She also worked under the name Valerie Barclay and the married name Valerie Smith, was an American illustrator best known as one of the pioneering female comic-book artists, having started in the field during the 1930s and ’40s period historians and fans call the Golden Age of Comic Books.
Born Violet Barclay, she adopted “Valerie” in adulthood, after actress Valerie Hobson, though without filing for legal change of name.
She obtained her first job in comics after Mike Sekowsky — a fellow Industrial Art alumnus and a penciler for Marvel Comics predecessor Timely Comics — met her while she was working at the restaurant Cafe Rouge. Initially using the name Violet Barclay, she went on staff at Timely in January 1942, when the company moved from its first location, the McGraw-Hill Building, to its home of the next several years, the Empire State Building. Due to her work going unsigned and uncredited, in the general manner of the times, comprehensive credits are difficult if not impossible to ascertain.
After leaving Timely in 1949, Barclay freelanced. Most of her freelance comics work was in the romance genre.
In the mid-1950s, during an industry downtown, Barclay left comics, unable to find work in the field. Though her natural hair color “was dark, almost black,” she “became a platinum blond fashion model”.Unsuccessful, she left after a year to become a waitress, followed by stints as a hostess for various restaurants.
She eventually segued into fashion illustration, working for some years for such national retail chains as Lane Bryant and Abraham & Straus. She continued studying art as late as 2001, when Barclay, who suffered from osteoporosis, fractured several many bones after tripping over an easel at the Art Students League. She retired with the advent of computer graphics, and, as of 2004, lived in New York City and painted re-creations of John Singer Sargent portraits.