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Matt Baker (American, 1921-1959)

Comic Book Art

Matt Baker (American 1921-1959) is considered to be the first African American comic book artist. Baker began his art career in 1944 when he joined the Iger Studio after graduating from Cooper Union School of Engineering, Art, and Design.

Clarence Matthew Baker was given his first task as a background artist. Baker only brought one drawing to the interview, but Iger thought that the “beautiful gal” color sample was good enough to earn him a position within the studio. Baker’s first assignment was to work as a penciller and inker on Jumbo Comics #69. Through Iger’s shop, Baker worked for a wide array of different comic firms, such as Fiction House, Quality Comics, St. John Publications, and Fox Comics. Although a lot of his work was credited to other artists, he quickly advanced his status within the comic book industry as one of the best “Good Girl” artists.

Baker hit gold with his take on Phantom Lady, his most well-known character. Phantom Lady was another one of Baker’s “Good Girl” creations. She was your typical aspiring crime fighter from Washington, and Baker’s idea for her brand new look resonated extremely well with readers. In 1947, Phantom Lady’s blue outfit and scarlet cape was unveiled in Phantom Lady #13, and Baker would continue to work on her for most of 1949.

Not much is known about Baker’s personal life, but what is known is that he was a dedicated worker and a handsomely dressed individual. He loved New York, Jazz, and his yellow convertible. In a field dominated by white males, Baker excelled and let his artistic talents overcome any racial bias he may have faced, but because of this bias he may have withheld information about his life.

In 1948, Matt Baker began working for St. John Publications as their lead artist. It was around this time that one of the earliest graphic novels came to be when Baker penciled in “It Rhymes With Lust.” Aside from St. Johns, Matt did some freelance work for Atlas comics throughout the fifties.

On August 11, 1959, the artist died from a heart attack. Baker was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009.

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