Fans of Corto Maltese creator and artist Hugo Pratt have welcomed news of Rebellion’s over-sized reprints of his 1960s British war comic work, which will launch next year, as good quality editions of the original Picture Library comics can be hard to find.
Battle Stations: War Picture Library is the first in a major series of new collections from the Treasury of British Comics bringing the long lost UK war comics of Italian art maestro Hugo Pratt to the public in new editions – and is scheduled for release on 20th February 2020.
Taking its title from the story “Battle Stations” first published in War at Sea Picture Library No.34, the story, by Donne Avenell, is described as a true story of courage under fire, “a high-octane story of a blistering World War Two naval battle,” the story illustrated throughout by Hugo Pratt.
Writer Donne Avenell, who died in 2006, who is highly regarded for his work on The Phantom, also wrote a lot of comic strips for Lion, including “The Spider”, “The Phantom Viking”, “Oddball Oates” and “Dr. Mesmer’s Revenge”, drawn by Carlos Cruz). He would go on to co-write Powerman, a Nigerian superhero comic, with Norman Worker, drawn by Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland, and from 1978 to 1986 he wrote Axa, the erotic science fiction strip drawn by Enrique Badia Romero, which appeared in The Sun.
Battle Stations: War Picture Library marks the beginning of the Rebellion’s Treasury of British Comics imprint’s mission to return all of Pratt’s UK work to print. The book will be published in an oversized format, befitting the importance of his incredible and highly influential artwork.
Considered one of the 20th century’s greatest comic artists, Hugo Pratt’s influence on comic art can still be felt today. He created the internationally popular comic book character, Corto Maltese in 1967, but he had already been working in comics for 20 years before that.
Pratt worked on US-inspired Italian comics after World War Two, before moving to London in 1959, to work on British publisher Fleetway’s war-inspired Picture Library titles – hugely popular pocket-sized comics published in the same format as DC Thomson’s Commando still is today.
Only one edition of Pratt’s Fleetway works has previously been republished, in a British collection – “The Iron Fist”, in the Unleash Hell: War Picture Library Collection, but there have been European reprints, including one in colour in the Italian magazine Corto Maltese, the frames rearranged to suit a typical magazine page.
Fans of Hugo Pratt, who won countless awards for his work before he died in 1995, have welcomed the new over-size books, presenting his British work in a format more akin to bande dessinées albums, although some have pointe out the art on some is better than others.
“The story that showed Pratt at his genius-level best was ‘Night of the Devil’, in Battle Picture Library No.62, says artist Ron Tiner. “A lot of the others seemed to me to be Pratt just coasting along – which he did a lot I think – but ‘Night of the Devil’ really is a standout job.
Some war comics fans have voiced concern at the advertised price point of £14.99, noting original copies of War Picture Library can be found on on auction and sales sites at prices that range from £7 to £16. But I’d argue, the quality of some of these original publications, given their age, is pretty mixed – and Rebellion will no doubt consider new editions worthwhile not only in English, but offered through licensing to European publishers, where Corto Maltese is even more popular than he is in the UK or US.
• Unleash Hell: War Picture Library Collection includes “The Iron Fist” first published in War Picture Library Issue 25, published in September 1959, drawn by Hugo Pratt
• There’s a guide to writer Donne Avenell’s work here on the UK Comics Wiki.
Hugo Pratt: His Fleetway Work
His work for the Picture Libraries is noted as follows, over on a profile of his career on “Dan Dare Info”
War Picture Library
War Picture Library 25 – The Iron Fist
War Picture Library 40 – Pathfinder
War Picture Library 50 – The Crimson Sea
War Picture Library 58 – Up the Marines!
War Picture Library 62 – Strongpoint
War Picture Library 91 – The Bayonet Jungle
War Picture Library 92 – Dark Judgment
War Picture Library 133 – The Big Arena
Battle Picture Library
Battle Picture Library 62 – Night of the Devil
War at Sea Picture Library
War at Sea Picture Library 34 – Battle Stations
Thrilller Picture Library
Thriller Picture Library 297 – Battler Britton and the Wagons of Gold
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With thanks to Jeremy Briggs, Bambos Georgiou, Keith Page and Ron Tiner
UPDATE: Since publishing this post, I’ve discovered Bleeding Cool first reported Rebellion planned to republish these stories back in May, but not the format now revealed – kudos to Rich Johnston
War Picture Library and associated titles © Rebellion Publishing Ltd