Biography of Hugo Pratt (1927-1995)

Cartoonist and Italian comics writer born in Rimini in 1927 and died on August 20, 1995 in Lausanne (Switzerland). Author of the series of the character Corto Maltese, with he/she won great fame, to the point of being considered one of the best cartoonists of the 20th century.

Raised in a family prone to displacement, spent his early childhood in Venice (city that felt fascination throughout his life), where embebió with the classics of epic literature, especially the works of Homer and the tales of Celtic mythology, as well as reading his first comics. The various cultures that formed the Venetian community enriched their playground with thousands of references Mediterranean and maritime, in which crossing tales of Jewish, Italian, Greek, Arab and Slavs at a time.

Due to the professional fate of his father, traveled to Ethiopia with his mother, where he/she remained for six years. There it is steeped in African culture, and befriended a young Ethiopian, bred then from their parents, who met the Abyssinian language and swahili, as well as the traditions of the local people, in such a way that it acquired a profound respect and admiration for these cultures. It noted with children's eyes the complex social relations in which moved the African ethnic groups and their relationship with the colonial administrations Italian, English and German. He/She was also in Ethiopia where attended primary school, in the Liceo Vittorio Emmanuelle III from Entotto (Addis Ababa).

Shortly afterwards, in 1941, his father enlisted him in the colonial police, responsible for suppressing the Abyssinian independence uprising; Thus, the young Pratt witnessed the entry of Colonel Wingate and the troops of the Emperor Haile Selassie in Addis Ababa, as well as the extinction of the Italian power and the presidio in their own flesh, until he/she was repatriated to Italy on a ship of the Red Cross, but not before passing for a time by a prison camp. These experiences greatly marked his life, which is distilled in his drawings, with constant references to armed conflicts in forgotten places.

In the course of the great war, Pratt was arrested by Nazi troops who controlled Venice, since they believed that he/she was a South African spy. Forced to enlist in the maritime police of the Reich, Pratt defected and joined the Allied side, with whom he/she worked as an interpreter and organizer of shows for soldiers.

At the end of the war, Pratt began to devote himself to the comic in his native country. It was part of the so-called "group of Venice", the screenwriter and novelist Alberto Ongaro and the cartoonists Fernando Carcupino, Ivo Pavone, Paolo Campani, Rinaldo D'Ami and Dino Battaglia. The intention of the Group was to make stories in the American style, which serve as a stimulus so that young people were interested in the great authors of stories of adventure, from the own Homer through Kipling, Conrad, Melville, Stevenson and London. He/She participated in several projects, including the series "Asso di Piche" ('ACE of Spades'), which appeared in the Albo Uragano magazine and was the first known character in which participated Pratt as a draftsman, project that had its continuation in the time until 1949. He/She also collaborated with artist Mario Faustinelli volumes Ray and Roy (1946), Silver bread (1947), Indian River (1948) and April and il fantasma (1949). The influence that it had on American artists, such as Milton Caniff, who recognized fervent admirer is palpable in their production of these years. Very active in the Italian cultural life of the Decade of the fifties, he/she made contact with writers, journalists and artists, who later achieved international renown.

He continued his collaboration with Faustinelli, and later of Alberto Ongaro, who took a decisive trip to Argentina after receiving an invitation from Cesar Civita, responsible for the April Publishing Group (which had been published in the American nation series "ACE of Spades"). Their stay in the Americas lasted until 1962 (with a couple of interruptions in 1953 and 1959, which visited London), and he/she held several trips that further helped to develop his taste for adventure, such as his visits to Mexico, Brazil or argentina region of La Pampa, the last place where he/she made friendship with the great interpreter of jazz- Dizzy Gillespie. In Argentina also drew and carried out scripts for the magazine Misterix, where you could check your art into the headlines the white Chief (scripted by Ongaro), El sargento Kirk (script by Héctor Germán Oesterheld), Junglemen and Foreign Legion (again with Ongaro). Also scripted by Oesterheld conducted Ticonderonga and Ernie Pike, and with own scripts it did Ann and Dan ('Ana in the jungle', its first comprehensive cartoon). In 1962, he/she published Finally, Capitan Cormorant. The collaboration with Oesterheld marked a turning point in his work. Pratt left the guidelines of the American comic into a style that already would not let never. On the other hand, Pratt began to teach drawing next to another great master, Alberto Breccia.

Back in Italy, since the economic crisis in Argentina did not permit him to make a living drawing, worked for the child publication Il Corriere the Piccoli between 1962 and 1967, some of the stories written by Milo Milani. In 1967 he/she met Fiorenzo Ivaldi, a real estate developer who had acknowledged to be a great admirer of his work and was very interested in developing a project with the Rimini; Thus, they devised a luxury magazine that submit comics done by Pratt in Argentina to the Italian public. The publication had the name Sgt. Kirk, and appeared for the first time in July 1967, counting among its pages a ballata del mare Salato ('The Ballad of the salt sea'), where it appeared for the first time the character of Corto Maltese; and the first pages of Gil Scorpioni of the Deserto ('the Scorpions of the desert'), in 1969. The magazine left kiosks right in December of that year, but then Pratt had already decided continue Maltese stories. Thus, in April 1970, the weekly magazine Vaillant published "Le Secret de Tristan Batam", as well as the continuation of the saga the Scorpions of the desert in Alter Linus magazine.

Once he/she settled in France, first at Saint-Germain Laye and later in Paris, he/she devoted the first five years of the Decade of the seventies to draw to Maltese, his favorite character, which appeared both in loose volumes as the protagonist of several pages of the magazine Pif. In 1974 he/she published "Short sconta detta arcana" ('Corto Maltese in Siberia'), and in 1974 "Vanghe Dancale" and "The Golden House of Samarkand". At the end of the Decade of the seventies his albums already had great success of sales.

In 1982 came to light Dry Martini Parlor, in 1984 Gesuita Joe and Cato Zulu. 1985 are Tango and to Dim, and 1987, l ' Elvetiche. The edition of his own works did not mean the abandonment of his facet as writer; such was the case of his collaboration with the artist Milo Manara in titles as Tutto ricomincio with un´estate Indiana (Indian summer) and the gaucho.

Pratt not only used the comic as a vehicle to express his art, but it was also author of several accounts of fictional Court. He/She was, in short, a versatile and intense biography character. Father of multispindle with different women and in different parts of the world, with temporary residences in parts very distant from the globe, in the mid-1980s looked for a house in Grandvaux, Switzerland, capable of accommodating its huge collection of books (over 30,000). The sites visited and infinite curiosity with which observed the world through their eyes is reflected in his work, where is evident that meticulous detail with which are made implies a direct knowledge of the terrain in which runs the story.

Considered as one of the masters of black and white (was also important and daring forays into color, especially in the use of watercolor), and despite his prolific career, Pratt did not receive the public recognition until the Decade of the seventies of the 20th century. At the end of the 1980s he/she received several tributes, various exhibitions of his work were organized and was the subject of important samples of admiration and support, such as the case of the prefaces of some of his works, signed by the likes of Umberto Ecopens. Precisely, international recognition contributed to be considered definitively to comics as an art, something which until then was a not matched demand. Pratt entered even the most prestigious encyclopaedias, and his art began to be studied in different faculties of fine arts, both Italian and the rest of the world. It was subject, inter alia, of the following awards: the Phenix Award for best cartoon adventures and the Yelow Kid, the maximum award for a comic author.

His art has served clearly influenced other masters of the comic, such as José Muñoz, Didier Comès and Manfred Sommer.

Three posthumous albums were published after his death: the last flight, under a far sky and Morgan.

Short Maltese, legendary character

One of the leading comic culture worldwide, the character of Corto Maltese, anarchist and libertarian, can be considered one of the last heroes fully romantic Western iconography.

His first appearance took place in 1967, fruit of the patronage of Ivaldi at the magazine Sgt. Kirk; in one of its numbers Pratt made a story, called "A Ballata of the Mare salty", which incorporated several characters, all of them with a highly developed psychological profile, among which included Colto Maltese (Corto Maltese in Spain), a Corsair adapted to modern times than in this first adventure, only has a secondary role.

It would be already in 1970 when the editor Vaillant entrusted with Pratt a series of short stories appeared Maltese as a protagonist, and where the psychological aspects of the character were defined. These short stories were grouped into four cycles, including the following titles: short sconta detta arcana ('Corto Maltese in Siberia', 1974), Favola di Venezia ('fable of Venice'), La Casa Dorata di Smarcanda (1979), the youth of short, Elvetiche, etc.

The adventures of Maltese the facts with the imaginary, mingle with a scheme similar to the old adventure novels. The masterful use of black and white, which achieves an intensity in the characters of the characters rarely break in the world of comics, as well as a script very attractive are causes major that Maltese is one of the more known in the world of comics (at least of the comic "serious" or adventure comics) and which has enjoyed greater public recognition. The thirst of adventures of the character is only comparable to the own yearning for the author, who makes it clear that the events narrated well may exist because, in a way, have occurred to it, which produces a complicity with the reader more than evident.