This month I will share stories on Black History Month – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. History isn’t always pretty and sometimes we sanitize that which makes us uncomfortable. Here I will share all facets of Black History and try to focus on people not necessarily in the history books.
The Good – Matt Baker
Another North Carolinian, Matt Baker was born in Forsyth County on Dec. 10, 1921. His family later moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and after graduating high school, he moved to Washington, DC to work for the government. The United States entered World War II, but Baker could not join the military due to a heart ailment, so he decided to go to school. An avid drawer, Baker moved to New York City to study art at the Cooper Union School of Engineering, Art, and Design.
In 1944, Baker started working at the S.M. Igor Studio as a background artist. His first work was as a penciller and inker for the woman in “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.” Baker worked for several comic publishers but he did not receive credit. However, during this era of the Golden Age of Comic Books, he was known as the best “Good Girl” artist as he was great at drawing the female form.
Baker was mostly known for “Phantom Lady.” “Phantom Lady” originated in 1941 but came across Baker’s desk in 1947. He changed the look by putting the character in blue short-shorts with slits up the sides, a matching halter top, a belt in front, and a dramatically plunging neckline along with a scarlet cape.
In addition to “Phantom Lady” baker also worked on “Canteen Kate,” “Tales of The Mysterious Traveler,” “Tiger Girl,” “Flamingo,” “South Sea Girl,” “Glory Forbes,” “Kayo Kirby,” “Risks Unlimited,” and more.
Not much was known about Baker’s personal life. Some thought he was a ladies man while others thought he was a homosexual. He was well dressed, drove around in a yellow, convertible Oldsmobile, but also worked for days without sleeping. In 1957, Baker had a stroke and died on Aug. 11, 1959 from a heart attack at the age of 37.
Baker was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009.
Chamberlain, Gaius (2016,January 14). Matt Baker. Great Black Heroes. Retrieved February 8, 2017, from http://www.greatblackheroes.com/entertainment/matt-baker/
Matt Baker (artist). (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 8, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Baker_(artist)