One of the most vibrant periods in the history of Italian comics is the auteur comics magazine season, which spanned between the mid-1960s and 1980s. Auteur comics emerged shortly after the first adult comic-books had successfully hit the market. They proved the presence of a wider, more mature readership of comics than previously thought. Within a decade, the adult comics offerings stabilized into two formats: the serial comic-book and the auteur comics magazine. Different in terms of editorial caliber, modes of production, and target audience, the popular format and the auteur format soon acquired a certain qualitative connotation. In other terms, defining a work as auteur led to an automatic legitimization of the same work, which in turn delegitimized that which was not defined as such. This terminological and conceptual misinterpretation evolved for three decades and created a divide between popular comic-makers and auteurs. In reality, the situation was more nuanced, as several authors were actively engaged in both auteur and serial comics. One such author was Roberto ‘Magnus’ Raviola, who started his career as artist for fumetti neri (crime and sex comic-books), became one of the most celebrated Italian comics auteurs, and concluded his career creating the artwork for a special issue of Tex, the quintessence of popular comics series.
Following the trajectory of Magnus’ publishing accomplishments and evolution of his art, in this article I will explore the question of popular and auteur tendencies in Italian comics. I will examine how these categories influenced marketing strategies and value judgments attached to these products; I will also show how the editors and publishers’ desire to clarify Magnus’ belonging to auteur comics encouraged them to frame and even manipulate his work to make it fit the perceived standards of that category.