Partners For Life - The Interviews: Dave Hunt
Since starting as a background inker at Marvel Comics in 1972, Dave Hunt has inked many titles and inked a host of exceptional artists, including long runs over Curt Swan on Superman, Kurt Schaffenberger on Superboy, John Byrne on Marvel Team-Up and assisted both Mike and Frank Giacoia in inking Ross during their Amazing Spider-Man run. Dave has worked for many major comic companies and is still active in the comic book industry.
This interview was conducted via phone in March 2005.
DANIEL BEST: You started out as a background inker for Mike Esposito and Frank Giacoia at Marvel.
DAVE HUNT: Frank was the guy who actually hired me but Mike was working on staff around that time too. He was in the office pretty much all the time and so was Frank.
DB: What was Mike like as a person?
DH: Mike is a down to earth kind of a guy. No pretence, very sure of himself and he is a consummate professional. He knew what he could do and he did it full blast. He’s a complicated man. Mike and I have had so many laughs over the years.
I’ve learnt many things from several other inkers over the years that stood me well. Mike’s best advice was, “Dave, keep the brush moving”. He said, “You can sit and stare, but keep the brush moving”. That was one of the three best pieces of advice I ever got and it stood me well for many years, because we weren’t rich guys and I had to keep the brush moving and so did Mike. He lived in an upscale neighborhood in Long Island and he liked that lifestyle, but at the same time he turned out an incredible amount of work.
DB: Did you ever meet Ross?
DH: Yes, I saw him several times and found him really interesting straight away. I didn’t see Ross a lot, but I did see Mike everyday for years. Ross would come in maybe once a month or so, and since I was working on his Spider-Man, I made a point of getting to know him and found him fascinating.
He told me a couple of things that I found very interesting about his approach to drawing. His approach to drawing was to kind of conceptualize it. He would think about drawing, let’s say, two figures in a room. Then in his mind he would move around the space in that room and he would visualize those two figures in that room. He would zoom in and get a close up, back off and he’d get a very cinematic approach in a way. I’ll always think of Ross that way, always floating around in a room and drawing what he saw.
The other thing he told me about drawing was that he was always aware of the silhouette of the main character in a panel. The silhouette was very important to him and if you ever saw his penciled work you can see how heavily outlined some of the figures are because they were very important to him as far as composition goes. His pencils were really rough because he would erase and erase over and over and grind in the outlines of the figures and change the outlines. The pencils were very rough but they were beautiful as well.
DB: How daunting did you find him as an artist?
DH: I was fearless in those days. The very first time I ever really felt daunted was when I was at DC comics and I was handed my first job. “Ok, you’re so smart Dave, ink this!” and it was a Superman story by you know who. That really was the first time I felt like “Hmmm, am I up to this or not?” A couple of issues later I realized I could actually ink Curt Swan and get paid for it. The splash page was a full face of Superman and that’s when I really thought, “Okay…can I do this or not?” Fortunately I did. But I was pretty fearless as far as Ross was concerned. By that time I’d inked a lot of stuff and I felt pretty confident.
DB: You worked with a lot of artists, and some of the greats such as Curt Swan, Kurt Schaffenberger, John Byrne, Gene Colan, Keith Giffen, Don Newton… how did Ross measure up against some of those guys in your opinion?
DH: Ross was a really good artist. All the guys you mentioned were naturals. I think that Don Newton was born to do what he did, and Curt and Kurt; I really liked both of them so much. You’ve probably heard that Ross didn’t really like doing what he did. He really didn’t want to be a bullpen cartoonist. He was an artist first and foremost. He was a natural drawing kind of guy and he really loved to draw, and think about drawing and had a sense about realism. However, the first thing that came to his mind wasn’t Spider-Man. I was an artist but I never though about comics first and foremost either, but I was able to blend in pretty well. Ross didn’t like it that much. I would class Ross as an intellectual, in the same way as Gil Kane. When I would speak to Ross he would remind me of Gil Kane because we would never talk about comics. We would talk about everything else in the world but comics, and very often about drawing itself and what it meant, and what it means to draw and how one draws.
DB: You went over to DC at roughly the same time as Ross did. Did you have any contact with him there?
DH: I didn’t really interact with him at DC. I primarily knew him as a Marvel artist and as Mike’s best friend. They really were good friend and quite different. I call Ross an intellectual and Mike certainly wasn’t. Mike was the production guy, Ross was the pencil guy but they were both idea guys and a perfect match. It was a very strange relationship which is why we’re both interested in them. I’m very much the kind of person like Ross was which is why I gravitated towards Mike. I feel as an artist that Ross was an artist and Mike was a cartoonist and very professional.
I never saw their Metal Men stuff first hand; I only ever saw it after I knew the guys. It’s a creation that’s probably their major work because it showed both of the guys. It has the wide eyed aspect of Mike and the inside intellectualism of Ross, and it’s all combined together seamlessly into one piece. It’s a thing unto itself, it’s like the children of both Mike and Ross; if they ever had a kid together then it’d be the Metal Men.
DB: When did you become aware of the history surrounding Ross and Mike?
DH: It wasn’t too long because we bullpen guys were always talking. We were usually in the one room which made things even more interesting. Marvel comics when I first joined them in August 1972 were incredibly small. I walked through the door, as there was no security, and I was in Marvel comics. At that point they were basically one room. There were a couple of small offices, Stan Lees and that was about it. We moved shortly after several times and they became bigger and bigger until we had one entire floor in an office building. The classic picture I have of Marvel comics was one room in which you had Morrie Kuromoto, Danny Crespi, Frank, Mike, myself and a round robin of other people. So within that small room we were talking all the time and I would come home and my teeth would be hurting from laughing. I loved it so much because it was not like going to the office. It was like going to the circus every day. It was like a dream.
At the time I never thought of their history. It’s only in recent years, especially since I’ve been reading magazines like Alter Ego that I’ve really become aware of comics history so I didn’t really appreciate Mike and Ross’ roots at that time. That being said, Mike would talk about his past and his past success and we would laugh about it. I have Up Your Nose t-shirts. He told me about a lot of the stuff that he did that was amazing at the time, like Mister Mystery, which was a real down and dirty horror comic. He would talk about a writer friend of his, Harry Harrison, who was involved with that. It was really like hearing ancient history from Mike. As a new fan I actually bought a lot of the comics that they did and I still have some copies of their early stuff signed by Mike.
John Romita took over from Steve Ditko on Spider-Man. Ditko was a stylist. The art was very flat in a way and when John came in suddenly Peter Parker lived in this three dimensional world. A lot of people saw that, but at the time I didn’t, and it was only when I met John that I could look back and see what happened. I think Ross did it differently. John’s world was a fantasy world; Ross brought it into the real world. The real New York city, the real Coney Island. Ross made you believe that the Kingpin was a real huge guy. John still had that sense of fantasy about comics whereas Ross really brought it very close to home and that’s the difference between those two.
Dave Hunt inked the following books over Ross Andru:
The Amazing Spider-Man
#127: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#128: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#129: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#130: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#131: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#133: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#134: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#136: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#137: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#138: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#139: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#140: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#141: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#142: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#143: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#144: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#145: Ross Andru (Pencils); Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt (Inks)
#147: Ross Andru (Breakdowns); Mike Esposito (figures); Dave Hunt (finished art)
#148: Ross Andru (Breakdowns); Mike Esposito (figures); Dave Hunt (finished art)
#158: Ross Andru (Breakdowns); Mike Esposito (figures); Dave Hunt (finished art)
#159: Ross Andru (Breakdowns); Mike Esposito (figures); Dave Hunt (finished art)
#160: Ross Andru (Breakdowns); Mike Esposito (figures); Dave Hunt (finished art)
#161: Ross Andru (Breakdowns); Mike Esposito (figures); Dave Hunt (finished art)