Comics is the most common English name for a graphic medium where information, narrative and other aesthetic effects are conveyed through pictorial images, usually drawings, or by a combination of images and text. Text may take the form of dialogue in speech balloons, narration in captions, or onomatopoetic sound effects. A short sequence of such images, often found as a regular feature in newspapers, is called a comic strip. A periodical magazine whose content is in the form of comics is referred to as a comic (UK) or comic book (USA). A book whose content is in the form of comics is often called a graphic novel.
The term "comics" reflects the humorous origins of the medium, although comics are not necessarily humorous. English language comics are most popularly identified with fantasy, adventure and superheroes, although many other styles, genres and subject matters are also published. In French comics are called bandes dessinées (BD) or "drawn strips"; in Spanish, historietas or "little stories"; in Italian, fumetti or "little puffs of smoke" (referring to speech balloons); in Japanese, manga or "quickly executed drawings".
Scott McCloud defines comics as "Juxtaposed pictorial images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer". This definition excludes single-illustration forms such as political cartoons and pocket or gag cartoons, which are also popularly known as "comics", and some, including Eddie Campbell, consider it too narrow.
- Paul Gravett, Encarta: a definition of comics, 19 July 2009
- Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Tundra Publishing, 1993
- "I disagree with Scott McCloud's definition... I think that some of the best comics do not involve 'sequential images'". Smoky Man, An Interview with Eddie Campbell, Ultrazine, 28 December 2000