If you're not familiar with Italian cartoonist Hugo Pratt's sailor and adventurer Corto Maltese, it's likely because you're reading this in English.

Though Pratt is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of comics as literature, releasing the first Corto Maltese story, "The Ballad of the Salty Sea," in 1967, stories featuring the character have been translated into English sporadically. (They were originally published in either Italian or French.) Some have never been translated. IDW's new imprint EuroComics is planning to change that by collecting every single Corto Maltese comic, translated into English, in 12 volumes starting this December.

The Corto Maltese books are EuroComics' first project, and editor Dean Mullaney says it's past time these works were published in English. "Pratt deserves a first-rate American edition and America deserves Corto Maltese."

Pratt's work has been a major influence on quite a few American comic artists and writers. You may remember that there's a fictional DC Comics country called Corto Maltese (it's even mentioned in the 1989 Batman movie). That's because Frank Miller was a fan of Pratt's and put his character's name in The Dark Knight Returns.

Mullaney is collaborating with Simone Castaldi, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Hofstra University and author of Drawn and Dangerous: Italian Comics of the 1970s and 1980s, on the new translations. Patrizia Zanotti, one of Pratt's longtime collaborators, is also helping with the reprints.

The volumes will be in black-and-white, just like the original comics. The first volume, Under The Sign Of Capricorn, collects six stories from the early 1970s: “The Secret of Tristan Bantam,” “Rendez-vous in Bahia,” “Sureshot Samba,” “The Brazilian Eagle,” “So Much for Gentlemen of Fortune,” and “The Seagull’s Fault.”

The second volume, which will collect the next five stories, will be released next spring. In addition to the 12 paperbacks, IDW will also release six oversized hardcovers, each collecting two of the paperbacks.

Pratt's Corto Maltese comics have been best sellers in Europe since the 1970s. Now, American comic fans can finally see what all the fuss has been about for the past 45 years or so.

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