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Thread: Comic Store Owners Address The Universe Over Corto Maltese

  1. #1
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    Default Comic Store Owners Address The Universe Over Corto Maltese



    Jared Smith, Peter Casazza, Greg Bennett and Joel Pollack of Big Planet Comics have written this letter to Universe/Rizzoli, the new publishers in English of the classic Corto Maltese volume by Hugo Pratt, The Ballad Of The Salt Sea. And they are not happy.
    This is an open letter we are writing to express our extreme displeasure with the terrible edition of Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea you have just released. We are the co-owners of Big Planet Comics, a group of comic book stores in the Washington, DC area. Hugo Pratt is one of our favorite artists and we have read, collected and sold numerous works by him, including earlier editions of The Ballad of the Salt Sea.

    The art has been scanned at a low resolution, leading to pixelization that obscures or erases the smoothness of the fine and precise art of Hugo Pratt. In some cases, it seems to have been printed at an even worse quality, the most egregious example being the middle panel on page 136, where the thin lines denoting the rays of light look like they were drawn with a skittering giant marker.

    The reformatting of the panels of each page so that only about two-thirds of each original page is on each page of your edition jumbles the intention of Hugo Pratt, so that the flow of story from panel to panel is interrupted or changed, and the natural break point, or pause, at the end of each original page is now mixed haphazardly through your layout.

    Most offensively, the original panels of Hugo Pratt's art have been resized, cut, and cropped to fit this amateurish new layout scheme, in some cases removing over a third of each panel, or splitting a panel into two new panels. Some panels appear to have been zoomed in, resulting in further loss of quality and removing more of Hugo Pratt's art.

    These terrible mutilations of Hugo Pratt's art are insulting enough, but there are numerous panels where someone has taken upon themselves the hubris to fill out the gaping holes in the modified panels by adding to the art itself.

    Also, your description of the book on your webpage at http://www.rizzoliusa.com/book.php?isbn=9780789324986 incorrectly claims this is the first time Ballad of the Salt Sea has been available in English. In fact, it has been released in English at least twice: once by The Harvill Press in 1996, and once by NBM Publishing in 1997.

    This book is the first encounter we have had with any division of your publishing house. Your edition cannot claim in honesty to represent an unadulterated replication of Hugo Pratt's work. Whoever approved such a hatchet job on this classic piece of art should be ashamed of themselves. We would appreciate an apology and explanation.

    We, and many of the employees at our stores, were very excited to sell Corto Maltese to our customers. We are disappointed we will not be able to recommend that any customer buy your edition.

    Disappointedly,

    Jared Smith

    Peter Casazza

    Greg Bennett

    Joel Pollack

    --

    Co-Owners

    Big Planet Comics

    Washington, DC

    Bethesda, Maryland

    College Park, Maryland

    Vienna, Virginia

    http://www.bigplanetcomics.com
    Previous versions of the comic had been criticised for poor translations. But in comparison, it may be worth diving back to the nineties...
    Peter J Poole, _OM_ and JohnP like this.

  2. #2
    King of Cool Joe Kalicki's Avatar
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    Everytime I hear Corto Maltese it makes me think of Vicki Vale showing her photos to The Joker in Tim Burton's Batman.

  3. #3
    King of Cool Peter J Poole's Avatar
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    Good God...

    A retailer rant that actually goes beyond 'how can I sell da crap what Bendis and his buddies churn out' to make some actual valid points!

    I am, impressed!

    Cheers
    _OM_, Fysh, Richard Pace and 1 others like this.
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  4. #4
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    Here's a more detailed breakdown of the problems in the book with visual examples.

    How to Destroy a Comics Classic | Big Planet Comics

  5. #5
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    Default Blame Casterman

    A look through Amazon France shows that Corto's French publisher, Casterman, published a pocket sized edition of Ballade De La Mer Salee back in 2003. Since this runs 80 pages more than any other edition (253 compared to 169 pages), then I assume that Universe have translated this hacked-about edition. It doesn't mitigate the aesthetic crime, though.

  6. #6
    Zen Master of Cool stegron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter J Poole View Post
    Good God...

    A retailer rant that actually goes beyond 'how can I sell da crap what Bendis and his buddies churn out' to make some actual valid points!

    I am, impressed!

    Cheers
    We got two copies of the book in and they are, indeed, absolutely appallingly produced.

    It's not something we're likely to sell many copies of anyway, but It's great that a shop that can is bringing such a valid point to the publisher.

    And do other retailers really have trouble selling 'da crap what Bedis and his buddies churn out'? Our shop doesn't sell half as many Marvel comics as we do DC, but our biggest problem is, and always has been, getting customers to buy the stuff that other retailers seem to have no problems selling - I looked at the Crossed promotional pictures with interest, as we've never been able to shift more than 2 or 3 copies of Crossed. Likewise, we stopped ordering Chew a few months ago, as we couldn't shift the 1 copy per month that we were down to. It has to be said that titles like these sell okay as GNs, mind.

    It has nothing to do with non-promotion, either, as we've always put whatever is (supposedly) the 'hot' books of the moment front and center. It just seems to be a regional thing - our customers, for reasons better known to them, just have little interest in indies. And we have a very wide cross-section of customers - older readers, lots of students, lots of hardcore fanboys, lots of kids...

    I'd love to know who has trouble shifting Marvel comics, though, and why!

    EDIT: I've just followed the link to your site - 'Starstrike' is quite, quite wonderful, sir!
    Last edited by stegron; 03-20-2012 at 07:39 AM.
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  7. #7
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    In 2006, Casterman co-produced a Corto Maltese 7-book hardcover box set with various other European publishers (including Egmont in Norway). This was a beautifully coloured edition, with a lot of really nice extras (text pieces, painted artwork, historical context). The size was exactly the same as the American Trade Paperback size, but the artwork was not broken up and the text well-placed so it had none of the problems that this edition supposedly had.

    Except of course for not being in a larger album-size. But other publishers made sure to release full-size albums to satisfy the purists.

    Bottom line is: They could have released it in American TP size without butchering the artwork. Casterman already had a well-designed option for that, where all that would be needed would be to translate the text and drop it in. It would still be readable and quite beautiful.

    This kind of hatchet job seems inexcusable.

  8. #8
    Captain Cool Hollow's Avatar
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    I can understand complaining about the the low-res pages but the reformatting of the panels was AFAIK approved (or even done) by Pratt himself for an Italian pocket book edition and the story is available in this form for several decades and was published by Panini in Germany in 2005 as well as the already-mentioned French edition.

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  9. #9
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    I'm glad the quality issue was brought up. I purchased this book recently, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. I'm only familiar with Pratt's work as a writer in collaboration with Milo Manara in the Manara books Dark Horse is putting out. I might not have suspected any hatchet job in my Corto Maltese book had it not been for this. I hope a more faithful version comes along at an affordable price.

  10. #10
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