1. Home

Comic Books 101 - Overview and History

A Brief History of Comic Books and an Overview of Comic Formats



The comic book as we know it today is a softcover magazine of sequential artwork (a number of pictures in order) and words that when used together tell a story. The cover is usually a glossy paper with the interior of a higher quality paper with the consistency of newspaper. The spine is usually held together by staples.

Comic books today cover a variety of subjects. There are horror, fantasy, sci-fi, crime, real life, and many other subjects that comic books cover. The subject most comic books have become known for is superheroes.

The origin of the word Comic book comes from the comic strip, generally ran in newspapers. Some argue however, that the comic in its purest form has been seen in early cultures, such as Egyptian wall art and prehistoric man cave paintings. The word, "Comics," is still associated with both comic books, comic strips, and even comedians.

Comic books were first introduced in America in 1896 when publishers started producing collected groups of comic strips that where found in newspapers. The collections did very well, and prompted the publishers to come up with new stories and characters in this format. The reused content from the newspapers eventually gave way to new and original content that became the American comic book.

Everything changed with Action Comics #1. This comic book introduced us to the character Superman in the year 1938. The character and comic was extremely successful and paved the way for future comic book publishers and new heroes such as we have today.


The term, “comic,” has been used for many different things and continues to evolve to this day. Here are a few of the different formats:

Comic Book – As described above, this is what the current term refers to in most circles.

Comic Strip – This is what you would find in a newspaper such as Garfield, or Dilbert and what was originally referred to with the term, “comic.”

Graphic Novel – This thicker, and glue bound book is seeing a great amount of success today. This format has been used by some publishers to help distinguish the content from comics with more mature subjects and content matter. Lately, the graphic novel has seen a large amount of success by collecting a comic series, allowing purchasers to read a whole comic story in one sitting. Although still not as popular as the regular comic book, the Graphic Novel has been out pacing comic books in terms of annual sales growth.

Webcomics – This term is being used to describe both comic strips and comic books that can be found on the Internet. Many are smaller endeavors by people who just want to find a creative outlet, but others have turned their webcomics into successful industries such as Player Vs. Player, Penny Arcade, Order Of The Stick, and Ctrl, Alt, Del.

Related Video
Idris Elba Interview - RocknRolla at Comic Con 2008
Rain Interview - Ninja Assassin at Comic Con 2008
  1. About.com
  2. Home
  3. Comic Books
  4. Collecting Comic Books
  5. Comic Books 101 - Comic Book Collecting Information for Beginners

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.