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Roger Armstrong, at 89; cartoonist and art teacher

LOS ANGELES -- Roger Armstrong, whose five-decade career as a cartoonist included doing artwork for "Bugs Bunny," "The Flintstones," and numerous other comic books as well as for comic strips featuring characters such as Little Lulu and Scamp, has died. He was 89.

Mr. Armstrong, a longtime art teacher and a noted Southern California painter in oil and watercolors, died of cardiac arrest June 7 at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, Calif., said his wife, artist Alice Powell.

As a cartoonist for Western Publishing in Los Angeles in the 1940s, Mr. Armstrong worked on Bugs Bunny and other Warner Bros. characters, including Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd, and Walt Disney characters such as Little Hiawatha, the Seven Dwarfs, and Donald Duck. Mr. Armstrong also was one of the cartoonists who drew the "Bugs Bunny" newspaper cartoon strip from 1942 to 1944, the year he was drafted into the Army.

Mr. Armstrong, who had been cartoonist Clifford McBride's assistant on the comic strip "Napoleon and Uncle Elby," took over the strip when McBride died in 1950 and continued doing it for a decade. He also drew the cartoon strip "Ella Cinders" in the 1950s and later returned to working on the "Bugs Bunny" strip, in addition to working on the strips "Little Lulu," "The Flintstones," and "Scamp."

At Western Publishing in the '60s and '70s, Mr. Armstrong did comic-book artwork for the Flintstones, Scooby Doo, the Pink Panther, the Inspector, Super Goof, and the Beagle Boys, among others.

"He was a pioneer of doing funny-animal comic books, taking an animated property from the screen and adapting it to the comic-book page," said Mark Evanier, a TV writer who wrote "The Flintstones" and "Super Goof" comic books when Mr. Armstrong was drawing them in the '70s.

Cartoonist Greg Evans, who does the "Luann" comic strip, said Mr. Armstrong "was just one of those incredibly gifted cartoonists who could effortlessly draw anything in any style."

Evans, a friend of Mr. Armstrong's, likened the white-bearded artist to Santa Claus, complete with twinkly eyes. "Roger had this kindly, impish, gentle, fun, and funny nature," he said.

As a painter, Mr. Armstrong was primarily known for his watercolors. His paintings are in more than 300 private collections, and his work is in a number of public collections, including the Museum of Cartoon Art in New York and Smithsonian Institution.

"His art is really the art of everyday life in Southern California," said Jean Stern, executive director of the Irvine Art Museum, which specializes in the art of California in the early 20th Century and has two of Armstrong's paintings in its collection.

Mr. Armstrong, a former president of the National Watercolor Society, served as director of the Laguna Art Museum from 1963 to 1967.

Over the past four decades, he taught painting and drawing classes at a number of schools, including Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, the Irvine Fine Arts Center, and what is now the Laguna College of Art and Design (formerly the Laguna Beach School of Art and the Art Institute of Southern California).

Born in Los Angeles on Oct. 12, 1917 -- his father, Roger Dale Armstrong, was a silent film writer and director -- Mr. Armstrong knew by age 10 that he wanted to become a cartoonist.

At 16, he was earning $1 for drawing six ads per week for a local advertising agency. After graduating from high school, he attended Chouinard Art Institute on a scholarship from 1938 to 1939 but was forced, because of the Depression, to quit and find a job.

Mr. Armstrong, who also had a stint working as an assistant animator at the Walter Lantz Studio in the 1940s, was the author of "How to Draw Comic Strips," a 1990 book published by Walter Foster Publishing Co.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Armstrong leaves his daughter, Julie Armstrong Vance; his sons, Michael Armstrong and Jon Prince; and his sister, Teresa Mackenzie.

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