The world of comics can be an intimidating one. There’s all sorts of lingo and confusing titles to keep track of, and we’re here to help. This glossary details the terms used in our industry and attempts to define and make sense of them all.
Annuals are special issues of an established series that are printed once a year. They typically have more content than regular releases, and as such usually cost a bit more. Continuity varies by title, as some issues fit in a specific story arc, and others stand alone. Regardless of its place in continuity, annuals follow their own set of numbering. Each annual’s issue number increases by one with each release, though they won’t necessarily be related from one issue to the next. For example, Detective Comics Annual #12 does not follow Detective Comics Annual #11 in continuity, but rather it follows the other books that were being released at the time.
Bags & Boards
Bags and boards are the most common tools collectors use to protect their books. The bags are clear plastic, and are available in sizes fitted to all standard sizes of publications. Boards are pieces of card stock that are used to line the bags for stability.
CGC stands for Certified Guaranty Company. They are an independent third-party that specializes in grading comic books. How it works is, you send them your comics, they have someone look at them, and assign them a number grade from 1-10. Once the grade is determined, the book is sealed inside a plastic case, never to be opened again. The Joker’s Child does not deal in CGC’d books.
Comic books, or comics as they’re commonly referred to, are books that are composed of a combination of pictures and words. They differ from regular books in that exposition and action is portrayed by images, while dialogue is written in speech bubbles for each character. The stories in comics are usually episodic, and as such each book is numbered by issue. Standard numbering for comics is simply an increase by 1 each issue, but there are several exceptions to this rule, such as different series, specials, and point one issues.
Physically, modern comics are standardly 6 5/8” x 10 ¼” (17 x 26 cm), and are typically held together by staples as opposed to being bound with a spine like a trade paperback, or graphic novel. Older books from the silver age are larger at 6 ¾” x 10 ¼”. There are several exceptions to these size and shape rules, which is where things can get a bit confusing. For example, in rare cases, if a comic book is especially thick, it will sometimes be bound with a spine instead of staples, but will still be considered a comic because of its place in numbering and continuity. Also sizing can vary, but this is fairly uncommon.
For many of the more popular comic characters, their adventures can span multiple books. For example, if you were looking for a Batman book, you could go with Batman, Batman & Robin, Detective Comics, etc. For the most part, these books coexist in the same continuity, but that is not always the case. An example of this would be The Avengers. The titles Avengers, Secret Avengers, and Young Avengers all coexist within the same continuity, but Ultimate Avengers is an unrelated continuity that features different versions of the same characters. So, essentially, Spider-man and Ultimate Spider-man are both Peter Parker (or Miles Morales, depending on which Ultimate Spider-Man you’re talking about), both have spider powers, both wear a costume and fight crime, both are published by marvel, but they have nothing to do with each other.
Free Comic Book Day
Free comic book day, or FCBD, is an annual event held on the first Saturday in May, where you can come to our store and get a bag of free comics. This doesn’t mean that all our comics are free for one day, that would just be silly. Instead, publishers make FCBD books specifically for that day. We assemble them in sets, and give them out for free to everyone who comes in. No purchase necessary.
Graphic Novels (GN)
A graphic novel is a long form comic book story told in one or more larger volumes, commonly abbreviated as GN. As opposed to a trade paperback, a graphic novel was never previously released as individual issues of a comic book.
The term hardcover refers to the physical format of a book, commonly abbreviated as HC. As opposed to a paperback, a hardcover’s cover will not be flexible, and is usually a more expensive book than its counterparts. The hardcover versions of trade paperbacks and graphic novels do not have distinct terminology. They are both referred to as hardcovers.
The indicia is the small paragraph in the beginning or end of every publication that explains what it is. This will contain information about the publishing, copyrights, and in the case of comic books the issue and volume numbers.
The term “keys” or “key issues” refers to important issues in a title’s history. This term is usually associated with first appearances of major characters, or launching points for new story arcs.
A one-shot is a single issue of a comic book that is meant to effectively stand alone. It is sometimes connected to a larger story arc in a related book, but the story itself is self contained. They don’t fit in with usual numbering standards, and typically eschew a number in favor of simply using the term one-shot.
Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide
The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, or simply “The Overstreet” as it’s commonly referred to, is as close to a final pricing authority the comic book industry has. Essentially, it’s a book that lists every comic book ever printed, and what their approximate value is. The prices listed in the overstreet are a guideline, and not an absolute definition of what a book costs, as a variety of factors can effect a book’s final pricing.
Information on the overstreet grading scale and how it’s determined can be seen here.
Point One Issues
Point one issues are jumping on points in established Marvel Comics. These issues take place in regular continuity, but they signify the start of a new story arc. Their purpose is to show lapsed or new readers what books they can pick up without needing specific knowledge of prior issues to follow the plot. For example, if you are reading Avengers, the issue order will be #10, #11, #12, #12.1, #13. Issue #12 and #12.1 are different issues, but #12 is the conclusion of one story arc, and #12.1 is the beginning of the next.
The term series or volume as related to comic books, refers to the numbering of an ongoing comic. Occasionally publishers will decide to reset the numbering of a specific title in order to signify a new continuity, or highlight significant changes within an established universe. For example: Fantastic Four originally ran from issue 1-416. Instead of the next issue being numbered 417, the book was relaunched, and referred to as series 2: issue 1. In many cases, it’s that simple, but there are instances that can get quite complicated. Often times, publishers will revert back to a previous series’ numbering in order to highlight a numeric milestone, such as issue 100, 500, etc. Continuing to use Fantastic Four as an example, midway through series 3, they started using dual numbering on each issue, beginning with series 3: issue 42/471. The 42 means that it was the 42nd issue of the 3rd series, and the 471 refers to what the numbering would have been had they kept counting with the series’ original numbering. After issue 70/499, Fantastic Four reverted back to its original series 1 numbering, meaning that the next book in continuity was called series 1: issue 500.
Trade Paperbacks (TP)
Trade paperbacks, or trades as they are more commonly referred to, are collections of several comic book issues in one binding, usually compiling a specific story arc. They can also be referred to as soft covers, but this term can also be used to describe a paperback version of a graphic novel.
In most cases, the timeline for the process is first the individual issues of the comic will be released. Second, those issues will be collected in a single volume and released in a hardcover format. Finally, the same content will be released in a less expensive trade paperback version.