How To: Read Comics for the First Time – Part 2

In the first part of this blog, I wanted to help people understand the somewhat confusing world of comics. Due to their dense history, comics, or at least the more popular comic books, tend to be tough to get into. My intent with this series is to provide a few tips which can help you get into this wonderful, weird and unique art form.

You can find Part 1 here.

Today, we will focus on one aspect of comics – the acronyms and terminologies that dot the landscape and leave you wondering what’s what. So….onward!


Now that you are getting into comics, you will hear more insider terms and acronyms than at a marketer’s convention. Ok, perhaps not, but there’s still a lot of terminology that can be confusing. So here are the most common ones, with a splash of history.

Floppy: Not an acronym, and not a disk. Floppies are the 20 – 25 page magazines that everyone thinks of when they say comics. This is how most publishers bring out their comics first, before collecting them in other formats. Serialised comics generally complete a basic story arc in 3 – 6 floppies.

TPBs: Trade Paperbacks (also called trades) are collection of floppies in paperback form. They can collect anything between 5 – 10 floppies, covering one or more arcs. These come out a few months after the last issue collected in the paperback has been published. Usually cheaper than the individual books would cost together, these are the best way for a new reader to get into a comic book.

Omnibus: Collecting several trade paperbacks in a single volume, these are the big daddies of the comic world, frequently running into a thousand pages (some can go up to 1500!). Big and heavy enough to seriously injure those who make fun of you for dropping hundreds of dollars on comic books, these are usually for collectors and thus have limited print runs, going out of print quite soon. Omnibus editions usually collect entire “runs” in one or more volumes, and are usually taller and broader than floppies and trades to show off the art better. Which brings me to….

Runs: The legacy nature of comic books means multiple writers and artists have worked on most popular characters. These creators will often get into a groove with a character, and produce amazing work for years, pumping out stories that cover wide arcs and hundreds of issues. This combination of a character or series and artist is called a “run”. Often, you will hear fans talking about “Christopher Priest’s run on Black Panther” or “Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil” or “Scott Snyder’s run on Batman” or “Grant Morrison’s run on Batman”. All they are referring to are the legendary bodies of work these creators have produced on the mentioned characters.

OOP: Out Of Print. As with most things collectibles, an issue going out of print often makes its value shoot up, especially if it is significant in some way. Sometimes, a second print run means the first run of that issue is valuable, but the second is not. Since comic books, especially floppies, are created to be disposable, collectors take great care in preserving out of print issues.

HCs: The same trade paperbacks, but in hardcover. More durable.

OHC: Oversized Hard Covers are the happy medium between trade paperbacks and Omnibuses. Usually collecting 2-3 trade paperbacks worth of material, these are just as tall and broad as Omnibuses, but a half, or a third as thick. Thus, the art looks good, but you can read them in relative comfort. DC has a brand called “Deluxe Editions” that are also, basically OHCs.

Graphic Novel: Ahh, remember how I said that comics are published in single issues first, and then collected? Well, some aren’t. Graphic Novels are comics that were never published in serialised floppies, but came out as a single trade. These usually tell a single story as well, and are usually disconnected from any overarching narrative.

LCS: Local Comic book Shop. I live in India, so these don’t exist 😦

Manga: Japanese comics with a distinct art style and flavour. Usually black and white, and cheaper than western comics, there are some Manga comics telling a single story that have been going on for years and decades, and thus feature rich world-building and a lot of depth.

Creator-Owned Comics – Comic book properties that come from DC and Marvel are usually owned by those companies. This includes all characters, trademarks, ideas… everything. However, many comic book companies outside of the Big 2, like Image and Dark Horse, allow creators to maintain the rights to their characters even while publishing the stories under their respective brands. This often leads to more daring, experimental stories as these characters don’t suffer from a singular editorial mandate that the Big 2 characters do.

Big 2: DC and Marvel – the heavyweights of comic book publishing

That’s it for now. Watch out for part 3, where I discuss some major creators, some great comics and some legendary runs. If you think comic books are awesome, drop me a comment and let’s talk about how awesome they are!


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