Life of Sy

Let’s try to boil down a lifetime of experience into just a few paragraphs. Here we go!

As many of you may already know, Sy was born March 12, 1928 in New York City. Although his body of work spans seven decades, Sy is probably best known for his work on The Phantom comic strip, which he illustrated for over 30 years. According to Sy, he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t holding a pencil in his hand and attempting a sketch! As a little-known fact, he can recall a drawing that he submitted in a grade school drawing competition that won him honors. The drawing actually went on to be displayed at the The City of New York Museum of Art for several weeks.

Picking up on his innate talent, it was a junior high school teacher who encouraged him to try out for admission to the School of Industrial Art in New York City. Among thousands of candidates who applied, Sy was one of only 100 students who were accepted to the school in 1943. It was at SIA that Sy developed his close relationships with Joe Giella (Mary Worth), Al Scaduto (They’ll Do It Every Time), and Emilio Squeglio (Captain Marvel) that eventually turned into lifelong friendships.

After completing his studies, his first freelance job was for Famous Funnies. Then it was on to DC comics, Marvel Comics, Ziff Davis Publications, Hillman Publications, and Lev Gleason Publications. Some of the titles he worked on included Strange Adventures, Action Comics, Detective Comics, Young Romances, Girls Romances, Crime Does Not Pay, and more. In addition to his significant contribution to comics, he also collaborated on a series of advertising pamphlets and children’s books. During these years, Sy had the privilege of working with fellow artists such as Joe Giella, Frank Giacoia, Alex Toth, Andre’ Leblanc, and George Olesen…all of whom he developed great admiration for.

Having assisted on both Tarzan and Flash Gordon, he went on to draw the world’s most successful adventure comic strip, The Phantom, for 33 years from 1961 to 1994, succeeding Ray Moore and Wilson McCoy. Sy is credited for giving the Phantom character his modern look. Creator Lee Falk liked his drawing style so much that he quickly decided to modernize the entire comic strip, giving Bengalla a black President and the Jungle Patrol a black colonel.

At the height of their popularity, Lee Falk and Sy Barry’s Phantom stories were read by over 100 million people every day in newspapers and comic books. The stories are still regularly published in countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Australia, and India in comic books or hardcover collections.

Interested in taking on new projects and spending more time with friends and family, Sy retired from the newspaper strip in 1994. He now uses most of his time to develop his painting skills, and likes to do portrait painting in a combination of oil, acrylic, and watercolor. Sy has painted the Phantom several times, and some of his sketches have been used as covers for Phantom comics around the world.

He currently resides in Long Island, New York with his wife Simmy, who’s been Sy’s biggest fan throughout his long career. The couple have three children together, and four grandchildren.

Sy has extremely fond memories of his appearances and meetings with fans. Some of the more memorable occasions are his two visits to Australia and his trip to Scandinavia in 2001, where he met Norwegian and Swedish fans at several comic book conventions. Sy also made an appearance at the 2005 San Diego ComicCon convention. But perhaps one of the most heartwarming appearances was his recent visit to Boston’s Jimmy Fund Clinic at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Sy had an opportunity to meet, talk to and draw for the young patients. They admired his sketches and he relished in their smiles.

Sy Barry by D2D4