I'm kind of confused on how to quote a scene in a comic/graphic novel.

I understand that if you are quoting something that a character said, that you would do the usual (Author's Last name, Page number), but what if you're quoting a scene? Would I then use the artist, author or both?

Then for the Works Cited page, would I then use the artists, author or both?


4 Answers 4


I understand that if you are quoting something that a character said, that you would do the usual (Author's Last name, Page number), but what if you're quoting a scene?

I'd go with quoting the last names of both Author and Artist and the page number as bottom text (depending on what style you are using for your citations).Something along the lines of "from The amazing animal-man, issue 23, page 2, Smith and Wesson".

If you want to be even more specifc, you could quote the exact panel, but that would work best inside your argument. Let's assume you are discussing the portrayal of grief in comic books, then you could say:

"... the topic is central to said issue. In the first panel from the left of page 2, we can see how the artists has ..."

I would do the same for the "Works Cited" page. I suppose you could omit the artist last name if you are just interested in the script of a given comic, but that does not seem to be your case and generally I would advise against that. Sometime artists and authors work closely together, no reason to avoid giving attribution to the artist.


If you're doing an individual review, you should mention the entire creative team. Writers, co-writers, pencils, pens, colors, letters. Whoever is on the masthead.

But for shorter citations, the general rule is to cite the writer and primary artist, sometimes with full names, sometimes last names.

If you're writing a paper or other work with a bibliography, do the longer versions of citations. You don't necessarily have to list the entire creative team but sometimes that's an easy cut and paste and it's a kindness. Do give full names of whoever you list.

If you have a bibliography with the longer citation and you need a shorter version for the text itself, I think it would be fine to use the last name of whoever is first on the masthead or just give the name of the comic. If you're talking about the art, you might want to mention the artist and ditto for the script where you'd want to mention the writer.

If you do not have a bibliography and the only reference will be within the text, then list both writer and artist.


The MLA doesn't have a definitive statement on this. In an entry about citing speech bubbles from comics they show an example that includes only the author, but the book itself doesn't credit an artist on the cover so that doesn't help. I found several academic sites that give the same MLA guidance for comics, most of which only list the author and are silent about artists. I did, however, find guidance from Western Michigan University that says to include all collaborators (in order of importance of contribution). That page cites this article from an MLA-based comics style guide; the article is by Allen Ellis, Associate Professor of Library Services at Northern Kentucky University.

My conclusion is that MLA always and only requires the author, but it would not be wrong (and I think it is more honest) to include all credited major collaborators.

Even if you only use the author for in-text citations, I would use the more-inclusive citation in the bibliography.


Let us take a look at how APA does this. Their rule, from their official style blog, is to cite anyone whose contribution is "essential to understanding the content".

For example, the illustrations Sir John Tenniel made for Alice in Wonderland are not essential to the text. The book has been published without them and can be read without them. Therefore Tenniel is not mentioned when you city Alice.

In a comic book or graphic novel on the other hand, the illustrations are an essential part of the content. Without the contribution of the artist, the comic simply didn't exist. Therefore, what the APA team recommend, is to

"cite a [comic book] as you would cite a non-illustrated book with more than one author".

As I find their logic convincing, I would recommend the same approach for a citation in MLA format. The MLA Handbook is not explicit about this case, but since it doesn't explicitly forbid to list the artists as second authors, that is what I think best represents the importance of the artists in a comic book.

In European comics, usually one artist does it all. In Japanese manga, one mangaka represents his whole team. But in American comics, the roles are clearly divided, and I would list the penciller, inker, colorist, and letterer as authors after the writer.

After all, an author is "one that originates or creates something".

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