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Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea Paperback – March 6, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Hugo Pratt’s swashbuckling baddie Corto Maltese is huge in Europe and largely unknown in the United States, which makes him something like the Nutella of comic book heroes." ~The New York Times

"The numerous stories about the “rogue with a heart of gold” have been described as both elegant and complex, and this reappearance offers a new translation." ~Library Journal

"And one of Europe’s most beloved characters gets a new American translation with Corto Maltese: Ballad of the Salt Sea, the elegiac and atmospheric story of a 1920s adventurer as drawn with peerless chiaroscuro by Italian artist Hugo Pratt." ~Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Hugo Pratt (1927–1995) was a celebrated Italian comic book creator who is best known overseas for his popular comic book character Corto Maltese. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2005.

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Product Details

  • Series: Corto Maltese
  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Universe (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789324989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789324986
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
ADDENDUM (March 20th, 2012): One issue that's come up in some reviews is that the panel layouts have been modified from the original, serialized version of Ballad. These panel layouts were not modified by Universe for this reprint, but by Hugo Pratt and Patrizia Zanotti in 1994. Patrizia Zanotti, having worked with Pratt extensively during his career, is the executor of Pratt's estate and has presided over numerous Corto Maltese reprints from RCM MediaGroup's other publishing arms. She was the co-curator of a Hugo Pratt exhibit in Paris just last year--and she's behind this particular reprint. Zanotti has a tremendous amount of respect for Hugo Pratt and would not put her name on something that would disrespect his work.

Originally published in Italy, Corto Maltese has enjoyed an immense amount of popularity in Europe--particularly France--for over 40 years. The series has remained relatively unknown in English countries despite Hugo Pratt's induction into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2005 and a handful of releases in English by NBM and Harvill Press in the 80s and 90s. In the case of Ballad of the Salt Sea, Ian Monk's English translation for the mid-90s Harvill/NBM releases is currently out of print and going for extremely high prices on Amazon and elsewhere. Based on Ballad's lack of availability alone, this new translation by Hall Powell/new release by Universe is very, very, welcome. Of course, there are many more reasons to buy this book:

With regard to the physical qualities of the book: it is very nicely bound. It's a softcover that folds into inside flaps when opened, and the binding is such that the panels don't get lost in the gutters while reading.
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Format: Paperback
I was excited to pick up this new edition of Ballad of the Salt Sea, but there are a number of serious problems with the edition. First, the quality of the printing inside the Universe edition is quite pixellated and poor. Lines even close to straight come out jagged and choppy-looking. Second, a number of panels are cropped in or stretched to fit into new spaces throughout the book. This is because in this smaller edition, Universe has reformatted the panels throughout the book. The first page, which in the Harvill and NBM editions has 6 panels on it, in the new Universe edition only has 3 panels. The other 3 get dragged to the next page, sending the carefully plotted and paced-out pages Hugo Pratt originally created into a jumbled mess. In a couple of instances they have taken panels from one part of a scene and switched around when they appear in the scene.

It seems as if Universe hasn't published a graphic novel before this, because so little attention has been paid to the way in which Hugo Pratt structured his opus, and so little effort has been expended to approximate the look his stories have previously displayed. Besides the zooming and cropping, it appears as if the artwork was scanned at or was compressed to too low of a size or pixel depth to render the line art in high quality. Strangely, the cover, which features much larger, zoomed in pieces of art, is not pixellated or distorted. But the biggest concern is the casual way in which this publisher has fractured Hugo Pratt's narrative and his storytelling style, changing the shape and panel counts of the pages, and twisting the panels to make them fit into new dimensions. This is doubly disappointing in that for most people this edition will be the only affordable way to get their hands on a copy of Corto Maltese. Hopefully Universe will improve greatly on this very minimal effort if they publish further Corto Maltese books.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As you'll certainly notice in the other reviews, this book suffers from flawed reproduction values. While much of this blame seems to be foisted on the publisher (Universe), I have a number of French and Italian reprints of this series and the format is based on those. The flaws inherent in this edition are inherent in all of the reformatted and colored versions that I have seen, and from what I understand these are the files that the publisher makes available.

Some folks argue that one should wait for another edition, one without the flaws. Well, the last time we got English editions of Corto Maltese was when NBM did their run, which was almost thirty years ago. You could wait another thirty years, or you could get this, and hopefully allow Universe the financial go-ahead to release future editions. I would suggest the latter.

There are some panels where the art is definitely marred, but I'd say that this is balanced out by the excellent translations. While I've always been a big fan of Pratt's art, I never entirely understood the fanatic love for the character. After reading Hall Powell's take on the dialogue, I finally do. The book reads like a dream, and it is clear why they Europeans equate Pratt's opus with the finest works of literature. The kinship that the book has with some of Pratt's influences - Melville and London especially - is strikingly clear here in a way that I don't feel came across in the NB version. Reading this book gave me that sense of satisfaction that comes too rarely but always from truly fine works that will stay with you.

If you're a comic purist, you're gonna be bugged by some of the technical issues. The font, too, is pretty terrible, though purportedly it was the one provided by the European publisher.
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