Friday, February 25, 2011

William "Bill" Crouch 1945-2011


I just received word that Bill Crouch died on February 21, 2011. He was 66 years old and had been in a coma for three weeks. The cause was respiratory arrest followed by cardiac arrest.

William M. Crouch, Jr., known as "Bill" to his friends, was one of these essential links to the world of cartooning.

Bill was born in January 25, 1945, in Bridgeport, CT, and attended Columbia University, graduating in 1967 with a BA in Art History. Bill raised some controversy with his senior thesis on comic art, a body of popular culture that had not received any critical scholarship to that point.

Bill volunteered for the US Air Force, serving for four years, from 1968 to 1972. He earned a Master of Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University a year later.

The death of his father caused Bill to return to Bridgeport to manage Equity Paper Company, the family business. He remained with the company, which was sold to Grossman Marketing Group in 1981, until 2008.

Paralleling those years, Bill became a well known comics writer and scholar, contributing to THE WORLD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMICS and 100 YEARS OF AMERICAN NEWSPAPER COMICS. With Walt Kelly's widow, Selby Kelly, Bill co-edited a series of five large trade paperbacks for Fireside/Simon & Schuster reprinting the strip during the 1980s. For eleven years beginning in 1978, Bill self published the POGO fan magazine THE OKEFENOKEE STAR.

He would go on to write more books, essays and profiles for many publications, including the late, great cartooning magazine Cartoonist PROfiles. He also wrote Hanna Barbera comic book scripts for Charlton. Poor health be damned, he continued to write his column "Comics and Kicks" every month for The Great South Bay Magazine. He became an Associate Member of the National Cartoonists Society. He was an active Rotarian and, thanks to his beloved wife, a world traveler.

From the Lesko & Polk Funeral Home obituary:

"In 1990, Bill married the love of his life, Minh-Chau Luong, a Vietnamese-born French citizen and senior translator at the United Nations. He liked to say that she 'completed' him. She expanded Bill's horizons, sparking a lively appreciation for Vietnamese and French culture and cuisine, and leading eventually to their establishing their vacation home in Cagnes, France.

"Bill's family and many cherished friends will miss his love of life, his verve and imagination, the breadth of his curiosity, his great courage and resilience in adversity.

"... Bill Crouch is survived by his beloved wife, Minh-Chau Luong-Crouch, her brothers Jim and Bob Luong-si, her sister Quynh-Chau Luong-Nguy├»¿½n and their families. He is also survived by his sister Dorothy Crouch, brother Miller Crouch, sister-in law Sarah, niece Christian Crouch, and her husband, Chris Bertholf.

"The family would prefer contributions directed to either: American Heart Association- Connecticut Chapter 5 Brookside Dr. (P.O.Box 5022) Wallingford, CT 06492 or the Girls Scouts of America- Housatonic Council, 87 Washington Avenue, Bridgeport, CT, 06604-3800."
A memorial service will be announced at a later date.



As fellow comic art collector George Hagenauer told the Comics Buyer's Guide:

"'Bill was one of those people I have known for over 35 (maybe 40) years, but never met . He was one of those ‘old’ guys (he was 66; I am 60!) who taught me a lot by phone or mail when I discovered there were other people out there who loved, clipped and collected comic strips.

"'He was far more than a collector. His close friendship with Terry and the Pirates artist George Wunder resulted in that art being offered to collectors. If you own a piece of Wunder art (which has become a lot scarcer due to the tragic death of Don Lineburger in a fire that destroyed hundreds of Wunder originals) it is because of the efforts of Bill Crouch.'"

I met Bill for the first and only time time at a 2009 party at Bunny Hoest's. That's where the above photo is from. He had come down from his Connecticut home with my friend and fellow cartoonist Elena Steier.

As soon as Elena introduced Bill to me, I knew who he was -- even though the face was not familiar. Bill Crouch was responsible for a lot of my bookshelf space.

When I was a kid, growing up in the Midwest (living in those "states the planes fly over"), I didn't know any cartoonists, but, thanks to Bill Crouch, I got to read some great cartooning books that he edited.

I had always imagined that Bill had never grown up. He was a big kid who'd retained his love for the cartoon genre. And, better than that, he was the kind of kid who liked to share his toys, you know? Bill introduced me to an A-list of comic strip and comic book cartoonists

Here are some of the cartoonists:

  • Walt Kelly (Bill co-edited, with Selby Kelly, many issues of THE OKEFENOKEE STAR magazine and trade paperback collections like PLUPERFECT POGO to name but two of the many POGO projects),

  • Chester Gould (DICK TRACY THE ART OF CHESTER GOULD published by the Museum of Cartoon Art in 1978 - portion of that catalog is here - and DICK TRACY AMERICA'S MOST FAMOUS DETECTIVE in conjunction with the TRACY movie),

  • Hal Foster (THE PRINCE VALIANT SCRAPBOOK and more)

  • and Wally Wood (WOODWORK, co-edited with Bill Pearson; "first of a reprint series of his work that was authorized by artist Wally Wood;" THE WALLACE WOOD SKETCHBOOK II co-edited with Selby Kelly).

And those are just a few. Thanks to his work and love of the medium, he got a new generation appreciating these grand masters of the comic form.

He was a kid who never got over the funnies, and he made sure none of us forgot. He will be missed.

Related: CBGExtra obituary

Related: Elena Steier: So Long to Bill Crouch

Related: Connecticut Post obituary

Related: Extensive Lesko & Polk Funeral Home obituary

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