My paper analyzes the contribution of the comics magazine Orient Express, published by Luigi Bernardi from June 1982 to March 1985, to the development of the adult comics culture in Italy. Although Orient Express consists of only thirty issues, its role in the Italian comics world of that period is not to be underestimated. Before Bernardi’s, the most renowned magazines of the time – namely alteralter, Frigidaire, Totem, Pilot, L’Eternauta – were focused on publishing comics stories by mostly French, Spanish or Latin-American artists, or, as it was the case for Frigidaire, by Italian underground and avant-garde authors. Orient Express, which after ten issues was bought by Sergio Bonelli who joined Bernardi as managing director, aimed to be a magazine that issued quality adventure stories with a strong traditional narrative, created almost only by Italian comics artists who had never had a privileged space where to publish. Once elucidated the comics market in which Orient Express integrated itself, I will consider Bernardi and Bonelli’s editorial plan, and the double nature of Orient Express as both a magazine medium and a comics medium. Through the analysis of editorials, columns, reviews, etc., I will trace the evolution of the magazine and the strategies that were progressively adopted; successively, I will examine the comics stories, and establish which genres and modes were predominant. The analysis of the editorial plan will also allow me to consider the problematic question of “auteur comics” versus “popular comics”, and see how Orient Express dealt with it. In conclusion, my talk will cast light on a comics magazine that is still relatively little known, but was in fact a protagonist of the great “auteur magazine season” of the Eighties.
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