“His career as a cartoonist commenced in 1973, (prior to which he had been a human being), with the publication of his Large Cow Comix in Birmingham’s alternative Streetpress. Looking back upon those early days, it becomes obvious that they have much in common with the classic picture writing of the ancient Sumerians, in that they are almost impossible to understand unless you happen to be six thousand years old and Sumerian, and may be not even then. Slender volumes in which his works were collected began to appear upon fashionable drawing-room tables between 1973 and 1975, titles ranging from the oddly compelling Zomix Comix to the subtly threatening Adventures Of Mr Spoonbiscut. The Literati scratched their thinning pates and quietly agreed that Mr Emerson was certainly ahead of his time, if not on the wrong planet entirely. In 1976, Emerson and some fellow members of the proletariat seized control of the Birmingham Arts Lab Press in a brutal and bloody putsch, formed the Ar-Zak publishing empire and began to distribute subversive pamphlets and broadsheets. Although on the surface these ingenious propaganda tracts appeared to be no more than innocent children’s comic papers, it was easy to detect the implied criticism of running dog imperialism in a title such as Dogman and the oblique Stalinist overtones of Committed Comix. Whether Mr Emerson is in fact a Stalinist or not, I cannot profess to know. He did however once share a bag of crisps with me, which suggests a firm grip of socialist principals.”
Cross-breed George Krazy Kat Herriman with Robert Fritz the Cat Crumb and you wind up with one of the zaniest adult comix artists in the country, if not the world. Hunt Emerson (1952 - ) broke out of the 1970s Birmingham alternative arts scene with a litter of his own funny felines, sex-mad Firkin for Fiesta and frazzled Calculus Cat for Escape. His penchant for comedy timing and elasticated brushstrokes perfectly suits graphic novelisations of Lady Chatterly’s Lover, The Life of Casanova, even The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Additionally, his comics have appeared in numerous comic books and magazines, but in particular his Phenomenomix strip has appeared regularly in the Fortean Times since 1979, and his two page adult feature Firkin has appeared in the British soft-porn magazine Fiesta since 1981. Most recently he has illustrated children’s books for Walker Books and drawn Little Plum for The Beano.
How To Be Rich
How To See
The Ruskin Foundation, 2005-2008
John Ruskin was one of the greatest writers of the 19th century. He wrote dozens of brilliant and sometimes quite strange books on almost every subject under the sun - mountains and rocks, waves and clouds, snakes and birds. Above all, he wrote about art and architecture, and wrote about them in ways which astonished people.
How To Be Rich is based on John Ruskin’s most widely read book, Unto This Last, a short work that discusses wealth, economics, social equality and profit in ways that were very new for the time. It had a huge influence on the early socialist movement, and was often the only book in a working class house apart from the Bible. In How To Be Rich, Darren Bloke, a hapless individual, wins a fortune on the lottery, then proceeds to waste it. He is left with only a crummy apartment and his faithful dog, Skittle. In the depths of despair and drink, he is visited by the Spirit of John Ruskin, who whirls him through a blizzard of ideas and images that enable him to see the whole world of Wealth, Property, and Happiness in Life in a different way. How To See is based around some of Ruskin’s ideas on Seeing and Visual Perception. He emphasized the importance of Nature and Natural Forms to the creation and appreciation of beauty, and the way our viewpoint colours how we perceive things, whether visual or conceptual. In How To See Darren is in despair at the mundane nature of his existence, when The Spirit of Ruskin visits him again and gives him a shake-up.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover!
Knockabout Comics, 1986
Alan Moore Says:
Might I observe that this is not only the best Hunt Emerson that I’ve ever seen, it’s also the best DH Lawrence? Turning his deranged sensibilities to a work of this length and stature has bought a sustained sense of tightness and structure to Hunt’s work that is normally eschewed in favour of his distinctive surreal and spontaneous narrative flow… The pictures here have all the EC-like attention to background detail that has characterized in his work for so long… What sounded initially like the most unlikely paring of the century has turned out to be something very, very good indeed… Highly recommended.
Casanova’s Last Stand
Knockabout Comics, 1993
Casanova, the great lover and adventurer is nearing the end of his life. He vows to make one last grand seduction and so, devises a precarious plan. As the narrative unfolds he reflects on his past amorous exploits.
Hunt Emerson says:
We did a book called Casanova’s Last Stand, which was based on stories in Casanova’s memoirs, which I stitched together with a narrative that I invented about the end of his life. It was just a story. Just a way of stitching together episodes from his life being flashed back. That never sold as well as we’d hoped. We thought it was a great book, but nah, it didn’t sell.
The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
Knockabout Comics, 1989
Hunt Emerson says:
...my favourite of all the the books I’ve ever done… the text is dead straight. I didn’t change anything. And I’ve done it all as a comic strip… Teachers just love it because they can introduce their students to the text and get them to read the stuff… it’s now part of the Coleridge industry. There’s only a certain amount of illustrated Ancient Mariner’s around, and I’m one of the two living illustrators of the Mariner at the moment, or something like that.
Rip Off Press, 1981
Mind Sapping Action! Mapcap Laffs! Three years in the making, Thunderdogs is a story of trans-dimensional tomfoolery, about a gang of paramilitary idiots led by Major Mongrel.
Hunt Emerson says:
I started doing this story about a gang of paramilitary guys and this business where their leader, Major Mongrel gets separated from the others and trapped in a two dimensional universe, while they stay in a 3D universe. So there were pictures where their airplane was landing on the comics page, and they were running around on top of the page, talking to Major Mongrel inside the page. It was made up as I went along and it’s nonsense, and it took quite a long time to finish.
The Big Book Of Everything
Knockabout Comics, 1983
A collection of absurd and whimsical early short strips from 1973 to 1983.
Alan Moore Says:
“How do you solve a problem like Hunt Emerson… Like so many things about this enigmatic merchant of mirth, it remains a mystery. His work, however, speaks for him in a deep and masculine baritone.”
Hunt Emerson says:
I was interested in Herriman because he was so patently an artist among a lot of guys who were just cartoonists. I found the Herriman universe fascinating. It was like when I first saw Crumb. I realised there were things you could do with this medium that I’d never imagined, so I used to copy him a lot in the early days… the form was probably more important than the content - the way you could twist it, play little tricks. I used to do that with the stories as well as with the art. For instance, you suddenly jump out of Tapeworm Tales and get a little discourse on visual gags.
Knockabout Comics, 1990
A collection of short strips created between 1984 and 1989, including the strip Leviticus written by Alan Moore.
How To See (2009)
How To Be Rich (2005)
The Festival Ritual (2005)
Firkin Collection (2002) with Tym Manly
Aliens Ate My Trousers (1998)
The Call Me Pusspuss (1994)
Casanova’s Last Stand (1993)
Rapid Reflexes : Collected Strips 1985-1989 (1990)
Startling Stories : Phenomenomix Collection (1989)
The Rime of The Ancient Mariner (1989) with Samuel Coleridge
Hard to Swallow (1988) with John Dowie
You Are Maggie Thatcher (1987) with Pat Mills
Calculus Cat in Death to Television (1987)
Lady Chatterley’s Lover! (1986) with DH Lawrence
Jazz Funnies (1986)
Firkin (1985) with Tym Manly
The Big Book Of Everything : Collected Strips 1973-1983 (1983)
The Comics Journal #198
Paul Gravett’s Articles