Let’s just get the tragic parts of this story out of the way. Archer St. John, owner/editor of St. John Publishing overdosed on sleeping pills in 1955, at the age as 54. St. John’s friend, employee, and renowned artist Matt Baker’s life and career in the comic book industry was also short-lived, he passed away from heart issues in 1959 at the young age of 37.
However, while a productive life can be tragic it can never be sad. Their legacies as pioneering artist and influential comic publisher live on, and both are fondly remembered as influential figures in the history of comic books.
This Approved Comics #9 from St. John Publishing was released in July 1954 and featured cover art by Matt Baker. As publishing revenues towards the end of the Golden Age of comics was waning, reprints were an inexpensive way to generate income. Inside stories were reprinted from Western Bandit Trails #3 (St. John Publishing, July 1949) – the cover of that issue was also done by Matt Baker.
In the heady days during the peak of the Golden Age, Matt Baker is known for his work on Phantom Lady, a popular super-heroine character published by Fox Feature Syndicate. Baker is renowned among collectors for his detailed and realistic art style which set him apart from other artists of the time – especially when it came to female characters.
Working for various publishers including Fiction House, Baker drew other popular characters such as Sky Girl, Tiger Girl, Camilla, Canteen Kate, and daily newspaper comic strip Flamingo, a Romanian gypsy. He also created Vooda, a native of an island in the Pacific known as the Vanishing Island. Vooda, sometimes called Alani or El’nee, protected her island and her people from a series of invaders and raiders.
There are several definitive sources of history of St. John, including Confessions, Romances, Secrets, and Temptations: Archer St. John and the St. John Romance Comics and Alter Ego #77. More about Matt Baker is found in Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour. Baker was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009.
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