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Golden Age Profiles: Jim Mooney

Golden Age Profiles: Jim Mooney

Jim Mooney has pencilled and inked thousands of pages of comic book art and even written his fair share. His career as a comic book artist began in 1940, in the Golden-Age of comics. He worked on many of DC and Marvel’s top-selling characters including Spiderman, Batman, Superboy and dozens of others. Jim told AC’s Mark Heike about his first assignments in the field of comic books and the events leading up to this assignment.

As a young man in the late 1930′s the art school student joined a club called The Science Fiction League. Here he met fledgling science fiction writers like Julius Schwartz, Robert Block, Ray Bradberry and Henry “Hank” Kuttner. His friend “Hank” told him about a new industry growing in New York. He thought Jim would be perfect for, that’s right… comic books. So, off he went to try the unknown.

He interviewed with Victor Fox, publisher of Fox Features and based on that interview Jim got his first comic book art assignment in 1940, from the young company just in their second year of publishing comic books. He was assigned to do the art for the first story on a character called The MOTH. The writer suggested to him that this character had much in common with a character from another publisher called BATMAN. Taking a look at The BATMAN, Jim ‘s character was too similar and DC Comics took legal action causing Fox to cease publishing the character. The MOTH appeared in only four stories in issues #9-13 of an anthology book entitled “Mystery Men”…. all in 1940. That was the end of his association with Fox Features.

Jim Mooney’s next exciting assignment was as an artist in the famous Eisner- Iger Shop. He left after only two weeks and a couple of small assignments because he was so intimidated by working along side the likes of Will Eisner, Reed Crandell and Lou Fine. He says of the experience, “I was in over my head. I felt I had lots more to learn”.

From here he landed his first freelance account with ACE Comics working on a character called MAGNO the Magnetic Man. His wonderful art popped up on characters like ACE’s Lash Lightening, The Flag, The Raven, Captain Courageous etc. He pencilled, inked and lettered his freelance work and also did lots of covers while working for ACE. While working for a shop, many artists would have a hand in completing a story, passing it around to various artists. Freelance artists, working at home, pretty much did it all often including the writing as well.

While at ACE, Jim teamed up with a writer named Bob Turner, who later wrote for television on such shows as “Gunsmoke”. The two created a character they named Wildfire, with Bob writing and Jim penciling and inking. They sold that feature to Quality Comics where it ran in the anthology title, “Smash Comics” from issue #25 through #37.

Making the rounds of the early publishers, Jim went from ACE to Timely Comics where he met Stan Lee for the first time. Here he did his first funny animal work. As a freelancer, there wasn’t a great deal of work for him at Timely, so he supplemented his income by working in the bullpen at Fiction House for eight or nine months where he worked on Suicide Smith and Camilla. He continued to freelance for Timely, but to replace the Fiction House income he decided to try DC Comics.

At DC Comics he interviewed with editor Whit Ellsworth who said they didn’t need funny animal artists but rather needed someone to work on Batman. Jim says, “When I expressed interest in that, Whit bellowed, ‘What makes you think you can draw The Batman?!’ Well, I pulled out The Moth stuff and I said, ‘Well, you thought my work looked enough like Batman to sue Fox… what do you think?’ ” After working for many of the early Golden-Age comic book publishers (Fox Features, ACE Comics, Quality Comics, Timely Comics, Fiction House and the famous Eisner-Iger Shop) Jim Mooney had found a professional home at DC Comics where he stayed for the next 22 years (1946-68) until DC changed their style and no longer had work for him. Not missing a beat, he then began work on Marvel’s Spiderman. Jim Mooney was one of only a handful of comic book artists whose career spanned the entire history of the American comic book from the early Golden-Age to the modern era.

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