Thursday, April 10, 2008

Episode #13: Jim Mooney: 1919-2008

Comic book artist Jim Mooney passed away on Sunday, March 30, 2008. His wife Anne died in 2005. He worked in the industry almost his entire adult life.
Jim Mooney was raised in Los Angeles, and after art school and odd jobs at night clubs, moved to New York City to enter the still young comic book industry.
His first jpb was for the comic book publisher Fox. His first story appeared in Mystery Men #9, cover date April 1940. The cover featured a sci-fi character Rex Dexter, and Mooney's story was The Fox, for which he supplied the pencils and inks.
He then spent two weeks at the Eisner and Iger studio, but left after comparing his talent to the men already there, like Lou Fine, Nick Cardy and Eisner himself. Mooney descrlbed Eisner as stern and like an old man, even though Eisner, in his mid 20's, was only a few years older than Mooney. He recognized Eisner as very talented and very much in control. Mooney described Iger as in control of the business side of the studio.
While at Fiction House for nine months Mooney befriended George Tuska, Ruben Moreira (future Tarzan comic book artist) and Nick Cardy.
Mooney also freelanced for Timely (Marvel) on funny animal and movie cartoon tie-in titles.
In 1946-47 he drew Perky Penguin and Booby Bear for Treasure Chest, a Catholic related comic book distributed in parochial schools.
Jim Mooney began a 22 year career at the company that became DC Comics in 1946. His first jobs were for Batman as another ghost for Bob Kane. He also worked on Superboy. Other features Mooney did were Dial H For Hero for House of Mystery and Tommy Tomorrow for both Action Comics and World's Finest Comics.
During the 1950's Mooney also contributed to Lorna The Jungle Queen for Atlas (Marvel).
From 1959-1968 Jim Mooney was the main Supergirl artist. During this time he lived in Los Angeles managing an antiquarian bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard. He sometimes hired art students as employees and also to ink backgrounds on his Supergirl pages.
After moving back to New York City in 1968, Mooney began looking for work with other comic book publishers. DC had begun to prefer a more sophisticated art style, like Neal Adams', and felt Mooney's style did not fit. Mooney began working for Marvel before DC fired him.
He bagan as an inker on John Romita's pencils on Amazing Spider-Man, beginning with issue 65 and from issues 67-88. He also inked over John Buscema's pencils in Thor.
Mooney pencilled Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider Man, Spider-Man stories in Marvel Team-Up and pencilled and inked Man Thing, written by Steve Gerber. He also drew all ten issues of Gerber's Omega the Unknown.
Jim Mooney also worked on more child-oriented publications for Marvel, such as Marvel coloring books, Spidey Super Stories, and a Spider-Man feature for Electric Company, a spin-off publication of the PBS TV series.
He contributed more adult comics for then Marvel publisher Martin Goodman's men's magazine, The Adventures of Pussycat, first written by Stan Lee and then by his brother Larry Lieber.
In 1975 Jim Mooney moved to Florida after signing a ten year contract with Marvel and worked on a variety of titles.
After the end of the contract Jim Mooney has worked on a variety of projects: Star Rangers for Adventure Publications, Superboy (based on the 1990's syndicated TV show), Anne Rice's The Mummy for Millennium Publications, Soul Searchers (Elvira) Claypool Comics, Lady Supreme for Awesome Entertainment and commissioned pieces of comic book art.
Jim Mooney has had some interesting things to say about some of the people he worked with:
On Stan Lee: He was the same from the first time Mooney met him to now. He had a funny annecdote about their first meeting. Stan asked what Mooney did and he respoded pencils. Stan asked anything else, Jim said inks, Stan asked what else and Mooney said colors. Stan asked if he did anything else. Mooney said that he lettered too. San responded, "Do you print the damn books too?"
During Mooney's years at DC Stan tried to get Jim to work for Marvel, but their page rates were not up to the level that DC was paying. Later in their careers they socialized with their wives, who were both involved in the antique business, but Stan found boring.
Mort Weisinger: Jim Mooney described Weisinger as a Jeckyl and Hyde person. He got along with him socially, but Mort was difficult at the office. Mooney offered another anectdote as an example. He was turning in the pages to a Supergirl story, when Mort waved him out of the office for a few minutes when he was busy with a writer. Mooney was talking to Jack Schiff in the bullpen when Weisinger stormed out of his office. "You're supposed to bring Supergirl to me first!", Weisinger yelled. Jim Mooney said that Mort could be vicious, but he was also a telented writer.
On John Romita: Jim Mooney found John Romita to be one of the nicest guys he had ever worked with. Romita knew how to give truly constructive criticism without humiliating the person. They worked together very well. When Romita bacame swamped with Spider-Man work, Mooney would finish Romita's layouts.
Jim Mooney also liked Herb Trimpe, Marie Severin and Stan's secretary Flo Steinberg. She made Mooney feel welcome every time he entered Marvel's offices, as opposed to DC, where Mooney couldn't wait to get out of there.
On Bob Kane: Jim Mooney's first impression was that Kane was not someone he would want to hang around with. That view never changed. Mooney found Kane unpleasant, a man who had a big ego and liked to put people down. When Kane took credit for creating the Batman stories through the mid 1960's, Mooney felt he handled the truth, to put it one way.
Besides himself, close friend Sheldon Moldoff was among the artists who ghosted on Batman, as well as Jerry Robinson and Dick Sprang, among others.
On Bill Finger: Jim Mooney met Bill Finger a few times and found him a very likeable person. He admired his writing very much and found his scripts very good and fun to draw.
DC scripts vs Marvel: DC used full scripts and artists merely drew what was written, with little input on creating the story. Some scripts were interesting, but others were not very good. It just seemed a job to Mooney, working for DC and collecting his paycheck. Jim Mooney enjoyed the plot style made most famous by Marvel. It required the artists involvementin creating the story. Mooney felt more of a creative team.
Various comic book characters: Jim Mooney liked House of Mystery or Tommy Tomorrow stories, but drawing Dial H for Hero was a chore because new costumes were required for each issue. Supergirl was not much of a challenge. Mooney found the plots simple, and they often seemed to repeat. The art style required by Weisinger was very simple, and not as sophisticated as other titles Mooney worked on. (This might be one reason Supergirl never became as popular as Superman, gaining more fame for being killed in Crisis of Infinite Earths than the quality of her stories.)
Jim Mooney's favorite Marvel character that he drew was Man Thing, written by Steve Gerber. At first sight Mooney dreaded working on the first script because Gerber mostly used full script, but after reading it, Jim found it so good he enjoyed drawing.

If you would like to read the online articles this information came from check out the following links:

Don't forget about Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman written by Marc Tyler Nobleman and illustrated by Ross Macdonald. It will be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on August 26, 2008. It can be pre-ordered at Check out their web sites:

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Thanks for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and as always thanks to Jerry and Joe.

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