The Matt Baker Day Thread 2/17

Matt Baker is the first known successful African-American comic book artist.  While his name isn’t familiar, several of his works probably are.

Matt Baker is the one, after all, that drew Phantom Lady.  He took a character previously portrayed in a more modest yellow and green superhero outfit and turned up the sex appeal in tune with the “good girl” trend of the era.  Phantom Lady wasn’t the only book that showcased Baker’s talent at illustrating attractive women.  His art could be found in titles like Sheena, Queen of the JungleStrange TalesWorld of Fantasy, and It Rhymes With Lust.

The book was so scandalous that it was targeted by Dr. Frank Wertham as an example of a comic that could have ill effects on a child’s psychological development.  The image above had the following caption in the book, Seduction of the Innocent: “Sexual stimulation by combining ‘headlights’ with the sadist’s dream of tying up a woman.”

Personally speaking, I think one of Baker’s most interesting updates to the character is how she looks more African-American.  Artists drawing Phantom Lady before and after Baker’s time tend to give her more Caucasian features.  Did Baker create a popular character who was at least mixed race?

He did, after all, create comics’ first known black hero: Voodah, who debuted in the pages of Crown Comics all the way back in 1945.  From the looks of it, it looks like a race-appropriate Tarzan tale.  Of course, this still being the 40’s, Voodah would show up as a white person on the covers (though he was colored correctly in the story itself).

 

Notably, Voodah’s girlfriend (Zanzi) looks an awful lot like Phantom Lady.

Baker was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009.