Beauology 101: Un Abrazo, Enrique Villagran 1940-2014

"Beau Smith, friend of Enrique Villagran."

“Beau Smith, friend of Enrique Villagran.”


by Beau Smith

There’s a lot to say about getting older. There are a lot of very positive things; experience, knowledge, engaging new friends and family as well as reaping the rewards of having old friends.

This past week I lost another long time friend and collaborator, Enrique Villagran.

Enrique and I have been working together as storytellers for over 25 years. I am in debt to one of the best friends I could ever have, Chuck Dixon, for introducing me to Enrique over two decades ago. When you come recommended by Chuck, that means your work and your character is gold. I asked Chuck if he would tell us a bit of his relationship with Enrique for this piece, he did not disappoint:

I always picture Enrique laughing whenever I think of him. He loved a good joke and had a very dry sense of humor himself that was made all the funnier spoken in his very precise English.


The first time I met Enrique he was renting an apartment with his brother Ricardo in the United States. Los hermanos Villagran would use the place as a studio where they produced mountains of comic artwork and paintings for DC, Archie, Comico and First. They would each work until their visas ran out and then fly home to Buenos Aires until they could return.

Ricardo, the older brother, would keep working during those visits. But Enrique would be constantly up and down getting everyone drinks or something to eat and making sure his guests were comfortable. He was always such a warm and personable guy that to know him for a few minutes was to feel like you’d found a lifelong friend.

That’s the way he was. Generous and caring and three generations of Argentine artists benefited from his guidance and support. I will miss my friend and collaborator.” –Chuck Dixon

"Green Lantern Quarterly #8 Probert. Art by Enrique Villagran"

“Green Lantern Quarterly #8 Probert. Art by Enrique Villagran”

 

Green Lantern Quarterly #8. Probert Art by Enrique Villagran

Green Lantern Quarterly #8. Probert Art by Enrique Villagran

 

"Green Lantern Quarterly #8 Probert. Art by Enrique Villagran."

“Green Lantern Quarterly #8 Probert. Art by Enrique Villagran.”


Enrique and I worked on everything from my Beau LaDuke-Real Man adventures at Eclipse Comics, he was with me on my very first work at DC Comics, Green Lantern Quarterly #8 (1994) where I created and Enrique designed, Probert-The Bad One, one of the very first attempts by The Guardians to create a Green Lantern.

Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars Graphic Novel. Art by Enrique Villagran"

Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars Graphic Novel. Art by Enrique Villagran”


Enrique and I also worked together on Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars Graphic Novel for IDW Publishing. Enrique was not only able to capture Wynonna’s cool and composure in hunting down paranormal fugitives, but he also was a master of producing the quirky humor that the Wynonna Earp series has at it’s core. That, my friends, is rare.

From 200 People To Kill.

From 200 People To Kill.


We were currently working on the third issue of 200 People To Kill for Dark Horse Comics. This is a creator owned property of mine that I began with my other wonderful amigo, Eduardo Barreto, who we also lost way too early a couple of years ago. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t think of Eduardo; the same is true of Enrique.

"Hybrid" Art By Enrique Villagran

“Hybrid” Art By Enrique Villagran


Enrique and I were also in the beginning stages of a new sci-fi/horror project that we were pitching called “Hybrid”. I will miss seeing Enrique’s pages and cheerful words show up on my computer screen.

Cheerful is a word that really does describe Enrique. In all the time I worked with him as a friend and a writer, his phone calls , letters, and emails were always the bright spot of the day. He always brought a ray of sunshine from south of the border to his conversations. He was always up and his concern was to make sure you were happy. He always asked about you and your family when you spoke to him. He was truly interested and was always happy to share the news of his family and his students. When you were friends with Enrique, he always shared his love and friendship to the fullest. As an artist, his knowledge of reference and panel camera shots were top notch. He saw the world through a director’s eye. As a writer, I was always rewarded to have characters and dialogue to be layered by Enrique. His work as a professional was a textbook for other artists. Deadlines were just as important as artistic quality. Those two things were interwoven with Enrique. He not only mastered pencils and inks, but color and other angles of comic book creation. He was a “go-to” guy and THE man you wanted at your side when the four color world seemed to be closing in on you.

One of Enrique's Christmas Cards.

One of Enrique’s Christmas Cards.


I’ll miss Enrique’s racy Christmas cards. In Enrique’s winter wonderland, Santa never had it so good. I couldn’t always pin his cards up with the others in the house, but they always went up here in my office, always a smile for the man that could truly draw beautiful women.

Enrique’s fame in Europe and around the world dwarfed his recognition here in the U.S. I think his style and ability was much more appreciated by a wider audience more so than the restricted, superhero readers here in the states. That’s a loss for my home country. In working on 200 People To Kill, a turn of the century western, Enrique effortlessly showed his knowledge of the American west far better than any of my American artist friends. He could draw horses, he knew the landscape, and was a master at clothing, weapons, and elements. Others could always learn from him.

Beau LaDuke-Real Man Art by Todd Fox & Enrique Villgran

Beau LaDuke-Real Man Art by Todd Fox & Enrique Villgran


When I first met Enrique back in the 1980s, he always struck me as someone you would see in a global spy film; suave, and with a sly, knowing smile. I’m sure any lady would find his conversational ice-breaker hard to resist.

Enrique was a fine example of a family man. In fact, if he were your friend, you were his family as well. His arms were open and his heart big enough to house everyone. The saying goes, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” In Enrique’s case, you can still hear the sound of the mold being broken; he was THAT special.

I will miss you, mi amigo. You taught me a lot about storytelling, but most of all, you taught me about friendship.

To close, I’ll sign off with what each letter and email from Enrique said to me,

“Un abrazo, amigo!”


Beau Smith

The Flying Fist Ranch

www.flyingfistranch.com

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