Sid Couchey


Sid Couchey

Sid Couchey (May 24, 1919 – ) is an American cartoonist best-known for his illustration work on the Harvey Comics characters Richie Rich, Little Lotta and Little Dot. His style is known for big, friendly faces and a sharp sense of visual humor.

Childhood and early career

Couchey was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He counts Milton Caniff's "Steve Canyon", Alex Raymond's "Flash Gordon" and Howard Pyle among his influences.

After enrolling in the Landon School of Cartooning, a correspondence course out of Cleveland, he continued to practice his craft on the back of his school papers. When he was 14, he wrote to Walt Disney, and "asked when I should come...I've sharpened my pencils...I'm ready". However, Disney told Sid that they weren't quite ready for him.

He graduated from the Art Career School and the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (which became The School of Visual Arts), both located in New York City. For his first job after art school, Couchey assisted John Lehti on the comic strips Tommy of the Big Top and Tales from the Great Book. In his home, Sid displays an original piece from the Great Book strip, in which he appears as the census taker and scribe for the Pharaoh.

In the early 1950s, Sid worked on backgrounds for the Lassie, Big Town and Howdy Doody TV tie-in books. His first complete work was published in Hoot Gibson #6 and several Couchey-illustrated stories appear in Heroic Comics, published by Famous Funnies. His stories were printed in Issues #62, 70, 71, 74, 75, 76, 78, 80 and 82.

In the mid-1950s, Sid answered an advertisement in the New York Times--and thus briefly became an assistant for Joe Shuster, the co-creator of Superman. After several planning sessions in Sid's 9th Avenue apartment, Shuster came up with "another alien baby" named Golly Galloo. Although "Galloo never flew", Sid still has many of Shuster's original tracing-paper sketches for this character.

Harvey Comics (late 1950’s – 1980’s)

Sid Couchey's "big break" came when Harvey Comics advertised for cartoonists. A few of Sid's fellow graduates, who had started an art studio of their own, told him about the advertisements. According to Couchey, "My first interview at Harvey Comics was with the man who turned out to be the Elder Statesman of Harvey cartoonists, Warren Kremer. He created all the spec sheets for the various characters and was a remarkably imaginative and accurate artist. I came there fresh out of art school. “Green” is more appropriate than “fresh”, but fortunately, Warren was also patient. He taught me what I needed to know about the Harvey kids so that I could go back up home to Essex, New York, (with my new bride, Ruth) and send my artwork to Harvey Comics. Editor Sid Jacobson was always good to me and Leon Harvey, on one of the few occasions that I saw him, had pictures taken of himself with my family"." At Harvey, Couchey’s artwork began appearing in the Little Dot, Little Lotta and Richie Rich titles throughout the 1950s and 1960's, with reprints appearing for many years. Sid did not create these famous Harvey characters--but he did have the opportunity to change attitudes or events. According to Sid, "One time, they had Little Lotta facing a mean bulldog and the script called for her to bash or kick him--and I didn't think that was in keeping with her character, so I changed that to have her subdue it in a somewhat less brutal way like tossing him in a thicket, or something"."

Later career (1983 - present)

In the early 1980s, Sid provided spot illustrations for Good Old Days magazine. In the spring of 1994, Sid Couchey received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Kansas City Comics Convention. The other honorees included John Byrne, George Pérez, and Lee Falk, who bore a striking resemblance to Sid. Couchey and Falk played on this, and dressed alike during the convention for their fans.

Couchey has kept busy with local artwork, especially with many cartoons devoted to Champ, the Monster of Lake Champlain. A second cousin to Scotland's "Nessie", Champy has been sighted for centuries in the Port Henry region of Lake Champlain, even by Samuel de Champlain himself (who described the creature as a 20-foot-long serpent with the head of a horse).

In addition to his work with Champy, Sid also contributed artwork to alcohol-awareness programs for the State of Vermont. In the mid-1980s, Dr. John K. Worden and his University of Vermont team invited Sid and Vermonter Jim Starbuck to create a “spokestoon” to deter alcohol abuse--thus, the noble character of Rascal Raccoon emerged. Around that time, Jim Heltz of Green Mountain Video worked with Sid to create the “Drinking Dog/Cool Cat” series as part of an alcohol-awareness program for the State of Vermont. These characters were featured in various posters and animated TV spots to present an anti-alcohol message to children.

"Local Hero"

Thanks to the efforts of Calvin Castine, popular writer and videographer of Hometown Cable of Champlain, New York, well-known radio personality Gordie Little and the Montreal Expos baseball organization, Mr. Couchey (a notorious Cleveland Indians fan) got his chance to throw out the first pitch at an Expo-Cleveland game on June 21st, 2002. Cal Castine promoted the event and covered every action-packed moment of Sid’s pitch. Mr. Couchey also made his own baseball cards, featuring a "bobblehead" Sid. In honor of this landmark event, Sid was inducted into the First Ball Pitchers' Hall of Fame with a Proclamation from Judge Lewis. Currently, Sid Couchey (head of the selection committee) and Dave Dravecky are the only two honorees in this Hall of Fame. The hallowed Hall is located in Jim’s Pretty Good Bookstore in Whallonsburg, New York, which is also the meeting place for the (in)famous Do-Nothing Club.

Recent Work

The busy Mr. Castine also invited Sid, along with famed cartoonist Arto Monaco--creator of the Land of Makebelieve amusement park--to join him in the production of a comic book honoring the memory of Tom Tyler, a B-movie hero and matinee idol who was born in Port Henry, New York. "Tom Tyler Tales" and its sequel, "Tom Tyler Tales, Too"--written and produced by Castine--are still in print and are available at Hometown Cable and other outlets.

Author Morris Glenn is currently working with Sid on a history-oriented book titled “A Walk Around Whallon’s Bay”.

The Heritage Society of Willsboro, New York, has invited Sid to use part of their newly renovated facility as a permanent home for the display of his paintings and drawings. The Opening Reception was held on Friday, June 6, 2008 in Willsboro.

Personal life

Sid and his wife Ruth still make appearances at book signings and comic-book conventions, in addition to visiting cartoon museums and libraries. Recently, Sid has completed a series of paintings that echo his professional training--Champy in the Style of the Old Masters, which has been on display in Plattsburgh and at the Ticonderoga Cartoon Museum, both located in New York State. In this collection, Couchey portrays the famous lake-serpent as he would have been painted by Seurat and Picasso, among others.

Cartoonists and comic-book artists love to add in-jokes to their work, and Sid is no exception. He included local references in dozens of books. The residents of northern New York State would be surprised to find the names of nearby towns in the pages of a Harvey book. In one Little Lotta story, Couchey drew a strip around an athletic contest between the towns of Keeseville and Willsboro. Years later, Sid met a basketball coach from Keeseville, who had been wondering "how the heck [our town] ever got in that comic and why they had to lose to Willsboro!" This story, entitled "Not Qualified", appears in Little Dot's Uncles and Aunts #8.

On that note, it's also worth tracking down the April 1960 (Vol. 1, No. 55) issue of Little Dot, because Sid Couchey appears in a Little Lotta strip entitled "Problem Child", along with his then-fiancée Ruth Horne. According to his wife, Sid proposed to her with that story. They were married on November 14, 1959. Sid and Ruth Couchey live in Essex, New York and have two children--Brian and Laura--and many grandchildren.

Bibliography

External links

* [http://www.lambiek.net/artists/c/couchey_sid.htm Lambiek.net – Sid Couchey]
* [http://www6.wittenberg.edu/lib/research/comics_index/index.php?search=couchey Sid Couchey in Comic Book Artist #19]
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=vDllrEsYLAMC&pg=PA351&lpg=PA351&dq=golly+galloo&source=web&ots=kOxs8EObD3&sig=Z80PE6ny93o8JZu60_HrQD18Fzo&hl=en Interview with Sid Couchey, Harveyville Fun Times]
* [http://members.tripod.com/~rimes12/goodold/goodolddays3.html Sid Couchey and the Good Old Days]


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