Irwin Hasen was a comic book artist who co-created Wildcat with Bill Finger. I interviewed Irwin for Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman.
Of the eight Golden and Silver Age creators (Jerry Robinson, Shelly Moldoff, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Alvin Schwartz, Joe Kubert, Arnold Drake, Carmine Infantino, Irwin) whose previously unpublished interviews I'm posting, Irwin is the second oldest (after Alvin)—and last one living.
The interview is transcribed (and slightly edited) from a
What say you about Bill Finger?
Bill Finger was the greatest guy in the business at the time. A very sad character. He was always late. Always needed money.
What was your first impression of Bill?
A nice guy. We had a lot of common. We became friends. We became very close friends. And he was a very sweet guy.
What did you have in common?
Socially. We’d go out occasionally together. I met with his wife, Portia. We were like buddies.
What was he like when working? Was he making jokes?
A very civilized jokester. He was erudite and very, very smart. He wasn’t clever, but he was smart guy.
What is the difference between smart and clever?
He wasn’t a wiseguy. He was just a low-key, lovely guy. Very serious. And we made each other laugh.
Did he ever talk to you about working on Batman?
No, he never did. We worked on the Green Lantern stories, and of course Wildcat, which he and I both created, with Sheldon Mayer. [Irwin doesn’t read comics today, they can’t tell stories, idol is Alex Toth, and Irwin was Toth’s idol, Toth was 12 years younger than Hasen] I hope I’m not talking too much.
[I said of course not, backed up and told him I’m working on book on Bill Finger for young people]
Really? Good for you. Good for you.
[asked about texture of Bill’s life]
The texture of his life was very [vague?] and fleeting. He was never anchored. He was always in trouble financially.
Were you in touch with him until his death?
Did you hear about his death?
I heard vaguely about his death.
But you didn’t go to his funeral?
No, I didn’t. I didn’t know where the hell it was. I don’t think he had one. He was a very underrated guy. … But Bill lived in obscurity.
So if there’s one thing you want conveyed in a book about him, what would that be?
I would say he was probably the most flamboyant creative artist in the stable of writers. He was short-lived and no one gave him that much credit except after he died. Of all of the writers, he was probably the most creative.
Do you have any photographs of him?
No. Isn’t that funny, I really don’t.
What did Bill look like?
A short man. Very good looking. He looked like a college professor.
Did he wear glasses?
I don’t think so, except probably when he worked.
He was well-dressed?
Always nattily dressed. He looked like an elegant professor.
Did you ever go golfing with him?
No, I never did. I never played golf. I played tennis all my life and he didn’t play tennis. … We drank … We weren’t drunks but we drank. We worked our tail off and when we delivered our work we bumped into each other, that’s all.
[I asked if he has any late night anecdotes about Bill]
No, I don’t. He was very secluded with his wife, Portia. I only saw them together, usually. Bill was a very elusive guy. He was only a couple inches taller than I was.
How tall is that?
I’m 5’2”. He was probably 5’4”.
What about Portia, what did she look like?
Very, very heavy. I don’t want to put her down but she was very heavy. Short. She was delightful. Delightful sense of humor. She and I hit it off beautifully. She and I became more friends than he and I.
Were you in touch with her later in life?
Did you know [Bill’s son] Freddie?
No. … Bill was his own worst enemy. He just couldn’t keep up with deadlines and they didn’t want to pay him anymore.
Do you think that he regretted that he was never more assertive and asked for credit?
Possibly. I don’t know. When I did Wildcat, I insisted—that’s one thing I did nice in my youth—I insisted that his name would be next to mine.
[asked if he gets royalties for Wildcat, said no, Arnold Drake is going after getting credit, Irwin went to DC couple years ago cause Nodell got big sum for Green Lantern, approached Paul Levitz gingerly with articles that say he created Wildcat, DC said Wildcat is not a big thing with them, not busy with it, sort of patted Irwin on the head, said Arnold said they might make Deadman movie, he said “Arnold has dreams,” don’t want to risk that Wildcat becomes big, they send him Wildcat statues that are “disgusting”; after more shootbreezing, said Jerry Robinson most talented guy in the business]
Anything else about Bill?
I can’t tell you—he was an elusive character, that’s all I can say. If you can get something out of that, which could be interesting, by the way, it could be an interesting path. An elusive kind of a chap, elegant, he looked like a guy just out of Yale.
He looked handsome in those photos.
But some people have said he wasn’t handsome.
He was a good looking. Don’t believe them. He had a lovely and refined looking little face (laughs)—little face, I like the way I talk about him. And he always smoked a pipe. And I loved to make him laugh.