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Franco Urru, the Italian artist best known to American readers for his work on Spike: Asylum, Spike: Shadow Puppets and Angel: After the Fall, has passed away, reports IDW Publishing Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall.
“Between flights now, I just got terrible news that Angel artist and wonderful person Franco Urru passed away,” Ryall wrote this morning on Twitter. “Rest peacefully, dear friend.”
Urru, who began working in comics in Italy as an assistant, inking, penciling backgrounds and conducting research for established artists, broke into the U.S. industry in 2006 with Spike: Asylum. “I landed into that wonderful script after a friend showed my pages to Chris Ryall,” he told The Comic Book Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 2009. “At the time Brian Lynch had written his first story for IDW and I started to work immediately on the covers of the entire mini. After finishing the first cover I realized that I was exactly where I wanted to be.”
In Italy, Urru worked in a variety of genres, ranging from fantasy to superheroes to erotic comics. His death follows the passings this week of alternative comix pioneer Spain Rodriguez and 30 Days of Night and Willow Creek artist Josh Medors.
As much as I love comics, as much as I love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as much as I love writing and as much as I love drawing, I do not envy the folks at IDW, who secured the license to produce new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics from the new owner of the ninja turtle characters, Viacom. Sure, from a business perspective, it sounds like a great opportunity for a comics publisher, particularly a smaller one without, say Time Warner or Disney breathing down their necks to turn huge profits constantly.
But from a creative standpoint? What do you do with the characters in 2011, after their mega-successful first life as black-and-white comics stars from the mid-eighties, their even more successful second life as late-eighties cartoon, toy, movie and marketing juggernauts, and the many, many less successful attempts to rejigger them in various media, with varying levels of success, over the course of the last ten to fifteen years? After all, even if approached as a nostalgia-driven project, there are two very different most-prevalent takes on the characters to try and tap into.
I think IDW probably has the right idea.
They somehow managed to lure back one of the two creators, Kevin Eastman, after he had been largely absent from the comics for years (His fellow co-creator, Peter Laird, had been heavily involved in the last Mirage series, just previous to the Viacom sale). Eastman is co-writing the new series with Tom Waltz, and co-penciling with artist Dan Duncan, essentially providing layouts for Duncan to finish.
They also chose to start fresh with the narrative instead of picking up where one of the past volumes of the comics left off, or simply rebooting and telling the same old story all over again. There are, so far, some pretty key differences, including a new villain and the fact that the four title characters didn’t all grow up together.
I don’t know how well IDW is serving the many potential TMNT audiences, but I was pretty excited to see a “micro-series” starring Raphael on the stands this week.