Over the period from the mid-1960s to late 1980s, Italian comics culture was characterized by the flourishing presence of comics magazines. These magazines, whose aim was to gather and (re-)publish important auteurs from the past and the present, were not addressed to a general, “popular” audience, but to a more specialized, demanding, and, ultimately, niche readership. If we check the sales figures declared by the publishers, we realize that while Linus, the first and probably the most well known auteur magazine, was selling an average of 50-65,000 copies a month, more than twice as much as others, like Frigidaire and Corto Maltese, weekly magazines for teenagers and children were selling between roughly 500,000 (Topolino) and 150,000 copies (Il Corriere dei Piccoli). According to the data, then, the community of readers of auteur magazines was quite limited, and not even particularly diverse: few women, some teenagers, and mostly young men in their twenties and thirties. Their participation took place mostly in the form of letters, in which they typically voiced either their appreciation or their criticism toward for the editorial choice of the magazine. Part of these letters were then published and, more or less briefly, commented by the editor.
The study of the dynamics between readers and editors proves particularly telling of the convergence/divergence of expectations between these market’s subjects and it is an essential element to consider when discussing the format of the comics magazine. Through the close analysis of one of these auteur comics magazines, Orient Express (1982-1985), my aim is to point out the relationship the readers created with the magazine, the compromises the editorial staff had to make to adjust to their readers’ expectations, and, eventually, the social profile of the subjects involved in the making of auteur comics magazine.