The son of Rolando Pratt and Evelina Genero, Hugo Eugenio Pratt was born on 15 June 1927 in Rimini. His childhood, however, was spent in the large family house in Venice, a city to which the widely-travelled Pratt would continue to feel a close attachment throughout his life.
In 1937 the family moved to Ethiopia, where they lived for six years; in 1944 Pratt narrowly escaped being shot as a South African spy by the SS.
He returned to Venice with the Allied forces, organising shows for the troops. However, his real passion was for story-telling and, in 1947, he – together with Mario Faustinelli and the writer Alberto Ongaro – founded the magazine Albo Uragano, which subsequently became known as Asso di Picche – Comics, after the lead character in the main story, drawn by Pratt.
The problems of producing a successful comic strip on Italy led Pratt – together with others such as Dino Battaglia and Sergio Toppi – to emigrate to South America, where he would live for thirteen years.
There, he would create such characters and series as Junglemen, Sgt. Kirk, Ernie Pike and Toconderoga, all scripted by Hector Oesterheld (described by Pratt as “the best script-writer I have ever known”, Oesterheld was later one of the many desaparecidos of the military regime in Argentina).
After a brief period in England (1960-1962), Pratt moved back to Italy, to his beloved Venice. Here, after a short collaboration with Corriere dei Piccoli, he would make the acquaintance of Florenzo Ivaldi, an encounter that was to be crucial for his career.
Together they decided to publish a new magazine called Sgt. Kirk, with the work that had been created in South America. Issue number one of that publication contained the first nine strips featuring Corto Maltese – the now-classic story of “A Ballad of the Salty Sea.. Three years later came full ‘consecration’ of the character, when the French comic-book magazine Pif carried a total of twenty-one episodes, starting with the incomparable Caribbean adventure “The Secret of Tristan Bantam”. The rest is history.
Hugo Pratt would die on 20 August 1995 near Lausanne, where he had been living for several years.