Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese, an acknowledged classic of European comics, is going to be available in the U.S. once again thanks to Heavy Metal, which is releasing the initial volume in the Corto Maltese saga, Ballad of the Salt Sea ($14.95), this December.  Heavily influenced by the adventure comic strips of Milton Caniff and the tough guy-with-the heart-of-gold heroes of the American cinema (think Bogart in Casablanca), Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese graphic novels chronicle the adventures of a laconic sea captain who gets involved in a fascinating series of globe-spanning yarns set in the early twentieth century.  NBM published a number of Pratt's Corto Maltese graphic novels in the U.S. in the 1980s (and copies of several of the out of print NBM editions are currently going for big bucks on Amazon).


First published in Italy in 1967, The Ballad of the Salt Sea is the inaugural Corto Maltese adventure.  Set in the Pacific Islands during World War I, The Ballad of the Salt Sea features smugglers and pirates in a breathless 164-page black-and-white graphic novel adventure.  Readers who take the time to discover this superb series of graphic novels will soon understand why Frank Miller paid homage to Hugo Pratt's greatest creation in The Dark Knight Returns, by naming an island where a Cuban missile-type incident takes place 'Corto Maltese.'