Glossary

Of Specialized Cartoon-related Words and Phrases Used in
Don Markstein’s Toonopedia™


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AniméBigfootBig Little BookCartoonistCelCel WasherComixCrossoverCycleDigestDirect Market DistributionExtremeFanboyFanzineFrameFunny AnimalGraphic NovelIn-BetweenIn-BetweenerIndiciaInkerLettererMangaMini-ComicsMintModel SheetMutantPainterPanelPencillerRebootRetconRotoscopeSequential ArtSplash PanelStoryboardSunday PageSuperheroTabloidTopperUniverseWord Balloon

Animé
Japanese animation, which in recent years has become popular worldwide. Animé comes in a wide range genres, but a less wide range of styles. See
Manga.

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Bigfoot
A style of cartoon art characterized by bold, expressive lines, a lack of distracting detail, and humorous exaggeration of bodily features such as noses and feet.

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Big Little Book
A small, square book, usually measuring about 3"x3", with text on the left-hand pages and a single full-page illustration on the right. Big Little Books were originally created in the 1930s, to make use of small pieces of paper that had formerly gone to waste when magazines were trimmed after printing. By running a separate publication on paper that would otherwise go in the trash, the printer was able to create a salable product almost for free. Big Little Books were an ideal way to merchandise comic strip characters, as the drawings could simply be taken directly from the strips themselves. Big Little Books flourished during the days of pulp magazine publishing, which mostly came to an end after World War II. The form was revived in the 1960s, partly as a nostalgia item, and has been used sporadically ever since. These latter-day Big Little Books are generally printed on better paper, and some, at least, have color illustrations.

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Cartoonist
As used here, the word usually means a comics creator who does both major parts of the job, writing and illustrating. Thus,
Carl Barks is the cartoonist who created Uncle Scrooge, and Milton Caniff is the cartoonist behind Steve Canyon.

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Cel
In animation, a cel (note that in this usage, the word has only one L) is a transparent sheet containing any part of the individual
frame that is intended to move. By putting the action on cel overlays, animators avoid having to re-draw the background in every frame. The word comes from "celluloid", which is what cels were originally made of, although that material was replaced by acetate many years ago. Since animation art has become collectible, cels are now sometimes produced just for sale, rather than as part of the production process.

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Cel Washer
At one time, a beginner-level job in animation. Back before animation
cels were considered collectible, the ink was usually washed off of a used cel, so the material could be used again. Chuck Jones frequently pointed out that he started in animation as a cel washer.

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Comix
"Underground" comic books. The spelling is often used to distinguish the counter-culture comics, usually intended for adults only, published by such entities as Rip Off Press, The Print Mint, and Last Gasp Eco-Funnies, from the more conventional offerings of such "establishment" companies as
Marvel, DC, and Archie Comics. Examples of comix, as opposed to comics, are Mr. Natural and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Comix practitioner Art Spiegelman (author of Maus) says it's because the form is a "co-mixing" of words and pictures, but actually it's just a different way of spelling "comics".

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Crossover
A meeting between characters from two different series, as when
Superman met Batman in Superman #76, or when Alphonse & Gaston met Happy Hooligan on numerous occasions. In recent years, standard crossovers have become so common in comic books, it takes a huge event, such as a mini-series involving most of the company's characters or a meeting between characters belonging to different publishers, to qualify for the name.

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Cycle
A set of animation drawings that are repeated. For example, if a character is walking across a background, there is no need to animate each step he takes — just animate one step, then use the same drawings for the next, etc.

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Digest
In the printing/publishing industry, this word, like
tabloid, refers to a printed format. "Digest" magazines are those made in approximately the same size and shape as, or perhaps a little smaller than, Reader's Digest. Digests have been a small but noticeable part of the American comics scene since 1968, when Gold Key Comics started publishing its Walt Disney Comics Digest. Archie Comics has had much success with its digest line, sold mainly at supermarket checkout stands, while DC, Harvey and others have experimented with the form.

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Direct Market Distribution
A method of comic book distribution in which wholesalers buy comics from their publishers directly, as opposed to taking the comics on a returnable basis, and sell them directly to retailers. By buying directly, distributors and retailers get a better price. By selling directly, publishers know right away how well a title is doing, and don't have to wait for unsold copies to trickle back in over a period of months. The Direct Market started in the mid-1970s, gained momentum in the early '80s, and since the middle '80s has been the dominant means by which American comic books are distributed.

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Extreme
In animation, an extreme is a character's pose at the beginning or end of an action. The poses in-between extremes are called (predictably enough)
"In-betweens".

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Fanboy
A socially inept person who has few if any interests other than whatever it is he (or she) is a fan of.

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Fanzine
Fan magazine. Fanzines are often, but not always, amateur productions, published not so much to make a profit as simply to provide a vehicle for self-expression on the part of the publisher. The word refers to fan publications of all sorts, but first became widely used in reference to the publications of science fiction fans of the 1930s and later. Probably the first fanzine of that genre was The Time Traveler, published by a pair of science fiction fans named
Julie Schwartz and Mort Weisinger, both of whom went on to long careers as editors at DC Comics.

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Frame
An individual picture in a motion picture film, depicting a small fraction of a second of the action.

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Funny Animal
A genre of fiction which, like
superheroes, is found more often in comics and animation than elsewhere, and which is characterized by animals that walk and talk just like humans. Many aficionados of the genre insist that a funny animal no more has to be "funny" than a comic book must be "comic", citing Bucky O'Hare and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but others disagree. Many of the best funny animals, such as Uncle Scrooge, combine humor with adventure in about equal measure; but some, like Usagi Yojimbo, while not totally eschewing humor, place more emphasis on the dramatic aspects of their stories. And then, of course, there are Pogo, Bugs Bunny and suchlike, that are almost all humor. A surprisingly broad and varied category.

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Graphic Novel
A glorified comic book. Graphic novels are distinguished from common, ordinary comic books by their format (they are usually published in book form, with higher production values, rather than as pamphlets, like most comics) and by the fact that they usually contain longer, more complex stories (just as a prose novel is longer and more complex than a short story).

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In-Between
In animation, an in-between drawing shows a character's transitional pose between two
extremes.

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In-Betweener
An animator whose job it is to draw
in-betweens. A step up from cel washer, but still a job for someone who has not yet progressed to the level of a journeyman animator. In-betweeners are often called assistant animators.

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Indicia
A paragraph of small type, found in most magazines (including comic books), indicating the magazine's title, date, publisher, and other relevant information.

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Inker
In comics, an inker is the artist who applies ink to the
penciller's drawings, making them ready to be photographed and then printed. Inking jobs vary in their complexity according to how tightly the penciller works, but always require the hand and eye of an artist.

In animation, an inker was at one time the person who traced an animator's drawings onto cels. Today, the job is usually done with a xerox machine.

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Letterer
In comics, the words are usually put on the page by hand, rather than by typesetting, although computerized lettering is now becoming more common. The letterer positions and draws the
word balloons and usually draws display lettering (such as logos and sound effects) as well as transferring words of the script to the balloons and captions.

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Manga
The Japanese word for "comic book". In America, the term is applied to translated reprints of Japanese comics, or to homegrown comics that are strongly influenced by the Japanese style. See
animé.

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Mini-Comics
Home-made comics, usually amateur productions done by a single individual. Mini-comics are typically made by folding, cutting and stapling xeroxed sheets of paper. They are seldom intended to make a profit, "payment" for the work usually consisting only of the cartoonist's ability to express himself without editorial constraint. Mini-comics characters sometimes "graduate" into regular comics, as did Pam Bliss's "Those Kids"; also, regular comics characters will occasionally guest-star in a mini-comic, as Scott McCloud's
Zot! did with Matt Feazell's Cynicalman.

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Mint
Perfect condition — as highly-regarded a state in comic book collecting as in coins and stamps. No slack is cut for a comic's age or any other factor — mint means perfect, and that's all there is to it. Mint comics often command prices over ten times higher than the same item in "good" condition.

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Model Sheet
A set of drawings of a character, showing him in various poses, with various facial expressions, and from various angles, done so that different artists drawing the character can make him look consistent. Model sheets are used in both comics and animation.

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Mutant
The basic meaning is simply a thing which has changed. In biology, a mutant is an organism that differs from its parents as a result of a random change in one or more of the genes passed on to it. In
Marvel Comics, a mutant is a person who, as a result of genetic mutation, is born with a special power of one sort or another. Usually (but not always), the power (and any unusual physical appearance that might go with it, such as The Angel's wings) manifests itself during puberty. In the Marvel Universe, mutants have been with the human race for a long time, but their rate of appearance has accelerated drastically since nuclear power started increasing the amount of radiation in the world. Normal humans in Marvel comics tend to hate and fear mutants, who are seen as a danger to them — and some of whom, using their powers for evil purposes, actually are dangerous. It was to combat the threat of such evil mutants, and to help other mutants deal with their differences, that Professor X formed The X-Men in 1963.

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Painter
In animation, the painter is the person who applies color to the
inked cel.

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Panel
In comics, a panel is an individual picture. The story is told in the form of a sequence of panels. There are also one-panel cartoon features, such as
Hazel and They'll Do It Every Time.

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Penciller
In comics, a penciller is the artist who does the basic drawing. Usually, the penciller lays out the page, positions the figures, sketches in poses, facial expressions, backgrounds, etc. The
inker follows, rendering the drawing in high-contrast black and white for the camera.

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Reboot
To restart an entire series from the beginning, as if the characters had never been seen before. This is sometimes done when past continuity gets so complicated that new readers have a hard time following it. For example,
Superman was rebooted in 1986 and The Legion of Super Heroes in 1994. It's also sometimes done in conjunction with a basic change in publishing strategy. For example, The Fantastic Four was rebooted in 1996.

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Retcon
Retroactive continuity. Many comic book fans are very concerned that each story about a character be consistent with every story that has been published in the past. For example, it's no longer possible to do a story about
Lois Lane trying to prove Clark Kent is Superman, because DC Comics has published stories in which she found out for sure. Sometimes, to make stories work, it's necessary to "tweak" the past a little bit, so they do a "retcon". For example, Marvel Comics established that the man using the name of Captain America in the 1950s was not the same as the one in the '40s, to stay consistent with the story in which The Avengers found the original Captain America had been frozen in Arctic ice since 1945. The term also applies to wholesale revisions of continuity, for example, DC's mid-1980s complete revamping of its entire fictional history. See REBOOT.

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Rotoscope
A device that enables animators to trace the movement of live actors, frame by frame, into an animation sequence. The rotoscope is decried by some animation purists, but has often been used to good effect (for example, in enabling actor Hans Conried to perform the part of
Disney's Captain Hook, as well as provide Hook's voice). The device was invented by Max Fleischer, who used it in his series "Out of the Inkwell" before World War I.

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Sequential Art
Will Eisner
The Spirit) coined this expression, which means a series of illustrations which are intended to be viewed in consecutive order to create a coherent narrative. Actually, it's a hifalutin' term for comics.

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Splash or Splash Panel
A large comic book
panel, usually half a page or more (in fact, sometimes spread over two facing pages), and usually (but not always) coming at the beginning of a story. In modern comics, the splash panel is usually part of the story. In older comics, the splash usually functioned as a sort of interior cover, showing a highlight from the story it introduced, or a picture in some way symbolic of the story's theme.

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Storyboard
A sequence of still drawings, used in animation to display the key points of a story — that is, a script of sorts, done with pictures instead of words. Using storyboards, directors are better able to control pacing, among other things. After being brought to a modern level of sophistication by the
Disney organization (tho early glimmerings had been seen even in the pre-Felix days), storyboards were adopted throughout the animation industry, and soon started being used by live-action directors, as well. Today, they're seen everywhere in film production, from TV commercials to mega-blockbuster feature films.

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Sunday Page
Before World War II, it was the norm for newspaper
cartoonists to have an entire page of their own on Sundays. Some used the whole page for one series, as Hal Foster did with his Prince Valiant; whereas others split theirs between the main feature and a topper — for example, Chic Young's page contained both Blondie and Col. Potterby & the Duchess. In the early 1940s, wartime paper shortages forced papers to start cutting back on the size of comics, starting an appalling trend that has, by now, brought newspaper comics down to postage-stamp size.

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Superhero
A genre of fantasy fiction, found most often in American comic books and TV cartoons (but spilling over into prose novels, film, popular music, and just about everywhere else, at least occasionally). The superhero genre is generally characterized by a stylized form of gaudy costume and/or extraordinary abilities on the part of some characters. Tho the word was in use earlier, the genre is generally considered to have started with
Superman, published by DC Comics beginning in 1938. Superheroes have been a part of the comic book scene ever since — and have at various times (including the present) been American comic books' dominant genre. Since 1981, DC and Marvel Comics have claimed a joint trademark on the term, but have made only spotty attempts to keep others from using it, and it's anybody's guess whether or not it would stand if it were ever seriously challenged in court.

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Tabloid
Before it was a style of journalism, "tabloid" meant a style of newspaper — physical style, that is, not content style. A tabloid publication is half the size of a regular newspaper, about 11"x17". The reason it's come to refer to a less-than-savory source of news is simply that the cheapest papers, usually the ones published in the less-expensive smaller size, were usually the ones with the most sensational and least trustworthy news. In the publishing industry, however, "tabloid" is a neutral term, referring only to the actual size of a publication's pages.

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Topper
A small Sunday comic strip that accompanied another strip. The first toppers (which came from
King Features in the 1920s) ran across the top of the page, hence the name, tho different syndicates put them in different places. Toppers are no longer in use, now that cartoonists are no longer given a whole page to work with, but before World War II, they were common — encouraged by newspaper editors who wanted to advertise having more comics, but didn't want to add pages to the comics section. A few examples of toppers are Jungle Jim (topper to Flash Gordon), Cicero's Cat (topper to Mutt & Jeff), and Maw Green (topper to Little Orphan Annie).

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Universe
The milieu in which a large number of characters (mostly
superheroes) from related but separate series operate, usually preceded with a qualifier indicating how the characters are related (the two major examples being "Marvel Universe" and "DC Universe", denoting characters owned by Marvel and DC Comics, respectively). A comic book universe may have a history different from that of the real world, such as the "fact" that in the Marvel Universe, Hitler was killed by The Human Torch. Its geography may be different — for example, in the DC Universe, there are major U.S. cities named Metropolis and Gotham City. Even scientific laws may be different, manifest, for example, in the ability of some DC Universe characters to travel in time by exceeding the speed of light. The important thing, in the eyes of many readers, is that everything be consistent — if a particular "fact" is "true" in one Marvel comic, then while it need not apply to DC comics, it must be "true" in all other Marvels. (By the way, your not-so-humble toonopedist might have been the first user of the word in the present context, in this September, 1970 article.)

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Word Balloon
The area in which a comics character's speech appears, usually with a "tail" pointing to the one speaking. Usually, balloons are both positioned and drawn by the
letterer. Sometimes called "word bubble" "speech bubble" or "dialog bubble", especially in Europe.

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