Ever wanted to read a comic but didn't know where to start? Interested in superheroes, manga, romance, webcomics and more? Look no further! We have all the recommendations you'll ever need.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Glossary of comic book jargon

Comic - a book containing sequential art that can be printed in a number of ways.  Ongoing titles appear as monthly issues of 22 pages and are sold in specialist comic shops and online.  Monthly issues are also referred to as magazines, floppies and pamphlets.  These ongoing titles can be collected into trade paperbacks, graphic novels and collected editions.  They can also appear as original graphic novels, having never been sold as monthly issues.  Comics can be about any type of story or any genre.  They are not limited to superhero stories. 

At long last, we present to you the glossary of comic book terms!  Listed in alphabetical order, this glossary will provide you with an explanation for comic book jargon.  If you feel something is missing or you want further explanation, please let us know.

Words in bold will have their own definition elsewhere in the glossary.
For an explanation of the different publishing houses, see this post.

Artist - The person who contributes to the art for the book.  A person identifying as a comic book artists may be a penciller, colourist, inker, letterer, painter, or a combination of two or all of those things.  See also our article here that goes into more depth on the creative process.

Bronze Age - Superhero comics published between 1970 to the mid 1980s (approximately).  Comics produced in this period started to tackle issues of social injustice and we see more diverse characters being created.  Green Arrow/Green Lantern volume one is a good example of a bronze age comic.  From this time period comics began to be marketed more towards adults, and so the story telling matured and continuity was taken more seriously.  See also Platinum Age, Golden Age, Silver Age and Modern Age.

Canon - The accepted history for characters and universes.  See also continuity.

Collected Edition - This refers to a trade or graphic novel that collects several issues from an ongoing title into one thick book.  Sometimes Collected Editions are branded with titles like Showcase and Essential. These are introductory volumes for characters and generally consist of old Golden Age or Silver Age stories.  See also this explanatory post on the different formats. 

Colourist - A person who contributes the colours to comic book art.  See our article here that goes into more depth on the creative process.

Comic - A book containing sequential art that can be printed in a number of ways.  Ongoing titles appear as monthly issues of 22 pages and are sold in specialist comic shops and online.  Monthly issues are also referred to as magazines, floppies and pamphlets.  These ongoing titles can be collected into trade paperbacks, graphic novels and collected editions.  They can also appear as original graphic novels, having never been sold as monthly issues.  Comics can be about any type of story or any genre.  They are not limited to superhero stories.


Continuity - The current accepted history of ongoing comic book titles.  Titles have many different creative teams over the course of their publishing history (and some comics have been published as a singular title for several decades), but it is expected that the current creative team will be aware of what has happened in past issues and what is happening in other titles.  This enables them to tell a cohesive story.
For example, if Spider-Man marries Mary-Jane in one issue, then the creative team changes, it is expected that the new creative team will write them as married.  If the new creative team decides they do not want them to be married, they must come up with an in story explanation to change the situation.
Continuity applies to the whole comic universe, so if Supergirl gets her hair cut short in one title, for example in Justice League of America, then the reader would expect her to be drawn with short hair in her own title.  See also Retcon and canon.

Crossover - A story arc that is dealt with in more than one title, meaning that to get the full story you must read more than one ongoing title. 

Floppies - Individual issues of a title are referred to as floppies, because they are 22 pages long, and, well, floppy.

Golden Age - Superhero comic books published between 1930 and 1949 (approximately) are Golden Age comics.  This is when characters like Superman, Batman and Captain America were first created.  Typically, the stories have changed quite a lot since these early days, both in terms of personality and types of adventures.  The main audience for these comic books were children.  See also Platinum Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and Modern Age. 

Graphic Novel - This can be another word for a trade paperback (see below).  Graphic novels can be hardback or paperback, and may contain issues that have been published originally as an ongoing title, or the graphic novel may contain a brand new story that has never been seen before.  The term graphic novel is sometimes preferred by people who believe that comic has too many childish connotations.
Graphic novels are large sized books, and can contain anything between 88 and 265 pages of story.  Usually graphic novels are a self contained story, although this story may link in to other graphic novels.

Homo Superior - A character in the Marvel comics' universe who is the product of a genetic mutation and has gained superpowers through the mutation.  Also known as mutants, many of these are in the X-Men or are the enemies of the X-Men.

Indie/Independent - A book which is published by someone other than the DC and Marvel comics companies or their subsidiaries.  See also here.

Inker - The person who goes over the Penciller's work in India Ink so the pencil lines aren't lost when it's published.  Inker's are not merely tracers, there is a lot of skill involved.  For more information see this article here.

Letterer - The person who puts the text, word balloons, sound effects and dialogue boxes in a comic.  Like the Inker, there is more skill involved in this than you would think.  See our article here for a more in depth look at the creative process.

LCS/LCBS - This abbreviation stands for local comic shop or local comic book shop.

Manga - Quite simply, the Japanese word for comic.  Manga is commonly used to refer to all comics produced in Asia, or comics that  are perceived to have a Japanese style.  See also Manwha.

Manwha - Another word for comics produced in Asia, but Manwha is usually used to refer to Korean published comics.

Metahuman - A character in the DC comics' universe who is human and has superpowers.

Mini series/maxi series/limited series - See also Title and Ongoing.  Mini and maxi series differ from ongoings in that they are titles designed to end with a limited number of issues.  Mini series typically last between 3 and 6 issues, where maxi series can last anything between 12 and 52 issues.

Modern Age - Superhero comics produced from the mid 1980s to the present.  As a general rule, superhero comics produced in this time period became more grown up and darker.  Satires of superhero comics started being produced and the industry tried to become edgier.  Some superhero comics produced in the 1990s became featured hyper masculine and hyper feminine characters.  This period is quite often regarded as having terrible artwork, although of course there are plenty of exceptions to this.  See also Platinum Age, Golden Age, Silver Age, and Bronze Age.

One shot - A one off floppy that centres on one particular character or team.   Usually the character or team do not have an ongoing title.

Ongoing - See Title. 

Original Graphic Novel- also referred to as OGN.  See Graphic Novel.

Painter - Some artists produce their artwork using paints, like a traditional portrait artist.  In this case, pencillers, colourists and inkers are not used.  Alex Ross is a well known example of a comic book painter.

Penciller - The person who does the initial sketches for a piece of comic art.  They draw the characters, the background scenery, the panels and (usually) decide the layouts.  See our article here for a more in depth look at the creative process.

Platinum Age - Superhero comics produced before 1930.  Some less famous superheroes were invented in this period, and comics were regular features of newspaper strips.  See also Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and Modern Age.

Pull list - Monthly titles that people subscribe to, often picked up from their LCS but sometimes also online.

Retcon- Retcon stands for retroactive continuity.  This occurs when a writer adds in something to a character's history, or changes a character's history, usually to fit in with a new plotline.

Runs - This refers to a particular writer or artist's stint on a comic.  For example, if Peter David wrote issues 15 to 45 of a Supergirl title, you would refer to those issues as David's run.

Shonen - Manga aimed at teenage boys.  A few popular titles are Bleach, Naruta and Dragonball Z.  Common themes are action, adventure and sports.

Shojo - Manga aimed at teenage girls. A few popular titles are Sailor Moon, Train Man and Fruits Basket.  Common themes and ideas are relationships, magic girl characters, fashion, boyfriends.

Silver Age - Superhero comic books published between 1950 and 1969 (approximately) are Silver Age comics.  Characters like Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Flash were created at this point in time.  Stories from this period are generally considered silly and insubstantial by modern readers.  There is a lot of terrible science theory in these books.  Like comics from the Golden Age, these were mostly written for children.  Some social issues were tackled in this era's books, more often by Marvel. See also Platinum Age, Golden Age, Bronze Age and Modern Age. 

Splash Page -  A piece of art that takes up one full page or two pages.  It is not broken up into panels and is one snapshot of a scene.  Splash pages are usually used for dramatic emphasis and can focus  on one character or many. 

Title - A comic book series that comes out monthly and is about one character or one team of characters.  For example, X-Men, Superman Man, Iron Man, Avengers, Justice League of America.  Titles can also be referred to as Ongoings.  When people talk about a Title they are generally referring to many issues published under that name, not one specific issue.  See also floppy, comic and continuity. 

Trade paperback - Also referred to as trades or abbreviated to tpb, this is a book that collects several issues of a ongoing title.  They can be paperback or hardback and tend to be larger in size than regular prose books (think of somewhere between A5 and A4).

As trades collect ongoing titles they tend to present one story arc that is linked to stories coming immediately before and afterwards.  They can contain anything between 88 and 265 pages of story.  You can read them in isolation, or you can use them as a gateway into the wider world of the character. Trade paperback can be another term for Graphic Novel. 

Universe - Universe usually refers to the world in which stories are based.  For example, all DC published books take place in the DC universe, so characters can interact with each other across their titles.  The same is true of Marvel published books.

However, both DC and Marvel have something called the multiverse - this means that within their universes they have lots of paralell realities, with differing versions of the same characters.  In the DC Universe, the main earth is called Earth 1 and this is the primary universe in which their stories happen.  In the Marvel Universe the main earth is in the 616 universe.  See here for a more detailed explanation on the DC Universe's history, linked to something called the crisis.  Here is a post with some information on Marvel's history.

Writer - the person who writes dialogue and plans the story in a comic.

Yaoi - a genre of manga that means 'boys love'.  It is the name give to books featuring male romantic relationships and/or sex.  Some yaoi books that we've reviewed can be viewed here.

Yuri - a genre of manga that means 'girls love'.  It is the name give to books featuring female romantic relationships and/or sex.  A yuir book that we've reviewed can be found here.

Special thanks to my co-bloggers for their input into this list, and also to the following twitterati who contributed ideas:

@theyallfalldown
@helen_f_b
@dcwomenkicknass
@naswho
@ceebee_eebee
@AyeQue
@popstat
@fullofwhoa who gave permission to link to her glossary of comic book jargon

As usual, if there's a term you've come across that you don't understand, or you want something explained in more detail, leave us a comment and we'll do our best to help out!

1 comment:

  1. I NEED to repost this (with full credit and a Link!)

    Awesome!

    ReplyDelete