A lot of the jargon used in the comics industry can be practically incomprehensible if you're new. As such, we thought we'd outline some of the terms we use on a regular basis, so you'll know what we're talking about.

Types of Comics

Miniseries: A short series, often between four and six issues.

Maxi-series: Longer than a mini-series, but not long enough to qualify as an ongoing series. Minimum is usually twelve issues, but there are those that have run longer.

Ongoing: An ongoing series, i.e., Fantastic Four or Amazing Spider-Man.

One-shot: A single, stand-alone issue, usually released alongside an ongoing.

Trade Paperback (or TPB): A collection of reprinted, single-issue comics, usually highlighting a specific storyline or creator. Can be either hard- or softcover.

Graphic Novel - Many interpretations of this term exist, some of which include all comic books. For our purposes, a graphic novel is a short, serialized story meant to be read as a whole. Includes titles like Maus, V For Vendetta and Watchmen.

Prestige Format - An issue of a comic book featuring 48+ pages and thicker paper stock than the average single issue.

Digest - A style of single issue or TPB the size of a small paperback, usually meant for younger readers.


Caption - A box of text in the panel that provides the character's inner monologue or narration.

Direct Market - The system of private comic book retailers that sprung up in the 1970's, supplied by Diamond Comic Distributors.

Gatefold - A double-sized cover that folds into the issue.

Gutter - The space around and between panels on a page.

Imprint - May refer either to a studio owned by a comic book company (as in the case of DC's Wildstorm), or a subivision of a company's output set apart by standards, creator-ownership or some other criteria (a la Marvel Max).

Issue - A single comics magazine, denoted by an issue number on the cover.

Onomatopeia - Sound effects.

Splash Page - A single, page-sized illustration.

Spread - A single image that takes up the entirety of both pages.

Variant - A special edition of a comic book released with a different cover, often as an incentive for retailers to order a certain number of copies.

Volume - The current run of a series that determines the numbering. It is not unusual for a publisher to cancel a low-selling book and relaunch it with a new number one, resulting in a new volume.

Wraparound - A cover that continues on the back cover of an issue. Often paired with a gatefold.