How I Define Comics

I know that its been talked about in class and in one form or another in the blog but I would like to throw my two cents in about define comics.

My Definition of Comics: I define comics as any piece of interlinked text and/or image that creates a narrative. However for me, this does not include photographs unless you consider a meme a comic but that’s a whole other can of worms.

While this is a rather broad definition of comics, I think it is the only way to envelope everything that can be considered comics. I define comics this way for a number of reasons but mainly because I wasn’t really exposed to mainstream comic books until my mid-teens, mind you I had my mom explaining political cartoons and then eventually the comic strips at the back of the newspaper. It took me  until I was in Jr. High School and there being a manga store down the street to get me to submerge myself into comics however I didn’t get into Western-style comics till I was in Sr. High School.

For those of you who want to argue my definition, I’ll give you another point of view. What would a comic strip be without images? It would just be words. What would a comic strip be without words? A series of images that could be called comics but just as easily art or sketches or even doodles. What ties them all together and makes comics so much more powerful is the narrative, the story is what makes all the difference. Sure you can have a comic that doesn’t create a narrative but there are always exceptions to the rule. If you still don’t like my definition, I dare you to come up with something better.

On the flip side, I believe that defining “Comics” is like trying to define “Art” its just not something everyone will agree on and trying to get to something everyone will agree with will just lead to violence. In my opinion, as long as we grow both individually and as a society, what we define as comics or art will inevitably change and be refined only to be thrown out  and redefined. Look at music, two centuries ago what we call music, things like metal or rap, would have probably just been called crap or ruckus.

Rajiv Rathore

P.S. Seriously though, if you don’t like my definition, come up with something else and let me know, I like to know how others see things.

P.P.S. While I might not be right but please don’t hate, in theatre we do something called “Yes, and…”, give me something to work with don’t just shut me down.

About silver919

-I'm a fourth year student in the Department of Drama at the University of Calgary. -I work for the University in the Dept of Drama, if you need to get a hold of me its online.
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5 Responses to How I Define Comics

  1. kodydillman says:

    This is good… I’m about to do a blog post about genre definition, so I’m glad you brought this up.

    One question I would have… Why is a photograph not a valid type of image for a comic? What if a filter was applied to an image to make it look like a sketch, and then presented as a comic… would it be a proper comic then?

    Also, your definition states that it is text and/or image, which I think should probably just be text AND image, since you go on to state that a comic without images is just words.

  2. yuenly says:

    I feel your definition of comics as any interlinked text and images that create a narrative is in a way too encompassing. By this definition most children’s picture books would be considered comics. I for one wouldn’t consider children’s picture books comics, but if you’re fine with including them as comics then there is no issue. And to the above poster, I disagree that a comic should be text AND image. This definition would exclude several textless comics which I feel still embody ‘comicness’. One strong example being the textless manga Gon. I appreciate your brave attempts to define comics, something I’m too cowardly to do, but the task is pretty complex and Ive yet to find a perfect definition.

  3. Ali Bayne says:

    I think that the problem here is that you need to open up that ‘other can of worms’ in order to actually have a solid definition. Interlinked text and/or image can create a narrative though many mediums: film, theatre, music videos, art, books with pictures, magazines, etc. I agree with the comment above saying that this particular definition is just far too encompassing. Perhaps you could improve your definition with some ‘Arrow and the Grid’ sort of stuff, the whole ‘it is a comic if it is meant to be read as a comic’ idea. Or something about page design, maybe?

  4. hugotse says:

    I just made a post about using photographs in comics and am also curious as to why you would not classify them as images. The two go hand in hand for me in the sense that an image can be a photograph, and reversibly, a photograph can be an image. If I were to both draw and take a picture of a man running, they would convey the same meaning: someone is running. From what I understand, your definition of a comic being an illustration connected to text could be the reason why you think that a photograph with text would not fit in a comic. Something like a national geographic photo is usually accompanied by a caption and these pairings only give a description of that exact moment and do not inspire a sense of narrative. Would an example like that be why you disagree with classifying photographs as images?

  5. alexmckay says:

    Rajiv and Hugo, you both present completely different opinions about whether or not photographs can be comics. I want to hear your opinions on A Softer World ( ), which uses comic strip formatting, photographs, and unconventional sorta-kinda-diegetic narratives. I, personally, would put them squarely in the “comics” category (because I think, if they were drawn, there would be no question about whether or not they’re comics and I don’t think photographs are all that different representation-wise).

    But I want to know what you guys think. So…

    GO! FIGHT!

    (just kidding)

    (kind of)

    – Alex McKay

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