Comics / European Comics

Can IDW Deliver Corto Maltese Properly?


By Hervé St-Louis
July 17, 2014 - 08:57

IDW Publishing announced that it will translate all of Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese in English for the first time. The first release in the series series of books starts in December 2014. The American publisher said that the first volume would be Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of the Capricorn. This story is the second Corto Maltese, not the first. Corto Maltese’s first adventure is The Ballad of the Salt Sea. IDW will publish The Ballad of the Slat Sea at a later time as there is an existing edition avaialble in English from another publisher. The publisher will also publish The Early Years of Corto Maltese at a later time.

My biggest worry about the translation of Corto Maltese in English is its quality. I have read most of Corto Maltese’s comics before the 2012 Calgary flood destroyed my entire collection. My Corto Maltese collection was from Casterman’s French editions. Casterman has been Hugo Pratt’s publisher for years. Some of his early super hero work was in Spanish. IDW has confirmed to me that Hugo Pratt wrote all his scripts for Corto Maltese in Italian even for works published in French first.

Italian is a strong literary language. Just like French it is Latin-based. I have no doubt that the translations of earlier Hugo Pratt work from Italian or Spanish to French were more than good enough. English, while a literary language, has a different rhythm. Whereas one or two words in Italian or French can capture a whole feel, English tends to needs more exposition. University professor and Italian comic expert Simone Castaldi is the translator. Her work can make or break Corto Maltese for a whole new audience.

I am concerned that IDW called Corto Maltese a series of graphic novels when in fact, it is not. Most of Hugo Pratt’s early and later work was serial. Readers could read Saint-Exupéry in short instalments. Many newspapers published Corto Maltese in a format that borrowed the serial nature of comic strips but in a comic book layout. In the press release from IDW even Frank Miller refers to Corto Maltese’s work as a graphic novel. It wasn’t. It was a dirty old comic book just like Spider-man and Superman. Comic book people need to get over their hang up against the “childish” origins of comics.

The French editions of Corto Maltese by Casterman are available in Canada. If you cannot read French or Italian the IDW edition could be your best introduction this classic comic book character.

Last Updated: January 24, 2022 - 11:00

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