Clarence Matthew Baker was a Black comic book artist who died in 1959. He attended the Cooper Union School of Engineering, Art, and Design in New York. In 1944, he got a job as a background artist with the S.M. Iger Studio. His first published work was in Jumbo Comics #69.
Baker is best remembered for the costumed crime-fighter Phantom Lady and as the medium’s first known Black artist; he was active as early as the 1930s-40s Golden Age of comic books. Baker penciled what is arguably the first graphic novel, St. John Publications’ digest-sized “picture novel” It Rhymes with Lust (1950). His speciality was drawing “good girl art”, a comics sub-genre for which his available work is in high demand with collectors. Baker’s career was launched at the Iger Studio, one of many 1940s “packagers” who provided outsourced comics on demand for eager publishers entering the new medium. Through Iger, Baker produced work for various publishers including St. John, Fiction House, Fox, and Quality Comics.
The Phantom Lady (created by Arthur Peddy in 1941) was a Quality Comics feature supplied by the Iger Studio. After Quality dropped her feature in Police Comics, Iger supplied her to Fox Comics, which had also requested a sexy costumed adventuress. Matt Baker redesigned the character into her best-known incarnation, and she debuted in Fox’s Phantom Lady #13 (Aug. 1947), the premiere issue after taking over the numbering of the canceled comic Wotalife. Baker’s Phantom Lady also appeared as a backup feature in All Top Comics #9-16.
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