Gli scorpioni del deserto (1969)

Texts and drawings by Hugo Pratt

This series of Gli Scorpioni del Deserto (T.N.“Desert Scorpions”) comprised 5 episodes that appeared in different publications: episode 1 (only 18 initial strips) came out in the comic book “Sgt. Kirk” issue 28 (April, 1969), Florenzo Ivaldi editore, and was concluded in the magazine “Alter Linus” from issue 1 (January, 1974). Episode 2 appeared in the magazine “Linus” from issue 1 (January, 1975), while episode 3 was published in the magazine “Alter Alter” from issue 1 (January, 1980), both brought out by Milano Libri. Episode 4 was in “Alter Alter” from issue 7 (July, 1982), edizioni Milano Libri. Episode 5 (only the first 72 comic pages – half the story) appeared in the magazine “Corto Maltese” from issue 110 (November, 1992), edizioni Rizzoli. Episode 5 (complete version) was published in the special volume “Gli scorpioni del deserto – Brise de Mer” (September, 1994), edizioni Lizard.

The action takes place in the years 1940-1941 in the East African war arena. Pratt describes the events through the figure of the Polish lieutenant Koinsky, who is part of the “Long Range Desert Group”, a British unit set up in Egypt with a scorpion as its emblem. The drawings and psychological rendering of the many minor characters that surround the protagonist are masterly, with each having their own well-defined personality: from the fascist Lieutenant Stella (opportunistic but with his moral standards), the fierce and uncompromising warrior Danakil Cush (who also appears in the Corto Maltese series), Captain Palchetti (a wild opera lover who commands a fort in the desert as if he were on stage), to the French Lieutenant De la Motte (who lives for the memory of Adrienne, a woman beloved by many, too many men). The only woman to appear is Madame Brezza (alias Clelia Avantini), who runs a brothel in Djibouti and is beautifully characterised by Pratt in just a few strokes that manage to endow her with a nuanced literary personality. When she is shot at the end she is described as “A whore indeed - but a wonderful person!” Note: This series has been published in high quality editions that are now very rare and much sought after by collectors. These are the four boxed sets in colour published by Milano Libri, the first two of which came out in numbered limited copies with a separate episode in each book.