Corto Maltese

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The first Corto Maltese adventure, Una Ballata del Mare Salato, Italian publication cover

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.

Publication history

The character debuted in the serial Una ballata del mare salato (Ballad of the Salt Sea), one of several Pratt stories published in the first edition of the magazine Sgt.Kirk in July. The story concerned smugglers and pirates in the World War I-era Pacific Islands. In 1970 Pratt moved to France and began a series of short Corto Maltese stories for the comics magazine Pif gadget, an arrangement lasting four years and producing many 20 page stories. In 1974 he returned to full-length stories, sending Corto to 1918 Siberia in the story Corte sconta detta arcana (Corto Maltese in Siberia), first serialised in Linus.

In 1976, Ballad of the Salt Sea was awarded with the prize for best foreign realistic comic album at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Pratt frequently produced new stories in the following years, many first appearing in the comics magazine Corto Maltese, until 1988 when the final story Mu was serialised, ending in June 1989.


This is a list of the twelve Corto Maltese novels in chronological order. Original titles - French or Italian - are given first, followed by English ones. Please note that not all the albums are available in English and some NBM albums do not correspond to any original French or Italian title. French editions were published by Casterman, Italian by Edizioni Lizard.

  • 1905 (French) La Jeunesse (black and white 1981, colour 1985); published in Italian as La giovinezza (colour 1983); in English as The Early Years
  • 1913-1915 (French/Italian) Una ballata del mare salato/La ballade de la mer salée (black and white 1967-1969; colour 1991); in English as The Ballad of the Salt Sea
  • 1916-1917 (French) Sous le signe du Capricorne (black and white 1971; colour edition as - episodes 1 to 3 - Suite caraïbéenne, 1990; and - episodes 4 to 6 - Sous le Drapeau des Pirates, 1991); various episodes are availablle in English as separate editions
  • 1917 (French) Corto toujours un peu plus loin (black and white 1970-1971); various episodes are availablle in English as separate editions
  • 1917-1918 (French) Les Celtiques (black and white 1971-1972); in English as The Celts
  • 1918 (French) Les Éthiopiques (black and white 1972-1973); in English as Corto Maltese in Africa
  • 1918-1920 Corte sconta detta Arcana (black and white 1974-1975), better known under its French title Corto Maltese en Sibérie; in English as Corto Maltese in Siberia
  • 1921 (Italian) Favola di Venezia - Sirat Al-Bunduqiyyah (black and white 1977; colour 1984), in French as Fable de Venise, in English as Fable of Venice
  • 1921-1922 (French/Italian) La maison dorée de Samarkand/La Casa Dorata di Samarcanda (published simultaneously in France and Italy, black and white 1980, colour 1992); in English as The Golden House of Samarkand
  • 1923 Tango... y todo a media luz (first published in Italian, black and white 1985; editions in other languages normally use the same Spanish title)
  • 1924 (Italian) Le helvetiche - Rosa alchemica (colour 1987; also known as La rosa alchemica); in French as Les hélvétiques, in English as The Secret Rose
  • 1925 Mu (first published in Italian, first part in 1988-1989, second part in 1988-1989). In French as (black and white and colour editions, both 1992). Not available in English.


In 1975-1977, Secondo Bignardi produced semi-animated Corto Maltese stories for the RAI television programme Supergulp, fumetti in TV!. A 2002 French-language animated film, Corto Maltese: La Cour secrète des Arcanes, was based on the Pratt novel Corte sconta detta arcana, ("Corto Maltese in Siberia"). Also in 2002, Canal + produced a series of Corto Maltese adventures for television, adapting the stories La Ballade de la mer salée, Sous le signe du Capricorne, Les Celtiques and La Maison dorée de Samarkand.

References in media

  • "Corto Maltese" appears in Frank Miller's graphic novel Batman (The Dark Knight Returns) as the name of an island at the centre of an incident not unlike the Cuban missile crisis. The choice of name is apparently an inside joke as Miller has stated he is a great admirer of Pratt's work. Miller also dedicated the Sin City one-shot Silent Night to the memory of Pratt, who died a few months prior. The Corto Maltese islands has been occasionally referenced in other DC Comics since.
  • In the 1989 film Batman, "Corto Maltese" was referenced as the location of a violent uprising where Vicki Vale had been working as a photojournalist.
  • In the episodes "Justice" and "Combat", both from the sixth season of the television series Smallville, the name is referenced as being a site of Luthorcorp's 33.1 lab.
  • In the 2001 film Dust, Corto Maltese appears briefly, only to be killed.


External links