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Comic Book Terminology – Part 1

Welcome to the definitive guide for every comic book term you ever need to know. Since there are a lot of new readers/ inexperienced readers out there, we here at PAC are spilling the beans on the entire lingo, hand jive and nerdy dialect that is found on message boards, in comic shops or spewed out on a weekly podcast. Sure we might miss some or even create some (not that we’ll tell you which is which), so look for updates or leave a comment telling us your own.

Let’s begin part one with the basics:

New Comic Book Day – Some people have a hard time wrapping their brains around the fact that comic books are still released. Well they are, each and every single week on Wednesday. Think of it kind of like DVD’s or music, each week there’s new releases sometimes big sometimes small. Well comics work the same way. There are literally hundreds of titles that release each month. Another part of this concept that people don’t seem to get is that it’s not the same four books. You won’t go in and buy Superman each week. Say Superman releases at the beginning of the month, you’ll have to wait till next month for the next release. That means that there’s always a new reason to go to the comic shop on Wednesday. In the simplest of terms when people refer to New Comic Book Day they are referring to Wednesday.
Nerds!Trades – You’ll often at times hear people say, “I’ll pick up the trade” or “I’ll wait for the trade.” A trade refers to Trade Paper Back or TPB as you’ll see it in print. This refers to a storyline usually consisting of six issues that have been collected in a novel format. They tend to be cheaper than buying all six issues and you get to read the storyline in its entirety without waiting for the monthly release. A lot of new readers find them helpful since they get to actually read stories that they’ve long missed, that’s why Fables, Y the Last Man and Ex-Machina do so well in Trade format. People will never be able to find every issue, but with trades they can still read and enjoy the stories. One large problem with trades is that you usually have to wait for the next storyline to finish before the trade is released so that sales of the single issue aren’t affected.

Ult Spider Vol 2 CoverStoryline – This one should be simple but we’ll cover it just to be on the safe side. A storyline, as I mentioned in Trades, is usually six issues long. Why? Because that’s the format that sells trades the best. Understanding what a storyline really is, is actually very important. Some of the most famous storylines include: Phoenix Saga, The Dark Phoenix Saga, The Death of Superman, The Clone Saga and One More Day. These storylines changed or shaped the characters they affected for years to come. Sometimes the six issues are self-contained other times they are part of a larger storyline that is happening. A great example of this is Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America. He told several self-contained six issue stories that all feed into a larger story that resulted in the death of Captain America.

Graphic Novel – Some people seem to think that a graphic novel is the same thing as a trade, but it’s not. Graphic novel is actually short for original graphic novel. That’s the key difference; a trade is previously released work whereas the graphic novel is 100% new material. Graphic novels are often written as GN or OGN in print. Typically these puppies don’t sell as well because of the unknown factor associated with them, but each year more and more are made and break out as must reads. Trades, while in novel format are referred to as being in graphic novel format. There’s always a lot of confusion with this term. If you go and buy the Watchmen trade it will be labeled as a graphic novel, which in fact it is not. Watchmen as most people know was released in single issues originally making it a collected trade.

Joker GN CoverFloppies or Singles – Both frankly are stupid terms for single issues, but for some reason the term is popular on message boards and pod casts. So if someone says they own the singles for Civil War, they mean they own the six individual issues that make up the Civil War storyline.

So there’s some of the basics, but settle down there are more parts to come later this week. Feel free to comment “terms” you’d like to see and if we don’t have maybe we’ll add it.

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