“I HAVE BEEN SPELLBOUND by his artistry.”
That is perhaps the highest compliment a fan can pay an illustrator. And those were the precise words of praise that one Post reader — signed “samalexander” — paid to Eduardo Barreto upon in early 2010, upon learning that the “Judge Parker” and DC Comics artist was gravely ill.
In February of that year, upon hearing that Barreto had a sudden case of meningitis, his many fans worldwide hoped for his healthy return to the drawing board.
Mr. Barreto did retun to the boards for a time, but on Thursday, the Uruguayan artist died at age 57. DC Comics confirmed his death to Comic Riffs.
“With his impeccable draftsmanship and attention to nuance and detail, Eduardo Barreto was a true artist’s artist,” DC Entertainment co-publisher Jim Lee said in a statement. “A mainstay of DC Comics, he was one of the key artists during the 1980s who not only helped define the look and feel of the DC Universe, but got me hooked on the Teen Titans.
“His incredible work and vision will be missed.”
Many Post readers were most familiar with Mr. Barreto’s striking, high-contrast art for the King Features “soap” strip “Judge Parker,” which he drew from 2006 to 2010. Barreto’s gorgeous lines enlivened the comic’s cast of nattily suited crimefighters, voluptuous vixens and stock colorful baddies.
It was largely a testament to Mr. Barreto’s talent that in 2009, when The Post dropped “Judge Parker” from its print edition, more than 2,000 people in two Comic Riffs polls voted overwhelmingly to save the strip.
(Wrote one Post reader at the time: “HAVE YOU PEOPLE COMPLETELY LOST YOUR FREAKING MINDS?????”... I think it is an injustice.”)
The Post returned the strip to its daily print lineup a couple of months later.
When Mr. Barreto had to leave the serial strip in 2010, Woody Wilson, the longtime writer of “Judge Parker” and “Rex Morgan M.D., told Comic Riffs: “It’s a sad loss for all of us. Eduardo brought a sex appeal and panache to the strip and that was needed. ... It’s really come alive. It’s really what these continuities need. The artwork has to be beautiful and appealing and to draw people to the page and be able to tell a story.”
Wilson, who inherited the strip decades ago from creator Nicholas Dallis, also said of Barreto: “His love of drawing beautiful women brought something to the strip — like in a story [in 2009] involving Dixie Julep [a murderous topless dancer]. He drew so appealingly, every woman would get more voluptuous.”
After Barreto had to leave the strip, Wilson and King Features chose Mike Manley to take over the art duties. On Friday, Manley shared with memories of the man with Comic Riffs:
“I came to know Eduardo Barreto’s work first as a fan in the ‘80s, when he was working on books like Superman and Atari Force for DC Comics,” Manley tells us. “I got to meet him once at the San Diego Comic Con along with my great friend and his onetime mentor Ricardo Villagran, whom he assisted when he was younger. As a pro, I was lucky enough to get to work with Eduardo when I got the chance to ink an Elvira job he drew a few years back — one of the highlights for me in my career.”
Manley says he places Barreto among a group of true South American talents — “from the great [Jose Luis] Salinas, who drew the Cisco Kid, to Garcia Lopez, the Villagran Brothers and another of their one-time assistants turned pro, the late Jorge Zaffino.”
“His work was beautiful and professional and a joy to ink,” Manley tells us. “You really get to see how good an artist is when you ink his work — and he was great!”
Barreto, one of the comics world’s flashier stylists, drew not only for DC, but also Marvel Comics and Oni Press (“Union Station”). Among his more recent releases was the Dark Horse Comics graphic novel “The Escapists,” created with Brian K Vaughan, Philip Bond and Steve Rolston. Besides “The New Teen Titans,” he was widely known for his runs on “Superman” and “Batman,” as well as “Marvel Knights” and Dark Horse’s “Aliens vs. Predator” and “Star Wars.”
In 2011, Barreto was the artist on the one-shot“DC Retroactive The 70′s: Superman” and had assumed art duties for the Sunday strip “The Phantom.”
“Eduardo fit the classic model of a working illustrator, and he particularly loved the wide variety of comics that he read growing up in Uruguay,” Oni Press said in a statement. “He had a pronounced passion for space operas and horse operas alike, and though he made his name drawing iconic characters like Superman and the Teen Titans, his art truly shined when he was let loose to play with heroes whose abilities—and foibles—were far more human.”
Barreto took over artistic duties for “Judge Parker” from Harold Ledoux in May 2006. Shortly after, he spent some time in the hospital after a very serious car accident and the strip needed to get a “ghost” artist during that period, Wilson said. The replacements included “Rex Morgan M.D.” artist Graham Nolan and John Heebink. In 2010, his son, Diego Barreto, also had a stint drawing the strip.
“When through circumstance I came to take over from Eduardo on ‘Judge Parker’ when he became to ill to continue, I again became a fan of his work. He really hit a home run on the strip during his time on the ‘Judge,’ and he set the bar high,” Manley tells Comic Riffs.
“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.
“He will remain an inspiration and he will be missed.”