Genre Basics: Comic Books and Graphic Novels - article

American comic books were first popularized in the 1930's and the demand for comics has fluctuated over the decades. Recently, the comic book market is showing growth. Print and digital sales of comics are rising. People are being introduced to comic book superheroes and stories through blockbuster movies, from Spider-Man to The Avengers to Wonder Woman, which is increasing the readership. When writing comic books and graphic novels it's important to understand the definition of comic books versus graphic novels, along with reader demographics.

A comic book is "a magazine containing sequences of comic strips," according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Modern comic books average around thirty-two pages, containing twenty-two pages of comic and ten pages of advertising. The standard size is 6.625 inches by 10.25 inches, with four to six panels on each page. There are various types of comics, including mini-series, one-shot, and ongoing. A mini-series is a story broken up into four to six issues. A one-shot comic book is a complete story in twenty-two pages. An ongoing comic is one that has no planned ending and progresses until its eventual ending when the comic is discontinued. 

A graphic novel refers to a comic with a book-length, complete, and single story. Graphic novels are longer than comic books, ranging anywhere from forty-eight to five hundred pages. They vary in format size and can be bound like books or magazines. Anthologies and collections of comic series previously published as single comic books are also considered graphic novels.

While both comic books and graphic novels are commonly referred to as genres, they are really more of a medium or format. These books can be nearly any genre that a non-comic book can, including horror, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, memoir, or history.

So, who reads comics? Graphic novel and comic book demographics are changing, but the base is holding steady. The biggest group of comic book customers are males in their 30's. However, there is a group of new comics customers that includes women and children. Additionally, a Graphic Policy report using Facebook data shows that the number of people who identify themselves as comic book fans has a more equal split between male and female. The future of comic book sales is promising with a new group of potential fans to target.

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