What is the Difference Between an Illustrated Novel and a Graphic Novel?

While navigating the colorful world of books, you might find yourself pondering – What distinguishes an illustrated novel from a graphic novel? This guide will elucidate the key differences and similarities to aid those who desire to delve deep into this topic without getting submerged in complexity.

Comic Strips, Comic Books and Graphic Novels

Believe or not, these three seemingly different terms are related to each other, each representing a different form of sequential art – a term coined by Will Eisner, a legend in the world of comic art.

  • Comic strips: These are short-form sequential art, often embedded with humor, found typically in newspapers or online. The storylines may extend over several days or be a one-off incident.
  • Comic books: A more sophisticated form of comic strip, comic books usually follow a serialized format, meaning that the plot progresses with each issue. From superheroes to everyday life scenarios or manga, there are a plethora of themes to choose from.
  • Graphic novels: The term graphic novel is used to describe long-form sequential art that’s akin to a novel in complexity and length. Unlike comic books, a graphic novel’s storyline isn’t serialized, and its entirety is contained within one standalone volume.
reading comic book

Illustrated Novels

An Illustrated novel can be seen as a hybrid between sequential art and prose. The primary distinguishing aspect here is the lack of panels that define comic strips or graphic novels. Here, the images and text interdependently navigate the narrative.

A prominent difference, it’s akin to a grown-up picture book morphing into a novel.

Key Differences: Illustration VS Graphics

  • Inclusion of imagery: A traditional novel’s story unfolds through words, with illustrations only adding additional context or serving as decoration. A graphic novel, however, largely relies on images to weave the story. The text in graphic novels, typically in the format of captions, dialogues, or scene indicators, complements the visuals rather than driving the narrative.
  • Presentation style: Illustrated novels allow simultaneous portrayal of multiple scenes, settings, and perspectives through a single image. In contrast, a graphic novel typically uses sequential frames on each page to narrate the story, thus employing an episodic approach.
  • Word count: In terms of verbiage, a traditional novel might have upwards of 40,000 words, whereas a graphic novel significantly relies on visual imagery, limiting the word count.
  • Role of picturing: One intriguing feature that comes into play while reading is picturing. The reader’s imagination paints a picture based on the narrative laid out by the author. This mental imagery factor turns more complex and interactive during the reading of illustrated novels, marking another significant difference.
comic book panels


The difference between illustrated novels and graphic novels centers around the integral elements of the medium. However, whether it’s an illustrated novel or a graphic novel, both have the capacity to engage readers in captivating stories. They open up newer avenues in the world of storytelling, enriching our understanding and perception of narratives. Thus, let’s soak ourselves in the joy of reading, irrespective of the form of literature it takes.

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