Wednesday, February 15, 2012

John Severin's CRACKED Paperback covers

The late John Severin was a legendary comic book artist who's work appeared regularly in a wide variety of comics publications for more than half a century.

He was an artist for EC comics in the early fifties, mainly for their war titles such as "Two-Fisted Tales",  and was also one of the five original MAD artists (along with Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Wally Wood and Jack Davis), contributing art to nine of the first ten issues, and later he became the main artist for the MAD imitation magazine, the much maligned "Cracked".

 When I was a kid in the sixties, I was never much of a fan of Cracked (nor the other MAD imitation magazine "Sick"), realizing the writing was usually weak and unfunny, and the artwork was below par. I vastly preferred (and collected) the essential MAD...

"No one was ever a fan of Cracked. We would buy Mad every month, but about two weeks later we would get anxious for new material. We would tell ourselves, 'OK, we are not going to buy Cracked. Never again!' And we'd hold out for a while, but then as the month dragged on it just became, 'OK, I guess I'll buy Cracked.' Then you'd bring it home, and immediately you'd remember, 'Oh yeah, I hate Cracked!'"
- Dan Clowes, former Cracked artist 
"Are you kidding? Was Cracked anyone's first choice?"
- Peter Bagge, former Cracked writer

 ...But I WAS a fan of John Severin's artwork, so I would pick up an occasional issue of Cracked over the years.

What I DID enjoy the most about Cracked though, and collected, were the sporadic paperbacks that featured beautifully painted covers by Severin, featuring their own Alfred E. Neuman imitation, side-splitting Cracked Mascot, janitor Sylvester P. Smythe:

John Severin did only five of the Cracked paperback covers, all of which I've included here:


my portrait of John Severin created for "Heroes of the Comics" (Fantagraphics)


  1. I really liked Severin's work. I get the feeling the Cracked material came easy to him and that's why he was there so long. He cranked out a lot of pages and they didn't bother him, so he was happy.

    That last cover doesn't look like Severin to me, nor Gogos. I can't place it.

  2. What a swell blog you have here! It's th' ginchiest!

    Waaaay back when I was buying Cracked because it was ALWAYS marked down at the newsagents (imagine that - they couldn't even return it) I copied out a letter from the letters page and sent it to Mad (with a subtle amendment), and they published it too, under my name! I knew then that a career of Fine Literature beckoned.

    I used to laugh out loud at Mad - especially Don Martin, the most comic comic artist ever - but I'd flip through Cracked and Sick with a sneer on my lips. I love that "we're number two because we don't try as hard" line, though.

  3. Basil Gogos did all the later Cracked paperback covers.

  4. Sick magazine was just as good as Mad in the 1960's, a cutting-edge and original humor magazine, with very sharp writing. It was only from 1971 on that it went downhill, after Joe Simon ceased editing. Cracked magazine was different than Mad, a lighter, friendlier humor magazine if you will, and also one of the greatest humor magazines ever published. It's personality was distinct from Mad's and the writing has always been under-rated. The artists involved were just as good as Mad's for most of the run, with the exception of Wally Wood and Will Elder who can not be equaled. During the late '80's, Cracked was far superior to Mad, providing fresh concepts and styles, where Mad was recycling the same formula to a point where the bite had left the magazine.

    There was room for more than one humor magazine in the field, and Sick (in the '60's) and Cracked were two of the greatest.

  5. Growing up in the 70's, I was one of the few kids that preferred Cracked to Mad. John Severin was the biggest draw for me. I was amazed at how faithfully he captured celebrity likenesses with his simple line style. Plus, I was already familiar with his art through reprints of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. The other reason Cracked was my mag of choice was due to my love of classic horror films. Cracked regularly published "Monster Party" themed Collector's Editions, which was my idea of heaven.

  6. I subscribed to Cracked in the late '70s / early '80s entirely for Severin's artwork.

  7. I am serious Cracked collector and own two of the novels. Thanks for posting this! It's a real crash course !