Corto Maltese, by Hugo Pratt
'Corto Maltese'.

At an early age, Hugo Pratt got to see a lot of the world as he moved with his parents, first to Venice, then to Ethiopia, then back to Italy. In 1945, he met Mario Faustinelli, with whom he created his first comic book, 'Asso di Picche'. He became part of what some call the Venice group, an association of writers and artists, such as Alberto Ongaro, Paolo Campani, Mario Faustinelli and Dino Battaglia. With them, he worked on several series for the comic Asso di Picche, including the title comic, 'Ray e Roy', 'Silver-Pan', 'Indian River' and 'April e il Fantasma'. Finding few opportunities for comic artists in post-war Italy, Pratt, Ongaro and Mario Faustinelli moved to Argentina after an invitation by the publisher Cesar Civita of Editorial Abril.

Sgt. Kirk, by Hugo PrattSgt Kirk, by Hugo Pratt
'Sergent Kirk'.

During his stay in Argentina, he created some of his most important comics, such as 'Sgt. Kirk', 'Ernie Pike', 'Anna della Jungla', 'Fort Wheeling' and many others. His first Argentinian work was 'Ray Kitt', which appeared in the magazine Salgari in 1949. He became acquainted with writer Hector German Oesterheld, with whom he created 'Sgt. Kirk' in Misterix and worked at the publishing house Ediciones Frontera. The Groupe of Venice was reassembled in Buenos Aires, and produced a great many comics for the magazines Hora Cero and Frontera. In cooperation with Oesterheld, Pratt produced series like 'Ticonderoga', 'Ernie Pike', 'Lord Crack' and 'Lobo Conrad'. In addition, he made his 'Ann y Dan' ('Ann de la Jungle') in Supertotem with his own scripts. For a while, he taught at the Pan-American Art School in São Paolo, Brazil.

Il Pozzo di El Dar by Hugo Pratt
'Il Pozzo di El Dar' (Corriere dei Piccoli, 1962).

In 1959, he left Argentina for London and started working for the British Fleetway group through the agency of Roy d'Ami. He contributed to War Picture Library, War at Sea Picture Library and Battle Picture Library. A year later, he moved to Ireland. In 1964, Hugo Pratt was working in London for the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Pictoral. Briefly back in Argentina, he was editor for magazine Misterix, for whom he created the series 'Capitan Cormorant' and 'Fort Wheeling'. In 1965, he moved back to Italy, where he worked for the Corriere dei Piccoli in Milan, illustrating series like 'Billy James', 'Le Legende Indiane', 'L'Epopa dell'America', 'Sinbad il Marino', 'L'Odissea', 'Kiwi il Figlio della Giungla and many others, mostly with scripts by Milo Milani.

Jesuit Joe, by Hugo Pratt
'Jesuit Joe'. 

Two years later, he founded his own monthly Sgt. Kirk. For this magazine, he wrote and drew 'Luck Star O'Hara' and 'Gli Scorpioni del Deserto', as well as 'Una Ballata del Mare Salato', a brooding tale about the South Seas, in which a character was featured who would later become the famous Corto Maltese, Pratt's most popular creation, whose stories appeared in the French magazine Pif Gadget from 1970. The similarities between Pratt and his travellng protagonist are so striking, that they inspired Alberto Ongaro to write a book on the subject. Besides continuing his work on the 'Corto Maltese' series, Pratt created a number of independent comic series during the last twenty years of his life, such as 'Cato Zulu', 'West of Eden', 'Saint-Exupéry: the Last Flight' and 'Jesuit Joe'. In 1991, he wrote the script for 'The Gaucho', illustrated by Milo Manara. In the summer of 1995, Hugo Pratt died of cancer at his home in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Saint-Exupéry: the Last Flight, by Hugo Pratt
'Saint-Exupéry: The Last Flight'. 

Hugo Pratt is considered one of the greatest comic artists, because of his versatile fantasy and use of graphic freedom. A combination of these factors resulted in very strange stories. In his tales, reality can change into dream and vice versa, and so he took his readers into the strangest lands and even through time. He is thought to be one of the first comic artists to mix literature with adventure. In 2002 a full length animated feature film was made called 'Corto Maltese: La Cour Secrète des Arcanes' (2002).

Hugo Pratt was a strong influence on many artists. In Argentina, he inspired Fernando Sosa and Oscar Zárate, in Belgium, Rino FeysMarvanoErika Raven and William Vance, in the Netherlands, Anco Dijkman, while in Finland, he influenced Kari Korhonen. In France, he is admired by Jacques Tardi. In Canada, he influenced Christian Quesnel

In 1999, the French newspaper Le Monde compiled a list with 100 Books of the Century they considered to be essential reading. The 'Corto Maltese' album 'Ballad of the Salt Sea' ended at 62th place, as one of the few comics in that list. On 24 October 2007, a statue of Corto Maltese, designed by Luc and Livio Benedetti, was erected in Grandvaux, Switzerland. On 4 July 2008, the men erected another statue of Croto and placed it on the foot bridge in Angoulême, France. Despite not being a Belgian character 'Corto Maltese' also received his own comic book mural in Brussels, as part of the Brussels' Comic Book Route. Since 28 October 2009 it can be viewed in the Quai des Péniches / Akenkaai, near the local harbour. 

Antoine de St.Exupery, by Hugo Pratt
Corto Maltese.

Le monde de Corto Maltese

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