Do kids still read Corto Maltese these days?
And more in general, do they read Hugo Pratt’s other stories, his westerns and his historical adventures?
I sometimes doubt it.
When a comic book comes with the full endorsement of your father, as a kid you feel the need to give it a wide berth – and Hugo Pratt’s work is idolized by so many Italians in my generation, that we probably forever alienated the younger generations from his work.
Which is a pity, because Pratt – a traveler who told stories through the visual medium – has been a great artist and a massive influence on the world of comic books and adventure fiction.
And when I was a kid, in the mid ’70s, he was not that hot with the younger audiences. Corto Maltese was slow, and verbose, and weird. I remember being roughed up by older kids because I was caught reading a Corto Maltese comic – the guy wore an earring, and therefore he was “obviously gay”, and as a consequence I had to be too. So they pushed me around and shredded my comic book.
But with its mix of history, reverie, melancholia and adventure, Corto Maltese was very much a product of its times. And if age gave it a certain edge, like a fine wine, it remains the sort of thing you need to be grown up to fully appreciate. Which of course is a perfect excuse to go back to the old comics. Through the years I put together both a black and white edition and a color edition, and sometimes I check out a random volume, just to see how Hugo Pratt did it.
And now, I find out, there’s an exhibit of his works and his worlds in Lyon – and it will be open for about one year. And here I am, daydreaming about taking a train and visiting Lyon, a vacation and an opportunity to immerse myself in the work of a true great.
It would be nice.
But in the meantime, here’s a gallery of Hugo Pratt’s art.