Shoulders of a Giant

We pause to remember and pay respects to cartoonist and comics historian Robert C. (“R.C.”) Harvey, who passed away on July 7th of this year, at age eighty-five.

“Harv,” as he was known to many, was one of the pioneering comics historians of the second half of the 20th Century. I first recall encountering his work during the first wave of comic strip reprints, circa the early 1980s, in places like the Fantagraphics magazine, Nemo: The Classic Comics Library, but of course he had previously written about comics and their history in The Menomonee Falls Gazette, The Comics Journal, and elsewhere. He also contributed to Cartoonist PROFiles and went on to write essays for many collections of comics strips in book form, including one for the concluding volume of our original Terry and the Pirates series.

He was, of course, Milton Caniff’s hand-picked biographer, and his massive 2007 chronicle of Caniff’s life and career, Meanwhile …, remains the “one-stop shopping” resource for anyone interested in learning about America’s Cartoonist-in-Chief.

Bob Harvey was also a cartoonist who produced a wide-range of original comics and pin-ups, including the superhero parody Zero Hero

… And a variety of “good girl art:”

Bob continued to work and contribute to new projects, and later this year our friends at Hermes Press are scheduled to publish The Art and History of Popeye, featuring an essay by Harvey on the world’s most popular spinach-eatin’ sailor-man.

Sir Isaac Newton was famously quoted as saying, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” It is clear that sentiment applies to myself and the rest of us who comprise the current wave of “comics historians.” Whatever success we have had in advancing our knowledge of this truly American art form is due in part to our standing on the shoulders of R.C. Harvey and his contemporaries.

Rest easy, Harv.

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