The Difference Between Comics And Graphic Novels

Graphic Novel
Image by Ana Ulin

For a long time, comics were considered to be for children only. With the establishment of the “Graphic Novel” term, however, the wider acceptance of these drawn stories set in though. Yet, is there such a big difference between comics and graphic novels? If so, are they really that big? What makes a comic, what makes a graphic novel?


Whether you read the one or the other, it shouldn’t matter to you as long as you can enjoy the stories depicted in this artistic and unique way. However, if you are still interested to find out about the difference between the two apparently indistinguishable art forms, then read on:


Comic vs. Graphic Novel

The Similarities

To start off, why not state the obvious. What graphic novels and comics obviously have in common is that they both tell a story not only through the written word, but through drawn pictures as well. The illustrations can either be black and white or colorful, be more realistic or more abstract.


But, actually, this is where the similarities between the two media end.


The Differences

One of the biggest differences between comic and graphic novels is that comics typically get published in a serial format. The stories are continuous, and one issue covers only a small part of a bigger story, leaving the reader wait for the next issue with anticipation.

Graphic novels, in most cases, contain a big chunk of story line, or a whole story in itself. There can be sequels, but often times, a series of graphic novels ends after very few issues, leaving a story completed and wrapped up.


Plot wise, comics tend to either carry a very light tone, depicting humorous strips and stories, or to revolve around topics and stories with an adventurous character. On the other hand, graphic novels are considered to approach more “mature” topics with a greater complexity.

However, it would be cliche to say that comics thus are for a younger and “immature” audience only. Serious topics and problems can be addressed in comics as much as in graphic novels.


Comics are, due to their shortness in each issue, produced and published faster ad more regularly than graphic novels. Usually, they have a paper cover and only few pages. Some series come out every month with a brand new issue, some even every week. They are assigned with an ISSN (International Standard Serial umber), and can be purchased at news stands, special comic book stores, and in separated shelves of many book stores.

Graphic novels can be published in a paper cover variant as well, however most are bound similar to hardcover books. Their number of pages exceeds the one of the standard comic by far, and the publishing cycle takes more time than the one of comics. Since graphic novels are closer to books than comics are, they are assigned an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). Due to more lavish production and a bigger scope, they are also more price than comics.


In Short

Comic Graphic Novel
  • Paper Cover (ISSN)
  • Released serially
  • No set time frame
  • Light, comedy, adventurous
  • Softbound or hardbound (ISBN)
  • Released as a whole
  • Beginning, middle, & end
  • More “mature” content