Corto Maltese is an Italian adventure comics series, created by Hugo Pratt in 1967. It features an enigmatic sea captain who lives in the first three decades of the 20th century. The comics are highly praised as some of the most artistic and literary graphic novels ever written and have been translated into numerous languages.
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 Sergeant Kirk in July 1967. The story centers around 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 French magazine Pif Gadget (see Franco-Belgian comics), 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 the Italian comics magazine Linus.
Pratt continued to produce new stories over the next two decades, many first appearing in the eponymous comics magazine Corto Maltese, until 1988 when the final story Mu was serialised, ending in June 1989.
On October 7, 2014 Italian publisher Cong who owns the rights to Corto Maltese, announced that a new album was being made by writer Juan Díaz Canales and artist Rubén Pellejero. The album was released in Europe on September 30, 2015 with the French title "Sous le soleil de minuit" (under the midnight sun) and takes place in 1915. In connection to this, it was announced that a further album would follow 
Corto Maltese (whose name is possibly derived from the Venetian Corte Maltese — Courtyard of the Maltese, today Corte Contarini del Bovolo, next to Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo) is a laconic sea captain adventuring during the early 20th century (1900-1920s). A "rogue with a heart of gold", he is tolerant and sympathetic to the underdog. Born in Valletta on July 10, 1887, he is the son of a British sailor from Cornwall and an Andalusian–Romani witch and prostitute known as "La Niña de Gibraltar". As a boy growing up in the Jewish quarter of Córdoba, Maltese discovered that he had no fate line on his palm and therefore carved his own with his father's razor, determining that his fate was his to choose. Although maintaining a neutral position, Corto instinctively supports the disadvantaged and oppressed. Corto Maltese's character is based on a famous Polish adventurer, author and explorer, Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski, who collaborated with Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, among others.
The character embodies the author's skepticism of national, ideological and religious assertions. Corto befriends people from all walks of life, including the murderous Russian Rasputin (no relation with the historical figure, apart from physical resemblance and some character traits), British heir Tristan Bantam, voodoo priestess Gold Mouth and Czech academic Jeremiah Steiner. He also knows and meets various real-life historical figures, including Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Hermann Hesse, Butch Cassidy, James Joyce, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Frederick Rolfe, Joseph Conrad, Sukhbaatar, John Reed, White Russian general Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, Enver Pasha of Turkey and Sergei Semenov, modelled after Grigory Semyonov. His acquaintances treat him with great respect, as when a telephone call to Joseph Stalin frees him from arrest when he is threatened with execution on the border of Turkey and Armenia.
Corto Maltese stories range from straight historical adventure to occult dream sequences. He is present when the Red Baron is shot down, helps the Jivaros in South America, and flees Fascists in Venice, but also unwittingly helps Merlin and Oberon to defend Britain and helps Tristan Bantam to visit the lost continent of Mu.
Chronologically, the first Corto Maltese adventure, La giovinezza (The Early Years), happens during the Russo-Japanese War. In other albums he experiences the Great War in several locations, participates in the Russian Civil War after the October Revolution, and appears during the early stages of Fascist Italy. In a separate series by Pratt, Gli Scorpioni del Deserto (The Desert Scorpions), he is described as disappearing in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.
This is a list of the twelve original Corto Maltese novels in chronological order. 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. Beginning in 2014, IDW Publishing's EuroComics imprint announced plans to reprint the complete series in English for the first time, in books corresponding to the twelve volumes released in B&W by Casterman. New translations are being made from Hugo Pratt's original Italian scripts by Eisner and Harvey Award-winner Dean Mullaney and Simone Castaldi, associate professor at Hofstra. The series (published by IDW) began with "Under the Sign of Capricorn," published in late December 2014.
- 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 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 available in English as separate editions. The complete edition in English, titled "Under the Sign of Capricorn", was published by IDW in December 2014.
- 1917 (French) Corto toujours un peu plus loin (black and white 1970–1971); various episodes are available in English as separate editions. The complete edition in English, titled "Beyond the Windy Isles", was published by IDW in July 2015.
- 1917–1918 (French) Les Celtiques (black and white 1971–1972). The complete edition in English, titled "Celtic Tales", was published by IDW in March 2016.
- 1918 (French) Les Éthiopiques (black and white 1972–1973), with some English publications being called Corto Maltese in Africa. The completed edition in English, titled "The Ethiopian", was published by IDW in August 2016.
- 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 Elvetiche - 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 Mû (black and white and colour editions, both 1992). Not currently available in English.
In 2015 the series was continued by Ruben Pellejero and Juan Diaz Canales, with the following album released so far:
- 1915 (French/Italian) "Sous le soleil de minuit" (2015, back and white and colour editions). Future English release announced.
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. Canadian animator and cartoonist Guy Delisle documented his observations of colleagues working on one of these French-language adaptations at SEK Studio in North Korea in Pyongyang.
- Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century for Ballad of the Salt Sea
- Lambiek Comiclopedia. "Hugo Pratt".
- ToutEnBD. "Le Palmarès 1976" (in French).
- "The ballad of Corto Maltese" by Ivan Pintor
- Fondazione Franco Fossati. "Corto Maltese" (in Italian).
- "Aeclectic Tarot's entry for the Corto Maltese Tarot".