In July 1967, he published the graphic masterpiece Ballad of the Salt Sea.
One of the most famous cartoonists, the creator of the legendary character Corto Maltese, Hugo Pratt was born on June 15, 1927 in the Italian town of Rimini. Real name Ugo Eugenio, Pratt started drawing comics at the age of ten while living with his parents in Ethiopia, which was then under Italian occupation. The very stay in Ethiopia was a great experience for young Pratt. His father forcibly put him in the colonial police, so that young Hugo, at the age of 14, was Mussolini’s youngest soldier. In 1941, Allied troops liberated Ethiopia, and Hugo was transferred to Italy after spending some time in the camp.
During the years spent in Ethiopia, Hugo befriended the indigenous population and the common people. He learned their language and experienced his first adventures with women, all of which he would shape into unforgettable comics and stories years later.
After returning to Venice in 1945, with Dino Battaglia and Albert Ongar, he published Pikov ace, the first comic comic since World War II in Europe. In 1949, he went to Argentina with some other colleagues, where he continued his drawing career. He stayed in Argentina almost continuously until 1962. He lived there quite relaxed, it can be said bohemian. He drew, went hunting in Patagonia, played and sang in an orchestra under the pseudonym Zbrindolin. Hugo Pratt drew thousands of pages in Argentina. He continued and finished the series The Jungle Man, which started back in Italy. Then in 1953 he created Sergeant Kirk. To avoid copyright issues in 1959, he decides to write screenplays himself. He begins with the comic Ana from the Jungle, and the last comics from the Argentine period, Captain Cormorant and Willing, are also his best works from that time. In the tension of the author’s strength due to the great economic crisis that shook Argentina at that time, he had to return to Italy.
He made a living drawing illustrations for children’s papers, and finally in July 1967 he published the comic Ballad of the Salt Sea. In this graphic masterpiece, a cynical sailor with an earring in his ear called Corto Maltese appears for the first time. Corto will soon become the main character in most of Pratt’s comics, along with his friend / foe Rasputin.
Pratt places the adventures of Corto Maltese at the beginning of the 20th century, which take place from historical adventures to occult parts of dreams. For example, he sees the death of the Red Baron, helps the Amazon tribe of Jivaro in South America, flees from the fascists in Venice, but also helps Merlin and Oberon in defending Britain and visits the lost continent of Mu. Pratt has created more than twenty adventures of the romantic cynic Maltese, for which he has received numerous awards for both comics and storytelling.
Although he had many offers to screen his works, Pratt always refused them because he did not receive sufficient guarantees about the content of the films. His last comic he released was Morgan. He had a lot more in store. Corto was to continue his adventure through real dreams and imaginary reality. But it is not. In 1995, at the age of sixty-eight, Hugo Pratt died of colon cancer.
In addition to Corto and the above comics, Pratt has worked on various projects as a filmmaker or screenwriter for several decades: Indian Summer and El Gaucho (drawing by Milo Manara), Ernie Pike, Desert Scorpions, Jesuit Joe and many others.
Finally, we will mention that a restaurant in Venice is called the Secret Courtyard of the Arcana (the original name of the Corto comic book in Siberia), and in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, in the famous Florian cafe, you can order a Corto Maltese cocktail.