Black History Month 2011: Matt Baker

February 3rd, 2011 by | Tags: , ,

Matt Baker
Selected Works: It Rhymes With Lust, Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour (forthcoming)

Matt Baker’s another creator whose name I’d heard in passing but never realized was black until a couple years ago. C’est la guerre, right?

Baker’s a master of good girl art. There’s the obvious, of course–pretty girls in comics are great as a general rule. But on top of that is something a little less obvious. Drawing pretty girls isn’t as simple as heaving bosoms, full lips, big butts, and pokey nipples. You can’t just draw smiles and long legs. You need to be able to draw grins and gams. Skintight clothes are all well and good if you’re lazy, but good artists will throw in fantastic looking dresses, interesting heels, great hats, fabulous hair, and a good sense of humor. What’s more–no two women will wear the same outfit. Proper good girl art requires a certain level of skill that simple T&A-centric art doesn’t.

Baker had all of it down pat. His Phantom Lady work is top notch, as goofy as it is sexy and heinously violent. There’s another strip of his that I like called Canteen Kate. Kate worked with a bunch of Marines, and her stories are somewhere between Milton Caniff’s Male Call and I Love Lucy. It’s all slapstick and goofy pratfalls, but it’s enjoyable.

Baker knew what he was doing, and he excelled at it. The thing is, good girl art is good for comics, period. It shows an attention to detail that needs to be present to make good comics art. Look at how John Romita turned Amazing Spider-Man into the most exciting romance comic ever, due at least in part to some good girl stylings. You can’t hack this stuff out or else people will get bored.

I could look at Matt Baker’s work all day long.

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7 comments to “Black History Month 2011: Matt Baker”

  1. Ahhh, Baker. So awesome. Loved his stuff for years, but so little of it is available. There was that skinny Verotik trade from ’94, and this “Golden Age Greats Vo. 2” thing, oddly shaped, that reprints the art larger, but in halftoned black and white, and cuts the pages in half, butchering the creative layouts. And “It Rhymes with Lust,” of course.

    A few bloggers reprint Baker stories online now and then (Rulah, Sky Girl, Kate …), and I’ll download those when I run across ’em, but the world really, really needs a Phantom Lady Archives, or a comprehensive series of Baker reprints. I know the rights issues are a bit of a mess, but it’s a mess worth sorting out.

  2. @Guy Smiley: A bunch of fans got together and produced a couple CBRs of Golden Age Phantom Lady stuff– WWII comics, the Fox years, and more. Really high res, includes bonus features and essays… it’s insane.

  3. I always miss the good stuff. My limited ability to track down such things is failing me. Good to know such things are in circulation, though.

  4. Surprised you overlooked this….


    192 page HARDCOVER – by Jim AMASH and Eric NOLEN-WEATHINGTON

    In the early 1940s, Matt Baker became of one the earliest African-American comic book artists. But it wasn’t the color of his skin which made him such a significant figure in the history of the medium—it was his innate ability to draw gorgeous, exciting women and handsome, dynamic men in a fluid, graceful style. Imagine Dave Stevens or Adam Hughes working in the ’40s, drawing a new story every month, and you’ll have a good idea of Matt Baker’s place in the industry throughout his career. Yet few of today’s comic book fans know of the artist or his work, because he died in 1959 at the young age of 38, just as the Silver Age of Comics was blossoming and bringing in a new generation of readers. Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour (192-page hardcover with 96 pages of full-color), edited by Jim Amash and Eric Nolen-Weathington, presents an impressive career cut tragically short. It features a wealth of essays; interviews with Baker’s friends, family, and co-workers; and a treasure trove of his finest artwork, including several complete stories, at last giving the wonderfully talented artist his full due.

    ISBN-13: 978-1-60549-032-8
    ISBN-10: 1-60549-032-6

  5. Oh you edited the post. Well it deserved more mention

  6. I didn’t edit the post, actually. It was already in there.

  7. You should check out “Romance Without Tears” — Fanta ’50s romance comics collection with a bunch of really solid, expressive Baker stories in it. That’s my favorite stuff I’ve seen of his.