A BIRTHDAY SALUTE: The celebrated Mr. K brings you a Baker’s dozen of lusty encounters…
By PAUL KUPPERBERG
Matt Baker’s (Dec. 10, 1921 – Aug. 11, 1959) importance to comics history is far greater than his contribution of the couple of hundred stories he published in his career for companies including Quality Comics, St. Johns Publications, Fiction House, Fox and Atlas. Known as perhaps the premier “good girl” artist of the Golden Age for his work on, among other things, Phantom Lady (1947-49) and Canteen Kate (1951-53), Baker was also one of the first known Black artists to find a career in the fledging industry.
Baker was born in North Carolina and grew up in Pennsylvania and then lived in Washington, D.C., before beginning his study of art at New York’s Cooper Union during World War II, after a heart condition prevented him from being drafted into military service. He started his career with the Jerry Iger Studio, a comic book packager run by the former partner of Will Eisner who supplied companies including Fiction House and Quality with stories and art. According to “Matt Baker – First Black Comic Book Artist” that appeared on greatblackheroes.com in 2016, Iger hired the young artist on the spot, based on a single color sketch in his portfolio. Baker quickly went from being a studio background artist to penciling and inking his own work, beginning with a Sheena, Queen of the Jungle story in Jumbo Comics #69 (Nov. 1944).
Despite credits in a variety of genres, from adventure to suspense to Westerns to science fiction — as well as for penciling one of the earliest known “graphic novels,” It Rhymes with Lust (St. Johns, 1950) with writers Leslie Waller and Arnold Drake, and for co-creating the jungle hero Voodah for McCombs’ Crown Comics #3 (Fall 1945), which writer John Arcudi described in Rumble #14 (2017) as “the first known Black hero in American comics” — it is Baker’s “good girl” art that fans remember best. Baker’s work was so emblematic of the label that his cover for Phantom Lady #17 (April 1948) was infamously highlighted in Fredric Wertham’s 1954 condemnation of comic books and their ill effect on children, Seduction of the Innocent.
Pardon my cliché, but sometimes a picture is best left to do what words sometimes fail at… or, in this case, 13 pictures! Here then, MY 13 FAVORITE MATT BAKER ROMANCE COMICS COVERS:
In chronological order:
— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite FRANK SPRINGER Comics and Covers. Click here.
— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite BOB BROWN Covers. Click here.
Sure, you know PAUL KUPPERBERG as the prolific writer of over a thousand comic books for such characters and series as Superman, Aquaman, Doom Patrol, Vigilante, Life with Archie, Bart Simpson, Scooby-Doo, and dozens more for DC Comics, Archie Comics, Bongo Comics, and others, and that he is also the creator of the series Arion, Lord of Atlantis, Checkmate and Takion, and is a former editor for DC, Weekly World News, and WWE Kids Magazine. But Paul is also the author of numerous books, including the superhero novel JSA: Ragnarok and the comics industry-based murder mystery, The Same Old Story, not to mention (but we will anyway) Paul Kupperberg’s Illustrated Guide to Writing Comics, I Never Write for the Money, But I Always Turn in the Manuscript for a Check, Direct Comments: Comic Book Creators in their Own Words, The Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg and Son of the Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg. You can follow Paul at PaulKupperberg.com and at Crazy8Press.com.