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Literature & Languages Guide: Comic Books & Graphic Novels

American and British Literature; other literatures; selected reference resources.

Comic Books and Graphic Novels

comic book or comicbook also called comic magazine or simply comic, is a publication that consists of comic art in the form of sequential juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes. Panels are often accompanied by brief descriptive prose and written narrative, usually, dialog contained in word Balloons  emblematic of the comics art form. Although comics has some origins in 18th century Japan, comic books were first popularized in the United States and the United Kingdom during the 1930s. The first modern comic book,Famous Funnies was released in the U.S. in 1933 and was a reprinting of earlier newspaper humor Comic Stripes. which had established many of the story-telling devices used in comics. The term Comic Book derives from American Comic Books once being a compilation of comic strips of a humorous tone; however, this practice was replaced by featuring stories of all genres, usually not humorous in tone.


graphic novel is a book made up of comics content. Although the word "novel" normally refers to long fictional works, the term "graphic novel" is applied broadly and includes fiction, non-fiction, and anthologized work. It is distinguished from the term "comic book", which is generally used for comics periodicals.

Fan Historian Richard Kyle coined the term "graphic novel" in an essay in the November 1964 issue of the comics fanzine Capa-Alpha.The term gained popularity in the comics community after the publication of Will Eisner's A Contract with God (1978) and the start of Marvel's Graphic Novel line (1982) and became familiar to the public in the late 1980s after the commercial successes of the first volume of Art Spiegelman's Maus in 1986 and the collected editions of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen in 1987. The Book Industry Study Group began using "graphic novel" as a category in book stores in 2001.

News and Reviews

  • Comic Book Resources a popular site, offering numerous resources for any level of fan; daily news, featured articles including interviews with artists and writers, opinion and editorial pieces; archives are limited but go back to 1998
  • Comics Continuum very straightforward site offering up-to-date breaking industry news; archives go back about 3 weeks.
  • Comics Worth Reading another site providing industry news, reviews and extensive recommendations for manga, independent, DC Comics and Marvel Comics titles and series. Reviews include publishing history, art samples, plot summaries and Web links.
  • Newsarama updated several times daily; offers breaking industry news; also reviews and previews

Organizations and Associations

  • Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) aimed at preserving First Amendment rights for members of the comics community; offers news, featured links, convention previews, and reports. Also offers a comic censorship bibliography and a comic censorship timeline beginning in the 1750s.
  • International Comic Arts Forum hosted by the nonprofit association of the same name, which aims to "support, promote, and strengthen the comic industry, its products, and professionals"; the web site offers industry and organizational news, and resources for retailers, libraries, teachers, creators, collectors and fans.
  • National Assn. of Comic Arts Educators (NACAE) "Committed to helping facilitate the teaching of comics in higher education"; contains resources for individuals and institutions interested in teaching visual storytelling. Also includes teaching resources (exercises, study guides, syllabi, handouts, etc.)

Reference Tools, Bibliographies and Collections

  • The British Cartoon Archives supported by the University of Kent; The British Cartoon Archive has a library, archive, gallery, and is a registered museum dedicated to the history of British cartooning over the last two hundred years.
  • Cartoon Library and Museum The digital image database of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University contains thousands of scanned images from the collection; however, these represent only a small portion of the total collection. Sources are original art and tear sheets or other printed materials. The collection is the home of the world's most comprehensive academic research facility dedicated to documenting cartoon art.
  • Comic Art in Scholarly Writing: A Citation Guide Allen Ellis, research and instructional services librarian at NKU has created this guide in accordance with the Comic Art and Comics area of the Popular Culture Assn. The online style guide offers instruction and numerous examples for citing comic books, comic strips, editorial cartoons, and graphic novels.
  • Comic Books, Library of Congress Popular Culture Collections...  both foreign and US titles included; collection includes scattered issues back to the 1930s but is mostly comprehensive from 1950 on. The site provides information for using and researching the collection.
  • Comics-Related Dissertations and Theses provides an international bibliography of doctoral and master's dissertations and theses going back to the 1900s.
  • The Comics Reporter Books About Comics Bibliography international in scope; entries are in alphabetical order by title; coverage back to the 1950s.
  • Comic Scholarship Annotated Bibliographies (SCAB) covers book-length works about comic books and strips ranging from "fannish" histories to academic publications; divided by subject categories such as genre, guides, countries, etc.
  • Comic Scholars Discussion List this community is aimed at those involved in research, criticism, and teaching related to comic arts
  • Grand Comic Book Database searchable by writer, artist, title and publisher; the database has more than 70,000 records; most entries include a color image of the over, information about the binding, ink, paper type, publisher, run dates, issues published, and language.
  • Librarians in Comics Steven Bergson, a Canadian librarian maintains this site which contains an annotated bibliography of books, comic books, and graphic novels in which a librarian or library plays a role.
  • Michigan State University Comic Art Collection The MSU Comic Art Collection has more than 200,000 items mostly comic books, and is known as the primary library resource for the study of US comic book publications.
  • No Flying, No Tights created and maintained by librarian Robin Brenner and friends, this resource contains three comic book and graphic novel review sites, one each for kids, teens, and adults. Includes a core list of recommended and reviewed titles divided into various topics.

Online Journals and Magazines

  • ImageTexT a web-based journal with free access to all articles; the journal strives to advance academic study of comic books, cartoons and other media blinding image and text; includes articles, reviews of current scholarship, and conference or publication announcements
  • The Comics Journal Some materials archived for public access; covers the comics medium from an "arts-first" perspective
  • Indy Magazine archives only; briefly published by Alternative Comics.

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