In elementary school, Ken Hunt loved art class. By the time he entered middle school, where art classes for most students became more advanced; Hunt already knew how to draw perspective.
Hunt, who described himself as a horrible student, said his ability frustrated one of his art teachers, and he became extremely bored, which led him to fail the class. In response, his mother, who worked as a designer, bought him sketchbooks.
“I’m completely self-taught in the art world,” Hunt, who has lived in Hanover for six years, said. “I got into comics art when I was about five-years-old. I was running home every day to watch ‘Speed Racer,’ and I loved drawing … Speed Racer’s Mach V. My father, (also named Ken), got tired of watching me draw the same profile of the car. Being an amateur cartoonist and art hobbyist himself, he taught me how to draw perspective using blocks, ovals and shapes.”
One day, with his allowance of $0.75, he went to the corner drug store to pick up an item for his mother, Penny. To his delight, he discovered a rack of comic books. The first comic book to catch his eye was the 1975 Giant-Size X-Men #1.
“It had a 50-cent cover price, which was two-thirds of my weekly allowance, but it was a very thick book,” said Hunt, who has drawn covers for DC Comics, and designed covers and logos for Virus Comix, About Time Comics, AC Comics, Cryptic Magazine, Jam Packed Productions, Fantagraphics Book, Carnal Comics, B-Brand Comix; and, has served as editor and art director at Daystar Studios Entertainment. “At that point, I discovered superheroes who weren’t on TV.”
By the early 1990s, Hunt was commissioned by Marvel Comics to create a book, entitled “What If.” Unfortunately, by the time Hunt had completed three-quarters of the book, Marvel canceled the project. Hunt became disillusioned and bitter. That disappointment motivated him to apply his talent to graphic arts.
Hunt’s love of comic book art bloomed into a successful profession as an illustrator. That same affinity for comic book art fueled the careers of two other Hanover-area illustrators: Dirk Shearer and Brent Coulson.
“I kind of retired from that field in 2009, when I moved here from Indiana and I almost lost the use of my drawing hand,” Hunt said. “I filleted the knuckles of my drawing hand and almost severed the tendon. I’m actually best known for something that is not published—my Joker, (one of Batman’s nemeses). It’s also the artwork that got me the job at DC Comics” doing covers for their books called ‘Talon,’ (a Batman character).”
Hunt is currently attempting to get several TV reality shows accepted; and is also trying raise capital for film pilots. Joyce, his wife, is his biggest critic and keeps him grounded.
Shearer, of Spring Grove, thanks his deceased grandmother, Sylvia; and his grandfather, Marlin, who is still living, for encouraging his passion for illustration. A 2000 graduate of Spring Grove High School, Shearer was awarded a scholarship to Columbus School of Art & Design, in Columbus, Ohio, where he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, with a major in illustration.
“From the beginning of grade school and before, I was drawing,” said Shearer, who had just been hired as an illustrator with Measured Progress, a non-profit corporation in Dover, New Hampshire. “It’s one of those things, where my grandmother encouraged me to draw because she saw I liked it. Whenever you have groups of kids compliment you on your work, it makes you want to do it more.”
As a freelance illustrator, Shearer has worked for Image Comics, Archaia Entertainment, an award-winning niche graphic novel publisher; and he has created cover art for The Fox, a comic book published by Dark Circle Comics, an imprint of Archie Comics; a four-page spread for The New York Times bestselling and Eisner & Harvey award-winning comic book series, “Mouse Guard,” published by Archaia Studios Press; chapter illustrations for Boom Entertainment’s “Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes;” and others. Shearer also designed logos for local companies, including Fox News, York Wallcoverings, Ames True Temper, Pottery Barn and Spencers.
Shearer has been an artist-in-residence for various public schools in Pennsylvania.
“Some of the traditional art work I create, I sell at a couple of art galleries in Hanover—the Hanover Area Arts Guild and the Frame Shop,” Shearer said. “A lot of times it’s my pen and ink or scratchboard work; and, sometimes I will sell prints of my digital art.”
Brent Coulson, an illustrator and owner of Coulson’s Graphics, Hanover, is a 1992 graduate of South Western High School. A graduate of James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, who majored in graphic design, loved watching cartoons as a child. A fan of comic books and “Mad Magazine,” Coulson was fascinated by character illustrations.
“As long as I can remember, I tried to create characters from comic strips,” Coulson said. “I’d take characters like Garfield and put them into different situations. When I got a little bit older, in seventh and eighth grade I realized I could do my own creations and share them in the school newspaper.”
During college, he created cartoons for “The Breeze,” the student newspaper. King Features Syndicate syndicated many of those illustrations, in its “The New Breed” feature.
“Each day they published a single-panel comic, (similar to ‘The Far Side’) by an up-and-coming cartoonist,” Coulson said. “I used many of the cartoons I had created for the JMU school newspaper and New Breed for my book of cartoons, “Not Exactly Rocket Science.”
While his childhood dream was to become a daily comic strip artist, those opportunities are rare. In 2003, he opened his company, Coulson Graphics, where he does graphic design, illustration and web design.
“I also work with many schools, sports teams and organizations providing screen-printed and embroidered clothing and promotional products,” said Coulson, who is married to Kristin, and is the father of three children. “I don’t get opportunities to create many cartoons unless they are for a specific marketing project.”
The majority of his time is spent on caricatures, T-shirt designs, and website design. Art has always been his passion. Coulson said he “was blessed with many teachers growing up who encouraged me to continue pursuing my passion and who helped me to find opportunities to share my work.”
All three illustrators admit that their desire to create comic book art is not money driven, rather it’s fueled by a passion for the characters, the story lines and a love of the art form.