We know comics can be confusing, and part of clarifying it is defining the vernacular for new readers. We’ve done a comics glossary before on video, but for those of you who prefer print, we’ve got you covered. This is a basic glossary of comics terms. We’ll supplement this with more in-depth editions going forward.
Comics: As defined by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics, comics are “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.” It’s important to note that comics are a medium of storytelling, not a genre of story.
Issue: The traditional 20-25 page (though they can be as long as 60 or 70 pages) serialized comic.
Trade (TBP): A collection of 4–6 issues. Trades are the term for series comics, not for standalone stories (which would be graphic novel). There can also be deluxe edition trades that have 2+ regular trades’ worth of story in them.
Omnibus: A collected series usually in hardcover. An omnibus is usually the entirety or a significant part of a run, which differentiates it from a trade.
Volume: Another name for a trade. 
Floppy: A floppy is a generalized term for a short “floppy” comic. It can refer to an issue, but it usually refers to a standalone story comic.
Run: The term run can refer to multiple things in Big 2 comics: the work a particular creative team did on a particular character (the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye run) or a numbering scheme (the Wilson/Alphona 2014–2015 Ms Marvel run). Runs don’t have to tie into numbering (creative teams can switch without that—for example, the Stewart/Tarr/Fletcher Batgirl run) but when renumbering occurs, like with Ms Marvel, it’s helpful to refer to the years.
Big 2: Marvel Comics and DC Comics.
Big 3: Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Image Comics.
Indie Comic: A comic that is not published by Marvel Comics, DC Comics, or Image Comics. Some people consider Image Comics indie. 
Capes & Tights: Any superhero comics. It’s not limited to the Big 2.
Graphic Novel: Any fictional standalone (not serialized) story that is of book length.
Graphic Memoir: A standalone story that is also a memoir.
Graphic Journalism: Journalism/news reporting that is done in comic form.
LCS: Local comic book shop.
Pull List: A list of comics you have at your LCS that you pick up on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis. The shop pulls the comics for you and keeps them in a box, so you make sure you have all your subscriptions.
Final Order Cutoff (FOC): The amount of time a comic shop has before the release date of a comic to place an order, usually three weeks in advance. Comic shops are liable dollar-wise for the comics they order (no returns!), so it’s important to get it right. Whether a series is cancelled often depends on the preorders for first and second issues (yes, the comics industry is broken). The way this applies to the consumer is if there’s a comic you really want to support, make sure you get your order into your retailer before the FOC.
Manga: Japanese comics. (Vernieda has created a great manga glossary for you.)
Bande Dessinée: Franco-Belgian comics.
Hourly Comic: A journal comic drawn each hour the artist is awake. Hourly Comic Day is February 1.
Webcomic: A comic you read, usually for free, on the Internet.
Minicomic: A hand drawn, creator-owned comic that is usually self-produced and stapled together.
Creator-Owned: A comic in which the creative team owns the rights to the characters. Marvel and DC Comics are not creator-owned, whereas Image Comics is the largest creator-owned comics publisher.
We’ve got more specialized glossaries on the way, but if you have terms you’d like defined, let us know in the comments!By signing up you agree to our Terms of Service