Alice and Roger Armstrong in 2000
On Thursday, June the 9th, the world of cartooning lost a talented and well loved artist named Roger Armstrong at the age of 89 to natural causes. Roger was so accomplished in so many areas it’s hard to make a list. He worked on comic books for Warner Brothers, Disney and others, did animation and illustration for Walter Lantz, worked on many syndicated comic strips including Little Lulu and Disney’s Scamp, and many other cartooning endeavors. That list in no way actually describes Roger’s body of work. He was also a world class watercolorist and art teacher, who’s work inspired and instructed generations of other world class watercolorists and many, many artists. He was also an extremely friendly, warm and interesting guy.
When The Lovely Anna and I attended our first NCS Reuben awards in San Antonio in 1999, we knew nobody. Mort Drucker, who sponsored me for membership, was unable to attend at the last minute due to his mother’s health taking a very bad turn (she passed away shortly thereafter), so Anna and I literally had no one to help us with introductions or just to show us about. Some of the first people we met were Roger and his darling soon-to-be wife Alice. They went out of their way to make us feel welcome, and showed a great interest in my work and our family. Roger did the above sketch for Anna as she snapped his picture. Terrific people.
Roger and Alice attended the Reubens for several years in a row after that, and we were always delighted to see them and spent time chatting and asking after each other’s lives in the intervening year. Then we did not see them for several years in a row, and we had been told Roger was having some health issues that made travel difficult. We were very happy to have seen them attend once again in 2005 at the Reubens in Scottsdale. Roger did seem a little more frail, but he still had that twinkle in his eyes and the ready smile.
I didn’t know him very well beyond the pleasantries we exchanged at those weekends, but he and Alice had a special place in our hearts for being so kind to the wide eyed and intimidated couple at their first Reubens that we were all those years ago. Cartoonist Charles Filius wrote a terrific tribute to Roger on his blog, which paints a better portrait of the man than could I. Mark Evanier also wrote a memorial on his blog. Finally, Roger had a website that showcased a lot of his watercolor work.
If you aren’t familiar with the work of this man, do yourself a favor and check it out.