Monday, Jul 21st, 2014

A new imprint from LOAC and IDW

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

As if we weren't busy enough with LOAC releases, we're gearing up for the December premiere of a new imprint—EuroComics. As the name suggestions, it will release English-language editions of the best in European graphic novels…starting with the greatest of them all—Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese. Corto is, in my opinion, one of the ten best comics series ever created. It's also the first "adult" graphic novel series, adult in the sense of being told from an adult perspective—not, for example, simply by using sex and other elements to shock and make a point.

As Hugo Pratt brilliantly outlined the character—at age ten, when Corto Maltese was told by a gypsy palm reader that he had no fate line, the boy grabbed his father's razor and made a deep and bloody line across his palm, declaring to the world that we would make his own fate, that he would control his own destiny.

It can be said that in 1967, when Pratt introduced Corto in the epic adventure "The Ballad of the Salty Sea," he too announced to the world that he was making his own fate, that he would control his own creative destiny.

Long before the term "graphic novel" entered the popular lexicon—ten years before Will Eisner's A Contract with God, two decades before Maus was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns became college texts—Hugo Pratt pioneered the long-form "drawn literature" story. "I'm a writer who draws and an illustrator who writes," was how Pratt described himself.

corto_capricorn

Corto Maltese set the standard for all adult adventure comics in Europe—and by extension, around the world. By the mid-1970s it was the continent's most popular series and Hugo Pratt the world's leading graphic novelist.

Kim Thompson once summed up the Pratt's historical importance: "Corto Maltese was the first European strip to advance a mature, artistically serious sensibility within the traditional adventure format. The elliptical narrative of the stories, the pervasive sense of destiny and tragedy, the side trips into the worlds of dreams and magic-all capped off with the exotic, guarded nature of the hero-combined with Pratt's hard-won craft, worldly experience, and scrupulous research to form a work of breathtaking scope and power."

Pratt's books remain best-sellers in Europe and are published in a dozen languages. His work was the subject of a major art show in 2011 at the Pinacotheque in Paris, which hailed Pratt as "the inventor of the literary comic strip" and drew 215,000 visitors. Yet until now, Corto Maltese has been poorly represented in English. A partial and second-hand translation (from the French) by NBM was published in the 1980s and the reformatting of the 2012 edition of "Ballad" met with resistance from readers who wanted to see the comics in their unadulterated format.

We're going to change all that by presenting Corto the way Hugo Pratt intended. We're fortunate to work with Patrizia Zanotti, Pratt's long-time collaborator. Together we have gone through all the different files that the French/Belgian publisher Casterman has and we've identified the ones with the absolute truest reproduction of the black-and-white art. Each book will feature a new translations from Pratt's original Italian scripts by Simone Castaldi and yours truly. Simone is an Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Hofstra, and the author of the authoritative Drawn and Dangerous: Italian Comics of the 1970s and 1980s (published by the University Press of Mississippi).

For those who aren't familiar with Hugo Pratt and Corto Maltese, you have a great treat in front of you. For those—like me—who until now have only read what's been available in English, there's a similar treat in seeing Corto done to the same standards as our books about Milton Caniff and Alex Toth, two of Pratt's influences.

We'll release the complete Corto Maltese in a series of twelve quality trade paperbacks in Pratt's original oversized B&W format.

The first of the twelve volumes, Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn, to be published December 2014, collects the first six inter-connected short stories Pratt created in France in the early 1970s: "The Secret of Tristan Bantam," "Rendez-vous in Bahia," "Sureshot Samba," "The Brazilian Eagle," "So Much for Gentlemen of Fortune," and "The Seagull's Fault."

The second volume, Corto Maltese: Beyond the Windy Isles, collects the subsequent five stories, and will be released Spring 2015. We'll work our way to the end of the series and then publish the earliest adventures: "The Ballad of the Salty Sea" and "The Early Years."

The complete series will also be released in a matched set of six original art-sized limited edition hardcovers, each containing the equivalent of two of the trade paperbacks.

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