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Key Difference – Cartoon vs Comic

Comic and cartoon are two words that are closely inter-related, but they do not mean the same. Comic is a publication, typically a book, that consists of comic art in the form of sequentially juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes. The individual illustrations in the book may be called cartoon, but a comic book cannot be called a cartoon. Cartoon usually refers to an illustration or a series of illustrations that are typically published in newspapers and magazines. Short animated movies and television shows are also called cartoons. This is the key difference between comic and cartoon.

What is a Comic?

Comic is a publication that consists of comic art style and narrates a story. Comic art uses cartoons or similar forms of images. These illustrations are in the form of consecutive juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes. Comics use different textual devices such as balloons, captions and onomatopoeia to indicate sound, effects, dialogues and other information. The size and arrangements of the comic panels also help the narrative pacing. Although the word comic indicates comic books that have humorous stories, comic stories can belong to different genres and may not have a humorous tone.

Famous Funnies, released in the United States in 1933, is considered to be the first modern comic. Some believe that comics have their origins in 18th century Japan or 19th century Europe. Characters like Spiderman, superman, batman, Captain America, Iron man, Hulk, Wolverine, etc. are comic book characters. The Adventures of Tintin and the Adventures of Asterix are two of the most popular comics written in French language.

Key Difference - Cartoon vs Comic

Comic book cover of The Ghost Rider 9 [A-1 #67] Oct. 1952

What is a Cartoon?

The meaning of the word cartoon can have subtle differences, i.e., cartoon can refer to a simple illustration, style of drawing, or an animation. Basically, a cartoon is an illustration drawn in a non-realistic or semi-realistic artistic style. Cartoons in print media can be classified into various categories such as editorial cartoons, gag cartoons, comic strips, etc. They are often meant to evoke humor and laughter.

Editorial cartoons are serious in tone and use satire or irony to criticize social issues; they are often found in news publications. Comic strips are a short series of drawings and speech bubbles in sequence. Gag cartoons or panel comics consist of only one illustration, and depicts an everyday situation, but with a twist. The punch line is at the bottom of the page. The illustrations in comic books also fall under cartoons.

Animations, especially those that target children and evoke laughter, are also termed as cartoons. They can be television programs or short animated movies.

Difference Between Cartoon and Comic

A satirical cartoon from the German language edition of Puck Magazine

What is the difference between Cartoon and Comic?


Cartoon is an illustration drawn in a non-realistic or semi-realistic artistic style

Comic is a publication that consists of comic art in the form of sequentially juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes.


Cartoons may have different structures.

Comic books use a specific structure which includes, the size of the panels, the placement of the panels, the textural devices such as balloons and captions, etc.


Cartoons are often humorous.

Comic books are not often humorous.


Cartoons can be found in magazines and newspapers.

Comic books are separate publications.


Image Courtesy: 

“The Ghost Rider 9” By Dick Ayres – Comic Book Plus (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

“Frederick Burr Opper, Let Them Have It All And Be Done With It! 1882 Cornell CUL PJM 1092 01” By Frederick Burr Opper – Puck Magazine, German language edition. An English-language version was published in Puck for February 8, 1882.Cornell University: Persuasive Cartography: The PJ Mode Collection (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia