TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Eduardo Barreto: Titanic Farewells

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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4 comments:

  1. Barreto is at least in excellent company in the news, passing so soon after Robinson and Simon. They, however, lived and worked into their eighties and nineties. Barreto seems awfully young, even in his fifties. And as unfair as this must be for him, it feels unfair to many of us as well, having lost one more of comics' craftsmen. I remember him more as a Batman artist, but you could also make the argument that he became the default face of the Elseworlds line of one-shots in the 1990's. I've never looked around for an Elseworlds blog or fansite, but I'm now curious as to how large a portion of those stories were drawn by Barreto.

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  2. Thanks for your comment pblfsda. I saw a few comments on other sites that felt that Barreto wasn't given his due for the work he did. I am not as familiar with his Elseworlds and Batman work. His success with characterization while at the same time being able to handle intense action shots was unusual. He had a great facility with luminous, expressive faces. But some of his splash pages were unusually memorable. I with that DC would seek that balance today, instead of 2 page cosmic action shots, as were featured in Blackest Night.

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  3. He started getting real work in the U.S. after the DC Implosion. Both DC and Marvel had cancelled large numbers of underperforming titles and were slowly building back up with new features and he did lots of spotty, one-time assignments for both. He eventually gravitated towards Superman and his spin off characters. When "Crisis OIE" changed Peréz' commitments, Barreto moved onto NTT, then the Street & Smith licenses (Doc Savage and The Shadow). I just have to say here that anyone trying to follow Mike Kaluta, Bill Sienkiewicz and Kyle Baker on the Shadow is doomed before they start. Barreto did a fine job, but he had no hope of making the characters his. After the licenses ran their course he went back to filling in here and there but work on the Shadow made it obvious that he was best prepared to do Batman. By that time Batman was in that two-year Bane/Azreal/"Breaking Of The Bat" story, so Barreto was wisely put on one-shots, mini-series, Elseworlds and special work like the "Batman Forever" adaption. Unfortunately that now means collected trades of all-Barreto Batman are unlikely. Still, there are plenty of pieces like this scattered all over comicdom, popping up when least expected for years to come:

    http://www.comics.org/issue/58191/cover/4/

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  4. What's unnerving is how young he was. One has a sense that his best work, his big name, was ahead of him, as it were. He clearly was a highly gifted Batman artist, and with all the attention shown to that character of late, it would not have been long, perhaps, before he would have seen some more work there.

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