THE EVOLUTION OF THE MOOKS
The Mooks began circa 1998-99 in between record deals while sitting in my friend’s pizzeria trying to figure out my next move. He created a gelato recipe and we were thinking about starting an Italian ice company. I immediately began doodling neighborhood characters to brand it. At the time, The Simpsons were big and South Park had just come out. Maybe that had a hand in the way I drew the Mooks. Once I created the first character, it popped into my head, "He looks like a mook". Then I drew Mama. I could just hear her saying, "My sons are a buncha mooks.”
The story started to formulate in my head. I imagined a "disorganized" crime family living in Brooklyn, led by their meatball-making mother. The character of Mama Mook was inspired by my mother-in-law and my great-grandmother Mary Quatrone. She wore only black outfits, was about 5 feet tall, and hid behind big black thick-rimmed eye glasses. She lived in the apartment below us in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Her apartment was always dark. She never had lights on, it was just lit by candles. In the hallways you could smell the aroma of her Sunday sauce. Creepy pictures of saints and Jesus adorned the walls. She was constantly praying, talking in Italian, and when she got mad she wasn’t afraid of dropping some colorful phrases! One in particular stands out in my mind. She used to scream “Shvacheeeem,” like she was summoning the devil!
My imagination would run wild. I always thought she could be an Italian witch practicing some kind of witchcraft. As a kid I loved to watch The Munsters and The Addams Family on TV. I thought what if I combine The Godfather and The Munsters— now that would be a cartoon I would really dig. Mobsters that were monsters! I approached my friend Sacha Jenkins about running a comic strip in his magazine, Mass Appeal. Shortly after, The Mooks came alive, and it’s been a passion project ever since!