Over the past few weeks, something related to a DC property has annoyed me. Like so many boring things about DC Comics, it involves Frank Miller.
As someone who has learned to read through European comics, especially those from the Franco-Belgian industry, it saddens me to see the insularity of this scene in the global comic book world. I am sorry. This is of course very false. Any true comic book fan knows the European scene well. It’s not about babysitting, because I’m not the only one who learned to read with these comics; as well as millions of speakers of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German and countless other languages. They are also very popular in Great Britain, Scotland and Ireland.
But if there is one market where European comics are relatively obscure, it is in the United States. It’s not just about the dominance of Marvel and DC; it lacks a larger and richer independent scene that is comparable to anything that comes from Franco-Belgian or Italian publishers. Yet it is only in recent years that this tradition has become more accessible to American readers.
Back to basics: I … enjoyed The suicide squad. I will refrain from commenting on how I, a Latin American, feel about their satire of American foreign policy. Right now I have one and only one bone to choose from, and it’s the name of DC Comic’s first banana republic: Corto Maltese. Because Corto Maltese and its eponymous main character, written and illustrated by legendary Italian author Hugo Pratt, is probably, quite possibly, pretty much the greatest comic book series of all time.
He first appeared in The return of the dark knight by Frank Miller as a throwaway tribute. He has since appeared in DC’s main continuity and on shows like Arrow. For this reason, I have reason to fear that, by its sheer algorithmic weight, the tribute will end up burying inspiration. It probably won’t, but if Miller’s intention was to pay homage to one of his favorite works, I’m not sure it got him a bigger readership.
I googled Corto Maltese (or Corto Maltes, in Spanish) using VPN servers for different countries. The majority of the results are for the comic book series, of course, but the results on DC’s continuity show up early in results in the US, UK, and even in its native Italian.
Sure, the most recent articles on Corto Maltese (the venue) mention that the name is a tribute to the comic book series, but they mostly stop at that. I only managed to find one article, from Adi Tantimedh at Bleeding Cool, explaining why Corto Maltese is important.
Umberto Eco once said, half seriously, half joking, that whenever he wanted to relax he read Engels essays, and whenever he wanted to challenge himself he read Corto Maltese. This should give you an idea of the wonder and complexity of this series.
Corto Maltese (the series) was published between 1967 and 1988 in anthology magazines, as it was the standard for European industry. Set in the first quarter of the 20th century, it follows Corto Maltese (the character), the ultimate thug with a heart of gold. Corto was born in Valletta to a Sevillian Roma woman and a British sailor. Technically a captain, he’s been a smuggler, pirate, mercenary, spy, and agent provocateur, usually finding himself in the midst of a major revolution, war, or conflict of the time. Despite his best attempts to float above all, safe from a smirk and sardonic wit, his best nature takes the upper hand and he usually ends up on the right side, fighting for the weaker ones.
It has everything you would expect from any action and adventure series: mysticism, hallucinogenic journeys, occultism and lodges, an unsystematic deconstruction of colonialist and Eurocentric tropes, people of color. humanized who have an appropriate agency, a complete immersion in usually altered cultures …
Oh, okay, and of course the shootouts, political intrigue, train chases, car chases, armored car chases, weird villains, femme fatales (who are actually characters in their own right). and not hinges), exploding ships, long lost treasures, and continents …
The collections are ridiculously hard to find in English. Published by Euro Comics, a brand of IDW and The Library of American Comics, they released the final title of the series last year. He deserves more readers. Go check it with your local independent bookstore.
‘Ted Lasso’ Episode 5 Recap: Big Dog Catches Rainbow |
Source of header image: Warner Bros.