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Corto Maltese was an adventurer from Valetta, Malta. He was born in 1887 to a British sailor and an Andalusian gypsy prostitute/witch. His mother was known as "La Niña de Gibraltar" (The girl of Gibraltar). He grew up to become a sailor but many of his adventures take place far from the sea. Seeking excitement, wealth or simply something to do, Corto traveled the world and befriended people from all walks of life. He remained sceptical of national, ideological, and religious assertions. This did not prevent him from mixing with people fanatically devoted to such causes.

During his adventures Corto Maltese participates in many historical events and meets many real historical figures. He is seen involved in the Russian Civil War, World War I and in Russo-Japanese War. He either knows or has met many of the important authors of his time including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Jack London, Herman Hesse and Joseph Conrad. He also had a close relationship with Josif Stalin who once extended his authority to save his life.

He was reportedly (in Hugo Pratts comic The Desert Scorpions which is not part of the Corto Maltese -canon) declared "missing in action" during the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939).

His most often recurring companion was Rasputin. A mysterious look-alike to the Russian monk, never clarifying the nature of their similarity, Rasputin was actually a ruthless opportunist with homicidal tendencies and an expert knife-thrower.

Corto Maltese has been adapted as a feature animation movie and two animaited series. There has also been a stage adaptation in Finland.

Corto Maltese was created by italian comic book artist/writer Hugo Pratt (1927-1995) in 1967. Corto Maltese remains his most famous and popular character.

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