While attending the University of Evansville, Armstrong served as staff cartoonist for the campus newspaper, The University Crescent. There, he drew a weekly strip about campus life called Two-S.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and received several awards, including the Helen Morris Outstanding Senior Award in oil painting, the Medal of Merit for significant contributions to collegiate journalism, and the Indiana Collegiate Press Association’s Best Editorial Cartoon Award.
After college, he spent a few years as a freelance illustrator. He worked with advertising agencies, and his drawings appeared in such magazines as the Saturday Evening Post and The National Review. He developed animated cartoons, multimedia slide presentations, television spots and print advertising for companies, such as RCA and Sears.
Armstrong received the Golden Circle Award three times for achieving the highest standards of advertising and selling excellence in worldwide competition.
In 1979, Armstrong teamed up with Funky Winkerbean creator Tom Batiuk to create John Darling. The strip, which starred an obnoxious (fictional) TV talk-show host, ran until 1990. Readers were astonished by the strip’s ending, in which an unknown assailant killed Darling.
Armstrong created Marvin in 1982. The strip’s excellence was recognized by the Northern California Cartoons and Humor Association, which awarded Marvin the “Best Comic Strip Award” in 1982. “Marvin: Baby of the Year”, an animated prime-time TV special, aired on CBS in 1989. In 1996, the National Cartoonists Society presented Armstrong with its Segar Award. Named after the creator of Popeye, the award recognizes extraordinary achievement and contributions to the field of cartoon art.
Since its debut, Marvin has rated consistently high in newspaper reader polls. Armstrong credits the success of Marvin to the insight readers gain from the strip’s comic role reversal – adults say and do the darndest things.
Armstrong lives in Florida with his wife, Glenda, and their children, Jonathan and Jennifer. He is active in his church, serving as deacon chairman and on numerous committees.
In addition to producing the daily strip, Armstrong runs a very successful licensing company — creating new licensing properties totally unrelated to Marvin. His most popular property was FaceOffs. More than 75 licensees around the world featured these bold, wacky, in-your-face graphics with attitudinal phrases on a wide variety of products, from socks, underwear, neckties and nightwear to cakes, candy and bubble gum. Burger King in Australia and New Zealand featured FaceOffs‘ molded mugs as a sell-out premium in 1999 and in 2000, Coca-Cola of Spain offered a promotion of FaceOffs‘ collectible 3-D toys.
His most recent licensing creation was LuvSymbols, which turned the ancient planetary symbols of men and women (Mars and Venus) into contemporary cartoon characters.