I talked about “‘Letters to the Editor’: how to re-construct the socio-cultural profile of Italian comics readers in the 1980s.”
In the period 1960s-1980s, Italian comics culture was characterized by the flourishing presence of auteur comics magazines. These magazines, which aimed at gathering and (re)publishing important Italian and foreign auteurs from the past and the present, were not addressed to a general, mainstream audience, but to a more specialized, demanding, and ultimately niche readership. Participation took place by and large in the form of letters, in which readers typically voiced their appreciation or criticism toward the editorial policies of the magazines. In this paper, which is an extract from my recently defended dissertation, I will discuss the approach I adopted to reconstruct the socio-cultural profile of the readers of a specific magazine, Orient Express (1982-1985). The lack of studies about Italian comics readership and of market analyses on Orient Express encouraged me to examine the published letters to the editor to extract useful information about who these readers were and why they wrote to the magazine. I will illustrate my approach to the topic, the methods I employed (including close reading, digital text analysis, and visualizations), the outcomes, and possible limitations in hope of proposing a model that might be applied to other forms of comics readership.