“...so if my naked body were to be found, dead in the woods, it would bear no distinguishing marks by which I could be identified…Having no distinguishing marks is an unusual and perhaps identifying circumstance. It could also be the title of this autobiography. No distinguishing marks.”
-RC Harvey reflecting on his lack of tattoos and other identifying physical scars
Robert Harvey, a.k.a. “RC,” “Happy Harv,” or just “Bob,” died surrounded by loved ones after complications from a fall. He is survived by his wife Linda, his twin daughters Julia McDonald (husband Todd) and Kit Condit (husband Chris), grandson Braeden, niece Heather Dunning (husband Jay) and his long-time partner in pun, the tiny bespectacled rabbit Cahoots. He was preceded in death by his sister Margaret Hirsch and his parents Charles and Ellen Harvey.
Born in Fargo, North Dakota, Bob moved to Denver--and later Edgewater--Colorado in his early boyhood, right around the time he discovered “scrawling’ pictures” (his phrase). He would copy popular comics at the encouragement of his father, beginning his education in what would ultimately be his life’s passion. This fixation with comics infiltrated every single phase of his life. He was the school cartoonist in high school (Edgewater High School, class of ‘55)), the campus cartoonist in college (University of Colorado, class of ‘59), freelance gag cartoonist in New York city and All-Navy Cartoonist at sea on the USS Saratoga.
After serving as an officer in the Navy, Bob taught English at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kansas for five years. Although he loved it, he left the teaching position to move to Champaign, Illinois for a job with the National Council of Teachers of English where he fell for a beautiful editor who was to become his wife of 51 years. Bob was Convention Director of NCTE for over 25 years, all the while writing and scrawling in his spare time. Somewhere in there was a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and more piles of cartoons, ideas for strips and a fellow named “Fiddlefoot.” His first article about comics appeared in the Menominee Falls Gazette in 1973. In 1976, he began writing a regular column for The Comics Journal. Once retired he was free to continue writing in full conviction, writing obsessively (self-proclaimed “crazed fanatic”) for numerous comics-related publications and continuing to write books of his own. Among his books are Cartoonists of the Roaring Twenties (1991-1992), The Art of the Funnies (1994), The Art of the Comic Book (1996), Accidental Ambassador Gordo: The Comic Strip Art of Gus Arrioloa (2000), Meanwhile…: A Biography of Milton Caniff: Creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon (2007), and Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Comics and Their Creators (2014). In addition to The Comics Journal, he also wrote a regular column for the quarterly magazine Cartoonist PROfiles. Bob so loved the world of magazines that in 1997 he created an online magazine of his own called Rants & Raves on his website www.rcharvey.com which has offered subscriptions for over two decades and will now serve as a free portal into Bob’s obsessive take on comics, comic history and cartooning lore. In his writing, Bob distinguished comics from other art forms by stressing the symbiosis of pictures and text. His analysis of what he coined the “verbal-visual blend” furnished a way to evaluate and describe the medium.
What about drawing? In the late 1980s a revelation occurred while he was trying out the job of drawing Hank Ketchum’s Dennis the Menace (Ketchum’s idea). In a note to Ketchum, he explains:
“About those of us who draw, it is often assumed that we ‘love to draw.’ I’ve seen the phrase used a lot about this cartoonist or that. I finally recognized a truth about myself that I’d never really admitted before. I don’t love to draw. Not all that much. And it was the attic cartoon sketch that revealed this nugget of truth to me. Or, rather, your note: ‘Attic filled with memorabilia and junk.’ When I read those words I knew --not clearly, but well enough. And after a while I knew it clearly. I’d have to love drawing in order to devote the time and energy that would be required to fill that attic with memorabilia and junk. And when I saw your notation, deep down I knew I didn't love drawing that much. I like drawing. But I love writing. In a lot of ways, writing is every bit as difficult as drawing. But I don’t begrudge the time it takes. I welcome it. I often search out spare hours to do it. I like drawing cartoons and love writing. I love writing about cartoons and cartoonists more than anything else. And that’s what I’m doing these days.”
Bob was a proud Eagle Scout and an enthusiastic member of several groups including the National Parks Conservation Association, National Cartoonists Society, Comic Arts Professional Society and the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. In 2018 the San Diego Comic-Con recognized him with the Inkpot Award for Achievement in Comic Arts. A favorite project in recent years was his work with good friend Tom Tanquary on the film Hand Drawn Life: The History and Influence of Newspaper Comic Strips, a compilation of hours of interviews with well-known cartoonists, to be screened and discussed at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.
Bob leaves a giant legacy of marks: scrawled, typed, critiqued, admired, copied, inked, painted and published. In effect, his time on earth was all about distinguishing marks.
Eighty-five years is a long time to be scrawling your way through life, but some of us think it is just not enough. We will miss your drawings, witticisms, silly puns, terrible jokes, letters, postcards and toasts. We’ll miss the “Oh goody goody!” before dessert and even your annual tripod fiascos. We know you are enjoying yourself wherever you are. We hope it is picturesque. We hope you are with family. And we hope you have a pen.
A Celebration of Life service will be held on August 20th, 2:00 pm, at the Brighton United Methodist Church at 625 S 8th Ave. in Brighton, Colorado. Donations can be made to the National Parks Conservation Association as tribute.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert C. Harvey, please visit our floral store.