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.
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.
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 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.
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.
At first he mainly did lettering, see above, though Dave told me he never liked lettering very much.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s one of Dave’s paintings, which he showcased on his Facebook page, that includes a favorite comic book from his collection.
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.