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What is a 'comic book'?

Types Of Comic Books

Mark Zaid (Owner of Esquire Comics) gives expert video advice on: What is a 'graphic novel'?; What is a 'pulp magazine' or 'pulp fiction'?; What is 'manga'? and more...

What is a 'comic book'?

Well, a comic book is essentially what we all know now. It's a sort of 12 by 8 piece of paper that is now into a story. I mean there are specific definitions of actually what is a comic book, and there are debates as to when was the first comic book created, and you go into whether there are word balloons where people's words appear above their head like "Zam!" and "Pow!", from the old Batman Robin television show. But essentially it is a graphic, animated, colourful booklet, which could be black and white of course as well, but a comic book is this magazine style format of a certain number of pages which will vary from the generations that will sequentially tell a story.

What is a 'graphic novel'?

A graphic novel came about more into the 1980s, it's typically a larger size format, could be soft cover, often times it was hardbound. It could either be reproducing older stories, but in the original days it was new material that was just in a different style format. It still followed the same storyline and had the same type of characters. It just more had to do with the price of it and it was usually more expensive because it was larger in length. And it gave somebody more detail, but a lot of times it was a 15, 20 dollar book at a time when comics were selling for only a dollar.

What is a 'pulp magazine' or 'pulp fiction'?

Pulp magazines were very popular in the 1930s, particularly dealing with detectives, The Shadow, and different types of spy thrillers. It was a different format when the original days of the comic book publishers were playing with different styles and formats as to what was to be popular. And these were usually more wordy; they were stories rather than graphic depictions, although there was a combination. But these pulp magazines were the thrillers of the day. If anybody remembers the 'Our Gang' television shows, when you see the kids walking around in their back pockets, not only with comic books but with adventure, spy thrillers in different types of formats. Pulp fiction didn't last for very long, and it usually refers to that specific time period.

What is a 'fanzine'?

A fanzine usually refers to - essentially if you break it down -fan. These were newspapers and sort of self-published magazine styles, especially in the 60s and 70s where collectors and hobbyists were communicating to one another to tell them what was going on in the hobby. Fanzines talked about maybe things that were being sold, telling them about the different conventions. These were very much the early days of comic book collecting as a hobby. There were always comic book collectors, but for many years, there were just comic book readers, and those who created the fanzines in the 60s and 70s really created, or in many ways perhaps could be regarded as the forefathers of, the modern day comic collectors.

What is a 'Big Little Book' comic?

A Big Little Book comic is essentially almost what it says. It was one thing created in the early 1930s by the Whitman Publishing Company in Racine, Wisconsin, and it was about a 3x3 book that was also extremely thick. So it was little and it was big at the same time. And it dealt in those days primarily with spy thrillers, adventures and westerns. And the Big Little Book switched into super heroes as that genre took form and animation. Tom and Jerry and those types of cartoons were very popular in the 1930s and the 1940s, and even into the present day, although for the most part it stopped in the 1970s.

What's the difference between a 'British comic' and an 'American comic'?

For the most part, the differences between American comics and foreign comics, primarily British, is one would have been the price, and sometimes the format. Obviously British comics would be sold in pence rather than cents at the time, so you would sometimes see 10d instead of ten cents. Sometimes they would just be the same book but with a different price sticker. Other times you would have books actually published in Great Britain or in Australia or Canada and elsewhere that were distributed in those countries. Those books are typically looked upon as being valued less than American comic books, but in many ways they are often identical to the American version. There is a large or even growing community of collectors who want to focus on British comics, Australian comics or Canadian comics, and also Spanish comics, comics from Mexico or elsewhere around the world. There were also Superman or Batman comics which we think about being in the 1930s or early 40s, and would eventually appear in Mexico in the mid-1950s. There's a very interesting following and these are great comic books for collectors.

What are 'BDs' or 'Bande Dessinee'?

BDs, or Bande Dessinee's refer to a version of comic books that are popular and published back over in France and Belgium.

What is 'manga'?

Manga is a Japanese word. The Japanese are fantastic and have an extraordinary history in animation. Many of us probably remember watching the Japanese animation cartoons in the 1970s and 80, and that also has gone into comic book form.