Derek Hunter and his "Draw Night Friends" take over Nobrow Coffee's walls on August 20. Photo: Katie Panzer
Despite the Internet’s impact on most forms of print media, comics have survived the last 80 years by pushing boundaries and staying on the fringe of acceptable entertainment. It’s one of the few mediums left where anyone who can conjure images to a page can independently publish and promote their own book.
For over seven years, Derek Hunter has been one of the few independent comic writers in Salt Lake. Hunter has worked on movies with studios such as Disney and MTV Films, has lent his talents to video games like The Hobbit (2003) and is currently the lead illustrator for Send Out Cards, a unique brand of illustrated greeting cards, but Hunter’s primary passion has always been creating comics. His flagship title, Pirate Club, features twisted tales of youngsters roaming the streets of their small town looking for adventure. Pirate Club is published twice a week at pirateclub.com.
Hunter, with a dozen or so friends, also informally hosts a weekly Tuesday draw night at Nobrow Coffee. The group recently decided to parlay the fruits of draw night into an art show that’ll be held at Nobrow on August 20. The night will double as Hunter’s debut of his new autobiographic comic––Derek Hunter is A Fuck.
Hunter says the idea for Pirate Club came from his last summer with his friends before entering the world of adulthood. “Me and two buddies spent a lot of time camping, drawing everyday and hanging out with girls. It was kind of like our last big hurrah before we went off to our careers.” says Hunter. “I began doodling the words ‘Pirate Club’ one day, and I thought that described us in a way. I started thinking about these stories that three friends would have that were reminiscent of childhood, but still kind of adult-like. I started drawing some of it and showed it to my friends, and they really got behind it and wanted me to finish it, and things just snowballed from there.”
Publishing Pirate Club, both with Slave Labor Graphics and later by himself, has been a labor of love for Hunter. One only has to peruse the two dozen or so issues on his website to see his motivations.
“I want to have a widely published comic book that reaches people. I want to inspire imagination,” says Hunter. “I want kids to go out and build dirt mounds with their action figures and have battles. I want to give the next generation something to enjoy as much as I enjoyed the things that I had.”
Hunter’s love of comics and art is what prompted him and his friends to start a Tuesday draw night. It began as an inclusive event, just a group of friends showing each other what they were working on, and eventually grew into an open forum for any artist to participate in.
“The owner of Nobrow, Joe [Evans], thought it was really cool that a local art community centered on comics came together and did this.” says Hunter, “Hopefully as word spreads more people will come out.”
While probing the range of independent comics, Hunter was struck by the notion of the autobiographic comic. He wondered, how he could create a book about himself? “Autobiographical comics always seem self-serving, they always have an agenda.” says Hunter, “It’s always about how sad my life is or how great my life is. I wanted to do something like that, but a lot of the things I’ve done in my life that seemed interesting, I’ve been an asshole. I’ve done horrible things to people in honest circumstances, and I thought, ‘shit, well I’ve got to have enough stories like that.” The title of his autobiographical comic, Derek Hunter is a Fuck, comes from an old Cronies song (a band that Hunter played with) of the same name.
Approaching his new project as an anti-biography, Hunter delved deep into the dark recesses of his past. His college days in Provo, Utah led to some good material, such as breaking up with a prim and proper Mormon girlfriend during sex, which might be the tamest story of the bunch.
“I’ve been showing it to people with a lot of trepidation thinking, ‘Do I come across as an asshole? Is it too horrible to relate to?’ But I was an asshole. I had to be honest without trying to justify it, and it has been met with a lot of positive feedback.”
According to Hunter, seeing the output and enthusiasm from draw night is what led to Evans offering the group an opportunity to display their work.
“Nobrow wanted do a gallery show. I had this new comic coming out and these art pieces I was doing, and we decided to make it a little mini indie comic book convention with art.” Hunter says. “We’re also going to have 24-hour comic book day, where we all sit down and write and draw a 24-page comic book in a 24-hour period.”
Hunter’s zeal for comics and creativity is infectious. Anyone who spends five minutes with the guy will end up yearning to put pen to paper for something of their own. Comics have been around for eons, but we’ve barely scratched the surface of the range this medium has. Hunter is ready to push the envelope in any direction that occurs to him. Check his stuff out at any local comic shop, online at pirateclub.com and come out to Nobrow on August 20 to see what local comic creators are up to