George Baker (cartoonist)
May 22, 1915|
|Died||May 7, 1975
|Notable works||Sad Sack|
Early life and education
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Baker grew up in Rock Island, Illinois and Chicago. In Chicago, he attended Lane Technical High School, and graduated from Roosevelt High School, where he played baseball and drew pictures for the high school annual.
After six weeks of art training in a night school, he got a job as a commercial artist "but soon grew tired of drawing pots and pans for newspaper advertisements."
He moved to California to pursue a minor league career. Instead, he was hired by Walt Disney in 1937, and assisted in the production of the studio's full-length animated features, including Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi. His specialty was animation of thunderstorms, waterfalls and other effects.
World War II
Five months prior to Pearl Harbor, Baker was drafted (June 1941) into the United States Army. He related later that he expected that the Army Classification System would have no use for his artistic experience, noting "They say it makes cooks out of mechanics, and vice versa. But I must say, it worked perfectly in my case." To his surprise, he was assigned to Fort Monmouth for basic training and to create animation for Signal Corps training films.
Baker won a cartoon contest, sponsored by the "Defense Recreation Committee", and received a portable typewriter as first prize. Life magazine printed some of his submissions, and he was hired by Yank, the Army Weekly, where he adapted his drawings of the misadventures of an army recruit into The Sad Sack. Drawn in pantomime, the strip became the magazine's most popular feature, as measured by the fan mail from servicemen who identified with the luckless private. In an official document, General George C. Marshall praised Sad Sack as a morale-booster for World War II troops.
At the end of the war, the U.S. Army created an advertising campaign with the phrase: "Don't be a Sad Sack, re-enlist in the Regular Army". Discharged from military service, Baker returned to live in Los Angeles where he transformed the Sad Sack army cartoon into a syndicated comic strip and a comic book series aimed at younger readers.
While Baker gave the job of writing the comic narrative to others, he continued to illustrate the Sad Sack comic book covers until the time of his death. The Sad Sack radio program was broadcast in 1946.
Death and burial
- Sad Sack Net: Baker described the drawing this way: "The drawing here was done by a very good friend, Sergeant Gregor Duncan, of the European Stars and Stripes, a short time before he was killed in the Allied advance on Rome."
- "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/J18Y-YW5 : accessed 20 Feb 2013), George Baker, 7 May 1975; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
- Current Biography 1944, pp. 28-30.
- Id. at 28
- George Baker at Find-A-Grave