January 19, 2010

Golden Age Artist Spotlight -- Bernard Baily

Bernard Baily co-created both The Spectre and Hourman, as well as creating some of the most bizarre and creepy covers ever.    Baily began his comics career under S.M. "Jerry" Iger, who was editor of Wow, What a Magazine!, one of the very first American comic books that reprinted black-and-white newspaper comic strips in color and adding occasional new material as well. For DC Comics precursor National Comics, Baily co-created and drew the adventure feature "Tex Thomson" in Action Comics #1 (March 1938). Most of us know Action Comics #1 for the first appearance of another caped hero. In More Fun Comics #52 (Feb. 1940), Baily and writer Jerry Siegel, Superman's co-creator, introduced the future DC's violent spirit of vengeance, the Spectre. The afterlife alter ego of murdered police detective Jim Corrigan, the character would become of the longest-enduring comic-book creations, revived during the mid-1950s to 1960s Silver Age of Comic Books and continuing into 21st century. Baily as well co-created the frequently revived DC superhero Hourman (dubbed Hour-Man in his earliest appearances), with writer Ken Fitch, in Adventure Comics #48 (April 1940).

But it might be his publishing career where Baily affected the future of comic books the most. His associates and the artists he gave their first start are a virtual who's-who of comics. In 1943, Baily founded the publishing company Baily Publications and, with artist Mac Raboy, the comics packager Bernard Baily Studio. Among the fledgling artists gaining a foothold in the industry at Baily's studio were Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, and Frank Frazetta, who at 16 assisted the established artist John Giunta there. Other personnel included Dan Barry, Dick Briefer, Manny Stallman, and Nina Albright, one of a handful of Golden Age women comic-book artists.

His horror comics in the fifties, a representative sampling provided below, were truly disturbing (particularly those for Key Publications, including the titles Mister Mystery, Weird Chills, Weird Mysteries, and Weird Tales of the Future (where some of Basil Wolverton's best work was also published)). During the fifties, Baily also worked for Fawcett, D.C., St. John Publications and Atlas/Marvel. In addition to comics, he also wrote and drew a syndicated comic strip (Gilda Gay), contributed to Cracked, and teamed with Jack Schiff to produce one-page public service announcements about subjects like bike safety, United Nations Day, and good manners.

He passed away in 1996 at the age of 1979. His last work was the eight-page "His Brother's Keeper", written by Jack Oleck, in DC's House of Mystery #279 (April 1980). Baily was truly one of the Golden Age greats, and his covers showcase his gift for imagery and imagination.


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