Publisher Rizzoli has responded to complaints lodged here and at the Big Planet blog about production shortcomings in the new edition of Hugo Pratt’s The Ballad of the Salt Sea. After we ran our own lament yesterday, Big Planet came back with a panel-by-panel breakdown showing how the art had been resized and repaneled into a much less appealing format. For instance, notice the cropping and poor image quality in the new version, below:
However, as the letter from Rizolli, the publisher, makes clear…Pratt himself approved this version in 1994 before he died the following year. That’s kind of stunning, that he cared so little for the layout of his own work but…well, who knows what he was thinking towards the end of his life.
Rizzoli and our Universe imprint have a history of republishing classic works that have long been out of print. Occasionally these books need to be updated or reworked, such as with our M. Sasek This Is… series where facts need to be changed, but we as a publisher always strive to remain true to the artist’s original work.Recently, Rizzoli was thrilled to retain the rights to republish Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea. To ready this new edition, Rizzoli worked closely with Patrizia Zanotti, Pratt’s longtime colorist and collaborator from 1978 until his death in 1995. Zanotti is now executor of the Hugo Pratt estate.Our edition of Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea contains only changes that were made by Hugo Pratt himself or under the direction of the Pratt estate.Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea was originally printed in the Italian comics magazine Sgt. Kirk, in 1967, and later in the French magazine Pif gadget in the early 1970s. Hugo Pratt collected the strips, had them colored, and published them in an oversized volume in 1978. In 1985, the colors were revamped in collaboration with Patrizia Zanotti. In 1994, Hugo Pratt reworked the size of the strip to three rows of panels per page. This new, smaller, more manageable graphic novel format was done to appeal to new Corto fans in the Italian market.Universe/Rizzoli took the changes that Pratt himself made in the 1994 edition and reprinted this reworked format. We made no changes to Hugo Pratt’s 1994 version.There have been other English editions of Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea, but the Pratt estate wanted a fresh translation from Pratt’s original Italian text. Harvill Press published an edition of Ballad of the Salt Sea in the oversized format and in the original black and white. The translation for that edition was made from a French translation of the original Italian text. The NBM edition of Ballad of the Salt Sea also contained a translation twice removed from the original Italian.We worked directly with Patrizia Zanotti and the Hugo Pratt estate on this project, they were fully involved, and we had their support and approval during every step of the process: from the much-improved direct translation from the original Italian; to using art that came from the Hugo Pratt estate via their European publisher; to reviewing multiple rounds of color proofs.Chris from the art/design collective Meathaus addresses his involvement and contributions here:http://meathaus.com/2012/03/
We hope that this explains the process and choices behind this new edition of Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea. If anything, we are happy that there are Hugo Pratt fans still reading his work. We hope to introduce his stories to an entirely new generation of readers and, with our edition, hope they will enjoy Pratt’s reworking of his classic Corto story.
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.