Comic books can provide a great deal of fun and escapism for those open to the possibilities of huge universes or off-the-wall material.
If you’re looking to get into comic books – either as a buyer or a collector – then welcome aboard! However, if you are a newbie, I appreciate that reading comics can be a little daunting for the uninitiated. If you are the uninitiated, don’t worry – I’ve got your back!
Below is an easy to digest guide to terminology and jargon related to comics. The 21 key phrases listed below should help break down some of the barriers and give you an understanding on what you need to know, before picking up a comic.
Comics 101: Comic book terminology and jargon explained
Back issues – Back issues are old issues of comics (as opposed to new releases), dating back to any point in history. Back issues vary in cost, with significant issues (first appearances of characters etc) selling for a pretty penny.
Comixology – Comixology is a cloud-based digital distributor for selling comics. Comixology offers thousands of comics, graphic novels and trade paperbacks for sale, from numerous publishers. Comixology is available on Android, iOS, Kindle, Windows and the Internet.
Conversion chart – A conversion chart is a price list which converts domestic prices for international customers. In the UK, comic book shops will post conversion charts in stores to help customers work out the price of American comics, from dollars into pounds.
Cover price – The price of a comic, as noted on the cover.
Dailies – Dailies are comic strips that are published on a daily basis, instead of a weekly or monthly basis. Dailies appear in newspapers, traditionally on a schedule of six days a week.
Bundle – A bundle is a combination of a physical comic and a digital edition (usually of the same comic). Publishers such as Marvel and DC offer bundles as an incentive to get customers to buy physical copies, while building up a digital portfolio at the same time.
Excelsior – Excelsior is the catchphrase of comic book creator and legend, Stan Lee. Lee would often use the phrase ‘Excelsior’ to sign off from his editorials.
Free Comic Book Day – Free Comic Book Day is an annual event designed to promote the comic book industry. Taking place on the first Saturday of May, Free Comic Book Day is an event whereby the general public is given free comic books without the need to spend any money. All of the major publishers take part in the event, which helps bring people into comic book stores, improves reading and boosts sales within the industry.
Graphic novel – Graphic novels are traditionally comics which are written specifically to be released in the format of a book. Graphic novels are similar to trade paperbacks (see below), but contain original material instead of reprinted material.
Marvel Unlimited – Marvel Unlimited is an unlimited digital reading service which gives subscribers access to a wealth of comics for a monthly fee (think Netflix, but for comics). The service provides access to thousands of titles which can be read on a computer, tablet or smart phone.
New comic book day – ‘New comic book day’ is the day of the week when new comics arrive in stores/online. Traditionally, ‘new comic book day’ takes place every Wednesday. Each Wednesday a large selection of comics will go on sale from a range of publishers.
Nuff said – Nuff said is a phrase often used in comic books – traditionally Marvel comics. The phrase is an abbreviated form of ‘enough said’, meaning there is no need to say any more.
Panel – A panel is a segment on a comic book page, used as a framing device. Every comic book page includes panels, however the amount of panels can vary from page-to-page. Panels can alter in shape and size, with borders used to help set the scene.
Previews – Previews is a publication dedicated to promoting new releases. Previews appears in print and online and includes information about new releases (for comics and collectables), along with shipping dates and product information.
Pull list – A pull list is a list of comics, chosen by a reader/buyer that lists their favourite titles. Retailers use this list as a way to collect together customers’ preferred books for purchase at a later date (see also: standing order).
Secondary market – The secondary market is a place where comic book collectors can purchase back issues and collectibles once they have left the primary market (i.e. comic book stores etc). The secondary market includes eBay, some online sellers, conventions and private sellers.
Speech bubble – A speech bubble is a speech indicator used in comics to contain and convey a characters’ dialogue.
Spread – A spread is an image than runs across more than one page. Spreads usually – but not always – cover two pages.
Standing order – A standing order is the same as a pull list (see above).
The Big Two – The Big Two refers to the two largest comic book publishers in the industry: Marvel Comics and DC Comics. Both Marvel and DC publish the majority of the comics that are sold on a weekly basis and thus are referred to as ‘The Big Two’.
Trade paperback – Trade paperbacks collect together a number of issues of a particular title (four issues of Spider-Man, three issues of X-Men etc) and present them in the form of a book. Trade paperbacks essentially take comics which have previously been published as single issues and re-purpose them as a book.