Maltese Corto is the main framework of The suicide squad. It’s the standard corrupt South American country for DC Comics to put corrupt dictatorships in, in the same way that Markovia is DC’s replacement for Russia, all for telling Cold War style political stories, from the same way Marvel uses Madripoor as a replacement for a corrupt Southeast Asian rogue state. This is how comics are unlikely to name the countries they are based on.
Corto Maltese has been the quintessential South American despotic state in virtually every media since Frank Miller named it in The return of the dark knight in 1986. It was used in DC animated shows, mentioned in CW shows, even in Christophe Nolan‘s Dark Knight Trilogy. Its true nature is in danger of being eclipsed by being a fictional despotic land for Cold War stories in DC superhero shows and movies. Miller gave only one name to the island. The name already existed – it’s the hero’s name and the title of an Italian comic book series, considered one of the greatest comic book series of all time. And now the original version and meaning is eclipsed by the DC movies.
Maltese Corto was a series admired by many comic book creators, including Frank Miller. Its name of “Corto Maltese” was its tribute to the comic strip and to its Italian creator. Hugo pratt. Pratt’s art was as much admired as his storytelling. His use of black and white was austere and stylized, communicating a lot with very little, the mark of a master. He had stylistic similarities to Alex Roth, another master of pen and ink. Corto Maltese, the eponymous hero of the Pratt series, was a wandering naval captain who often championed the oppressed and the underdog and dated real political and literary figures like Rasputin, James Joyce, Josef Stalin, Ernest Hemingway before WWII. . .
Pratt’s series ran from 1967 to 1989, and the art and storytelling became more and more experimental as it went on. Corto Maltese embodied Pratt’s belief in personal freedom and leftist politics as he helped the outsider side with anti-fascist forces. Pratt died in 1995 and the series was continued by new creators in 2015, but lacked Pratt’s original flair. Considering Corto Maltese was a left-wing advocate for the weak and a friend to everyone he met, it’s ironic that DC’s Corto Maltese is still a literal island of corruption.
The original stories of Corto Maltese have been translated and collected in graphic novels, most recently by IDW, and worth reading if you haven’t.