Explore the secrets of Venice, with Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese

Venice, Italy, has been described in many ways, and has many admirers, as does the long-running comic series Corto Maltese, created by Hugo Pratt and continued today by award-winning Spanish creators, writer Juan Díaz Canales and artist Rubén Pellejero – and I just came across a guide book to the canal city, recently re-released in English.

The Secret Venice of Corto Maltese

There have been written many guide books to Venice of course, that describe places to go, and things to see, but The Secret Venice of Corto Maltese, originally published back in 1988 in Italian as Corto Sconto: itinerari fantastici e nascosti di Corto Maltese a Venezia is definitely one for anyone wanting something much more.

Written by Guido Fuga and Lele Vianello, two great designers, both friends and collaborators of Hugo Pratt, you’ll enjoy the way Corto Maltese leads you to places known mostly only by the Venetians, the book featuring illustrations from the popular series throughout.

While you think this guide book might be something of a curiosity it’s actually practical for visitors to Venice, too, offering several different walking itineraries that take you around a number of areas of the city, describing intimate details of the area, points to notice on buildings, facts about restaurants, offering historical information and more. Indeed, it’s so useful, we’re told that some Venetians use it themselves to find out more about their own city!

The Secret Venice of Corto Maltese

I haven’t visited Venice nearly enough, but anything that encourages tourists off the main streets and into exploring the often unvisited squares and other streets of this amazing city is surely a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, Corto Maltese is a series of adventure and fantasy comics set in the early twentieth century, named after the eponymous, adventurous sailor. Created by Italian comic book creator Hugo Pratt in 1967, the comics have been highly praised as some of the most artistic and literary graphic novels ever written and have been translated into numerous languages, including English, most recently by American publisher IDW, and adapted into several animated films.

During his his adventures full of real-world references, Corto has often crossed with real historical characters like the American author Jack London and his nurse Virginia Prentiss, the American outlaw Butch Cassidy, the German World War One flying ace Red Baron, and many others.

Before he died in 1995, Pratt assigned all rights to Corto Maltese to Italian publisher Cong, who have also released three new stories so far based on the character, written by Juan Díaz Canales (who’s best known for co-creating Blacksad) and artist Rubén Pellejero. Sous le soleil de minuit (“Under the Midnight Sun”) was released in 2015, followed by Equatoria, in 2017, and Le Jour de Tarowean (“All Saints Day”), in 2019.

Hugo Pratt da Genova ai mari del Sud ("Hugo Pratt - from Genoa to the South Seas"

Talking of Corto Maltese, there’s an exhibition, Hugo Pratt da Genova ai mari del Sud (“Hugo Pratt – from Genoa to the South Seas”) in Genoa at present, which runs until March 2022, at the Palazzo Ducale di Genova. It’s promoted and organised by the Fondazione Palazzo Ducale per la Cultura and CMS. Cultura, and its curator is Patrizia Zanotti, general manager of Cong, the publisher that owns the Corto Maltese brand, have perfectly traced a new itinerary, from Genoa to the places of Pratt’s imagination overseas.

Charting Hugo Pratt’s own travels – as many, if not more than his fictional sailor, the exhibition offers 200 original watercolours, illustrations, along with literary references and stories about idealists, revolutionaries, adventurous women and extraordinary men, from Lieutenant Koensky to Anna Livingstone, from Ticonderoga to Corto Maltese.

Sgt. Kirk N°63 – the catalogue of “Hugo Pratt da Genova ai mari del Sud

The exhibition is accompanied by a full catalogue, Sgt. Kirk N°63 – the catalogue of “Hugo Pratt da Genova ai mari del Sud” (ISBN 978-2940552382), available in Italian only.

The Secret Venice of Corto Maltese is available in English, French, Italian and other languages (AmazonUK Affiliate Link) | English ISBN 978-8817148887

Buy IDW’s Corto Maltese collections (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)

• Hugo Pratt da Genova ai mari del Sud (“Hugo Pratt – from Genoa to the South Seas” runs until 20th March 2022 | Palazzo Ducale di Genova, Piazza Matteotti, 9 16123, Genoa | More information on the Corto Maltese web site

The Official Corto Maltese Web Site: cortomaltese.com

Europe Comics Profile: writer Juan Díaz Canales

Europe Comics Profile: artist Rubén Pellejero

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: Art and Illustration, Books, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Events, Exhibitions, Other Worlds

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4 replies

  1. Does anyone know why it is so hard to find “The Secret Rose”? It’s the only one in my collection I can’t seem to find….

    • Not sure of the reason but Secret Rose was the last volume I needed to complete my set of the wonderful IDW books. In the end had to buy from Canada, huge shipping charges n all but worth it.

      Good to hear about the re-release of the Venice guide, defo on my list!

  2. Thanks for the information on the Venice guide, I ordered a copy and look forward to it.

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