Matt Baker was born Clarence Matthew Baker on December 10, 1921, in Forsyth County, North Carolina. When he was only a child, the Baker family relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He showed an interest in drawing at an early age, a talent that would make him a successful man.
Baker graduated from high school ca. 1940. He then moved to Washington D.C. Having been born with a heart condition, he was able to avoid being drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II (WWII). Instead of going off to war, he went off to college. He studied art at Cooper Union, in New York City.
‘Sheena, Queen of the Jungle’
With his portfolio consisting of a single sample of a color sketch, Baker entered Jerry Iger’s studio in search of opportunity. The woman that Baker had drawn seemed to possess a natural beauty that captivated Iger. Iger hired Baker on the spot to work as a background artist. Baker’s first comic work was penciling and inking the women of ‘Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.’
After landing his first gig with Iger, Baker was often hired to pencil the backgrounds and female forms for a multitude of comics. Once he had completed his penciling, other artists would then ink over his work and often receive all of the credit. But Baker quickly became a highly sought after “Good Girl” artist because of his attention to detail when drawing the female form.
Baker contributed immensely to comic book artwork during the Golden Age of Comic Books (1930s-1950s). he worked for Fiction House, Fox Comics, Quality Comics, and more. He later collaborated with inker Jon D’Agostino as Matt Bakerino at Charlton Comics.
After the ‘Phantom Lady’ comic books were dropped by Quality Comics, Iger supplied it to Fox Comics. Baker created the most famous depiction of the ‘Phantom Lady’ which later served as validation for comic book censorship from the Comics Code Authority (CCA).
In 1954, Dr. Frederick Wertham claimed that comics had negative effects on children’s’ development and used Baker’s semi-risque rendition of ‘Phantom Lady’ as the foundation for his argument.
Baker continued illustrating comics for various companies, including Atlas Comics, the precursor to Marvel Comics. His artwork spans the genres of action to Westerns to romance comics. He illustrated until he died. Matt Baker died of a heart attack in 1959 in his late 30s. He was posthumously inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.
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