Book Review: Roy V. Hunt: A Retrospective

Ray Hunt book cover

Roy V. Hunt: A Retrospective, First Fandom Experience. (Price: $45 including shipping, 144 pages, full color) February 2021.  

First Fandom Experience has just released a new book called, Roy V. Hunt: A Retrospective. This full-color volume introduces us to the life and works of pulp-illustrator Roy Hunt. You’ve probably have never heard of him. I hadn’t. As I flipped through the pages, I realized that he was more than a just a historical footnote. Hunt was something special in a sea of entirely interesting things. And he had been all but forgotten…until now.


Roy V. Hunt in 1948

Roy Vernon Hunt lived in Denver, Colorado from his birth in 1914 until his death in 1986. His first published illustration appeared in the fanzine, THE ALCHEMIST, in the February 1940 issue. By then, he’d already begun a lifelong career as curator and artist at the Colorado State Historical Museum.


Hunt's piece from the Spring 1941 issue of STARLIGHT.

According to the new book, it was a single piece of Hunt’s art that inspired the editors at First Fandom Experience to look deeper into this mostly-forgotten artist. That piece was published in the Spring 1941 issue of the fanzine, STARLIGHT. It was heads and shoulders above the usual quality seen in fanzines at the time. Digging deeper, they discovered that Hunt produced a wide range of artworks for many fanzines including: THE ALCHEMIST, THE SCIENCE FICTION FAN, FANFARE, LE ZOMBIE, AND SPACEWAY. During a long career, his professional illustrations were seen in various genres—science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery. He was hired by the Federal Art Project under the Works Progress Administration and produced art for them sometime between 1940 and 1942. Fortunately, at least some of his Federal Art Project works still exist, unlike so many other artists whose works have been lost or destroyed. Hunt’s Works Project Administration art is highlighted in the new book.


One of Hunt's woodcuts created for the Works Project Administration.

It would have been all but impossible for anybody but First Fandom Experience to put out a retrospective of Hunt’s work. All of the materials seen in it are extremely rare. Letters and other ephemera, as well as photographs, show us rare glimpses into the early fanzines. Contextual and historical commentaries give us deeper understanding of this unsung artist. Hunt’s work was influenced by the prevailing art movements of the time: Art Deco, Expressionism, and Futurism. His woodcuts, created for the Works Project Administration, are pure American Regionalism. Through the course of the book we see his style evolve and grow from approximately 1940 until 1980. Towards the end of the book they’ve included a chapter called, “The Technology of Fan Art” which gives an insider’s glimpse at how the early fanzines were reproduced and printed.

If the book has a failing it’s that I’m left wanting to know more about Hunt. But I’ll make an educated guess that the folks at First Fandom Experience dug as deeply as it was possible to dig.

I’d recommend this book to pulp fans and collectors, historians interested in lesser-known Works Progress Administration artists, and folks wanting to know more about the history of science fiction. Even more so, I’d recommend Roy V. Hunt: A Retrospective to any working artist today. Hunt’s life is understandable, even comparable, to most commercial illustrators. His life followed a familiar path—producing works he felt passionate about around a more stable career. Hunt stands for all of us little- known but passionate artists and I’m glad that people will hear of him again.

Order a copy of Roy V. Hunt: A Retrospective.

Watch the book trailer.

(All images used in this post are courtesy of First Fandom Experience.)

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