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Matt Baker | Great Black Heroes

Matt Baker is usually thought-about the primary recognized successful African-American artist in the comic-book business.

Clarence Matthew Baker was born on December 10, 1921 in Forsyth County, North Carolina. The son of Clarence and Ethel Baker, Matt and his brothers Robert and John, moved with their mother and father to Pittsburgh, PA. Someplace around 1940 he graduated from high school and moved to Washington, DC, the place he discovered a job working for the government. Whereas lots of his contemporaries have been being drafted into the army over subsequent yr, Baker was not eligible for army service as he was discovered to be affected by a heart ailment, the result of a childhood bout with rheumatic fever. He moved to to New York Metropolis to review artwork on the Cooper Union Faculty of Engineering, Art, and Design, a privately funded school situated in the East Village. He had been an avid drawer and found inspiration from lots of his inventive heroes corresponding to magazine illustrator Andrew Loomis, and comic ebook artists Will Eisner, Reed Crandall, Alex Blum and  Lou Wonderful.

He started his art profession in 1944 becoming a member of the S.M. Igor Studio as a background artist. The Igor Studio was a comics packager which produced  ready-to-print function material for comedian guide publishers. Igor recalled Baker coming in for a job interview. “[Baker] came to my studio in the early ’40s; handsome and nattily dressed, ‘looking for a job’, as he put it. His only sample was a color sketch of—naturally—a beautiful gal! On the strength of that and a nod from my associate editor Ruth Roche, he was hired as a background artist. … When given his first script, he showed originality and faithfully executed its story line. His drawing was superb. His women were gorgeous!”

His first task was to work as a penciller and the inker on the 12 page Sheena, Queen of the Jungle story in Fiction Home’s Jumbo Comics #69. Within the comedian ebook business, a penciller offers a rough draft of the visible view of the storyline, providing a format of the scenes. These scenes have been drawn in pencil as a result of they might go through a number of drafts after being introduced to the editor. As defined by Wikipedia, an inker “outlines, interprets, finalizes, retraces this drawing by using a pen or a brush.” During this period of time which historians confer with as the “Golden Age of Comic Books,” Baker did work by way of Iger’s studio for Fox Comics, Fiction House, High quality Comics and St. John Publications. In his earliest days he pencilled the backgrounds as well as the female type for other artists. Thus, much of his work was inked over by other artists who obtained credit score for the inventive work. He developed a fame early on as probably the greatest “Good Girl” artists in the business, a master at drawing the feminine type. He paid attention to the smaller particulars that allowed his comedian e-book heroine to return alive as a more strong character.

Matt Jones - greatblackheroes.comGood Woman Art, as outlined by American science fiction and mystery writer Richard  Lupoff  is “a cover illustration depicting an attractive young woman, usually in skimpy or form-fitting clothing, and designed for erotic stimulation. The term does not apply to the morality of the “good girl”, who is usually a gun moll, robust cookie or depraved temptress.”

In 1944 Baker took over because the principle artist on “Sky Girl”, a daily function in Fiction House’s Jumbo Comics. Sky Woman advised the story of an Irish Redhead named Ginger McGuire who worked as a ferry pilot in the Pacific theater of World Warfare II, serving to to struggle towards the Japanese. He drew for this collection until its last difficulty in August 1948. In December 1946, Matt illustrated the favored character Lorna Dorne for Basic Comics. At about the same time, he was assigned to a Fiction Home Struggle Comics function referred to as “Tiger Girl.” Tiger Woman was a blonde bombshell with a magic amulet and a Shakespearean vocabulary. Baker worked on her comic for three years.

His most well-known character was Phantom Woman. Phantom Woman was very similar to some other feminine character in these days. She was a Washington socialite who needed to struggle crime, designed a super-heroine outfit and use a “Blackout Ray” invented by a good friend of her father. When Victor Fox of Fox Features Syndicate asked the Iger Studios to furnish him with a horny feminine costumed hero, Iger despatched him Phantom Woman and assigned Baker to the artistry. Baker immediately made modifications to the character and her costume. He put her in blue short-shorts with slits up the edges and an identical halter prime. He gave her a belt in front and a dramatically plunging neckline along with a scarlet cape. This look turned her hottest model and premiered in Fox’s Phantom Woman #13 in August 1947. He pencilled and inked the character via 1949.

Baker’s personal life was somewhat of a thriller, with some describing him as a critical women man and others suggesting that he was a gay, the proverbial confirmed bachelor. What is understood is that he lived in a 5 story constructing in Manhattan, by which he worked all hours of the night time. He typically labored for days on finish earlier than collapsing into a number of days of sleep. He was described by everyone as a very handsome man, standing 5’ 10” and as one of the coolest, hippest dressers in all of New York Metropolis, jetting round town in a canary yellow convertible Oldsmobile. He completely loved his life within the Massive Apple, burning the candle at both ends, enjoying jazz music and working arduous as one of the crucial prolific artists in the comic e-book business. Sadly, he still had the weakened heart, which ailed him each time he needed to take the steps to his house or make a brisk walk on the street, leaving him respiration heavily and exhausted.

“Matt Baker’s unique contribution to the field of GOLDEN-AGE COMIC BOOK ART sustains a growing popularity for the books he illustrated.” –
Richard Muchin, Golden Age Comic Guide Skilled,

Matt did not speak brazenly about his place as a Black man in an virtually all white subject, but as an alternative let his expertise speak for him. As fellow artist Al Feldstein stated “he was a rare phenomenon in an industry almost totally dominated by white males. However, he was extremely talented, and it was his talent that overcame any resistance to his presence based on racial bias. But I feel that Matt, personally, was acutely aware of the perceived chasm that separated him from the rest of us. And it may be that because of that perceived problem there is little known about Matt Baker, aside from his stunning artwork that speaks for himself.”

He started working for St. John Publications in 1948 and became the corporate’s lead artist. He pencilled the groundbreaking image novel “It Rhyme With Lust,” in 1950, which many contemplate the earliest form of the fashionable graphic novel. He also produced “Flamingo” from 1952 to 1954 as a syndicated cartoon for Phoenix Options.

Matt Baker - greatblackheroes.comBaker went on to work on other characters which he popularized over the subsequent decade. Certainly one of his first endeavors for St. John Publications was “Canteen Kate.” Baker drew all 22 installments of the collection targeted on the kooky “Korean War-time” cutie and her morale-boosting screwball antics. He then started an extended string of work on romance titles corresponding to Teen-Age Romances, Diary Secrets and techniques, Teen-Age Temptations, Pictorial Romance and Wartime Romances. Through the years, because of his experience in the feminine type, these would develop into a few of the hottest and sought after titles that he offered paintings for.

While his depiction of attractive ladies can be seen as groundbreaking in trendy occasions, the risque drawings drew the ire of conservative organizations again within the 1950s. Dr. Fredric Wertham, the anti-comic e-book propagandist, featured Baker’s paintings from the duvet of Phantom Woman #17 in his guide “Seduction of the Innocent” in 1954,  a e-book that created alarm amongst mother and father and prompted them to push the comic ebook business to determine the the Comics Code Authority with a view to voluntarily self-censor their titles.

Matt Baker - greatblackheroes.comLater in the decade, Baker labored as a freelancer for Atlas Comics, a company that might ultimately evolve into Marvel Comics. His first task in December 1955 was engaged on a five-page anthological story titled “Showdown at Sunup” in Gunsmoke Western #32, which he pencilled and inked alongside a script presumed to have been authored by comedian ebook legend Stan Lee.  He would proceed drawing westerns throughout this era, drawing for Atlas’ Western Outlaws, Quick Trigger Action, Frontier Western, and Wild Western. He even prolonged his work to the realm of science fiction anthologies similar to Unusual Tales, World of Fantasy, and Tales to Astonish (“I Fell to the Center of the Earth!” in situation #2, March 1959). Baker’s final confirmed work was on a six-page story titled “I Gave Up the Man I Love!” in the Atlas/Marvel’s My Own Romance #73, revealed in January  1960.

Matt Baker -

In the long run, Baker’s weakened coronary heart would betray him. After struggling a stroke in 1957 which affected his inventive talents, Matt Baker died on August 11, 1959 in New York City, the victim of a heart assault. As one in every of, if not the primary, Black artists on the planet of comedian books, a lot of Baker’s career and life was lived underneath the radar and thus like many men of mystery, his legend has grown through the years. His means to maneuver from drawing super-heroines, to struggle themed tales to romance tales to the exploits of cowboys demonstrated his vast inventive vary and willingness to tackle challenges. He is now very nicely considered an artist and lots of marvel what ranges of success he would have loved had he been a white artist and never been betrayed by a nasty heart.

Baker was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic E-book Corridor of Fame in 2009, abandoning a legacy that ought to show to be a model for younger Black artists following in his path.

Misplaced Artwork of Matt Baker : The Complete Canteen Kate [BOOK] [big-sep]


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