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Comic books began in the 1930s as a unique American art form that has grown - like so many American forms of entertainment - to spread around the globe. From Japanese businessmen reading manga on the subways of Tokyo to French artists re-interpreting Proust with words and pictures, comics have changed entertainment and challenged perceptions. These days, there are comic books for every taste, from slam-bang super-hero adventures and thoughtful slice-of-life to thrilling science fiction and intense drama.

If it's been a while since you've read a comic book, prepare to be pleasantly surprised by the breadth of variety available!

If you're new to comics, here's some information that will help you get the most out of them.


Collecting Comics

Introduction to Comics Collecting

Scrooge McDuck

Comics aficionados have been maintaining and preserving comic book collections for almost as long as the medium has existed. Interest may stem from nostalgia, an appreciation of the artwork, consideration of comics as a financial investment, or even just the thrill of the chase.

Some of the most coveted comic books include the original superhero comics of the 1930s and 1940s. Action Comics # 1, the first appearance of Superman, originally sold for 10 cents. Today, copies of Action Comics # 1 are so rare that a copy in excellent condition could sell for over $500,000.00.

Many collectors invest in comic books as pop culture memorabilia that will appreciate in value, while others may simply wish to preserve their favorite reading material for future generations. In either case, serious collectors must concern themselves with proper storage and preservation techniques, such as filing individual comics in separate bags with cardboard backing, and storing them away from direct light sources and high temperatures.

Collectible comics can be found at specialty stores, comic book conventions, flea markets, auctions and through private dealers. Many collectors make use of such resources as the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide to determine the current value of individual comics.

More information about comics collecting can be found at:

Diamond Galleries: The Scoop:

Comics & Pop Culture

The influence and appeal of comic books can be seen in all aspects of popular culture, with comics inspiring hit movies, TV shows and award-winning novels.


Movies inspired by comics include blockbuster hits Batman: the Dark Knight, Iron Man, Hellboy, the X-Men franchise and Sin City, as well as critically acclaimed films such as Persepolis and American Splendor.

Animated TV shows based on comics include Generator X and popular anime such as Naruto.

Green Lantern

Novels with comic book themes include Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude.

Celebrities in other media have also been drawn to writing comics, including novelists Jodi Picoult (DC Comics' Wonder Woman) and Jonathan Ames (DC/Vertigo's The Alcoholic), filmmaker Michel Gondry (PictureBox Inc.'s We Lost the War but Not the Battle), rapper Percy Carey, a.k.a. M.F. Grimm (DC/Vertigo's Sentences: the Life of M.F. Grimm), Gerard Way of Cowboys and AliensMy Chemical Romance (Dark Horse Comics' Umbrella Academy) and pop culture icon Joss Whedon (Marvel Comics' Astonishing X-Men, Dark Horse Comics' Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Serenity, and IDW Publishing's Angel).

Bestselling prose authors have also extended their fictional universes into comic book form, such as Stephen King (The Dark Tower series) and Laurel K. Hamilton (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter) a treat for fans of both mediums.

Comics as Literature

In 1992, the comic book world found itself in unprecedented territory when Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize for his stunning Holocaust survival story, Maus. Since that watershed event, the mainstream acceptance of comics and graphic novels has only grown. Recently, comics and graphic novels have attained a new level of literary acceptance and acclaim. Recognition from such respectable outlets as the National Book Foundation, TIME Magazine, Booklist, Library Journal,NPR and Publishers Weekly — as well as countless awards — has proven the merit of comics and graphic novels as a literary form.

Some award-winning and critically acclaimed comics include:

Essex County

Essex County: Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf Productions)
Winner of the American Library Association's Alex Award for 2008.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for 2007

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin)
Time Magazine's Best Book of 2006


Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon)
Winner of the American Library Association's Alex Award for 2004

Maus by Art Spiegelman (RAW Books and Graphics)
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Letters for 1992

Watchmen by Alan Moore and David Gibbons (DC Comics)
Winner of the Hugo Award (Other Forms category) for 1988

Comics for Young Readers

Comics have always held a lot of appeal for kids, with action-packed visuals and engrossing storylines. For those in search of age-appropriate material, here is a sample of publishers and imprints devoted to entertaining and educating comics' youngest readers:

For all ages fun with the world's best known superheroes, Marvel Comics and DC Comics offer all-ages imprints Marvel Adventures and Jonny DC, respectively.

Gemstone publishes classic Disney comics, featuring beloved characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Archie Comics Publications also publishes all-ages adventures, featuring the Archie gang from Riverdale, Sonic the Hedgehog and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Dark Horse Comics publishes a number of high-interest comics for kids featuring licensed properties such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones.


Independent publisher Top Shelf Productions has a number of beloved graphic novel series for young readers, including Owly, Korgi and Johnny Boo.

Graphic novel publisher First Second produces a number of titles for young readers, including Sardine in Outer Space, Tiny Tyrant and Adventures in Cartooning.

TOON Books is an imprint of RAW Books and Graphics, specializing in easy reader comics for ages 4 and up. Featuring unique creators from both the comic book and children's book worlds, TOON books are designed to help children who are just beginning to read.

Tiny Titans

For fans of manga and anime, publishers Viz and Udon offer age-appropriate fare under the imprints VizKids and Udon Manga for Kids, respectively.

IDW's Worthwhile Books also specialize in unique comics just for kids.

With these and many other publishers creating kid-friendly material, kids should have no problem finding an introduction to the exciting world of comics!

Formats & Definitions

Formats & Definitions

A comic book or pamphlet is the traditional periodical form most people are familiar with. A comic book can stand on its own or be a part of a series. A series is also sometimes called a title, which refers to the entire series, not a single, discrete unit.

Sometimes, multiple issues of a series are collected into one volume. It can be hardcover or softcover. Softcover editions are often called trade paperbacks, or just trades, regardless of size. A hardcover or a softcover can also be called a graphic novel.

When a story is published in the hardcover or soft cover format first (that is, without periodical serialization), it is referred to as a graphic novel and only a graphic novel.

Many of these terms are interchangeable, as you can see. A graphic novel can refer to a hardcover or soft cover, to a reprint collection or an original story. Similarly, all of the formats referenced can be called comics or comic books.

Glossary of Comic Terms


The Japanese word for animation has become associated with Japans unique style of animated films and television. Anime encompasses many different genres and is typically either adapted from or into manga.


Usually refers to the illustrator of a comic. Artists are divided among three specific groups: penciler, inker, and colorist. Traditionally, the three tasks were handled by three separate individuals, but today, it is becoming more and more common for a particular title to have one artist do all three tasks, or a combination of any two.


Text-filled boxes that typically narrate a comics story. Originally, captions served to establish setting or to introduce new story elements and transitions. Recently, caption boxes have been adapted to convey the protagonists internal monologue, adding an element of prose's first-person narration.

Collected Editions

Refers to a trade paperback or digest that collects individual issues of a comic book series into a bound volume.

Comic Book/Comics

Used generically in the industry to refer to any sort of literature that combines story and art, whether as an ongoing series, mini-series, maxi-series, graphic novel, or other format.


The timeline of most ongoing comic book stories. All that has happened prior to a particular issue is adhered to in order to tell a cohesive story over many years. Continuity often also encompasses other titles that may be related to the title at hand. For example, if Superman and Batman have previously met, then they are considered to have interlinked continuity that has happened in Superman's world has happened in Batman's as well. (See Retcon.)


A term used to describe the writers and artists responsible for the production of a particular comic or graphic novel. Often times, a comic is the collaborative work of a writer and a team of artists, though it is common for one person to create an entire work single-handedly (e.g., Frank Miller's Sin City).


A story that continues from one comic book title to a separate title, usually involving the lead character(s) of each one appearing in both for the duration of the story. Historically, such a story will showcase the exploits of two popular heroes battling a common enemy. Sometimes crossovers can even involve characters from rival publishing companies, as when DC Comics and Marvel co-published JLA/Avengers, which united their two major super-hero teams for one story.


A collected edition that is reprinted at a smaller scale than a trade paperback (which is reprinted at the same size as the original comic). A digest typically measures 4" x 5" and thus fits better on a traditional bookshelf and in a small reader's hands!

Eisner Awards

Familiarly known as "the Eisners," the annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards recognize the finest stories, publications and creators in the medium. The awards are named for the late Will Eisner, the writer/artist credited with creating and popularizing the storytelling format of the graphic novel.

Golden Age

The period of time during the 1930s and 1940s is generally considered to be comics Golden Age. Books published during this period are some of the most sought after and historic. The period gave birth to some of comics most enduring characters like Superman, Batman, and Captain America.

Graphic Novel

A comic book that is longer in format than the usual "pamphlet," and typically contains a complete story unto itself. Graphic novels usually have higher production values than the typical stapled comic; i.e. hardcover volumes, squarebound, or dust-jacketed. Although a graphic novel usually stands on its own as a complete story, it is possible to have an ongoing series or limited series of graphic novels telling a single story or series of related stories.

Harvey Awards

The Harveys are unique among awards given in the comics medium in that they are voted on entirely by professionals in the industry, meaning that winners are honored for excellence by their peers. This prestigious award is named after Harvey Kurtzman, co-founder of MAD Magazine and a seminal influence in the development of comics as a versatile storytelling vehicle.


Used to identify non-mainstream comics, independent comics are not tied to a major publisher and can encompass a vast number of genres. Usually, the term is associated with a particular style of storytelling and art not found in traditional super-hero comics.


The artist who uses black ink to enhance the initial penciled artwork. Inks are used to add depth and shadow to the images.


Responsible for placing and filling the word balloons and captions over the finished artwork.

Limited Series

A mini-series or maxi-series.


Comics that appeal to the broadest fan base. In the comic book industry, that fan base is predominately interested in titles that feature super-heroes.


Literally the Japanese word for comic book, manga typically refers to a uniquely Asian style of trade paperbacks from Japan, Korea, and China. Manga is usually smaller than traditional graphic novels (often digest-sized) and printed in black & white. Also referred to as manhwa.


Another term that refers to Asian styled comic books. The term is most identified with Korean manga.


A comic book series that is scheduled to run only a certain number of issues (usually more than six), and then end.


A comic book series that is scheduled to run only a certain number of issues (usually six or fewer), and then end.


Usually used in conjunction with "series." This implies a comic book series that has no ending planned and will continue until sales dictate its cancellation. An example is Action Comics, published by DC Comics, a series that has been published nearly continuously since 1938. Ongoing series can have a frequency from weekly to semiannually. Most are monthly or bimonthly.


A character's beginnings. Origins often set up the primary motivation for a super-hero's or super-villain's actions.


Used by some to describe the slim, periodical-like format of original comic books.


The basic unit of storytelling in a comic book. Usually square or rectangular, panels frame the action of a comic book and graphic novel. The placement and construction of panels on a page can represent anything from movement to time.


Responsible for the initial layout of a comic's art. Provides the basis for the rest of the books art, i.e. inks, colors, etc.

Reuben Awards

Voted on and presented by the National Cartoonists Society, the Reuben Award is bestowed upon illustrators in numerous categories, including comic strips, comic books, and animation. Winners have included many of the world's most famous cartoonists, including Charles Schulz (Peanuts), Scott Adams (Dilbert), and Will Eisner (The Spirit, and the man for whom comics' coveted Eisner Award is named). The Reubens are named for legendary cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who founded the Society.


A word made up from the words "retroactive continuity." Refers to a newly published story that changes or contradicts already-known details of a particular character's past. The new story takes precedence not only for all future stories, but also for all previous stories.


Genre of manga typically aimed at young teenage girls, usually involving drama and romance.

Silver Age

The period of time during the 1950s and 1960s is generally considered to be comics Silver Age. During this time, comics saw a resurgence in popularity and gave birth to such popular characters as Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the modern Flash.

Splash Page

A comic book page not broken up into separate panels, in which the artwork takes up the majority of the space.

Story Arc

A story arc is a specific story told in an ongoing series over a course of many issues. The story arc will often have its own title, with each issue being a "chapter."


The genre most associated with comics. Super powers, capes, masks, and more!

Trade Paperback

A squarebound edition that collects and reprints mini-series, maxi-series, or story arcs in this sturdier format, giving readers a complete story at one time, rather than over a period of months. Sometimes, a trade paperback may collect stories that are not interconnected, but rather are related by some theme. Many trade paperbacks also contain additional material not available in the original serialization, such as an introduction or foreword, or character sketches, much like "DVD extras."

Word Balloons

The text-filled "bubbles" that contain a story's spoken dialogue.


Responsible for the story's script to be interpreted by the artist team. The writer plots the story, provides the dialogue, and lays the foundation for the book.

Genres & Categories

Genres and Categories

Comics have been written in a variety of styles and genres, to suit every taste. Here are just some of the many genres to be found in today's comics:


One of the most celebrated comic book genres, Superhero comics feature the likes of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men individuals often clad in capes and masks, who use their extraordinary abilities to protect humanity. Superheroes have captured the public imagination ever since the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1 in 1938. Heavy on action, adventure and memorable, iconic characters, superhero comics are often considered to be a modern form of mythology. MangaWhile some characters and series have been around since the 1940's, new characters with different abilities, costumes and universes are constantly being invented.


Manga refers to an Asian style of trade paperback graphic novel that has recently reached new heights of popularity in the United States. Manga contains several genres that are marketed to very specific types of readers. Shojo (also spelled Shoujo) is a genre typically aimed at young teenage girls, usually involving drama and romance. Slice of LifeShonen refers to manga primarily intended for boys and features humorous stories and high levels of action. Manga that is translated from Japanese is often printed to be read from right to left, in order to retain the authenticity of the original version. Manga titles are also frequently part of a series containing several volumes, and can be very addictive!


Many comics and graphic novels offer thoughtful portrayals of real life. HumorThese can take the form of autobiography, relationship drama or historical fiction, among other examples. Slice-of-life comics are frequently popular with older teenagers and adults in search of a contemplative read.


There are plenty of comics that live up to the name "comic!" From Mad Magazine to Simpsons Comics to editorial cartoons, comics are a great avenue for exaggeration, satire and just plain ridiculousness.


Comics have proven to be a great educational tool, and many have been created to explore such diverse topics as science, history, politics and biography.


Those who like to imagine other worlds will find a multitude of fantastic universes to explore in comics.


Frights, chills and thrills abound in comics with creepy illustrations and suspense-building stories.

Helpful Links


Diamond Comic Distributors
Diamond Comic Distributors is the world's largest distributor of English-language comic books and related merchandise.

Previews World
PREVIEWS, The Comic Shop's Catalog, includes comics, graphic novels, toys, and related pop-culture items. The website also includes news, interviews, trailers for upcoming projects and more!

The Scoop
Gemstone Publishing and Diamond International Galleries have joined forces to provide The Scoop, a free e-newsletter devoted to comics and pop culture.

Diamond BookShelf
Diamond's graphic novel resource website and newsletter for educators and librarians. BookShelf includes reviews, interviews, core lists and much more.

Marvel Comics
DC Comics
Dark Horse Comics
Image Comics
IDW Publishing
Gemstone Publishing

Miscellaneous Resources
Publishers Weekly Comics Week
The Comics Journal
Comic Book Resources
The Comics Reporter

Comic-Con International: San Diego
New York Comic Con


A Brief History of the Comics


    • The American Comic Strip is born when The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck becomes the earliest known sequential comic book to be published in America.

The Yellow Kid


    • Reprints of "Platinum Age" comics, like The Brownies and Yellow Kid, become increasingly popular. Reprints of titles such as Popeye, Buster Brown and Bringing Up Father sell millions before the advent of originally produced material.

Action Comics

    • The Golden Age of Comics officially begins, with the publication of Action Comics #1, starring the first bona fide success story in comics: Superman.


    • The Silver Age of Comics begins, as characters based on popular Golden Age super-heroes -- like DC Comics' The Flash -- are updated and refurbished for a new generation of readers. Moreover, Marvel Comics' publication of Fantastic Four #1 in 1961 reinvigorated the comics industry by introducing new, more human, super-hero iconography.

Fansatic Four


    • Zap Comix # 1, a seminal underground alternative comic is published.


    • Dark Horse Comics founded.
    • The publication of heavyweights Watchmen, Maus and Batman: the Dark Knight Returns usher in a new age of sophisticated comic book storytelling.


    • Art Spiegelman wins the Pulitzer Prize for the graphic novel Maus.


    • Image Comics is formed by seven of the industry's top talents at the time.


    • Author Michael Chabon wins the Pulitzer Prize for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a novel about the Golden Age of Comics.
    • In the United Kingdom, The Guardian awards its prestigious First Novel Award to Chris Ware for the graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan.


    • The first Free Comic Book Day, held on May 4, marks the industry's first broad cooperative promotional venture.
    • The first American edition of manga digest Shonen Jump is released.


    • The publishers of Shonen Jump introduce Shojo Beat, a manga digest targeted at older teenaged girls.


    • Gene Yang's American Born Chinese, from First Second Books, becomes the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award (in the category of Young People's Literature.) Later, American Born Chinese would become the first graphic novel to be honored with the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award.

American Born Chinese


    • YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association, debuts its annual Great Graphic Novels for Teens list at the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting in Seattle.
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