Historiography Saturday: Matt Baker

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“Golden Age” comics artist Clarence Matthew Baker is remembered primarily for his “good girl” pieces, a genre featuring scantily-clad pin up-style heroines, but he was involved in pencil and ink work for romance, Western, and science fiction styles as well. His cover for Phantom Lady #17 received a special shoutout in Seduction of the Innocent, an exaggerated chronicle of comics’ moral failures that helped spawn the Comics Code AuthorityIt Rhymes with Lust, considered one of the precursors to the modern graphic novel, was another one of his projects. Along with his artistic accomplishments, Baker is notable for being the first black comic book illustrator; his entrance into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame; and his uncommonly snappy taste in clothing.

Vehement disagreement exists among Baker’s friends and relations regarding his sexual orientation. As chronicled in the biography Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour, accounts range from assertions that he was gay, to outright denials, to a joke about him being a womanizer. Baker himself never spoke on the issue, leaving it permanently unresolved barring new evidence.

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