The dark sailor Corto Maltese returns to bookstores in France a quarter of a century after the death of its creator, Hugo Pratt, encamped in our time and drawn by a Bastien Vivès who wants to “put the suspense back”.

Legendary comic book character, this adventurer who Pratt was born in the 1880s evolves in a more familiar world, in 2001, in Black ocean (Casterman), to be published Wednesday in France. “Putting Corto in a contemporary setting, for me that was the condition without which it would not have happened. Because it is more interesting to appropriate it with our codes ”, says the author of Polina to the AFP.

In 2015, Casterman relaunched the series – born in 1967 in Italy – with two Spanish authors who have remained faithful to the design of the creator: the designer Rubén Pellejero and the screenwriter Juan Diaz Canales. With the two new authors, the intention is different.

Bastien Vivès worked with a screenwriter who is very familiar with the series, Martin Quenehen. And both agreed: action was needed. “What immediately worked for Bastien and me is that beyond the hero who is a little poet and philosopher, it was his body that inspired us,” says the screenwriter. It reminds me of Eric Rohmer, a filmmaker who passes for talkative: used to tell him to make action films. We have made literary, poetic, magical, through the movements of the character, the reactions of his body. “

Engaged in maritime piracy at the beginning of the album, the hero, although young, seems to drag an already loaded past. In Japan, Peru, he will come across old acquaintances and ambiguous characters who do not all wish him well. “We had to put the suspense back on. In Pratt’s work, there are many, with mystery, assassination attempts … But in the action, it is sometimes so poetic that one has the impression that Corto is flying above the boats. . I don’t know if today it would not seem dated, ”said Bastien Vivès.

Neither vigilante nor activist

His Corto Maltese, in black and white, always enigmatic and with a piercing gaze, is extremely lively, agile, clever. If we remember the original series, “Corto Maltese, it looks like he’s 100 years old. But we, when we take it, we give the impression that it is young. He’s in his twenties, ”explains the designer.

This age does not make him nurture great ideals to change the world, on the contrary. The “new” Corto Maltese, neither vigilante nor activist, sees with detachment the attacks of September 11 and the upheavals induced by new technologies: first, he ensures his survival against those who would get rid of this adventurer.

Because what Bastien Vivès prefers in Hugo Pratt (1927-1995), “they are the action scenes”. “He’s a very good dialogue writer. He excels in portraits. But in the action, he manages to breathe a violence and an efficiency which give even more breadth to his design, where he is more challenged and where he will seek solutions. “

Politics has its place: Black Ocean is the name of a secret organization, and the character of Corto interests certain intelligence services. But it serves as a backdrop and not as a driving force for the plot; it does not upset the image of the hero known to admirers.

As the screenwriter confides, “we didn’t say to ourselves: we’re going to take risks, commit sacrilege, we’re punks… No, we said to ourselves: we’re going to do a Corto as we would dream of reading it. A Corto with a child’s curiosity, who, when told not to go somewhere, does. “

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