As I sorted through a pile of British romance comics I purchased recently I came across this wonderful bonanza of Matt Baker art - an Australian romance comic reprinting American romance comics in black and white. If the same procedure was used here as was the norm for the Alan Class reprint comics of the early 60s, these would have been made from the original inked artwork shipped over from the USA! This 68-page digest size Lonely Heart Library 21 has 6 Baker stories and three by other artists whom I cannot identify. No ads, and just the outside front and back covers added by the Australian company - the rest is all American art. These are apparently all St. John originals, with the Baker stories written by Dana Dutch. The book was published by the Blue Diamond Publishing Co. of 70 Bathurst Street, Sydney, Australia, and printed by Rotary Colorprint Co. Pty. Ltd. of 15 Hamilton Street, Sydney. The distributor was Gordon & Gotch (Asia) Ltd. of Melbourne, Australia. I'm not sure how this came to be in the UK but was perhaps distributed here.
The first story, "My Dates Were Phony", is by Matt Baker and is from Teenage Romances 17 (Aug 1951).
"They Whispered "Shameless!"" is another Baker penciled story, this time from Teen-Age Romances 19 (Dec 1951).
"Forbidden Fruit" is by Baker, but I can't find any reference to it in the Grand Comics Database. My information comes from John Benson's list of St. John romance stories. According to John Benson, this story is from Teen-Age Romances 16 (June 1951) and strangely enough is one of a number of St. John stories that appear to have been drawn in preparation for digest-size printing.
"I Misbehaved" is by Matt Baker from Teen-Age Romances 18 (Oct 1951)
"Strange Rival" was published in St. John's Diary Secrets 26 (Dec 1954). I don't know who the artist was. This story was previously published in the St. John series of Pictorial Romances (issue 19).
"I Wanted a Good Time" came from Teen-Age Romances 32 (July 1953), artist again unknown, although according to John Benson's list, it has Sachs inking.
"Deceitful" is more gorgeous Baker art, but it is not identified as such in the GCD (no identification is given there). It was published in Teen-Age Romances 18 (Oct 1951). Confirmation that it is by Baker is from John Benson's list.
"I Carried Things Too Far" is by Baker, again from Teen-Age Romances 18 (Oct 1951).
"True Love Pays Dividends" is of unknown origin and by an unknown artist.
In addition to all the cultural details that abound in these stories, I think it is interesting to see just how widespread was the dissemination of Matt Baker's work. This comic has a distributor's date stamp on the cover of 12 March 1957. Although American comics were not distributed in Britain in the 1950s, there were British reprints, hard to find nowadays. This Australian reprint suggests another route by which American comics could find their way into Britain during that period. What it also suggests is that these black and white digest-size romance comics that appear to have been typical of Britain and parts of the British Commonwealth during the 50s and 60s are worth investigating, both for work native to the countries in which they were published, as well as for reprints of American art. I think you'll agree that Baker in black and white really shows off the quality of his lines. I'll be uploading a .cbr file of the entire comic to the Digital Comic Museum for them to determine whether it can be added to the collection (I'm thinking yes, but they are the experts), so look out for it there in the near future.
Many thanks to Joanna for writing in and connecting me with John Benson's checklist of St. John romance stories.