Cato Zulù (1984)

Texts and drawings by Hugo Pratt
(wide-ranging assistance with artwork by Lele Vianello)

This series comprised two episodes that appeared
in the magazine “Corto Maltese”, edizioni Rizzoli. Episode 1 on issue 11 (August, 1984) and 12 (September, 1984), episode 2 on issue 57 (June, 1988).

Work on the two episodes of this mini-series was performed with a considerable break between the two (four years between the first and the second episode). It tells the story of Cato Milton (later nicknamed Cato Zulu), a former cavalry lieutenant who is stripped of his rank. It all begins in Zululand in 1879 when Prince Eugene Louis Napoleon is killed at the age of only 23, cut through by the spears of Zulu warriors while working as a cartographer at a British garrison in the area. Cato was part of the escort that was to protect the prince and having been accused by his superiors of abandoning the prince, he is imprisoned. He manages to break out, steal a horse and get away but then comes across a siege by the Zulus at the farm of the Herdens, a Boer family. Cato manages to save the young Maria and continues his flight with her. The two young people join up with a caravan of Boers who are bravely making their way across the tall grasslands of the velt. The caravan is then attacked by a group of Zulu warriors commanded by the white renegade Kelvin, but the whole group is saved by the intervention of Mamba, a black girl who is able to halt the Zulus by using mysterious spells. Although Cato Zulu is violent, a swindler and a liar who obeys no rules, he is nevertheless an enjoyable character thanks to his foul-mouthed and licentious language. The sympathy he manages to arouse in the reader is also due to his gestures of generosity, his courage, his insolent attitude and his natural leanings towards a reckless and adventurous life.