Remembering Dave Hunt

Dave Hunt and Todd Klein, photo by Ron Jordan 2013.
Dave Hunt and Todd Klein, 2013, photo by Ron Jordan.

I was very sad to learn yesterday evening that my friend Dave Hunt lost his battle with cancer that morning. He’d been battling stage 4 cancer for over a year. Our mutual friend Ron Jordan wrote: “Phyllis, Dave’s long time friend, called to let me know that Dave peacefully passed away at 4:30 AM in his sleep, at home with Phyllis, his son Ben, and his nurse at his side.”

I first met Dave in my early days on staff at DC Comics, around 1978, probably when he was visiting the offices. We discovered we lived in adjoining towns, and became friends, visiting each others’ homes occasionally, and enjoying time and talk together. I don’t recall us talking much about our personal lives, mostly it was about comics, the comics business, artists we liked, movies and TV, and some of Dave’s hobbies like cave exploring, painting, and building models and miniatures. “The good stuff,” as Dave would say. I met Dave’s son Ben, and his long-time companion Phyllis in those days.

Ben Hunt exploring Floyd Waggy Cave 1980s.
From Dave’s Facebook page, his son Ben on an exploration of Floyd Waggy Cave in the 1980s.

When I married and moved to southern New Jersey, I lost touch with Dave for some years, but gradually got back in touch through a mutual friend, Ron Jordan.

Superman by Dave Hunt.

Ron Jordan wrote: “I met Dave more than 20 years ago at a Superman Comic Show I ran in Woodbridge, NJ with guests Murphy Anderson, Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger. Dave came by just to say hi to the artists he had worked with, who he had not seen in years. Dave became a frequent guest at my shows, and a good friend.”

Above is a tribute to artist Curt Swan pencilled and inked by Dave for one of Ron’s program books in 1996, courtesy of Ron. Dave didn’t often pencil, but when he did the results were charming.

 When Dave joined Facebook in 2010, we connected there as well. In the spring of 2013 I saw Dave and Phyllis in person for the first time in many years at the Asbury Park Comic-Con, a meeting engineered by Ron Jordan, where we were also joined by John and Cathy Workman. In the fall of 2013, Ron brought Dave to my house for a visit, which I wrote about HERE. While slowed by health issues, Dave was still great to talk to and be with.

Over the last two years I followed Dave’s health issues through Ron. He had a rough time with the chemo and other treatments, but by last fall got through that and seemed to be feeling better. Ron brought Dave to our house for a second visit in October, 2016, and we once again enjoyed talking about comics and all kinds of things for a few hours. It was the last time we spoke or saw each other, and a visit I will always treasure, as I think we all felt then that Dave’s time was probably growing short.

Dave Hunt in 1966 with his painting.

Dave in 1966 with a recently completed painting, from his Facebook page.

Dave was born in New Jersey in 1942, and his father, an amateur artist, encouraged him to draw and instilled in him a love of art. But Dave also loved geology and first thought he wanted a career as a research scientist, which he pursued at New Jersey’s Kean University, graduating magna cum laude. Dave later realized art was his true calling. At first he pursued a painting career, and was in some shows in the 1960s.

Dave Hunt with Linda Lessman and Don McGregor in the Marvel Comics bullpen, 1973.

In the Marvel bullpen, 1973, Dave Hunt, Linda Lessman, Don McGregor, published in CREEM magazine.

Dave also loved comics, and in 1972 he was hired by Marvel to work in their bullpen doing art and lettering corrections alongside Danny Crespi and Morrie Kuramoto among others. As with most comics production people at the time, he was soon augmenting his low salary with freelance work of all kinds.

Man-Thing #4 page 1, April 1974.

At first he mainly did lettering, see above, though Dave told me he never liked lettering very much.

Chamber of Chills #6 page 1, Sept. 1973.

Dave also did quite a bit of coloring for Marvel, but eventually settled on inking as the job he liked best. Above, a story he inked and colored.

Marvel Team-Up #62, Oct. 1977.

In late 1976, now inking full-time, he was teamed with penciller John Byrne on MARVEL TEAM-UP, and garnering attention for his fine work. Dave might have stayed with Byrne when he moved to the recently relaunched UNCANNY X-MEN, but took another opportunity instead.

Superman page inked by Dave Hunt.

In 1978, Dave was offered an exclusive inking contract and a higher page rate by DC Comics, and made that career change. At first he picked up random assignments as they became available. The first one I’ve found on the Grand Comics Database is a Robin story in BATMAN FAMILY #18, June-July 1978. I lettered that story, the first time we worked together, and perhaps the reason for our meeting. Dave was soon inking two of his favorite artists, Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger on Superman-related titles, a period he always spoke of fondly. An example of Swan and Hunt is above.

Mary Marvel by Dave Hunt on the Comics Reader #178, March 1980.

Dave loved the Captain Marvel characters as well as the Superman ones. Here’s another rare example of his pencil and ink work, for a 1980 fanzine.

In 1987, Dave was one of a group of artists, including Swan and Schaffenberger, called to a meeting by then DC editor-in-chief Dick Giordano, where they learned to their surprise and shock that the Superman titles were to undergo a major revamp headed by John Byrne, and, to quote Dave, “None of us would ever work on Superman again.” The company wanted new, younger artists on Superman, and the old guard was moved to lower profile projects. Released from his exclusive contract, Dave continued to get work from DC, and also returned to Marvel on titles like TRANSFORMERS, worked on MR. HERO at Tekno, and did lots of animation-related comics for Disney in the 1990s. In 1997 he became the regular inker on DC’s SCOOBY-DOO. The last credit for new work I see for Dave on the Grand Comics Database is for SCOOBY-DOO #94, May 2005. I think Dave was still doing work on DC licensed products after that, but he retired from comics around 2007 and began a new career, writing articles for caving and other magazines and returning to painting in a major way.

Painting by Dave Hunt.

Here’s one of Dave’s paintings, which he showcased on his Facebook page, that includes a favorite comic book from his collection.

Painting by Dave Hunt.

Some of Dave’s paintings were remarkably detailed and photo-realistic, like this one. Dave enjoyed interacting with fans and colleagues on Facebook, and there were also photos of him having fun with his grandchildren, Ben’s children. Dave was still interested and enthusiastic about many things, and his page is worth a visit.

While I always liked and enjoyed Dave’s art, it’s Dave the person I treasured most. He was always a kind and welcoming person, and a good friend, who will remain in my thoughts, as will his family.

Ron Jordan wrote: “Dave had a lot of fans of his artwork and many friends, too. I had the pleasure of knowing Dave as an artist and close friend who will be greatly missed and always remembered by many.”

Rest in peace, Dave.

6 thoughts on “Remembering Dave Hunt

  1. J Leeds

    Thanks for the reminiscences, Todd. I don’t think I ever met Mr. Hunt, but I certainly remember his time inking Superman. I always thought he was a really good fit with Curt Swan. I wasn’t a Marvel reader back in those days; I’m wondering how his inks looked over Byrne’s pencils, because that seems like a poor fit based on what I’m familiar with from both artists.

  2. Lee Benaka

    Thanks for sharing the great memories and overview of Dave’s career, Todd. Dave spoke highly of you to me when I visited Dave over the past few years. I wanted to let you and anyone else know that I have been working on an biography with Dave for over two years. I hope to publish it in a few months. I’m sorry Dave won’t be able to see it, but he wanted to share his stories with his fans. You can see updates about the book here:
    Best regards, Lee Benaka

  3. Ron Jordan

    A wonderful tribute to Dave, Thanks so much Todd!

    I just wanted to share a couple of personal stories here about Dave. Todd wrote about some of Dave’s hobbies including models and miniatures. The first time I visited Dave’s home he showed me his collection of Lionel trains and miniatures and he told me that he loved to visit antique train museums sometimes when he traveled to different caves up and down the east coast. When I saw the John Byrne page Todd posted here, I was thinking that Dave must have loved inking that page with the train, and I bet Dave added a few extra details to the train that Byrne may have left out.

    I went to a comic show in up-state New York in the late 1990’s and I met Joe Sinnott. I told Joe that I was a friend of Dave’s and he wanted me to say “hi” for him. Joe said, “Wow, I haven’t seen or talk to Dave in years!” Joe asked me how Dave was doing and does he still go caving? Joe told me that Dave loved to talk about his latest caving adventures and would always share photos of his trips around the Marvel offices. I got Joe’s phone number for Dave so he could reconnect and catch up with Joe, and I’m happy to say that he did.

    I remember talking about caving with Dave from time to time and he was telling me about some of the animals he would run into in caves. One was an large albino crayfish. I said, “That could be a cool story for Scooby-Doo!” A few months later Dave told me he he wrote a story about a glow-in-the-dark albino crayfish that lived in a cave. That story was published in SCOOBY-DOO #52, and Dave told me that I gave him the idea to write the story. I thought that was so cool that I gave him the idea for the story and it was published.

    Dave was a great guy and good friend. He will be missed…

  4. John Workman

    As was the case with so many of the people that I’ve gotten to know who worked in comics, I “met” Dave Hunt by way of his work. I noticed his lettering and coloring for Marvel in the early ’70s and was impressed by the way he would get his name into the backgrounds of panels when he was assisting various inkers before becoming a full-time inker himself.

    When I went to work for DC in 1975, Dave was there as an inker, most notably (for me) working on inking Kurt Schaffenberger. For some reason, the powers that be had decided that they wanted Kurt’s work to be more “realistic,” and they insisted that he no longer ink his own stuff (outside of the Captain Marvel pages that he did so brilliantly). So … a lot of people inked Kurt, the most successful at it being Bob Smith and Dave Hunt. Both ignored the dictate that the work be made more “realistic,” so that their inks were true to Kurt’s pencils while they also placed elements of their own respective personalities on his art.

    I didn’t really get to know Dave, though, until he and Phyllis appeared at a few of the summer and winter parties that my wife used to put together. I found him to be a kind and wonderful person, and I hope he understood the actual sense of awe that I felt in regard to what he had been able to accomplish with both his comics work and his amazing paintings.

    I remember one morning years ago. I had just seen an unconfirmed report that Marshall Rogers had died. I hoped those words were erroneous. The phone rang. It was Dave, who had seen the same news. We talked to one another and held ourselves together when, during our discussion, the news about Marshall
    was confirmed. Dave and I talked for over an hour about creating comics and the “sort-of-immortality” that is conferred upon people who leave behind words and images that will have a much longer life than that of any human being.

    Dave’s works remain, and will be seen and found to be worthwhile by people who aren’t even born yet. But I’ll sure miss the man himself.

  5. Todd Post author

    Thanks for the fine memories, John. I don’t think Dave was inking at DC in 1975 yet, he was still at Marvel, but I could be wrong.

  6. John Workman

    You’re probably right on that, Todd. Strange how my memories of that time seem to ebb and flow. I was speaking to someone a while back about some event that I thought had occurred in the 1980s. Turns out that I was a full decade off in my memories. Sigh.

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