Matt Baker's South Sea Girl in Seven Seas Comics, Up for Auction

The short-lived title Seven Seas Comics published by Samuel "Jerry" Iger's own Universal Phoenix Feature company might be considered a turning point or level-up of sorts in the context of Matt Baker's career. The series began about a year and a half after his comics debut on Sheena in Jumbo Comics, and his style had evolved significantly towards the form that would make him a legend in subsequent decades.  Baker's work on the character South Sea Girl in all six issues of this series, and on the covers of its final four issues, was the beginning of a higher profile for Baker's Good Girl artistic skill.  His infamous work for Fox Feature Syndicate ramped up just as Seven Seas Comics was concluding.   A key early moment in Matt Baker's career, there are several issues of the Seven Seas Comics series up for auction in the 2022 August 11 The Matt Baker Showcase Auction #40190 from Heritage Auctions.

South Sea Comics (1946-1947 Universal Phoenix Feature) featuring Matt Baker South Sea Girl covers.
South Sea Comics (1946-1947 Universal Phoenix Feature) featuring Matt Baker South Sea Girl covers.

South Sea Girl was a woman named Alani, "the young beautiful ruler and protector" of the volcanic Vanishing Isles in the South Pacific.  "Vanishing islands" typically refers to the real-world phenomenon of permanent islands that disappear under the ocean at high tide, but South Sea Girl's Vanishing Isles were shrouded in mist and difficult to find, perhaps not unlike Skull Island of King Kong fame.

Storytelling centered around a beautiful sarong-wearing South Sea Island girl was practically a film genre unto itself in the decade leading up to South Sea Girl's debut in Seven Seas Comics. And if one can point to a root inspiration for Baker's South Sea Girl character Alani, it might be actress Dorothy Lamour, who generally resembles Alani and starred in so many popular South Sea Island films that she became known as "The Sarong Girl".   These include John Ford's The Hurricane (1937), Her Jungle Love (1938), Typhoon (1940), Aloma of the South Seas (1941), and Rainbow Island (1944).

There would have been no shortage of similar films and other media to inspire baker and his collaborator Manning Lee Stokes at the time.  Stokes wrote the South Sea Girl stories and several others in the Seven Seas Comics series.  Interestingly, besides his work in Seven Seas Comics, his only known comics work is writing The Case of the Winking Buddha, with artwork by Charles Raab and published by St. John in 1950.  Like its far more famous companion, It Rhymes with Lust by Matt Baker and authors Leslie Waller and Arnold Drake and published in the same year, The Case of the Winking Buddha was a digest-size graphic novel.  And like It Rhymes with Lust author Leslie Waller, Manning Lee Stokes would go on to become a prolific novel writer.  While producing an incredible range of work from the late 1940s through the 1970s.  Stokes wrote several installments of the 1960s paperback reboot series of the seminal dime novel and pulp character Nick Carter.

Interestingly, issue #4 of the Seven Seas Comics series lists the publisher as Leader Enterprises in the indicia, with Iger and Ruth Roche listed as executive editor and managing editor respectively.  Leader Enterprises as a publishing entity was a separate corporation from Universal Phoenix Feature or any other company owned by Iger.  While Leader Enterprises released a handful of comics during this period, it was primarily the publisher of trade-focused newspaper publications such as The Civil Service Leader and Fashion Trades, among others.  Leader Enterprises publisher Jerry Finkelstein founded political news outlet The Hill in 1994.  Seven Seas Comics series is an important early moment in Matt Baker's career, and there are several issues of the Seven Seas Comics series up for auction in the 2022 August 11 The Matt Baker Showcase Auction #40190 from Heritage Auctions.

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Mark SeifertAbout Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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