Difference Between Comics and Graphic Novels (With Table)

Both comics and graphic novels have quite a few overlapping characteristics. Both use sequential art to tell a story. They are works of fiction that originally featured superheroes and villains for the most part. Nowadays, each of them is evolving and experimenting with different storylines. However, it can still be difficult to tell them apart.

Comics vs Graphic Novels

The difference between comics and graphic novels is that comics are periodicals in which a large story is broken into smaller stories that are released as issues. On the other hand, graphic novels take the reader through an entire story at once. A graphic novel is not a periodical and is longer than a single comic.

A comic uses pictures and illustrations to tell a story. However, the entire story is broken down into small parts that are released over certain intervals of time. Each issue of a comic has a start and end to it. Yet, it is part of a larger narrative. Comics may even have multiverses, where each story takes place in a different universe but has a similar theme to it.

A graphic novel has pictures and illustrations as well, but it is more like a book. It tells an entire story at once and does not break it down into smaller issues. Because of this, a graphic novel is longer than a single comic. However, the story is generally set in a single universe.

Comparison Table Between Comics and Graphic Novels

Parameters of ComparisonComicsGraphic Novels
StoryA long story is broken down into smaller stories that are released as issues and volumes.A graphic novel narrates an entire story at once.
LengthThe length of a single comic is short.The length of a graphic novel is longer than a single comic.
ComplexityComics are not as complex and detailed as graphic novels.Graphic novels are complex and highly detailed.
SettingThe stories may be set in multiverses, but the theme remains similar.The story in a graphic novel is generally set in a single universe.
TargetComics may be for children, adults, or both.Graphic novels are generally targeted towards adults.
AdvertisementsComics may include advertisements.Graphic novels do not include advertisements.

What is Comics?

A comic book expresses ideas and stories through images that are combined with text or visual information. These images are in a sequence of panels. They are generally in the form of cartoons, yet other kinds of illustrations are often used as well. The text is conveyed using various methods such as speech balloons and captions. Through this, various dialogues, narrations, information, and sound effects are presented.

Comics became popular in the mid-20th century, especially in the United States, Japan, and Western Europe. Some historians also suggest that their origins may be dated as far back as the Lascaux cave paintings. Nowadays, comic books are very common and widely prevalent. People even collect vintage editions of them which are rare or not easily accessible to many. It can be looked at as an investment because they sell at a pretty high price.

Different cultures use different art forms in their comic books. A great example of this would be Japanese comics which are called ‘Manga’. These originated back in the 12th or 13th century and today, they have a very wide following. They are even translated into different languages which makes them more popular people all over the world.

What is Graphic Novels?

Graphic novels are more like books, but they have pictures and illustrations like comics. They do not break the storyline into smaller parts. The entire story is told at once, generally over one to two books. Initially, they only included fictional stories of people, superheroes, and villains. However, in recent times, the genres and storylines are diversifying. Graphic novels may even be non-fiction or anthologized work now.

The term ‘graphic novel’ was coined by Richard Kyle, a famous fan historian back in November 1964. It gained popularity after the release of ‘A Contract with God’ by Will Eisner in 1978. Interestingly, even Marvel dove into the world of graphic novels by releasing a novel line in 1982. These were initially targeted towards a mature audience and included gritty imagery. However, they are even made for children nowadays.

The comics community has even come up with various criticisms for the term ‘graphic novel’. Many claim that it is just a comic book that is far more expensive than others. Others claim that it is nothing, but several issues of a comic cramped into one big book. Regardless, several cartoonists have coined their own terms for extended comic narratives. Some of these include ‘a comic-strip novel’ and ‘an illustrated novel’.

Main Differences Between Comics and Graphic Novels

  1. A comic is a periodical whereas a graphic novel is not.
  2. A comic narrates a long story by breaking it into several issues whereas a graphic novel narrates an entire story at once.
  3. A single comic book is generally short in length whereas graphic novels are lengthy.
  4. A comic is not as complex as the latter whereas graphic novels are highly complex and detailed.
  5. Stories in comic books may be set in multiverses whereas a graphic novel includes a story set in a single universe.
  6. Comics may be for children, adults or both whereas graphic novels are generally targeted towards a mature audience.
  7. Comics may include advertisements whereas graphic novels do not include advertisements.


Comics and graphic novels have several similarities as well as differences. Telling them apart may be an easy task for a regular reader. However, for those who are new to the concept, it may be very confusing. A major difference between the two is that comic books feature a larger narrative which is broken down into small stories. These stories are then released periodically in the form of issues. Meanwhile, a graphic novel features a single story that is released at once.

Moreover, a comic has a wider audience that includes children, adults, or both at the same time. On the other hand, graphic novels generally target a mature audience. They include gritty images which may not be appropriate for children.


  1. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ792963
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=zxulrbG093wC&oi=fnd&pg=PP7&dq=comics+vs+graphic+novels&ots=yhWtcd0vWM&sig=Xm8OGPQtUHfFAdfTQXU1qMZ_KEk

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