Jesuit Joe
L’uomo del Grande Nord (1980)

Texts and drawings by Hugo Pratt

This single story comprising 48 comic pages appeared in the volume “L’Uomo del Grande Nord”, issue 28 of the series “Un Uomo un’avventura”
(June, 1980), edizioni Cepim
.

Set in Canada around 1920, the story returns to the theme of the “Royal Canadian Mounted Police”, the picturesque body of mounted police that Pratt knew very well having studied their rules and behavior while he was travelling there. The protagonist is the half-breed, French-Canadian Joseph Montour Riel, who calls himself Jesuit Joe and wears the red jacket of the Canadian Mounties that he found in a hut. This fact gives rise to a series of misunderstandings as the half-breed is mistaken for a member of the Canadian Mounted Police. His actions, as he moves through the snowy wastes of the region, highlight his highly unusual ethic code and his disturbing and complex personality. He kills with ridiculous ease (even his sister) and shows an unmatched cruelty and ferocity when he kills and scalps three guards who were after him as well as an Indian that attacked him. Yet his mood is so changeable that he also performs unexpected actions of sudden kindness, such as when he frees a kidnapped child, and later does the same for two criminals under escort. His nemesis is Sergeant Fox, who has long been following him to catch him and bring him to justice. When in the end Jesuit Joe has the opportunity of killing the sergeant and resolving his own predicament he chooses to spare him, thus performing the last “mad” act that follows rules that can neither be fathomed nor conceived. Note: A second incomplete part was issued in 1984 in the magazine “Comic Art” and later a further version of the story, now entitled “Jesuit Joe”, including the first and second part with the addition of storyboards for the film by Oliver Austen, appeared in the magazine “Corto Maltese” in 1991.