I’ve been raving about all the great comics art that was up at the Society of Illustrators during April for the MoCCA fest, but they’re not stopping with Alt.Comix, Little Nemo and Craig Yoe. The new exhibit is a show of Hugo Pratt art. The creator of Corto Maltese is one of the all time great comics illustrators and this sounds like a must see. The show runs until June 13th, so get on down!
There have been many adventure-comics creators, but not many whose personal lives could serve as inspiration for their comics’ hero. Hugo Pratt was born in Italy and raised in Ethiopia where, at age 15, he was interned, with his mother, in a British prison camp. After World War II he returned to Italy, then set out for Argentina, spending the next decade drawing comics and traveling around South America. A brief sojourn in London preceded a return to Argentina, a return to Italy, then a move to France, before his final move, to Switzerland in 1984, where he lived until his death in 1995.
During his peripatetic lifetime, he was threatened with execution as a spy, organized entertainment for Allied troops, and drew adventure or war comics in Italy, Argentina, England, and France. Clearly influenced by Milton Caniff, Pratt nevertheless developed a distinctive style that used the cinematic “camera” to great effect, as well as a simplicity of line that conveyed a great deal with extraordinary economy.
Pratt’s most famous creation, the wandering Maltese sailor Corto Maltese, was born in Italy in the pages of the Sergeant Kirk comics magazine, but achieved international fame in France, serialized in the children’s weekly Pif Gadget. Pratt was able to use his own broad literary and historical knowledge to add depth and sophistication to these stories, bringing an adult audience to the comics, which were eventually translated into twelve languages. In addition to the Corto Maltese tales, issued first in black-and-white, then reissued in color, Pratt worked on travel sketches, autobiographical memories, and the occasional commission, as seen in this exhibition.
“Hugo Pratt: Artist as Adventurer” is curated by Patrizia Zanotti and Karen Green, and is supported in part by IDW Publishing.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.