Hugo Pratt

By: Joe Alterio
June 15, 2009


The 1960s-80s comic series Corto Maltese, by Italian-born cartoonist HUGO PRATT (1927-95), was — on the surface — a 1930s-style pulp adventure that improved on Terry & The Pirates and the like through its attention to historical detail as well as lyrical writing and illustration. But Pratt’s work was deeper even than such inspirations as Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London. As all the best cartoonists seem to do, Pratt used his erstwhile adventurer character as a way to engage with a world that often seems random and tragic: Corto Maltese, a sailor and man of action born without a fate line on his palm, is on a journey which may involve smugglers, pirates, and villains, but which at its core is an examination of the fickle nature of life. Pratt — a World War II survivor, accused spy, and resident of Africa, Europe, and South America — offers an insight into everything we hold dear in this modern world. It could all be taken away by a rogue wave.

— Text and illustration by Joe Alterio. To view a gallery of Alterio’s HiLobrow illustrations, click here.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: | John Wesley Work III | Herbert Simon | Neil Patrick Harris |

READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).


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