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What are Different Types of Comic Books?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 23, 2024
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Although most people think of superheroes when they think of comic books, there are several other genres for collectors to enjoy, including alternative/esoteric, manga, science fiction, fantasy, action/adventure, horror, humor, romance, children's, and adult. Superhero comics are most popular in the United States. They are similar to modern day mythology, with fantastical settings and characters with superhuman powers and abilities. Common examples include Wonder Woman, X-Men, Superman, Spiderman, and Batman.

Alternative/esoteric comic books are often more realistic than those focused on superheros, but they do not necessarily have to be real to life. Readers who want to think a bit more about what they are reading often enjoy them. Some are about fictional events, while others are educational or based on history. They tend to receive more critical recognition and acclaim. Examples include American Splendor, Strangers in Paradise, Ghost World, and Sandman.

Manga comic books are Japanese, but they're usually translated into English in the US. They are very popular, and the manga style is reproduced in countries around the world. Science fiction comics tell futuristic stories that incorporate advanced technology and, usually, travel through space. Many superhero comic books also fall into this category, but they still compose a genre of their own.

Comics in the fantasy genre involve fantasy creatures, swords, sorcery, and mythological figures. Some of the most successful ones are also turned into very successful fantasy novels, like the Conan the Barbarian series. Perhaps the opposite of the fantasy genre, action/adventure, usually involves characters that do not have special powers. Rather, they are everyday people experiencing a conflict. Most of the characters, however, are detectives or police, and the story focuses on their battles against criminals.

Other comic books center on horror, including characters such as zombies, monsters, and vampires. They tend to be gruesome and often include nudity and profanity. Humor comics also generally contain dark themes. They are not strictly funny, and often cross over into many different genres. Similarly, romance comics may also cross over to other genres. In fact, comic books that are strictly about romance are no longer very common. Children’s comic books are also not that common, but those that are are generally whimsical and humorous.

Additionally, there are comics geared strictly towards adults, but many mainstream bookstores do not carry them. Rather, most are downloaded from the Internet.

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Discussion Comments

By whiteplane — On Oct 16, 2012

There have been some really cool crime comics written that mirror the gritty hard boiled style of some of the best noir films and novels.

The comic format is such a unique and versatile one that there is room to explore a number of different genres. Crime translates particularly well.

By profess — On Sep 06, 2012

Does anyone know a good place to look up comic book values online? I am looking to buy comic books and also sell them.

By tigers88 — On Sep 05, 2012

I think my favorite comic book of all time is more properly considered a graphic novel. It is "Black Hole" by Charles Burns and it is amazing.

It tells the story of a high school where a sexually transmitted disease is turning people into mutants. The do not have strange powers, they just look weird and form a camp of outcasts in the woods. The plot might sound ridiculous but it is written and illustrated beautifully. It really goes to show how much artistic potential is possible within a comic book.

By anon213002 — On Sep 09, 2011

The majority of comic books aren't really aimed at all adults, but at hardcore comic book fans of all ages who grew up reading comics and simply never stopped.

I don't know how much this is going to apply for current younger generations who grew up on videogames, TV, the internet and "movies" based on comic books as opposed to comic books. In this aspect, The 80s and 90s children might be the last of their kind.

By behaviourism — On Nov 08, 2010

@Denha, that is certainly true. While comic books are still seen as a stereotypically childish or at best teenage pursuit, more and more adults are collecting comic books and manga. Some people buy these for sentimental value, or because they enjoy the storylines or the artwork. Either way, comic books are definitely diversifying and growing up as a literary genre in their own right.

By Denha — On Nov 08, 2010

@behaviourism, as you pointed out, more and more webcomics are being printed. This growing trend, along with the widespread popularity of alternative comics like the Sandman and even alternative hero comics like Watchmen and its successful film version, have all led a significant growth in comic book sales to adults of all ages.

By behaviourism — On Nov 08, 2010

While you can buy comic books online, there is also an increasing number of comic books that are being published as printed editions or compilations of webcomics, or comics that are drawn by independent artists and posted on websites. These books often include bonus material and can be purchased in bookstores, comic book stores, online or even at comic conventions, such as San Diego Comic Con, the largest of these events in the US.

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