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December 18, 2011

Eduardo Barreto, 1954-2011


Luis Eduardo Barreto, a Uruguayan artist who did several years of work at DC Comics in addition to stints in the South American comics industry and the North American newspaper strip world, died on December 15 after a long battle with meningitis. He was 57 years old.

Barreto was born in Montevideo, Uruguay. He was influenced early on by North American adventure strip stalwarts such as Al Williamson and Alex Raymond. While he stressed in later interviews that every artist should receive a full education in the humanities, his own training in the arts came less from academia, where he felt frustrated by the routine many of his teachers stressed, and more in the forms of learning from colleagues such as Jose Rivera and Carlos Federici. He also assisted Ricardo Villegran for a time.

imageIn his early days as an artist, Barreto worked freelance gigs for several South American advertising companies. According to different sources his first gig was either work on a series of newspaper comics for an Uruguayan newspaper or on a science fiction comic strip that was distributed by United Press International to several markets in South America. He soon found an established place in the South American comics world, first with a strip for the newspaper El Dia, then working with Hector German Oesterheld on Kabul de Bengala, and then on a run of the feature Nippur as part of a number of gigs for the Argentinian publisher Columba. During this period, basically the heart of the 1970s, Barreto would travel once a month to Buenos Aires to deliver artwork and pick up scripts.

After a few inking gigs from Marvel in the late 1970s (including the Battlestar Galactica and Jack Of Hearts properties), Barreto began a lengthy and fruitful relationship with DC Comics. He would become known primarily for his work on the Teen Titans franchise, because of a lengthy stint on the serial comic book, but also made strong comics featuring the Batman, Superman and Martian Manhunter characters. Some of the biographical material indicates that when Barreto was initially seeking and doing North American comics work, he and his family had moved to the Phoenix area. They would later return to Uruguay, where Barreto once joked he was closer to Manhattan. The artist also provided work for a series of stand-alone Superman-related graphic novel efforts at a point where the publisher was seeking to supplement its monthly comics with one-shots and longer comics spotlight a specific character or promising storyline. The 1989 effort Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography was probably the most high-profile of this assignments; Barreto also did the art on Speeding Bullets (1993) and Under A Yellow Sun (1994).

imageBarreto provided work for Archie, Big Entertainment, IDW, Boom!, Crossgen, Claypool, Dark Horse and once more for Marvel with its Marvel Knights line. In one of his stronger stand-alone efforts released in North America, Barreto drew the 2005 western The Long Haul for writer Antony Johnston and Oni Press. On news of his passing, Johnston described Barreto as "an amazing talent, a thorough professional, and a kind, generous artist who possessed a deep love of comics."

The artist took over duties on Judge Parker from longtime artist Harold Ledoux in May 2006. A serious car accident near the beginning of his run left Barreto unable to draw the strip for a period, during which Graham Nolan and John Heebink substituted. When Barreto contracted meningitis in 2010, he found himself unable to handle to arduous task of daily strip making, and the job went to Mike Manley in March of that year. Manley told Comic Riffs how much he appreciated his predecessor's work on the strip. "He was the type of artist who did the hard things well and the great things great -- his dynamic figures and layouts, sexy women, bold blacks and brushwork added a dramatic splash to the often tepid comic page and revitalized the strip." Barreto began to do the Sunday episodes of The Phantom in July of this year. He was also working on an undefined number of projects intended for different publishers, including a mixed-media effort called Schizo.

A final work for DC appeared in September of this year as part of their "Retroactive" promotion, where artists made work in the style of the line as it existed in the 1970s. Barreto worked on their Superman-related effort. That or perhaps an issue of Irredeemable released that same month featuring a cover and then inks over his son Diego's pencils, would have been his last comic book assignments.

Barreto is survived a son, Diego, and daughter, Andrea, both of whom have worked in comics.

my thanks to Victor Birman for a correction

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