Eduardo Barreto: 1954-2011

A column article, Busted Knuckles by: Beau Smith

I knew something was wrong.

I hadn’t heard from my good friend and artist Eduardo Barreto in a few weeks. The last time I had heard from him he told me that he had been feeling weak and that his regular medications/treatments weren’t working anymore. He spoke of trying some experimental treatments. That was the last time I would hear from my good amigo from South America.

A few weeks later I got an email from Graham Nolan, a long time friend of mine and mutual friend of Eduardo. Graham had contacted Eduardo to tell him how excited he was to see that Eduardo was drawing The Phantom. The reply that Graham got back wasn’t from Eduardo, but from his wife. She told Graham that Eduardo had passed away.

Eduardo and I had been close friends for over 20 years. We were the same age and even though we grew up thousands of miles apart and were from different countries, he was always like my brother. I mean that. Eduardo was like family to me, the kind you get lucky enough to choose.

I had always admired Eduardo’s artwork and storytelling. My admiration began in the late 1970s when I saw his work and had to find more that he had done and was going to do. Eduardo’s talent was rare in the fact that he had all the traditional story telling power of the legendary masters that had come before, like Alex Raymond, Joe Kubert, Hal Foster and Wally Wood, yet his art always continued to grow, adapt and progress. He took the teachings of the past into the future.

Eduardo also had a film director’s cinematic eye. If you look at his work, you’ll be able to see how he could take the reader’s eyes on a wonderful journey and unfurl a story with characters that you would invest in emotionally. Not many artists can do this. Eduardo could.

Please don’t think I’m saying this because Eduardo was one of my best friends, these are honest words that I would say even if Eduardo and I had never met. His artistic talents speak for themselves.

Just as Eduardo was a top professional with a brush and pen, he was also A-List when it came to doing his work on time and going the extra distance to make everyone connected with the job look better. Eduardo first starting getting sick when we were working on Cobb: Off the Leash at IDW Publishing. Instead of letting the pain double him up and knuckle him down, Eduardo took the fight to his work and produced possibly the finest work of his career. I was never so honored when Eduardo told me that working on Cobb was his most favorite work of his career. His words brought tears to my eyes then and it does to this day. For a talented man like Eduardo, with an amazing landscape of work like his, to tell me, a story of mine was his favorite. Well, it’s career-making for me, an honor I cannot put into words.

When we worked on Cobb, we discovered that we were of the same creative mind. I was amazed each time Eduardo would turn in pages; it was like he was able to reach into my mind and pull the images out and transfer them to paper. He added his own layers of character and creativity to the story to take my dreams to a place I never imagined. Eduardo made a film of my story. His work as a whole was truly a gift from God that was shared with us all. Eduardo himself as a man was a true gift from God

Eduardo and I also worked on two "classic Captain Action" stories for Moonstone Books. The money that did come in from it wasn’t great, but Eduardo and I did these stories because we not only wanted to work together again, but it was on a character that we both had enjoyed since childhood. Both stories were short ones, one an 8-pager in Captain Action #4, and the other a 12 pager, in the Captain Action Winter Special. Our goal was to capture the feel of an action/adventure story from the 1960s. With Eduardo penciling, inking and coloring the story, I truly felt like I was cast back in time with all the technological wonders of today.

After that, Eduardo and I both made a pact to develop as many projects together as we could. Both of us are lifelong historians and fans of the American Old West, we decided that we would do our best to bring stories of that time period to the readers of today. We developed Jefferson Buck: Man Trapper, Cowboy Warrior King and the current project we were working on for Dark Horse Presents called "200 People To Kill." It was to come out December, 2011, I’m sorry to say that with the passing of Eduardo, "200 People To Kill" had to be shelved. Eduardo had done the opening page while feeling ill. He was always a man that marched on even in the harshest weather.

When you talked to Eduardo he was always concerned on your health, your life and what you were doing. He never whined, complained or shoved a bad mood on you. He was modest to a fault, he was generous to a fault. Those were his only faults. More of us should have those faults.

Being in the comic book business as a writer and a marketing VP for the last 25 years, I can honestly say there are only a small handful of artists that are in Eduardo’s all-round artistic peer list. His heroes were rugged, his women beautiful, his supporting characters immortal and his work honorable.

A few years back at San Diego Comic Con, Eduardo Barreto, Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan and I were all guests of a Dark Horse Comics party, high atop on the roof of a hotel. The four of us had been mingling, networking and drinking when we finally settled out on the roof section overlooking San Diego. The stories flowed, as did the beer. Wonderful stories about the comic book business, our childhoods and all the pop culture that we admired and shared interest in. We spoke of the old west, history and of course, beautiful women, but it was Eduardo that, while on the subject of women, had these words that rung most true. He simply smiled, raised his beer and said “My friends, there is beauty in every woman.”

I will miss my friend Eduardo Barreto very much. I loved him as a brother. I wish you had the chance to know him as I did.

--Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch

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