Comics/Graphic Novels

A Glossary of Basic Comics Terms

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. [edit]

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. [edit]

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!