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Graphic Novels: Citing Comics

Graphic novels, comics, manga, and wordless books are all contained in this collection.

Increasingly, comic books and graphic novels are considered legitimate objects of literary and cultural study. However, finding scholarly information about comics and citing unique formats can be a challenge! Shoreline CC librarians are here to help with your research projects. 

comic books on a shelf

Citing Multi-issue Comic Stories

Multi-issue Comic Book Story

What do you do when you want to discuss a plot that happens over several issues of a comic book? You must cite it properly which is easy to do if all the issues were written, inked, and illustrated by the same creator as we see here: 

Larsen, Erik (w,p,i). "Revenge of the Sinister Six." Spider-Man v1 #18-23 (Jan.-Jun. 1992), Marvel Comics.

But what does it look like when you have to cite a story that was written, illustrated, and inked by a team of different people? Here's what that citation looks like if you are citing the single issues:

Grant, Alan, Chuck Dixon, Dennis O'Neil, et al. (w), Giarrano, Vince, Tommy Lee Edwards, Mike Wieringo, et al. (p), and McCarthy, Ray, Scott Hanna, Stan Woch, et al. (i). "Contagion." Pt. 1, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #48 (Mar. 1996), DC Comics; Pt. 2, Detective Comics #695 (Mar. 1996), DC Comics; Pt. 3, Robin #27 (Late Mar. 1996), DC Comics; Pt. 4, [mislabeled part 5 on cover]: Catwoman #31 (Late Mar. 1996), DC Comics; Pt. 5, [mislabeled part 4 on cover]: Azrael #15 (Late Mar. 1996), DC Comics; Pt. 6, Batman #529 (Apr. 1996), DC Comics; Pt. 7, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #49 (Apr. 1996), DC Comics; Pt. 8, Detective Comics #696 (Apr. 1996), DC Comics; Pt. 9, Catwoman #32 (Apr. 1996), DC Comics; Pt. 10, Azrael #16 (Apr. 1996), DC Comics; Pt. 11, Robin #28 (Apr. 1996), DC Comics.

If it's possible do to so, try to find the collected volume version of the comic book issues. The volumes will be easier to cite and will contain the same comic book content. This is what the collected volume citation looks like in MLA:

Dixon, Chuck, Alan Grant, Dennis O'Neil, et al. (w), Giarrano, Vince, Dick Giordano, Barry Kitson, et al. (p), and Woch, Stan, Scott Hanna, Ray McCarthy (i). Batman: Contagion. Ed. Bob Kahan. NY: DC Comics, 1996.

Citing a Graphic Novel vs. a Single Issue Comic

There are some special rules for creating citations for comics. Usually, Graphic Novels are formatted like a book, and can be cited like a book. For single issue comics, comic strips, and cartoons, special consideration of citation format is required.

Citing Comics and Graphic Novels

Single Issue Comic Book Citation

Here is an example of a basic comic book citation using MLA style: 

[Fox, Gardner F. (w), Mike Sekowsky (p), and Bernard Sachs (i).] "The Wheel of Misfortune." Justice League of America #6 (Aug.-Sep. 1961), National Comics Publications [DC Comics].

As in the example above, the major contributors to the visual aspects of comic books are the writer, penciller and the inker, who are usually identified as writer (w), penciller (p), and inker (i). The citation is similar to that of a journal article, with the title of the story in quotation marks, and the name of the series underlined. 

Citing Comic Strips from Newspapers

Comic Strip from a Newspaper Citation

Here is an example of a comic strip citation using MLA style: 

Adams, Scott. Dilbert. The Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH). 14 Apr. 1998, United Feature Syndicate: 6D/3.

The idea is the same as comic books except for the date which doesn't need to be in parentheses. Alan Ellis in the source linked below reminds us that newspapers would sometimes alter the content of a comic strip after publication, so the exact information about the newspaper the comic was published in is important.