Introduction to Comics

Confused about comics terminology? Here are some basic definitions of comics jargon to help you get started.

A comic is a story told using sequential images. It contains pictures, generally but not always accompanied by text. Comics can be found in a number of formats, including single issues, graphic novels, and zines.

Single issues, also known as singles or floppies, are usually around twenty pages in length. Single issues may be published monthly (this is especially true of series from larger publishers like Marvel and DC), but many are published on irregular intervals and / or contain stand-alone material that is not part of a series. Generally, physical copies of single issues are purchased from a local comic shop (LCS), but can also be purchased online through web-based retailers, or through the sites of creators and / or publishers. Print copies of single issues typically cost $3 – 5.

Graphic novel generally refers to collected material that is 50+ pages in length. It can essentially be used synonymously with trade, trade paperback, or tpb. Graphic novels may be collections of previously published work, in which case, they typically contain 4 – 6 issues worth of material. They may also be stand-alone, or belong to a larger series of graphic novels.

If a graphic novel contains material that has not previously been published, it is sometimes known as an original graphic novel (OGN). Graphic novels may cost anywhere between $10 and $50, depending on a number of factors including length and whether they are paperback or hardcover.

A zine is a self-published, often handmade, work that usually receives limited circulation. Not all zines contain comics, but those that do are usually distributed at comic conventions, through local comics retailers, or through a creator’s online store. A zine may have been made by an individual creator, or it may collect the work of several creators. Unlike single issues, zines are not typically available through major distributors, and must generally be acquired directly from the creator(s). The cost of purchasing a zine varies considerably.

Digital comics are comics that can be read on a device such as a computer, phone, or eReader. They may be digital-first, meaning that they were published digitally before being published physically, day and date, meaning that they were simultaneously published digitally and physically, or digital-only, meaning that they were published digitally without any plans of publishing them physically.

Webcomics are a subcategory of digital comics that are posted online and can be accessed through a device’s browser.

Some digital comics can be freely accessed online, while others must be purchased and either read online through a digital comics platform or downloaded to a device.

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