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Hunt Emerson

Hunt Emerson

Hunt Emerson was born in Newcastle on Tyne in 1952, and was a child in a village called Walbottle, and a teenager in Blaydon. He's been drawing cartoons for a very, very long time ('bout 6 hours), although he didn't take it too seriously at first. He arrived in Birmingham as a Fine Art student in 1971, but quit college after a year. Around that time he met people in Birmingham who were involved with the Underground Press, and first started seeing magazines like Oz, Frendz, Muther Grumble and IT, and comic books by Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Jay Lynch, Rick Griffin, and so on. As if a light had come on, he realised what he wanted to do with his life, and set about learning how to do comics.

Hunt earned a enough shillings, doing various jobs, to feed the electric meter and allow him to draw at night. He has been a postman, a library assistant, worked in the local prison (doing office work, so he says!), and eventually found a job at the Polytechnic running a small printing machine. In printing he saw a way that could link earning a living with doing what he wanted to do; draw comix. He spent six years working at the Birmingham Arts Lab, with the printing press there, doing design, layout, darkroom, and machine operating on a shoestring in hair-raising circumstances. It taught him a lot about production deadlines and the need to make quick design decisions. At the Arts Lab he was part of the group known as Ar-zak, publishing British underground comics in the mid 70s. He was also drawing more and more comic strips, which were being published - mostly unpaid - in independent comic books all over the place: in Britain, America, and some in Europe. And was picking up freelance illustration work, to the extent that in 1979 he was able to become a fulltime freelance cartoonist.

He did some, but not many, advertising commissions, and contributed spot illustrations to a host of magazines including Melody Maker, Radio Times, Which Bike?, Time Out, Pink, Razzle... for a while his cartoons were like a rash on the publishing world. In 1980, or '81, he was offered a "regular gig" by Galaxy Publications drawing FIRKIN THE CAT, a two-page comic that is still running in Fiesta magazine. It's written by Tym Manley, and is a bawdy, chaotic, hilarious comic strip about sex. He also began an association with Fortean Times around then. FT is the leading monthly journal of unexplained phenomena, and he first drew illustrations for issue number 8 (he thinks). Since around 1995/96 he's drawn and written a monthly comic page called PHENOMENOMIX (you have to take a run at it) about Weird Stuff. FIRKIN and FT, and since 2002, The Beano, are now his main clients (apart from Phil Stamp Covers of course), and extra work tends to be of a specialist nature - for example, the comic books published by the Ruskin Foundation dealing with the ideas of 19th century artist, writer, critic and political theorist John Ruskin.

Knockabout Comics was formed in 1979 by Tony and Carol Bennett to publish and distribute underground, minority interest comics and books. They asked Hunt to be involved from the start, and most of his comic books have been published with them. Together they put into print CALCULUS CAT, MAX ZILLION & ALTO EGO, PILGRIM, PUSSPUSS, THUNDERDOGS and LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER among other titles. Knockabout were famous for their book launch parties. Two that Hunt recalls are the party for his ANCIENT MARINER on a Thames-side floating bar, complete with blow-up albatrosses on string, to be hung around necks, and that for CASANOVA'S LAST STAND, in the mansion built by Bertie, Prince of Wales for his mistress Lily Langtree, when he had to wear an impossibly hot and heavy 18th century coat and breeches, wig and tricorn hat.

Today he still lives in Birmingham, within a quarter of a mile of where he landed in 1971. He shares a rambling old house with his dear partner Jane and three cats (Moonlight, Ali Umbaye and Mrs. Cat). He runs a T'ai Chi class, and plays guitar and sings in a rock and blues band called The Hound Dogs. Hunt likes pottering in the garden, reading about ancient history, seeing friends, and living as quiet a life as possible. Like most cartoonists, he works crazy hours.

What makes him do comics?

"Comics make me laugh, even the ones that are supposed to be dark, grim and gritty. To have been able to work in this fun-palace medium for so long is an incredible privilege, and to have met and worked with so many inventive, talented creators involved with comics is beyond comment. I hope my comics make you laugh, at least sometimes - that is the greatest honour a cartoonist can achieve."