By Nicole Borgenicht, California. www.nicoleborgenicht.com
Once the youngest syndicated cartoonist at 27, now Robb Armstrong’s comic strip JumpStart runs in 300 newspapers. JumpStart is the best-known black comic strip that follows the Cobb family, and includes several multi-racial associates and friends.
His autobiography, Fearless, tells the story of Armstrong’s early years in the ghetto, where he lived with two brothers, one of whom sadly died in an accident, two sisters, and their single mother. A great role model, their mother had been a community leader and the first black trustee at the private school Robb Armstrong attended. As his mother saw Robb Armstrong’s exceptional creative talent, she engendered her graceful guidance, and subsequent mentors during his further education.
Later Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, became a mentor and friend who added ‘Armstrong’ for a last name to his own comic black character Franklin. In Armstrong’s recent book, On A Roll!: A JumpStart Treasury, he shows JumpStart character’s thoughts and actions with inventive humor, spinning his unique yet universal perspective, enhancing readership lives.
Prior to JumpStart, Armstrong created the popular comic strip Hector at Syracuse, and later received two advertising awards working at an ad agency after college, while continually developing Hector. He met Wee Pals cartoonist creator Morrie Turner, who introduced Armstrong to cartoon collector Mark Cohen resulting in a reference to United Feature Syndicate where Hector had previously been rejected. Finally, Armstrong’s cartoon was accepted with a couple of adjustments, and the new title: JumpStart. Next, he befriended Charles Schulz who told Armstrong his JumpStart characters are strong, and suggested he always focus on character (rather than topic) to have a long-lasting syndicated strip.
During my interview, Armstrong shared how JumpStart characters are three dimensional as in real life. An example is the football player Marcus who represents a superstar, millionaire “cheapskate – a trait for the sake of humor,” says Armstrong. However, when a community Thanksgiving holiday banquet will be cut due to lack of funds in one comic strip story, Marcus steps up and pays for it.
A resident of Los Angeles, Robb Armstrong is happy to interact with many creatives, while living his syndicated cartoon dream and working the everyday challenges it entails. He says, “JumpStart is character driven rather than topic driven. The characters build at a snail pace, but pack a punch in time while the reader is being charmed by them.” Receiving an Honorary Doctorate as a motivational and educational speaker, Armstrong gives back to the community, inspiring young people. Through JumpStart, Armstrong communicates emotions on controversial points, by allowing readers to respond naturally, while viewing real life circumstances with levity and love.
Illustrations and photo credit: Robbarmstrong.com. Please visit: ROBBARMSTRONG.COM or follow Robb Armstrong on Instagram at: @ROBBTARMSTRONG