Baker, Kyle 1966-
Baker, Kyle 1966-
Born November 5, 1966, in New York, NY; married; wife's name Liz.
Writer and illustrator; director of animated films. Founder of Kyle Baker Publishing. Featured "guest art director," Class of 3000, Cartoon Network; writer and artist, Phineas and Ferb, Disney Channel.
Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Original Work, 1991, for Why I Hate Saturn, and 1999, for You Are Here; Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist, Humor, 1999, for You Are Here, and 2000, for I Die at Midnight and "Letitia Lerner, Superman's Baby Sitter" (the latter, created with Elizabeth Glass, also won Best Short Story).
GRAPHIC NOVELS; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
The Cowboy Wally Show, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1988, Sixteenth Commemorative Edition, 2003.
Why I Hate Saturn, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1993.
You Are Here, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1999.
King David, Vertigo/DC Comics (New York, NY), 2002.
Undercover Genie: The Irreverent Conjurings of an Illustrative Aladdin, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2003.
Kyle Baker Cartoonist, Kyle Baker Publishing, 2004.
Plastic Man on the Lam, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2004.
Nat Turner, 2005.
Plastic Man: Rubber Bandits, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2006.
The Bakers: Do These Toys Belong Somewhere?, Kyle Baker Publishing, 2006.
Nat Turner Book 2: Revolution, Image Comics (Berkeley, CA), 2007.
The Bakers: Babies and Kittens, Image Comics (Berkeley, CA), 2007.
Goosebumps Graphix 3, Scary Summer, Graphix (New York, NY), 2007.
(Illustrator) Aaron McGruder and Reginald Hudlin, Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel, Crown (New York, NY), 2004.
(Illustrator) Robert Morales, Truth: Red, White & Black, Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 2004.
(Illustrator) Paul Dini, Jingle Belle Meets the Bakers, Dark Horse (Milwaukie, OR), 2006.
Also author of I Die at Midnight, Truth, The Bakers, The New Baker, and Break the Chain. Contributor of "Letitia Lerner, Superman's Baby Sitter," created with Elizabeth Glass, to Elseworlds Eighty-Page Giant. Illustrator of weekly comic strip "Bad Publicity" for New York magazine. Contributor of cartoons to newspapers and magazines, including Entertainment Weekly, ESPN, Esquire, Mad, New Yorker, New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, Vibe, and Village Voice. Director of animated music video, "Break the Chain," based on comic book of the same name illustrated by Baker. Contributor of drawings to 9-11: The World's Finest Comic Book Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember, edited by Paul Levitz and published by DC Comics in 2002, and to numerous other comic books. Writer and director of "Looney Tunes" animated theatrical shorts for Warner Bros., Inc.
Kyle Baker's graphic novels have covered subjects as diverse as an unscrupulous television performer, young New York hipsters, and the Bible's King David. His body of work includes "at least two graphic novel cult classics," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, those being The Cowboy Wally Show and Why I Hate Saturn. He also has illustrated numerous comic books written by others and has begun writing and directing animated short films. He produced a multimedia project with the comic Break the Chain, which he illustrated while sharing writing duties with rap artist KRS-One; it was sold with an audiocassette of KRS-One's music, and Baker directed a companion music video.
The Cowboy Wally Show, Baker's first graphic novel, is a send-up of the television industry. Cowboy Wally is an obnoxious, not-very-bright entertainer who nevertheless rises to fame and power as a TV host and executive, thanks to some underhanded schemes. Quill and Quire critic Paul Stuewe found the story only "intermittently effective," but Booklist contributor Ray Olson deemed it "desperately, mordantly, stomping-and-crying-ly funny."
Why I Hate Saturn takes a satirical look at the culture of young, trendy New Yorkers. The main character, Anne, is a gifted writer but is also maladjusted and misanthropic. The shooting of Anne's sister, by a former lover, sets in motion a series of bizarre experiences. This "clever" book "became an underground comics classic," reported a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Baker's next graphic novel, You Are Here, is also set in New York City. Its protagonist, Noel Coleman, is a man with a lengthy criminal record, but he is being pursued by someone with a much worse record—a serial murderer—whose wife once had an affair with Noel. While trying to elude his would-be killer, Noel carries on a romance with an unconventional, free-spirited woman named Helen. Baker's drawings portray New York with "virtuoso comics draftsmanship," observed a Publishers Weekly commentator, adding that his story is "rip-roaringly entertaining."
The humor that some critics found in those titles is evident even in Baker's Bible-inspired effort, King David. His retelling of the tale of the shepherd who rose to become king of Israel "is funny and irreverent, and Bible study has never been so hip," a Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked. Entertainment Weekly reviewer Ken Tucker, meanwhile, noted that the novel is "sometimes slapstick-silly but always true to biblical narrative." It also remains true to its source by featuring frank portrayals of violence and sexuality; to Bible Review contributor Michael M. Homan, "this is precisely why Baker's King David succeeds where so many artistic recreations (especially movies) of the Bible have failed." Homan called the novel "a hit of epic proportions" that will "help bring back the Bible—the uncut version—to pop culture."
Baker's cartoon genius shines forth in two graphic novels featuring a 1940s superhero character: Plastic Man on the Lam and Plastic Man: Rubber Bandits. As envisioned by creator Jack Cole, Plastic Man was originally gangster Eel O'Brien, who fell into a chemical vat that made his skin take on the consistency of soft taffy. Rather than continue his life of crime, O'Brien chose to devote his life to the redressing of evil. Although other artists had tried to capture Cole's unique combination of zaniness and realism, Baker's approach concentrate on "ratcheting up the wackiness," declared Gordon Flagg in Booklist. "Whereas Cole's Plas and sidekick Woozy Weeks were absurd figures in a largely straight-faced world, in Baker's hands everyone is ridiculous."
Plastic Man on the Lam places the superhero in a quandary: his alter ego Eel O'Brien is tagged for the murder of a small-time hoodlum. "The plot is tongue-in-cheek," stated George Galuschak in Kliatt, "a humorous variant of the Mysterious-Figure-From-My-Past-Is-Messing-Up-My-Life storyline." "With hilarious dialog and lots of good-natured superhero parody," Steve Raiteri wrote in Library Journal, "this won the 2004 Eisner Award for Best New Series, and it's strongly recommended." In Plastic Man: Rubber Bandits, stated Gordon Flagg in Booklist, "Cole's version remains definitive, but it's no stretch to say that Baker's validly reinvents Plas for a new, freer-wheeling era." "Plastic Man," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "is an entertaining confection with all the weight of a balloon animal."
Baker investigates another take on a classic comic-book hero in Truth: Red, White & Black, in which he looks at the Captain America backstory in a historical context. According to the Marvel Comics artists, Captain America was originally Steve Rogers, an underdeveloped weakling who volunteered to test a superhero serum during World War II—thus creating an American "supersoldier" to oppose Adolf Hitler's Teutonic "superior race." In Truth, Baker and writer Robert Morales point out that, at the time Rogers was supposedly undergoing his mutation into a symbol of American manhood, black American men were being subjected to uncontrolled syphilis. "By adding Morales's backstory to Captain America's origin," stated a Publishers Weekly contributor, "Marvel has turned the character into a white superman who owes his powers to the deaths and exploitation of African-Americans."
Perhaps Baker's most personal forays into the cartoon genre are his collections featuring the members of his own family, "goofy and loving satire[s] of his life as a husband and father of three young children," declared Rebecca Cathcart in the Villager Web site. In The Bakers: Do These Toys Belong Somewhere? and The Bakers: Babies and Kittens, he takes stories from everyday life and makes them "endlessly appealing," according to a reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly. "The book's subjects are lightweight—avoiding waking up the kids, trying to get a photo where they all look good, problems with the Tooth Fairy—but hilarious," noted a Comics Worth Reading Web site reviewer.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bible Review, December, 2002, Michael M. Homan, "Truth, Justice and the Judean Way," pp. 50-51.
Black Enterprise, June, 2004, "They Pay You to Do What? They're Not Your Typical 9-to-5, and That's What Makes These Jobs Fun," p. 242; September, 2004, "An Inspired Illustrator," p. 20.
Booklist, June 1, 1988, Ray Olson, review of The Cowboy Wally Show, p. 1635; October 1, 2003, Gordon Flagg, review of Undercover Genie: The Irreverent Conjurings of an Illustrative Aladdin, p. 309; July, 2004, Ray Olson, review of Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel, p. 1831; September 15, 2004, Gordon Flagg, review of Plastic Man on the Lam, p. 217; February 15, 2006, Gordon Flagg, review of Plastic Man: Rubber Bandits p. 55.
Entertainment Weekly, April 12, 2002, Ken Tucker, review of King David, p. 70; June 27, 2003, Tom Sinclair, review of Undercover Genie, p. 145; February 13, 2004, Ken Tucker, review of Plastic Man, p. 2; September 23, 2005, Abby West, review of Nat Turner, p. 93.
Kliatt, July, 2005, George Galuschak, review of Plastic Man on the Lam, p. 32.
Library Journal, September 1, 2004, Steve Raiteri, review of Birth of a Nation, p. 128; May 15, 2005, Steve Raiteri, review of Plastic Man on the Lam, p. 98.
Library Media Connection, November, 2003, review of Undercover Genie, p. 61; October, 2005, Kristin Fletcher-Spear, review of Plastic Man on the Lam, p. 69.
Publishers Weekly, January 25, 1999, review of You Are Here, p. 74; September 9, 2002, review of King David, p. 45; May 10, 2004, review of Truth: Red, White & Black, p. 39; June 14, 2004, "Kyle Baker Cartoonist," p. 46; June 21, 2004, "Birth of a Comical Black Nation," p. 24; June 28, 2004, review of Birth of a Nation, p. 33; August 16, 2004, review of Plastic Man on the Lam, p. 45; October 2, 2006, review of The Bakers: Do These Toys Belong Somewhere?, p. 45.
Quill and Quire, May, 1988, Paul Stuewe, review of The Cowboy Wally Show, p. 29.
School Library Journal, July, 2005, Lisa Goldstein, review of Plastic Man on the Lam, p. 124.
Time, August 2, 2004, "Black Humor: A New Comic Novel Boldly Takes on Politics and Race," p. 83.
Comicon.com,http://www.comicon.com/ (December 7, 2007), Ace MacDonald, interview with Kyle Baker.
Comics Worth Reading,http://comicsworthreading.com/ (December 7, 2007), review of The Bakers: Do These Toys Belong Somewhere?
Kyle Baker Home Page,http://www.kylebaker.com (December 7, 2007), author bio.
Mayerson on Animation Blog,http://mayersononanimation.blogspot.com/ (December 7, 2007), "Kyle Baker in Draw."
Six Impossible Things,http://6impossiblethings.wordpress.com/ (December 7, 2007), review of Plastic Man: Rubber Bandits.
Star Bulletin,http://starbulletin.com/ (December 7, 2007), Gary C.W. Chun, "Family Man: Writer-Cartoonist Kyle Baker Uses Talent to Make Fun of Himself in a Relatable Way."
Villager,http://www.thevillager.com/ (December 7, 2007), Rebecca Cathcart, "Family Man: To Create ‘The Bakers,’ a Graphic Novelist Draws upon His Life."