Is it Graphic Novel or Comic Book? Know the Difference

Wandering through a book store and you find the section of graphic novels and while flipping the pages of the novel you find someone who says “It seems you like comic books, that’s nice!”

Comic Book and Graphic Novel t


People always mix up these two terms and it might seem frustrating for those who know the meaning of it and difference. Although both are works of fiction and have panel style storytelling, they are not same.

“Maus,” a graphic novel created by Art Spiegelman, was the first comic/graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Additionally, comics have been inspiring, read, cherished and used for marketing and propaganda in America since the 1930s.

Graphic Novels in India

Graphic novels are not new for India too, what is new is the themes they depict. With events like comic con people now know about graphic novels.

The term ‘graphic novel’ was coined in 1964, and the Amar Chitra Katha comics were launched in India in 1967. The country welcomed the world of comics with open arms. Initially, they focused on retelling the epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

The reality of the power of graphic novels struck us much later when Orijit Sen penned his River of Stories in 1994. Published by Kalpavriksh, his pioneering work focused on how the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River in Gujarat would impact locals. It was India’s first attempt at cartoon journalism and, perhaps, India’s first graphic novel.

Comic books in India

One of the earliest Indian comic magazine is the Chandamama. The magazine can be renamed as the perfect example of history of comics publishing in India. The comic’s compilation was formulated from the adaptations of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in the 1960s, into educative comics for children, caricatures in print media, and adaptations of American super heroes.

Indian comics of the middle years and its predominating era were tremendously influenced by the popularity of Archie comics and series like The Adventures of Tintin. In 1967, editor Anant Pai of the India Book House, finally had begun to set the balls rolling into a perfect line and length, by launching the series Amar Chitra Katha, the objective of which was to convey to children the immortal stories of historical figures and of those in religious discourses of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism and Christianity.

With time, the comic books in India gained popularity and flourished in India. Today we find a plethora of comic books around us.

What sets Graphic Novel and Comic Book Apart?

The Binding Factor

Comics usually use traditional saddle stitching — meaning they are held together with staples in the spine. Graphic novels are bound either in hardback or tradepaper (soft cover) like a book, with a thick spine glued to hold the pages together.

Periodicity and Storyline

Comic books are periodicals. They are produced monthly and usually have a good amount of action that progresses the story line forward to the next issue. Graphic novels are read like a book. They delve deeper into the story lines of characters and history, not just action, and they complete the full arch of a narrative by the end of the novel.

Character Exploration

The story and history of characters and events is what sets graphic novels apart. Intricate story lines are, of course, told in comic books, but it can take months before a certain history is explained from a past issue, and it’s easier to introduce and remove characters without much consequence to the overall story line.

Graphic novels have to focus on character development and consistent details, giving me, as a reader, a more satisfying experience.

Absolutely, both forms have their merit, and many readers sway from one to the other occasionally. But for those interested in entering the world of comics and graphic novels, it’s important to recognize the differences and pick the right form.