comic book lingo

Comic Book Lingo – Part 1

Floppy, one-shot, trade, and variant? What do all these comic book terms mean? This is part 1 in a crash course on comic book lingo that will help you navigate the comic book store or that pile of old comics in the garage.

THE FORMAT

example of a floppy
Example of a comic book floppy. Title is “Black Hammer” and is an on-going series published by Dark Horse Comics.

A floppy, as the name suggests, is a thin, paper-printed, monthly comic book publication running under forty pages long. Sometimes they’re published less frequently or, on rare occasions, more frequently.

Trade paperbacks, Wonder Woman: The New 52
Example of four Trade paperbacks for the “Wonder Woman” title.

Trade paperbacks (TPB or trade) are a collection of floppies reprinted in book form and will typically have the same title.

The benefits of a trade verses the periodicals is that it comprises multiple floppies into one book, includes extras like additional artwork, and often is cheaper than buying to floppies individually.

The disadvantage of trades is that they don’t come out until after the floppies have been published, which means it could be up to six months before you get to read the story. Also, floppies aren’t always published into trades.

 

"Maus," an example of a graphic novel.
The graphic novel, “Maus.”

Graphic novels look like trade Paperbacks in that they’re an illustrated story published in book form. But Graphic Novels are a complete, stand-alone work, not a compilation of previously published works. The term Novel hints that this format is for longer stories. Examples are Maus, 300, and Batman: The Long Halloween.

THE SERIAL

One of the defining characteristics of comic books is its serialization—the distribution of a once-a-month, on-going story. But, even here, there’s a lot of variety.

3 modern Batman titles
Three currently published titles featuring Batman: “All-Star Batman,” “Detective Comics,” and “Batman”

Title is the name of a published floppy or trade. This is just like the title of a book except if the book were published one chapter at a time.

Titles get confusing when, say, you want to buy a Batman comic. Currently there’s more than one title featuring Batman: Batman, Detective Comics, and All-Star Batman.

Sometimes the titles have related or cross-over stories but not always. You don’t have to buy all three of these titles to get the Batman story. If you want to get started with a particular character, you can pick just one title to start without getting holes in the story.

An on-going series is a title that is published on a regular basis without a pre-determined ending. Issue 1 of Batman was published in June, 1940. The series ran to Issue 713 in 2011.

The limited series, "Trillium"
“Trillium” was a limited series published in 8 floppies and then a trade paperback.

limited series is typically a new title that has a limited number of issues. “Trillium,” for example, was designed as an eight issue series from July 2013 to April 2014. It is now offered as a trade.

The Killing Joke batgirl cover
The one-shot, “Batman: The Killing Joke.” A story set in the Batman universe.

One-shot is pretty much what it sounds like—a single issue. It has a unique title, is labeled Issue 1 (even though there will only be one), and usually comes in a graphic novel format. The best example is The Killing Joke (1988). It’s set in the world of Batman but the story is outside of the on-going titles that were being published in 1988 when it was released.

THE QUESTIONS

“Comic Book Lingo” continues with discussions of how issues are numbered, the contributor roles, and the comic book ages.

What do you find most confusing about going into a comic book store?
What do you find most confusing about picking a comic to read?

If you have any comic book questions, post them here and I’ll be glad to help.

Rhonda has a BS in Mathematics and Computer Science and is a self-taught graphic designer. She considers herself a geek*wildcard because she has a little bit of experience in everything.

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