Raven: post-resurrection emotions of a character. NTT Vol. 2, #39 (Jan. 1988).
This has been a strange holiday season. Every week, I have heard about 3-4 deaths, either acquaintances, or public figures. Today, more sad news. Farewell to a fine illustrator from Uruguay, Eduardo Barreto, who died on December 15. He graced the pages of DC's Titans title from 1985 to 1988. He followed on this series in the wake of huge fan favourites George Pérez and José Luis García-López. At the time, the New Teen Titans was still one of the hottest American comic books in the world, pencilled by two of the industry's most famous talents. Barreto filled the shoes of his predecessors and more. He made the characters his own.
Barreto had the tough task of making a resurrected, post-apocalyptic Raven have emotions when she had never had them before. The cover above from 1988 was Raven's first real smile since her introduction in 1980. After Pérez tore her apart, it took Barreto to show how a character, reborn after death, shot through with evil, would manifest emotions for the first time and bizarrely - yet haltingly and believably - come back to life to experience some joy.
New and old gods. NTT Vol. 2, #9 (June 1985).
Below the jump, some examples of Baretto's work from that period.
Wolfman remained as writer after his artists' departures; Barreto's emotive work pushed the characters down Wolfman's new paths in the mid-to-late 1980s. The artist turned to the characters one by one on this soapy title and dealt with their core issues very quickly. The first thing he did on his Titans' stint was make the team's old Doom Patroller, Garfield Logan, miraculously grow up in a few panels. It didn't stick, even under Barreto, and DC's creative teams have backtracked ever since on the neat progress Barreto made in November 1985 with this character. It's a shame, since Garfield Logan was created in 1965, in roughly the same period as Peter Parker (1962). Beast Boy was a DC version of certain type of superhero developed in the early-mid 1960s. Marvel developed Spider-Man a thousand times more than DC ever did Changeling. Regardless, Barreto's first dynamic panels of Gar were unusually promising:
Gar accepts Vic's help facing his homicidal telepathic father. NTT Vol. 2, #14 (Nov. 1985).
Next up, Barreto dealt with the key point to Koriand'r's characterization: her unflinching, scary, unquestioning erasure of her own identity when it came to accepting royal duties at any cost. The first time she did it, it destroyed her innocence when she allowed herself to be traded into slavery by her parents. This time, it ruined the love of her life. Barreto made this new chapter in the Tamaranean royal space opera jump off the pages, with wild, exotic excess.
NTT Vol. 2, #17 (Feb. 1986).
Next, Barreto brought Donna Troy to life. A character with a central emptiness, a blank identity, was nonetheless the heart and soul of the Titans. She was the emotional glue that held everyone and everything together. Her growing self doubt saw her fail as a leader, while the team crumbled to pieces. More than the other characters, Barreto's treatment of Donna was a constant series of close up portraits of a woman confronted by too many options and no answers.
NTT Vol. 2, #20 (May 1986).
Barreto gave three supporting Titans some immortal vignettes with his use of gesture and expression. He showed Hawk hollow-eyed, a lost soul after his brother's death, locked in violent contortions and consumed by grief, rage and a lust for vengeance. Barreto made Roy Harper, an incorrigible womanizer and ex-addict, into a responsible father in two panels; the characterization was clinched the moment Harper looked in his daughter's eyes. The artist then revealed all of Jason Todd's potential as a true hero, a courageous character successfully battling a world full of shadows when all the other Titans failed; this was another angle that DC unfortunately did not pursue.
Hawk. NTT Vol. 2, #20 (May 1986).
Roy Harper. NTT Vol. 2, #21 (June 1986).
Jason Todd saves the day; the only character who gets through to Raven. NTT Vol. 2, #30 (Apr. 1987).
Wolfman's and Barreto's exploration of Dick Grayson was that of a leader who lost the plot due to the women in his life triggering unseen vulnerabilities and forbidden weaknesses in his personality. His growing attachment to Raven was as subliminal as it was obvious. Rarely has a story between two pulp characters unfolded so intensely over time (from 1982 to 1995), while strangely retaining a secluded, secretive air. Rarely has an artist shown a romance on panel so blatantly - without the readers exactly grasping what they were seeing because Raven's and Dick's entanglement did not follow graphic shipping conventions. Even taking into account the gore of 1950s' horror comics, the panels in which Dick was repeatedly brainwashed by the cult leader Brother Blood and healed by Raven so Nightwing could endure more torture were some of the most disgusting and terrifying scenes in comics. The message was simple. Dick Grayson was the original legacy character, the first Titan. His training and personality were solid. If he could lose his sanity, then it could happen to anyone. Barreto matter-of-factly turned Dick's rescue mission to save Raven from Blood upside-down. Raven drew Dick into her dungeon and massaged his brain and emotions into ever deeper pain, loss of self, and a hidden web of mutual attraction. Barreto's panels here were masterly tributes to combined pulp elements of noir and horror, which are the tropes that Dick and Raven respectively embody. Where Barreto's trademarks were his tight action shots, emotional face work and big gestures, these panels had a stillness, suspended in ugly, dreamy darkness.
NTT Vol. 2, #22 (Jul. 1986).
While criss-crossing Raven and Dick, Barreto gave Raven one more futile chance to connect with her old love, Wally West. The artist showed their contact, full of potential, and again negated.
NTT Vol. 2, #29 (Mar. 1987).
Some of Barreto's best pieces were splash pages that showcased his fine sense of human gesture, a technique that suited this emotional book very well. There are more of his dynamic action shots from 1985 to 1988, from NTT Vol. 2, the Baxter series, in this post.
Garth saves the team after their jet crash lands on water. NTT Vol. 2, #25 (Nov. 1986).
Guest starring Chris King. NTT Vol. 2, #45 (Jul. 1988).
A Titanic farewell, Eduardo Barreto (1954-2011)
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