Most of Matt Baker's earliest comic book work was for publisher Fiction House via the Iger Studio. But despite contributing work to about 130 issues from the publisher on titles including Jumbo Comics, Wings Comics, and Fight Comics among others, Baker apparently did no covers for the publisher (according to GCD data). The publisher did have some stand-out cover artists such as Joe Doolin and Lily Renée when Baker arrived on the scene and Maurice Whitman in the later Fiction House era. Still, Baker's absence from Fiction House covers — that have been identified, anyway — is a puzzling mystery given the volume of work he did for the publisher. Nevertheless, he was doing covers for other publishers within six months of starting with Iger Studio. His first comic book covers, according to currently-established credits, were for the title Crown Comics which was initially put out by a publisher called Golfing, Inc. For example, there's a Crown Comics #4 (1945) Condition: GD and Crown Comics #6 (1946) Condition: VF with Matt Baker cover and artwork available in the 2022 August 11 The Matt Baker Showcase Auction #40190 at Heritage Auctions.
Like many publishers who quickly got into and out of the comic book publishing business in the 1944-1945 era, Golfing, Inc. was likely induced to enter the field just as it was booming due to their access to paper at a time when newsprint usage was being controlled in the United States by the War Production Board. In many cases, such publishers entering in from the newspaper, magazine, or other publishing businesses would use a portion of their newsprint allotment on comics instead. While the actual involvement of these publishers in the comic book field could vary (as we will see in the case of David Korneman, the man behind the publisher of Atomic Comics, in an upcoming Baker post), as often as not, they simply lent their name and their paper access to the process and let experienced comic book producers such as Iger Studio do the work.
Golfing Inc. was a publisher operated by brothers Joe and Herb Graffis, who published a handful of important golfing publications over their lifetimes. Herb Graffis is considered a legend in golfing circles, and the brothers entered into a number of endeavors designed to promote golfing as an activity and a business in the United States. Golfing, Inc. published Golfing magazine, which was distributed free to any golfer who wanted it, while the separately-organized Golfdom was sent for free to course owners and anyone who participated in golfing as a business. Herb Graffis was also a sportswriter of note beyond these publications, contributing to the likes of Esquire and the Chicago Sun-Times, but his primary focus throughout his career was the promotion of golf.
This necessarily changed somewhat during the onset of World War II. The materials needed to manufacture golf balls and clubs and the factories that made them were instead used for wartime manufacturing purposes. Companies like Titleist retooled themselves to manufacture items like gas masks, for example. Many tournaments curtailed their operations during the 1943-1945 period as well. Golfing magazine was an advertising-supported operation, and was faced with advertisers who had little to sell or promote during this time. The magazine suspended operations in mid-1942, but newsprint allotments were based on past usage, and thus Golfing, Inc. likely still had access to paper in early 1945, despite the fact that the War Production Board was cracking down on the practice of diverting newsprint allotments in this way in the comics industry at just this time. The United States government would end controls over usage of newsprint by revoking the rationing requirements of the War Production Board on December 31, 1945. While newsprint shortages would linger for years after the war, Golfing, Inc eventually restarted Golfing a short time later, which is likely why Crown Comics was handed off to Home Guide Publications / McCombs Publications beginning with issue #7 in 1946.
The early issues of the Crown Comics series include the earliest identified examples of Matt Baker cover art, and there are a couple of great examples in Crown Comics #4 (1945) Condition: GD and Crown Comics #6 (1946) Condition: VF with Matt Baker cover and artwork available in the 2022 August 11 The Matt Baker Showcase Auction #40190 at Heritage Auctions.
Crown Comics #4 (McCombs Publishing, 1945) Condition: GD. Matt Baker cover and art. First appearance of Ace of the Newsreels. Overstreet 2021 GD 2.0 value = $41.
Crown Comics #6 (McCombs Publishing, 1946) Condition: VF. Matt Baker cover and art. John Forte art. Overstreet 2021 VF 8.0 value = $256.
Crown Comics #7 (McCombs Publishing, 1946) Condition: VG+. Matt Baker cover and art. Al Feldstein and Jack Kamen art. Overstreet 2021 VG 4.0 value = $106.