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  Hugo Pratt's "Corto Maltese"Mar 05, 2014 12:14 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Besides all the people who continue to jump in and support A* through Patreon, I have to thank the further generosity of Russia's #1 A* fan, who sent me yet another book off A*'s Amazon Wish List! And I'm a little behind on going through these neat books I get, but I'm going to make sure I do this one because I find it really amazing in a unique way. It is Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea by Italian comic book creator Hugo Pratt; the roguish sailor Corto Maltese was Pratt's most famous creation, and this, the first Corto book, came out from '67 through '69 in French and Italian.
 
Pratt was a teenager in Africa during WWII, and later spent time in South America before moving back to Italy, and then finally going to France where he did the bulk of his comic work. In his travels he absorbed details of many cultures, and you can see this paying off unmistakably in the scrappy South Seas situations in which Corto finds himself. There's a surprising amount of dialogue in what you might have assumed was a straight-up adventure story, but Corto and his world are both surprisingly complex.
 
But I've only read the first chunk of Ballad so far, so I can't say all that much about the writing I suppose, except that the English translation by Hall Powell in this Universe-published edition is a little awkward. This edition also adds color—by Patrizia Zanotti—and although I'd have liked to have seen Pratt's original black and white, the color, done in a broad, watercolor style, really does fit Pratt's ink pretty well. But enough talk, let me *show* you:
 
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^ Pratt gets *really* abstract with the ink when the sea acts up : o
 
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^ As I said, lots of dialogue—but somehow it doesn't seem like too much as you're actually reading it, even when one of the speakers' faces it totally obscured by a nifty mask (the font they used for the translation *is* a little funky)
 
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^ Action! Notice how abstract Pratt's individual ink marks are—but they almost always add up to something you understand right away
 
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^ More action, and Pratt having fun with poses; notice too how his use of shadows is both heavy yet subtle; oh by the way that's the main character squeezed in on the right
 
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^ Corto being sassy to a German soldier conducting an off-the-record war in the WWI era
 
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^ Corto being sassy to his usual nemesis, his rival rogue captain, Rasputin
 
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^ I didn't really notice until I got close-up like this, but the line art they used in this edition is a little low-res
 
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^ A good view of Pratt's favorite thick and thin lines there on Ras' shirt; they remind me of some of the work Frank Miller did decades later—and Miller contributed a quote on the back of the book
 
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^ Diagonal lines on noses are always fun
 
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^ Corto is extra saucy when he's been adrift at sea and hasn't shaved in a while
 
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^ The diabolical Rasputin tries to hurt Corto's feelings
 
Well, that's it for now—I've got about 2/3rds of the thing left to go, and I will probably be sucking up your bandwidth with more photos of them at some point. I really like how Pratt's artwork has this devil-may-care attitude about it with the loose linework; once in a while there's a panel that really *does* look like a disaster, but he never goes completely off the rails and away from an essential realism, and the expressive way he goes about it has a genuine rough charm and assurance, just like Corto himself.
 
Ballad seems to be the only Corto book Amazon carry themselves, which is too bad. I'd really like to get these books in the original French, too—would be a good excuse to get back to trying to improve my pretty poor abilities in that language. Oh speaking of which, there are a few animated Corto films on YouTube; The Ballad film is a bit sketchy, but La Cour Secrète des Arcanes is absolutely gorgeous—and in French; nonetheless, I will watch it some day when I feel like just sitting for 90 minutes and seeing something really neat.
 
 
 
 
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