Phantom Lady #17

Illustrated by Clarence Matthew Baker(Matt Baker)


Arthur Peddy


Matt Baker


Golden Age


Fox Feature Syndicate


Publication Date


I know you all have come across one of those “I was today year’s old” memes where you discover that “Stressed is just Desserts spelled backwards!”  Well, discovering the comic book illustrator Matt Baker this year has been my “today year’s old” moment.  As I delve deeper into the history of comics and the tangible impact our community has had on it I regularly come across figures such as Matt Baker.

Ironically, although he doesn’t come up often enough in conversations regarding “diversity in comics”, there is an exhaustive amount of content online about the man known as the “Master of the Good Girl”, due to his uncanny ability to draw beautiful women.

The cover art for Phantom Lady #17 is the best example of his ability and happens to be his most famous work.  The book gained notoriety when psychiatrist Fredrick Wertham claimed comics had ill effects on a child’s psychological development, he used Baker’s Phantom Lady #17 as a key sample. These criticisms led to the 1954 foundation for the Comics Code Authority and decades of industry-controlled censorship (via Wikipedia).

And it’s for this reason Phantom Lady #17 has become a holy grail among comic book collectors.

A grail is a comic that you dream about having in your collection. Most true grails are hard to get, whether because of price or availability. That’s why it’s so satisfying to finally call one your own. (

A CGC 1.0 (that’s comic book grading lingo for a beat up copy) of Phantom Lady #17 is currently going for $11,999 on    A CGC 9.6 (a very good copy) recently sold for $700,000.

Although I’m highlighting this book in the Black Comix Universe because Matt Baker happens to be Black, and considered to be one of the first successful Black comic illustrators in history, I’m heartened to discover that he was consider to be a hero of sorts among his white contemporaries as well.

Although, his career was shorter than most, there is no question about the magnitude of the impact he left on the comics industry — not only as a great Black artist, but as a great artist in general. “Matt Baker was one of the first important artists in comics,” Arnold Drake recalls. “Not one of the first important black artists, one of the first important artists, period.” (Via

For an in-depth feature on Matt Baker, please read the amazing profile by Caitlin McCabe on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website (Feb 2017)

To discover more Black Comic illustrators of the Golden Era, do yourself a favor and find a copy of Ken Quattro’s Eisner Award winning book Invisible Men.



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