Toward the end of 2007 I was absolutely pinching myself as I’d managed to interview 18 creators and one of the most memorable that year was “Gentleman” Jim Mooney. A fitting nickname it was, too. Jim was gracious and forthcoming and since he’d produced a body of work dating back to the Golden Age, he’d literally been there and done that. Remembrances in this interview include working on scripts by Bill Finger, the big role Supergirl played in his career despite having to deal with Mort Weisinger, his original creation of Streaky the Super-cat and his long time friendship with Stan Lee.
Bryan Stroud: For starters I looked you up on the Grand Comic Database and it listed over 1200 credits for you just as a penciller, and of course a few of those were reprints, but does that surprise you at all that you have such a large body of work?
Jim Mooney: No, actually it doesn’t. You see, I started in I think ’40 or ’41, I guess it was ’41 and I just took anything that came along (chuckle). Some of it I enjoyed more than others, of course, but that was my source of livelihood for all those years. Just whatever came down the pike, I thought as long as it wasn’t distasteful, I’ll take it.
Mooney: Of course some of the things I enjoyed. I enjoyed doing Man-Thing and Omega and there were some of the offbeat titles that a lot of people are not too familiar with that I really did enjoy. Dial H for Hero was kind of fun, although it was an awful lot of work. New super-heroes for each issue
Stroud: That particular task had to be really difficult because, I’ve got nearly that entire set, I always loved it, and it seemed like you had to crank out a minimum of three heroes and usually a new villain every darned issue.
Mooney: It was quite demanding, to say the least, but it was kind of fun. After a while, I don’t know what it was. I got into a few other things. Other work and other projects, but for the time I spent on it, it was enjoyable.
Stroud: It was such a creative storyline. I can’t think of a kid anywhere that wouldn’t have loved to find that dial (chuckle) and be able to transform himself. It was just a wonderful idea.
Mooney: You know, I have a friend; he’s a Professor of Philosophy. He’s in Austria now. We talk quite often, and that was one of his favorites when he was a kid. He mentioned that when he was first starting in comics Dial H for Hero was it. I found that kind of a revelation, I mean certainly Jeff, I’m speaking of the Professor, Jeff is hardly stuffy in any way. We talk quite often on many, many subjects, but that sort of intrigued me.
Stroud: Oh, yeah. It makes you wonder how it may have influenced him in later life.
Stroud: The earliest credit I could find for you was, in fact, in 1940. Something called Mystery Men Comics by Fox Publishing. Does that ring any bells at all?
Mooney: Yeah, I’m trying to think. What was it? Mystery Men? That was just the characters that I did or did they have a particular name other than Mystery Men?
Stroud: That was all I saw was that particular title for the magazine itself.
Mooney: One of the earlier strips that I did back in that period of time was for E. M. Arnold who did Quality Comics. I created a character called Wildfire, and I had hoped that Wildfire would be a sensation and take off, but it really didn’t make much of a splash. It wasn’t as popular as I thought it might be.
I worked on that with a writer that did a lot of pulp magazines at the time, and I figured with somebody else writing it and with me doing it, doing the best I could, that it would probably be quite popular, but it just unfortunately didn’t quite make the grade. That was Bob Turner, by the way. Bob Turner did a lot of movie work and a lot of comic book work before that.
Stroud: Okay, was that a hero title? I’d never heard of that one.
Mooney: Unfortunately, neither did many others. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: When you were first getting started in your art career, which people inspired you, do you think?
Mooney: You mean what other artists?
Mooney: Well, you may have heard of Lou Fine?
Stroud: Oh yes, yes. The Ray and so forth.
Mooney: I thought Lou was…well he was just a fantastic artist. He drew beautifully and early on most of us were just learning. We were trying to sharpen our abilities, but Lou had it very early on and I worked with him for a short time with Eisner and Iger’s studio.
Stroud: That must have been a terrific training ground.
Mooney: It was. It was very challenging and at that time I was so young that I really felt that I wasn’t quite ready for it, so I took off and I figured, look, get a little bit more experience before you compete with some of these…well, another one of the professionals that was there early on was George Tuska. George and I, you know, go through the years and we weren’t that friendly, but we worked together at Fiction House, too.
Stroud: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Mooney: Nick Cardy was there, and did you ever hear of Reuben Moreira?
Stroud: Oh, yeah, I got to talk to Al Plastino a few weeks ago and he made particular mention of Reuben.
Mooney: Reuben was a fantastically good artist and a heck of a nice guy. We were probably closer than most of the other comic book artists at that time. Reuben was a Puerto Rican, and he finally went back to Puerto Rico and evidently I think he was doing some commercial work there, too, although he was still doing work for DC.
Stroud: Just mailing it in then, huh?
Stroud: Dick Giordano was telling me that Jim Aparo did that for quite a while. He just didn’t want to leave Connecticut, so the mails became his lifeline.
Mooney: You know I did something very similar. I moved to Hollywood in the ’50s, and I got permission to go out there from DC. I was working on Batman at the time, and I stretched that out for almost 10 years.
I made a couple of trips back, of course, to see Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff and some of the guys in the bullpen, but I had my own studio out there then. I had established an art service. So consequently I was not quite as dependent on the comics for a source of income as I had been before. I was doing work for some of the studios and other commercial work so I wasn’t just in a position where I had to take and do what they said when they said it. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: That makes it nice. That was something else Al was telling me, he said “I always had at least two accounts going, so that I had a bit more freedom and flexibility.” Were you doing animation, too?
Mooney: I did some limited animation. Very, very limited. I had somebody else working with me. I did an awful lot of commercial work, just general work that came to me. I had my studio right on Hollywood Boulevard.
Stroud: Okay, so advertising and that sort of thing.
Mooney: Yeah. I had quite a bit of work and I still kept the comics, too, because it gave me a certain feeling of security to have something like that that I really knew, and knew that it would probably last for a while. It lasted for a while, didn’t it?
Stroud: Oh, sure and of course at the time, I don’t know what your experiences were, but it seems like comic book work wasn’t really considered legitimate at the time, I mean it was kind of looked down upon.
Mooney: Oh, God, yes. There were times when you’d say you did almost anything rather than admit you did comics. (Chuckle.) There was a great deal of bad feeling about comics at that time. I’m trying to think of who it was that got the ball rolling. Comics were supposed to be very evil; they were a bad influence on children.
Stroud: Oh yes, Dr. Wertham and his infamous book, and then I think it even got picked up by Congress at one point if I’m not mistaken.
Mooney: Well you know for a while there we had a pretty strong censorship on as far as our mystery and horror books. It took the life…it just emasculated it totally. At one time they were pretty gruesome and they were kind of fun. They were exciting. They were gruesome. They had a lot going for them and I guess it was what they wanted to read, but when we censored ourselves it was namby-pamby.
Stroud: Right. The Comics Code was instituted and then that self-policing came along and I remember reading that EC Comics virtually went under at that point because the horror titles was their bread and butter.
Mooney: Well, nobody really particularly wanted to buy them. When you had something really interesting and exciting in the horror and mystery stuff, you buy it, but when you had something that had been emasculated to the extent that they were later, why it was like buying something castrated.
Stroud: (laughter.) No appeal whatsoever. It looks like, as near as I can tell, with the exception of the war titles you’ve done a little bit of everything. Is that about accurate?
Mooney: Yeah, I took almost anything that was dropped in my lap if I wanted it. I didn’t do much war stuff because it really was not my forte. It wasn’t that I was anti-war; I was, I mean I still am, but it wasn’t that I had any real objection to doing war comics, I just didn’t feel that I had the feeling, the forte to do them well.
Stroud: Well, sure and I suppose that it had to be just, well, not having an artistic molecule in my body I can’t really relate, but I suppose when you had people like Joe Kubert and Russ Heath cranking out their stuff, I would find that intimidating.
Mooney: Oh, they were great. That was really heavy competition. They were really damn good draftsmen then and they are now, of course. I guess Joe is still alive, isn’t he or did he die recently? [Note: Joe Kubert passed away subsequent to this interview]
Stroud: No, he’s still around, still running his art school up there in New Jersey and seems to be cranking along pretty nicely.
Mooney: He’s done very well for himself.
Stroud: Very much so. Still very much a presence out there I guess would be the correct word.
Mooney: Indeed. You know I never met Joe. I always admired his work very, very much and of course I never worked with him or close to him, so we really had no contact except that I saw his stuff in the comic books and that was about it. I never met him at a convention or anything like that.
Stroud: It was certainly hard to miss. He really left a swath there whether it was the war titles or Hawkman or any of that other good stuff that he did so well.
Mooney: A very, very accomplished person.
Stroud: Do you remember what the page rates were for you over the years?
Mooney: They varied so very, very much. I know when I first started doing comics five or six dollars a page was about the going rate for pencil and ink believe it or not, so you weren’t living really exactly high off the hog with that kind of an income. Later on when I latched onto doing Batman for DC I got at that time, which was considered a pretty decent rate, that was, I believe in the ’50s, I was getting $50 – $55 a page, which was a little bit closer to a livable income.
Stroud: Oh, yeah, absolutely and as one of the few both pencillers and inkers that I’m aware of, that was nothing to sneeze at. How long did it usually take you to produce a page?
Mooney: Well, I was never as fast as a lot of them, but I could usually do a page a day, pencil and ink.
Stroud: That’s respectable.
Mooney: Yeah. A lot of the guys, the real fast artists could turn out more and they did, and they turned out some pretty decent stuff, too, as well as being fast, but that was not my trump card. (Chuckle.) I could get it out and I could make my deadlines and so on, but I never could really get much beyond that page a day. Once in a while it would be a page and a half a day if the deadline was real tight or they needed it in much of a hurry.
Stroud: Well, that’s still quite a respectable pace as far as I’m concerned. Did you prefer pencils to inks or did it make any difference to you?
Mooney: I preferred penciling and inking my own stuff. I did an awful lot of inking as well, over somebody else’s, which was fine. I enjoyed that. I never really enjoyed just doing penciling, as much as I did penciling and inking and inking for others. I found that unless I was teamed up with a really fine inker, like say Frank Giacoia, who you may have heard of.
Stroud: Yes. Carmine Infantino told me that was his favorite inker.
Mooney: Yeah, well he was good. He was erratic. He didn’t always meet his deadlines, but he turned in a very respectable, nice looking job.
Stroud: That was one of the things I was going to ask was who you preferred inking after your work. When you were doing your own inks did you pencil pretty tightly or did you leave them kind of loose?
Mooney: It varied. What I would usually do is make the characters pretty tight because I wanted to make sure that people could recognize them. With the inking and the background sometimes I’d ad lib a little bit. In other words I didn’t put quite as much work on the backgrounds as I did on the actual characters; the superhero that I was drawing.
Stroud: You mentioned Batman, of course and at that time…let’s see, I think I’ve read different things. Perhaps you can clarify for me. Obviously Bob’s [Kane] contract was quite the ironclad beast to where he got credit for everything no matter who worked on it and he employed all kinds of ghosts. Were you working for him or were you working on the DC side?
Mooney: I worked for DC. I never worked for Bob, luckily. Bob and I met a couple of times and we just didn’t hit it off at all. Bob was not an easy guy to like, and certainly not to work for.
Stroud: That’s the consistent story I’ve heard. His fan club is very small. (Chuckle.)
Mooney: I imagine. One of the guys at that time, a writer that I thought was extremely talented and I loved to work with him was Bill Finger.
Stroud: Oh, you did know Bill.
Mooney: Oh, yeah.
Stroud: Tell me a little about him, please.
Mooney: Bill and I used to have a couple of drinks together. He was a very, very likeable guy. I think probably maybe he had a little bit too much of an alcoholic problem. I understand when he passed away he didn’t leave much of an estate.
Above: Bill Finger
Stroud: No. Every account I’ve heard from those who knew him and written accounts, he was virtually bankrupt at the end there and unfortunately prior to that as well.
Mooney: You know, the stories were great. Whenever I’d get a script I’d say, “Oh, God, it’s Bill Finger, thank God.” (Chuckle.) I knew it was going to be fun to do.
Stroud: Lew Sayre Schwartz, when I talked to him, he described Bill’s scripts as very visual and so he said from an artistic standpoint they were a pleasure to interpret.
Mooney: Yeah. Bill had that sense of the actual feeling of things and of gimmicks and large against small, and all the variations of contrast, and it was a real pleasure to do his stuff. I shouldn’t say, “do his stuff,” but work with his script.
Stroud: You’ve also interpreted Jerry Siegel if I’m not mistaken. What was his scripting like?
Mooney: He was okay. I wasn’t mad about it, but he wrote well and I think I wouldn’t say, “Gee, it was exceptional,” but I enjoyed the few that I did with him.
Stroud: Okay. It was remarkable to me to discover just how many notable people you’d worked with over the years. When you worked with the different editors, were there any you preferred over others?
Mooney: Well, of course I didn’t like Mort’s personality, but I liked working with Mort, Mort Weisinger. And of course my favorite was Stan Lee. Stan and I started out together in the early days before Stan made his fortune. We’re very close friends. He used to come up and visit me at my place in Woodstock. I’d stay at his apartment in New York when I’d go to visit or have to drop something off. While he was in the east we used to get together quite often. His wife had an antique shop and my wife was into antiques, too, at the time.
Stroud: Oh, perfect.
Mooney: So they’d come out and visit me in Stanford, Connecticut where I lived and where we had the antique shop and the girls would go here and go there and of course Stan would just beat his brow. “This is terrible. Oh I can’t stand this. No more antiques.”
Above: Jim Mooney and Stan Lee, 1990
Mooney: The funny part of it is, we’d go to these beat-up antique malls and so on and thrift shops and we’d drive up in Stan’s Rolls. (Chuckle.) Talk about a contrast, it really was.
Stroud: I can just see it. Fabulous story. Did you ever do any strip work or dailies?
Mooney: Yeah, I did a few of the Spider-Man strips. Not the dailies, I did a few of the Sundays when they were on a spot there, I ghosted a few of them.
Stroud: That was one of the things that surprised me when I talked to Al Plastino. I didn’t realize he’d ever done the Batman daily strip and he said, “Oh, yeah, for 8 years.” I always try to remember to ask that question because I end up learning something.
Mooney: Well, I understand that was pretty decent. I understand they paid quite well for that, too, so he probably did pretty well.
Stroud: Yeah. It sounded like what you said earlier. A good, secure income stream. It seems like they didn’t call on you to do too many covers. As near as I can tell, the only ones that you did were the early Batman…
Mooney: The covers? Well, you see for so much of the time I was living in Hollywood and they liked to have a face to face conference on the covers, and then later I negotiated a contract with DC to receive a bi-monthly salary and to go to live wherever I wanted, so I moved to Florida. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: Not bad.
Mooney: So consequently, although I got all the work I wanted, they preferred somebody to come into the office and discuss the covers, so I never really was involved with the covers for that reason.
Stroud: That makes sense.
Mooney: They were in New York. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: It’s interesting; Carmine was telling me that…I think the different editors worked differently as near as I can tell. He said that quite often he would design the cover and then they would do the story around it, and Al was telling me that wasn’t the way he worked on the Superman titles for Weisinger, so do you happen to know how it went on the things you worked on?
Mooney: I would imagine it would be a totally different thing, because Weisinger was a very hard taskmaster. He was a very difficult guy to get along with, and it had to be Mort’s way or it didn’t go any way.
You know, Mort and I had quite a few bad times. We got along pretty well socially. When he came to visit Hollywood I took him out to the nightclubs and so on and he had a pretty good time. So socially, we got along okay, but as far as the professional end of it at times, if it didn’t go Mort’s way, Mort was as tempestuous and difficult to get along with as a spoiled child, and I think you’ve probably already seen that on one of my bios.
I had gone into the office to bring Mort my Supergirl, and he was busy and waved me out. So, I went into the other office and I was talking to Jack Schiff and Murray Boltinoff and the whole gang in there, and Mort came steaming in and, “When you come in here, you come to see me first and show me these Supergirls!” And I said, “Mort, I’ve got news for you. I’m not drawing your Supergirl anymore.” (Chuckle.) I quit right then and there and everyone in the office was aghast. Well, two weeks later I come into the office and Mort walks up to me as if nothing had ever happened and said, “Here’s your Supergirl script.”
Mooney: Which I thought was amusing as hell.
Stroud: Yeah, and that’s another consistent story I’ve heard. It seems like if people would stand up to him the bully façade went away.
Mooney: He was a very talented guy. He did a lot of writing for The Saturday Evening Post, for the big magazines and so on and I will not put Mort down, he was a very good writer, and a damn good editor as far as knowing what he wanted and the script he was editing.
Stroud: Just no social skills.
Mooney: A taskmaster.
Stroud: Understood. It’s interesting. I see where the very first Supergirl was designed and drawn by Al, but then it was immediately turned over to you. Do you know why that was?
Mooney: Yeah. So that I would never be called the creator on it.
Mooney: So in other words I would have no legal means to sue or to say, “You owe me more money,” or “I created it, so I should get more money.” That was a very slick thing on their part.
Stroud: Oh, that’s dirty.
Mooney: Consequently…it is, it’s very…to this day; I’m the one that worked on Supergirl, right to the very end, except for that one issue, but that was undoubtedly done by the legal department.
Stroud: Well, I’m sorry if I brought up a sore point.
Mooney: It was many years ago, but I no longer keep a band-aid on that one. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: And you’re absolutely right, when anyone thinks of Supergirl, you’re the one that leaps to mind, because you did it all.
Mooney: I did so many, yeah.
Stroud: Incredible. That never would have crossed my mind.
Mooney: You know to this day, despite Supergirl having been out of the limelight for so long, I get commission requests for Supergirl. In fact, I just did one. A lot of the guys want something a little bit racy. Not necessarily pornographic, I didn’t mean that, but as racy and as revealing as possible. They come in all the time. I don’t handle that many. I’m just not capable of doing that many commissions any more, but I would say at least one to two a month want something like that. In fact, I just did Supergirl with a spider costume on. (Chuckle.) A webbed costume on.
Stroud: Oh, goodness. Did it surprise you, or bother you or were you oblivious when they killed her off in the Crisis series?
Mooney: I had mixed feelings about it. You know I drew her for a long while, but I never got really attached to her where I would have said, “Gee, you know, I miss drawing her.” Let’s put it this way: Every other month it was pretty much the same thing. It was over and over again. Sure, they’d put her in a jungle somewhere on Venus or they’d have an offbeat story, but you could pretty much predict after every twelve issues there’s going to be a repeat of pretty much the same thing over and over again.
Stroud: Okay, so it got pretty repetitive and dull after awhile.
Mooney: It was repetitive and it was monotonous. I can’t say I was madly in love with the strip. It was just a nice, reliable source of income while it lasted.
Stroud: It seemed like there was sort of a house style that had to be adhered to, or at least that’s the legend. Any truth to that?
Mooney: On Supergirl?
Mooney: Not necessarily. My Supergirl was not truly, as I remember it, a house style. It was pretty much my own. In other words I drew her pretty much the way I wanted to and I would say that Supergirl looked more like my work than anything else, because I just didn’t try to imitate anybody else or follow any other style.
Stroud: Your style is pretty easily discernible. Very clean.
Mooney: Yeah. Well, I had pretty much the same thing. The big eyes and the way of drawing her. It was just pretty predictable. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: And there’s nothing wrong with that. Reliable is good. Am I correct in saying that you introduced the world to Streaky, the Super Cat?
Mooney: That was my own creation.
Mooney: Superhorse, somebody else created and all the others, but Streaky I put in on my own, in fact I love cats anyway. Right now I have seven of them.
Stroud: I’m supporting five myself. (Chuckle.)
Mooney: You know what it’s like. Yeah, I’ve got one that came to me as a kitten and he looks to some extent like Streaky, except that he doesn’t have the lightning strike on his side. (Chuckle.) Or the lightning pattern, rather.
Stroud: It seems like you were the super pet artist there for quite awhile. Al was telling me that that was the one character he kind of had difficulty with was Krypto. He said a flying dog is not a natural thing to draw, so it gave him fits sometimes. Did you experience anything like that?
Mooney: I didn’t do him that often. I had the super horse quite often. That was Comet, wasn’t it?
Mooney: That was one of the reasons I stayed away from Westerns. I wasn’t that adept at drawing horses, or at least it didn’t come that easily to me. (Chuckle.) I didn’t go around soliciting any western strips.
Stroud: You did some work at Marvel on Spider-Man. Did you get to know any of the creators over there?
Mooney: I knew John Romita, because he was there all the time, but some of the other people, I very seldom saw them, because we just came into the office at different times.
Stroud: Okay, so you weren’t really in the bullpen much at all.
Mooney: No, no. The only time I worked in the bullpen was when I worked at Fiction House and I was under contract there.
Stroud: That sounds right. I guess it was just my own ignorance, but I think it was Carmine who told me that the only ones on staff were the editors and the production department and that was it. Everyone else was just working at will, you might say.
Mooney: Yeah, I think at that time most of us were freelancing. Nobody really wanted to work in the office. I think there was one guy that did Superboy, I can’t think of his name now, (George Papp) that worked in the office for a while, but most of us tried to avoid it. Who the hell wants to get up in the morning, keep regular hours, take a train in, take a train home again?
Stroud: Absolutely. Not much appeal in that. (Laughter.)
Mooney: That’s not the type of life I think most of us really envisioned.
Stroud: Was there any favorite character that you liked dealing with?
Mooney: I would say probably Man-Thing. I loved working with Steve Gerber and Omega to a certain extent, too, but Man-Thing was one of my very favorites.
Stroud: Why do you think that was?
Mooney: I don’t know. It just appealed to me. For one thing I liked the writing. The very fact that Steve could tell a story and I would find it interesting instead of saying, “Well, okay, I know pretty much what’s going to happen. This is going to happen, that’s going to happen.”
With Steve I was never totally sure what might happen in a script. (Chuckle.) It was a never-never land that we were in there some of the time and some of the things that we covered were, to say the least, offbeat.
Stroud: Okay, so you got to exercise the imagination a little more. I can see where that would be appealing. Now on the flipside, were there any characters you really didn’t like dealing with?
Mooney: Well, Legion of Super-Heroes because there were so many. I enjoyed them, but it was really a task. And of course the other one was Dial H for Hero, because we had so many heroes and villains to come out with every issue. I enjoyed the strip, but it was a task, and it took me much longer.
Stroud: It just had to be daunting, I just can’t think of any other word. That was something Carmine told me. He said, “I was so glad I never had to do the Justice League. How Sekowsky ever did that was beyond me.” For the same reasons you’re talking about. Just too many characters and trying to keep it all coordinated and together.
Mooney: You know, it’s been fun through these years and I’ve enjoyed an awful lot of it and in many ways I’ve had the freedom as an example, living under a contract.
Here I’ve been in Florida, paid to do this stuff and at that time I was still in pretty good shape and I used to like to do a lot of surfing and I’d go swimming a lot. We’d go scuba diving and I did a lot of things I enjoyed while I was still able to do it. Right now, unfortunately, I’m not physically capable of doing any of that. I have a lot of physical infirmities, which I suppose are par for the course when you get older. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: Well, yeah, I was gonna say, if my information is correct, you’re 88 years of age.
Stroud: Wow. When was your birthday?
Mooney: August 13th. I’ve got a little while to go to still be 88. (Chuckle.) One of those things. I’m not complaining. There are a lot of pluses, but you see at this age, I’m not driving. All things considered, I must say that the Golden Years aren’t always the greatest. (Chuckle.) They’re somewhat limiting, to say the least.
Stroud: I heard someone say once, “The Golden Years are filled with Lead.”
Mooney: (chuckle.) I’ll have to remember that.
Stroud: Do you get to the conventions much anymore, Mr. Mooney?
Mooney: I did for a while when my wife was alive. My wife died a couple of years ago…
Stroud: Oh, I’m so sorry.
Mooney: We did them all, in fact. We did the ones around here. Orlando. We did San Diego several times and Seattle. We did them all. Annie loved that. She was great because she’d take over and give me a breather when I had too many fans or too many people coming around the table. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: I imagine that does get a little intimidating. I haven’t been to one yet, but I’d love to one of these days.
Mooney: They’re fascinating. The one I’ll tell you that you don’t want to miss, even though it’s an ordeal, is San Diego.
Stroud: That’s what I hear. That’s the silver tuna.
Mooney: Wow, wow, wow. The last one I went to two years ago I was pretty much confined to a scooter and a wheelchair, but I went with a friend of mine and there were 110,000 people at that one.
Stroud: Holy cow!
Mooney: To get from your table to the bathroom or to a particular speaking engagement, whew! It was exhausting.
Stroud: You had to plan ahead, it sounds like. Now the recent series of superhero stamps, was that your Supergirl on the postage stamp?
Mooney: I haven’t seen it, but I don’t think so. I think it probably was Curt Swan’s. Somebody told me about it and they said, “Is it yours?” and I think I asked somebody else they said, “Oh, no, Jim, that’s not yours,” somebody knowledgeable on comics and they said, “It looks more like Curt Swan’s.” I wish it had been mine.
Stroud: When you did your work with Marvel, obviously you and Stan were good friends. Did you feel like you had more creative freedom there as opposed to DC?
Mooney: Yeah, of course I loved working with Stan. Sometimes when he’d give you a script he gave you just the basic outline of the script and you’d finish it up and bring it to completion. Stan and I have been good friends for, my God, decades. (Chuckle.)
You know I still talk to Stan a couple of times a month and the thing that amazes me is he’s only a few years younger than I am, but my God he’s still going strong. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: It’s impressive. It really is.
Mooney: I think he’s probably created more in comics than anybody else. Well, I don’t think, I know. And the very fact that he’s got that So You Want to be a Superhero on. The last time I met Stan, the last time I was out there, my God it’s got to be over 10 years ago, I stayed at his place in Beverly Hills for a while and even then it was go, go go.
Stroud: And the cameos in the movies.
Mooney: I watch for those. It’s so strange, because I look at Stan and I think, “My God, you’re still going, but you look almost as old as…” Of course I let him know that each time I talk to him. (Laughter.)
Stroud: When you worked for Marvel, did you use the aliases like some of your fellow artists did or did you bother with that?
Mooney: No, not really. I didn’t use any of that stuff at all. Some of the guys who were under contract to DC and worked for Marvel on a freelance basis did use pseudonyms because they didn’t want DC to know they were working for Marvel.
Stroud: Oh, so that was the difference. Okay.
Mooney: In other words, when I went to Marvel, I went to Marvel primarily because things were getting a little bit rugged at DC. I wasn’t getting along too well with a few people there and I approached Stan. I said, “You know, if anything comes up, let me know.” He said, “Well, great I need someone to help John Romita out on Spider-Man.” So I latched onto that.
Stroud: It worked out very well. So you were right there after [Steve] Ditko left, then.
Mooney: Yeah, after Romita took over, yeah.
Stroud: Did that intimidate you at all or did you give it a second thought?
Mooney: You know I never met Ditko. Evidently Ditko was kind of an odd person. As I understand it a very difficult person to get to know.
Stroud: He seems to march to the beat of his own drummer.
Mooney: And it was a strange and singular beat, I understand.
Stroud: (chuckle.) I like that. I think I’ll use that one, if you don’t mind.
Mooney: You’re welcome to it. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: Was there ever a title you wish you’d had a shot at and didn’t get to do?
Mooney: I can’t really recall anything that I didn’t get that I wanted. Almost everything that came down the pike I liked, but I don’t remember coveting one particular thing and never getting it. There were so damn many I don’t think there was anything I didn’t do. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: Yeah, I saw where you even did some brief stints on Aquaman and the Flash. You really covered the gamut and worked on all the big ones, Batman, Superman, Spider-Man. I couldn’t think of much you hadn’t had a shot at.
Mooney: That’s for sure.
Stroud: When exactly did you retire, or do you consider yourself retired?
Mooney: Well, my contract was up with Marvel when I was 65. That was when I was getting the regular bi-monthly salary. So I freelanced after that and I’ve been freelancing ever since. The period of time that I mentioned that I was under contract was really only a period of I guess about 10 years. Maybe a little less, I don’t know.
But that was the main reason I moved to Florida. That way I just felt that I didn’t have to go into the office and beat the bushes for work. The work was going to come in as long as they were paying me so much every couple of times a month. They were going to try to provide the work to make me work for the money they were giving me. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: Not bad. Not bad at all. You mentioned your commission business. That’s pretty steady, I guess.
Mooney: Not as good as it once was. Right now I’m doing a Gwen Stacy in a Santa Claus costume. He wanted a Gwen Stacy in a Santa costume.
Stroud: (chuckle.) More cheesecake.
Mooney: More cheesecake. God knows I’ve done enough of it. You know I did a strip called Pussycat for many years. I’m sure you’ve seen that.
Stroud: Actually I have not.
Mooney: Yeah, that was in the male magazines. In fact, the first one that I ever did Stan Lee wrote. In one of their male magazines, I can’t tell you the title now, but I did quite a few of those and later his brother Larry wrote it.
Stroud: Larry Lieber. I’ve heard of him. So you’ve really ranged far and wide in your career.
Mooney: Well, I’ve had a lot of time to range and a lot of space to get wide in. (Chuckle.)