Okay, not to state the blindingly obvious, but if you've never heard of Matt Baker, you're probably not the target audience for this rather sumptuous $39.95 hardcover.
I mean, even if you're a fan of classic comics and have an interest in Golden Age comics — well, you've probably heard of Baker if you fall into that category. If you are a Golden Age fan, you know who I'm writing about. Baker was the brilliant artist who drew some of the most beautiful women in the history of comics but whose career was cut off too short, just as he was starting to get fame outside of the comics industry for his amazing work and to make real money from magazine illustrations.
If you don't know who I'm talking about yet, read on if you're interested, then Google his name and check out the guy's artwork. It's pretty damn nice, isn't it? All his women have those wonderful high cheekbones and look like classic movie stars, don't they? It's impressive stuff, full of elegant touches and clever design. It's classical work that would still look good today.
Would it surprise you if I told you that Baker was a black artist in the rather racist mid-20th century, but never lacked for work during his professional career because of the high quality of his work? And not only that, but Baker was a strikingly handsome man who was popular with women, had great friends and a loving family? If really the only tragedy in Baker's life was his way too premature death?
Matt Baker: the Art of Glamour is a lovingly assembled biography of the great cartoonist, but that's no surprise, given that it was released by TwoMorrows. That company always delivers outstanding books for those of us who really care about the history of comic books, and this one is no exception. It's full of smart insights, well selected artwork and a plethora of family photos and remembrances. For a book that has virtually no personal quotes from its subject, this book is a surprisingly intimate portrait of a cartoonist about which very little has been known to this point.
There are some slightly odd choices in this book, especially for the artwork presented. Despite the large amount of praise for Baker's romance stories, we don't get as many of those stories in the comic strip section as they perhaps deserve. And the selection of art to illustrate the profile of Baker doesn't always sync with the narrative that the writers are presenting — an experience that's a bit jarring.
But really, if you know who Baker was and are the kind of person who will want to buy this book… well, you know you want to add this to your Christmas list. You'll want that special significant other to buy you this book. And when everyone's done opening presents on Christmas morning and you have that nice few hours of peace and quiet in the house, you'll enjoy opening this book and losing yourself in Baker's spectacular artwork.