Preview: ‘The Night Of The Devil’: More From The Genius That Was Hugo Pratt

by Richard Bruton

Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese is, quite rightly, seen as one of the absolute classics of European classics. But thanks to the Treasury Of British Comics and their extensive archive of so much of the history of Brit comics, there’s now the chance to see more of Pratt’s earlier work, his work for the British Picture Library where he’d be drawing stunning things in a digest format.

But now, thanks to the Treasury, these brilliant works of comic art are getting the treatment they deserve as the War Picture Library.

This is a man for whom the term ‘drawn literature’ was first coined. It’s something you see in every single panel here, beautifully restored and giving the size that they deserve.

In ‘Night Of The Devil’, we’re on a mission through the heat and nightmares to be found in the Burmese jungle, whilst in ‘The Bayonet Jungle’ we’re alongside Private Jack Green, desperately trying to show his comrades he’s no bad omen as they fight against the Japanese army that surrounds them.

And in both tales, Pratt’s work is simply sublime, the command of line, weight, texture, doing so much in every panel, every page… a masterclass.

One real benefit of these new war picture library editions is the format – beautifully restored hardback print or digital editions, no longer limiting Pratt’s artwork to the small digest format and giving his art both the room and the quality to really see every stroke of the brush. You still find pages with mostly just two panels, but there’s so much more to see in these bigger, better reproductions.

And if you really needed an example…

So many beautifully done lines in here, Pratt’s masterful use of blacks to evoke meaning, so all you get is the picture of a couple of tired soldiers struggling through the jungle heat. And past the figures, the jungle in the background is just a masterful use of a few lines to show everything he needs.

Or this one…

Again we have that same beautiful linework going on, the oppressive jungle all around them and a perfect example of how easy Pratt makes it look to deliver action scenes such as this.

And finally, a couple of stunning panels where Pratt goes above and beyond the style he’s adopted here and, in doing so, makes a powerful moment even more so. Firstly, a spectacular use of negative space, stunning blacks, all to deliver that moment of devastation as the grenade hits…

And finally, where Pratt deliberately breaks apart his artwork, fractures his lines, utilising nothing but ragged brushstrokes to show us, in brutal effect, exactly what horrors are going on in this war story…

Night of the Devil – containing the stories Night of the Devil and The Bayonet Jungle – written by Tom Tully & Gordon Sowman, art by Hugo Pratt.

Published by the Treasury of British Comics on 16th February, 2021. Originally published in Battle Picture Library #62 and War Picture Library #91, 1961 and 1962.

Okay then, enough going on about this glorious art, time for a preview…




%d bloggers like this: