Tango (1985)

Texts and drawings by Hugo Pratt
(collaboration on artwork of the trams, car and station by Guido Fuga)

This single story was serialized in 53 comic pages in the magazine “Corto Maltese”, from issue 21 (June, 1985), edizioni Rizzoli.

In 1923 in San Isidro, a suburb near Buenos Aires, Corto Maltese is investigating the disappearance of Louise Brookszowic implicated in “Warsavia”, a Polish organization that traffics prostitutes, whose objectives are explained by Corto’s friends, Fosforito. In truth, Corto's decision to go to Argentina is fuelled by his desire to avenge Louise's death (rather than search for her) and an attempt to track down and rescue her three year old daughter. The central theme of the story, around which all the figures move is, however, that of the great Argentine landowners who possess huge flocks of sheep and control the nation’s entire wool industry. Pratt chooses the unyielding figure of señor Habban to represent this aspect of capitalism; the man is both extremely powerful but shady and can maneuver the police (inspector Estevez) and institutions at his will. In the end Corto Maltese manages to trace Louise’s daughter and bring her to safety but not without running considerable risks. Unbeknown to Corto the girl is actually señor Habban’s young grand-daughter, the beautiful Paso Viola Farias, who saves him by managing to convince her grandfather to let Corto Maltese and the child go without harming them. In this story Corto meets Butch Cassidy, here in the employ of señor Habban, but actually famous at the time for being the head of the legendary “Wild Bunch”. Cassidy fled to Argentina after a life spent in shoot-outs and train robberies in the American West. The atmosphere of the story is steeped in the sensual music of the tango, whose melodies seem almost to emerge from the artwork, with close-ups of the dance steps framed by Pratt with extraordinary effectiveness.There are links to the Argentine writers and poets Leopoldo Lugones (Corto Maltese reads his works) and Jorge Luis Borges (the sign bearing the name of the small station reads “Borges”). Note: In the earliest editions the title “Tango” was accompanied by “Y todo a media luz” (All in half-light, which is also the title of a famous Argentine tango). Later the story appeared only under the title “Tango”.