Written & Illustrated by Hugo Pratt
(June 15, 1927 – August 20, 1995)
Translated by Dean Mullaney and Simone Castaldi
Edited by: Dean Mullaney
Co-Cover Designer: Lorraine Turner
Consulting Editor: Patrizia Zanotti
Lettering font based on hand-lettering by Frank Engli.
This is my first encounter with this series, indeed I can’t recall ever hearing of it before IDW announced this reprint. I’m reviewing this from a Pdf preview copy and of course as this is a translation my review is of the English language version in this volume. I am assuming the translation is as true to the original as possible.
Corto Maltese’s first adventure was serialised in the Italian anthology El Sargento Kirk, itself named after an Argentine comic character. Even before translation in to English this makes the comic quite international, you’ll see that this continues inside the comic itself.
The first three pages of the story are previewed below.
The title character is the son of a Cornish sailor and an Andalusian Gypsy, known as La Niña de Gibraltar and was born in Valetta. This story is set during WWI, specifically 1916 to 1917, in South America but given his profession I am certain he’s traveled far and wide in other adventures.
Written in the 1970s the story telling as hardly dated at all, I trust that it this is not due to the translation but rather that it was written as a period piece at the time. The characters are from a period when racism was more the norm rather than the exception and written in a period where, certainly in the UK, many things now considered racist by society in general would not have been at the time.
One of the themes of this book is racism, perhaps due to his mixed heritage Corto Maltese is aware of the injustices that one race performs to another. Other themes explored are politics, morality and relationships.
The art is very good with some very interesting details. Some of the action scenes are disappointing as the characters do look a little ‘rag doll’ at times. Over all though the look of the art is fine.
It is a wordy script but obviously as writer and illustrator Pratt was clearly aware of this and the lettering is in no means crowded. So this gives the story plenty of space to be told in words and pictures alike.
Frankly I think this is a treasure of a book, I hope that IDW bring out more.