 18 issues from May/June of 1964 (+ house ad) to March/April of 1967.† I cannot help but wonder if it was inspired by one of our nation's most famous P.T. Skippers, John F. Kennedy who as a LTJG (O-2) was the commander of P.T. 109 during World War II.† Based on the insignia, Storm is a full Lieutenant (O-3), but otherwise there are some pretty similar elements between the settings and such. If only Editor Robert Kanigher were around to fill in the gaps. I've selected issue #15 from September/October of 1966 for this review. That dynamic cover is by Irv Novick. The lead story was also written by Kanigher with art by Jack Abel, but I'm actually spotlighting the backup story titled "Combat Cool!"† It's a reprint from Our Army at War #70 with a publication date of May 1958 and it was either a really good story or the right size at a brief 6 pages (my money is on the former) because it was reprinted a second time in Star Spangled War Stories #160 with a cover date of December 1971/January 1972. The tale is written by Bob Haney and illustrated by John Severin. Though it was rare back in the day, John was able to place a subtle signature on the splash page just below a prone G.I. firing his M1 Garand at an enemy aircraft in the boiling Sahara desert.

The company of soldiers are marching in the desert heat and Eddie, the focus of this story, is lamenting how insufferably hot it is, using descriptors like oven, griddle and blow torch.†

When they encounter a Nazi machine gun nest, however, Eddie finds himself separated from the rest of the unit, struggling up the sand dune.† Once he engages the enemy and clears them out, he's surprised that he feels remarkably cool.† During the break the soldiers take, however, he feels miserably hot again.†Eddie won't have much time to ponder the situation though as a German vehicle advances on them, firing deadly rounds.† The soldier flattens himself out and the vehicle barely clears him on its destructive path, but he manages to grab the rear bumper and execute an ambush from the back.

Triumphant yet again, Eddie crawls beneath the vehicle to take advantage of scarce shade, but again feels no relief until a third attack from a Stuka occurs. The dive-bomber strafes the ground and Eddie again feels a cool sensation as he fires his M1, taking out the menacing aircraft.

The last two panels show the unit leader calling after Eddie as he walks away, advising him that he should take a break.† The soldier simply responds, "Not me!"† "Every time I take a break I get hot!" "I'm going looking for some nice cool combat!

The backgrounds on this story were very basic, but the figure work and remarkable detail of the uniforms, vehicles, weaponry and aircraft were extremely impressive. The hands, the facial expressions and the minute detail to the packs, the folds in the clothing I could go on and on. John Severin was in his element and you wanna know something else?† After five decades plus (remember, this story was originally published in 1958), John Severin has not missed a step.

Exhibit 1 is the recent 5-part story, "Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder" published by Dark Horse earlier this year. While I was patiently waiting for John's responses to my written questions, his sweet wife generously sent me the series and I was utterly amazed that a man who will be 90 this month still had such skill and such detail to his work. I cannot recommend "Witchfinder" highly enough. Get thee hence to your local comic shop and pick it up.

And, with that little prelude, I'm proud to present a short but enjoyable interview with the legendary John Severin:

Bryan D. Stroud: My research tells me you sold you first professional work at age 10! That must be a record.

John Severin: That seems to be the rumor, but for the record, it was in early high school doing cartoons for the Hobo News.

BDS: You attended the High School of Music and Art in New York?

JS: Somewhat.

BDS: Who were your artistic influences?

JS: Charlie Russell, Hal Foster and Howard Pyle.

BDS: What made you decide to go into comics?

JS: My friend, Harvey Kurtzman's influence.

BDS:† The earliest comic credit I could find was for DC's Boy Commandos in 1942.

JS:† I never drew that character, and I was in the Pacific in 1942.

BDS:† How well did you know Joe Simon and Jack Kirby?

JS:†Jack gave me my first job and I continued to work for them. At that time I also took on American Eagle.

BDS:† Was your time in the Army helpful for your work on war books later on?

JS: Yes, it was part of my life experience.

BDS: You've done extensive work on war and westerns. Was that by choice or by assignment?

JS: Both.

BDS: Russ Heath told me you were one of the very best western artists.

JS: Well, thank you. I return the compliment.

BDS: You've done a little work on superhero titles, but mainly the aforementioned and some adventure, horror and humor. Russ and Bernie Wrightson didn't like doing superheroes. Is that your take as well?

JS: Yes.† I'm a realist.

BDS: You've won a bushel basket of awards. I noted an Alley for Best War Title of '67 and '68 for Sgt. Fury and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a Sparky Award in 2001. Were there others?

JS: Some others have been: The Eisner Hall of Fame, the Jules Verne Estate Lifetime Achievement, Marvel Shazam, Best Horror Western for Desperadoes, the War Collectors Hall of Fame, the National Inkpot Award and the International Inkpot Award and every letter I receive telling me I have given someone pleasure is equally gratifying. I've been around a long time, so they come from kids to fans who go back fifty or sixty years.

BDS: You were one of the first to work on Mad. What was that like?†

JS: A lot of fun.

BDS: You have credits for Warren, Charlton, Harvey and DC, but Marvel seemed to be your home.† Why?

JS: Stan (Lee) gave me lots of scripts and covers.

BDS:† What was your favorite assignment?

JS:† After all these years, I can't say.† I enjoyed drawing them all.

BDS:† Were deadlines rough?†

JS:† Yes and no.† They are an essential part of the business.

BDS:† What was your production rate?

JS:† Fast enough to meet multiple deadlines.

BDS:† How were page rates back in the day?

JS:† I was fortunate enough to do well.

BDS:† There was a pretty small group doing war books for DC back in the day to include Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Sam Glanzman, Jerry Grandenetti, Andru and Esposito, Ric Estrada and Mort Drucker.† How often did you encounter them?†

JS:† I am friends with Kubert and Heath.

BDS:† Did you ever do any advertising work?

JS:† Yes, but I never worked at an agency.† I did Sgt. Fury for the Wall Street Journal, some westerns for Ford Motor Company and a few things for the Enquirer.

BDS:  Did you do any syndicated work?

JS:† Some.† I don't remember.† I know I did a series for the New York Post.

BDS:† What are your favorite tools of the trade?

JS:† A #2 pencil, preferably a Mongol and a Croquil pen.

BDS:† Did you like doing covers or interiors?

JS:† Interiors, because it allows you to develop the story and characters.

BDS:† Did you use a lot of reference in your war and western work?

JS:† All that I could get hold of any subject.

BDS: You've done historical figures like Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp.† How did that differ from doing fictional characters?

JS:† The only thing factual about them were their names.† The stories were all fictional.

BDS:† Many of your peers paint. Do you?

JS:† No, only a couple of colorblind artist's fiascoes.

BDS:† Do you do commissions?

JS:† I never have time to do many.

BDS: Do you do conventions?

JS: No, I only have once or twice.

I'd been trying for quite some time to get an interview with John and while we didn't actually get to speak I was very happy that he took the time to fill in a few blanks for me and hopefully for you, faithful readers.

As 2011 winds to a close this month, the webmaster and I thank you for spending time with us. It's been a pretty remarkable year of interviews if I do say so myself and I continue to enjoy them immensely. They seem to be tapering down a bit, but I have high hopes that I've not yet exhausted the field.† If you have suggestions, I'm all ears. Please send your comments and feedback to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

If all goes well I'll have another exclusive interview in about two weeks, so you'll want to return for that. As always, feel free to explore the rest of the Silver Lantern, too. There's plenty of great material for any fan of the great Silver Age of DC Comics.

Until we see you again...

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2011 by B.D.S.

Interview copy edited by John Severin

This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by


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