Corto Maltese  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Corto Maltese is a comics series featuring an eponymous character, a complex sailor-adventurer. It was created by Italian comic book creator Hugo Pratt in 1967. The Corto Maltese series has been translated into many languages and is known worldwide.

Character

Corto Maltese (possibly derived from the Venetian Courtyard of the Maltese) is a laconic sea captain adventuring during the early 20th century (1900-1920s). A "rogue with a heart of gold," he is tolerant and sympathetic to the underdog. Born in Valletta on July 10, 1887, he is a son of a British sailor from Cornwall and an Andalusian prostitute known as "La NiƱa de Gibraltar". As a boy growing up in the Jewish quarter of Cordoba, Maltese realised he had no fate line on his palm and therefore carved his own with a razor, determining that his fate was his to choose. Although maintaining a neutral pose, Corto instinctively supports the disadvantaged and oppressed.

The character embodies the author's skepticism of national, ideological, and religious assertions. Corto befriends people from all walks of life, including the murderous Russian Rasputin (no relation with the historical figure, apart from physical resemblance and some characteristic attributes), British heir Tristan Bantam, Voodoo priestess Gold Mouth and Czech academic Jeremiah Steiner. He also knows and meets various historical figures, including Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Hesse, Butch Cassidy, White Russian general Roman Ungern von Sternberg and Enver Pasha of Turkey. His acquaintances treat him with great respect, as when a telephone call to Joseph Stalin frees him from arrest when he is threatened with execution on the border of Turkey and Armenia.

Corto's favourite reading is the Utopia by Thomas More, but he never finished it. He also read books by London, Lugones, Stevenson, Melville and Conrad.

Corto Maltese stories range from straight historical adventure stories to occult dream sequences. He is present when Red Baron is shot down, helps the Jivaros in South America, and flees Fascists in Venice, but also unwittingly helps Merlin and Oberon to defend Britain and visits the lost continent of Mu.

Chronologically, the first Corto Maltese adventure, La giovinezza (The Early Years), happens during the Russo-Japanese War. In other albums he experiences the Great War in several locations, participates in the Russian Civil War after the October Revolution, and appears during the early stages of Fascist Italy. In a separate series by Pratt, Gli Scorpioni del Deserto (The Desert Scorpions) he is described as disappearing in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Corto Maltese" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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