What’s in a Comic Book Title? Using the Title Statement and Varying Title Fields

What are the two most important elements in any library record? Title and statement of responsibility, commonly the author and illustrator, and for comics in particular, can include the colorist, letterer, inker, and editor. Most of your patrons will come in with either a creator or a title in mind. However, graphic novels, and particularly trade paperbacks of serialized single comic issues, are notorious for having title statements formulated multiple ways on the same item. Maybe the series volume is on the spine, but the story arc is written on the title page, but only the series title is on the cover. So, what are the best ways to convey all the different titles in on MARC record?

When you are constructing your 245 and 246 MARC fields, always ask yourself, “How is my patron going to look for this book?” and “How is my ILS and/or discovery layer going to look for this book?” The former has to deal with the rest of the record, subjects, keyword notes, etc. The latter is concerned with hyphenation, spelling suggestions, and capitalization. It is important to know if your ILS will translate Spider-Man into Spiderman and Spider man and determine whether or not you should spell out the name three different ways in the 245 and 246 fields. As a cataloger, it is important to balance how patrons and computers will use and interpret your cataloging records.

If you are cataloging your graphic novels as series, you don’t have much flexibility in transcribing the title because you are using the collective title in the 245 and adding information about the individual volumes in the 505 contents note. However, if you are cataloging your trade paperbacks as monographs, you have more flexibility in transcribing several versions of the title.

Let’s use Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday as an example.

Astonishing X-Men

If you are cataloging your comic book trades as a series, your 245 and 505 would look like this:

245 10 |a Astonishing X-Men / |c writer, Joss Whedon ; artist, John Cassaday ; colorist, Laura Martin ; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos [and others].

505 00 |g Volume 1. |t Gifted — |g Volume 2.|t Dangerous — |g Volume 3. |t Torn —  |g Volume 4.|t Unstoppable.

While this will get across the title of the series and that each trade is named for a different story arc. This is the reason many libraries treat their trade paperbacks as monographs, conveying the chronology and title of the series, through the title statement. You can use subfields n, number of part/section of work, and p, name of part/section of work, to create a complete title statement. Let’s look at Astonishing X-Men Gifted by Joss Whedon again, this time, treating it as a monograph.

[As it appears on the title page and cover]

 245 10 |a Astonishing X-Men. |p Gifted / |c writer, Joss Whedon ; artist, John Cassaday ; colorist, Laura Martin ; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos [and others].

[As it appears on the spine]

246 18 |a Astonishing X-Men. |n Volume 1, |p Gifted

Note from the cover image that volume one does not appear on the cover or the title page, only the spine. So if a patron wanted volume one of Astonishing X-Men and you didn’t include a varying spine title 246, you’d have to use another resource to find the title you are looking for is Gifted. The 246 field has a lot of options for recording various forms of title, giving catalogers a number of tools to aid in search retrieval.  Parallel titles for foreign language graphic novels, cover titles, and spine titles can all be added entries for your MARC records. Again, as a cataloger, ask yourself, how is a patron going to look for this? How have they heard this title talked about? How will they ask a reference librarian to look for it when they can’t find it themselves? My rule of thumb, when in doubt, add a 246, your patrons will thank you for it.



Top 5 of 2017

I am one of those comic book readers who likes to break down my favorites lists into the major publishers; Marvel, DC, Image and other, smaller presses. While I know that that promotes the two publisher dominated field of comics, I might have to change my way as I read more independently published OGNs and floppy’s published by the smaller presses like AfterShock and smaller imprints like IDW’s Black Crown. So below are my top five, single issue comics I read in 2017.


So right off the bat, I’m listing two favorite comics from Marvel this year. I couldn’t help myself because there were two complete standouts, both great in story and one with an exceptional link between text and art.

Ms. Marvel #25Ms. Marvel
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Illustrated by Various throughout 2017
Published by Marvel Comics

During the Vice debacle stating that there were no notable comics of 2017, I reflected that Ms. Marvel is consistently on my top of my best of list year after year. G. Willow Wilson has created a compelling character in Kamala Khan who tackles modern issues with thoughtfulness and class. While handling internet trolls and discrimination, Kamala is also a teenager dealing with romance, jealousy, and learning to appreciate her bizarre family. Even if this book doesn’t seem like your thing, I urge you to try it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

Black Bolt
Black Bolt #2Written by Saladin Ahmed
Illustrated by Christian Ward
Published by Marvel Comics

Black Bolt came completely out of left field for me. I figured Marvel would put something out because of the Inhumans show, but this story of Blackagar Boltagon and his daring prison escape was not what I expected. Hugo and Nebula nominated author Saladin Ahmed bring the intergalactic world of Black Bolt to a small prison setting where we meet Blinky, a telepathic teen, and the Absorbing Man. What really pushes this book over the edge for me is the story plus Christian Ward’s outstanding art. The prison is akin to an Escher painting, noting the theme of the modern prison complex and the colors and layers of the art convey a huge depth of emotion.


Mister MiracleMister Miracle
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Mitch Gerads
Published by DC Comics

I knew absolutely nothing about Mister Miracle or Big Barda when I started reading this book. Being a Wisconsinite, I am fascinated by escape artists because of one of Wisconsin’s golden son’s Harry Houdini (if you ever find yourself in Appleton, WI, check out the Harry Houdini Museum!). After reading this book for a while, I would say that I still don’t know that much about Mister Miracle and Big Barda, but I care deeply about what happens to them. Mister Miracle, a master escape artist the son of the Highfather, the ruler of New Genesis. He meets his wife, Big Barda, during a hostage exchange in Granny Goodness’ Terror Orphanage. With all that emotional baggage and dealing with Gods, it’s been difficult to fully understand Mister Miracle, but I’m still playing along, and that’s a great sign.


Curse WordsCurse Words
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Ryan Browne
Published by Image Comics

Charles Soule quickly became a must read author for me after his run on She-Hulk. He single handedly resurrected one of my favorite characters of all time. And, if you’ve been following Librarian with Issues for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a commissioned Ryan Browne piece up in my home. What I have loved about their work combining in Curse Words is the narrative driven storytelling and Ryan Brown’s comedic art style, makes for a fantastical story. Wizord finds himself on a mission to destroy Earth, but as he gets to know the locals, he becomes fond of them and decides to become their wizard for hire. What could go wrong other than the preternatural evil who sent him to destroy Earth still wants to destroy Earth. Panel layouts by Browne are are phenomenal and really pay on the elemental aspects of the magic system within Curse Words.

Other Publishers

Eleanor and the EgretEleanor and the Egret
Written by John Layman
Illustrated by Sam Kieth
Published by AfterShock Comics

If there was an intersection of things Tracy likes, Eleanor and the Egret would be in the center of the Venn diagram of Art Deco French aesthetic, Seussian illustrations, and a mysterious animals. Eleanor is an art thief in a dystopian, nouveau art inspired Paris, but why is she stealing the artwork of famed artist Anastasia Rue? The artistic talents of Sam Kieth, known for his work with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, brings this rich world to life without feeling referencial. I think what really draws me to Eleanor and Egret is how similar it feels to one of my all time favorite comic series Bandette, plucky thief, band of sidekicks, a hint of the supernatural and amazing artwork.

These were my favorite comics of 2017. It’s always difficult to pick your favorites, but these are some choices I’d recommend to anyone who wants to read something new and different.

Marriage Issues Podcast

Last year my husband, Aaron, and I started a podcast called Marriage Issues: A Couple’s Conversation about Comics. We discuss our weekly comic book pull list, other books we are reading, current comic events and news, and end every episode with a newlywed style question to see how well we truly know each other.

If you are interested in checking it out, you can visit us at www.marriageissuespodcast.com, download directly from the Apple Podcast App, Google Play and other places you get your podcasts. You can also follow us on Twitter @mrandmrscomics where we post our current comic reading list and other fun nerdiness.



Comic Catz

It has been a really rough year for me and my family. We had several things happen to us which put me in a bad state of mind and not up to the task of writing consistently. But it is a fresh year and I’m rededicating myself to sharing my love of comics and libraries with all of you. Thank you for your patience as I find my footing again.

Jonesy “reading” Patsy Walker aka HellCat with me!

To get back into the swing of things, I wanted to write about something I am really passionate about: pets, particularly my wonderful cat Jonesy. I have said for a while that I’m not particularly a cat person, but I am 100% a Jonesy person. We adopted him from our local animal shelter over two years ago and he’s been an integral part of our family ever since. He has some health issues, a bald spot from an infection and a crinkly ear, but he is the most loving, affectionate cat I’ve ever met. Due to his conditions, when we first met him at the shelter, he was being kept in the bathroom, secluded from the other cats. But when he jumped into my lap and started to purr, I knew instantly he was the cat for us. He’s in good health now and enjoying the high life…and inspiring me to read many cat comics! Here’s a few of my favorites from 2017.

Chi’s Sweet Home Series
Written by Kanatan Konami
Published by Kodansha

Chi's Sweet HOmeIn Chi’s Sweet Home, a young street kitten wanders away from her mother and siblings and is found by the Yamada family. They take a quick liking to the new kitty, naming her Chi, sounding like the Japanese word for urine. But it isn’t easing going for the Yamada’s because cats are not allowed in their apartment complex, so they must keep Chi secret from their landlords and neighbors. Read along as Chi discovers boxes, the weird food the Yamada’s try feeding her, and explores the indoor world of being a house cat. This is a sweet, all ages, long running manga series and is for someone searching for a book that will put a smile on their face.

By Benji Nate
Published by Silver Sprocket

Catboy coverI talk to my cat all the time. When my cat makes a noise and my husband talks back, I talk as Jonesy. I know, it’s weird, but I may love my cat way too much. I think all pet owners anthropomorphize their pets to some extent. Some put them in cute clothes, some take them everywhere like they are their child, and others talk nonsense to them. Well, what if your cat could be a person? This is the premise of Benji Nate’s Catboy. Olive is a broke barista with an art degree who lives with her cat, and best friend, Henry. One night she wishes on a star and Henry becomes a human sized, upright walking cat. While he may stand like a human, he sure doesn’t know how to act like one. From not bathing in public to getting a job, Henry sure does have a lot to learn about being a cat in the human world. As Henry learns what it means to be a human, Olive also learns how to be more social herself and ventures outside her comfortable existence with the help of Henry.

She and Her Cat
Story by Tsubasa Yamaguchi
Art by Makoto Shinkai
Published by Vertical Comics

She and her catBecoming and adult is tough. I always thought that at the end of high school or college, there should be a class about being an adult, finding friends, and how to function on your own. She and Her Cat follow Miyu’s, a young accountant, transition into adulthood and living alone with her cat Chobi. Originally a short animated film by Makoto Shinkai, this is a poignant story about being lonely and independent without being a critique of any particular aspect of society. The internet, introverted personalities, and social isolation are not themes in the forefront of this story. One of my favorite parts of this story is Miyu’s interactions with her mother and learning to navigate adulthood while interacting with adults at various life stages, because there are many stages to adulthood that Miyu has yet to explore and understand. Being an adult demands constant changes in mindset and priorities, which She and Her Cat explores as a quiet, reflective exercise on the reality of everyday life.

Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations
Story and Art by Jeffrey Brown
Published by Chronicle Books

Cat Getting out of a bagYou might recognize Jeffrey Brown’s name from the Darth Vader series of kids books; however, you probably don’t know that Brown also loves his cats. In Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations and Cats Are Weird: And More Observations Brown distills the essence of words used to describe cats; sleepy, curious, soft, inquisitive, lazy, indecisive, into wonderful short comics.. While the art isn’t particularly complex and mostly in black and why, the expression in the kitties eyes and body language show his deep understanding of cat psyche. This is what I like to call a side table book; not large format like a coffee table book, but still a nice book to have around for quick looksee’s.

Even though I was not a cat person before we adopted Jonesy, I’m truly a cat lady now. Some would say that I love my cat too much and have gone off the deep end of cat lady-dom (but I’m glad I’m not alone, check out these amazing cat centric knitting patterns from KnitPicks.com!). This past year was rough, and when the going gets rough, we tend to gravitate towards things that make us really, really happy. For 2017, it was the love for my cat, but I wonder what reading patterns 2018 will bring?

Banned & Challenged Graphic Novels; or sometimes it’s ok to judge a book by its cover

It’s Banned Books Week, which always makes me think of S. R. Ranganathan’s Five laws of library science.

Books are for use – Every reader his/her book – Every book its reader – Save the time of the reader – The library is a growing organism.

2017.39 Banned logoThe first three laws deal with censorship directly; books should be for use, not hidden away; librarians do not judge what people choose to read; and items will be collected no matter how small a group may elect to read them.

These first three laws can often become unbalanced because items are misshelved (in the youth collection when they should be in the adult collection, for instance) or because libraries allow patrons to check out any materials, unrestricted by age. I discovered V.C. Andrews when I was in the sixth grade because she was in the paperback shelving area by the cozy, cat-centered mystery paperbacks I  enjoyed reading. If my mom knew how young I was when I started hiding V. C. Andrews books between my mattress and box spring I’m sure she would have disapproved of my choices, not the library’s choice to collect the books themselves. Many times, challenged and banned book issues can be resolved with a little common sense and reflection on what the freedom to read really means.

In browsing the top banned and challenged graphic novels, I found three main themes for why they are challenged.

Mis-Leveled / Notion all comics are for kids

2017.39 Sex CriminalsLibrarians do not have time to read every item they add to a collection before deciding where it goes (contrary to many librarian stereotypes). They rely on reviews, recommendations from the publisher, and other librarians to determine where to shelve a book. However, IF A COMIC IS CALLED BIG, HARD, SEX CRIMINALS, DO YOU REALLY THINK IT’S APPROPRIATE FOR KIDS? The cover has a naked lady with a whip and a gun on the cover. Maybe flipping through the pages you notice naked men and women engaging in adult situations and realize that not all comics are for kids. In this situation, I am all for judging a book by its cover. As a reader of Sex Criminals from the very beginning, this books deals with relationships, adulthood, and self discovery in a unique way, conveying deep commentary in a bizarre premise.

Sometimes, certain authors who write novels and comics, and for adult and youth, can be extremely difficult to level. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is often shelved in youth graphic novels even though it was published by Vertigo, DC Comics’ mature imprint, and has many adult themes.  The association of Gaiman and comics implies a youthful tone. With a little research, librarians can empower themselves to make thoughtful choices based on information about publishers and authors.

Books about people….who are considered different/deviant by some

2017.39 This one summerUnfortunately, some people believe that if a viewpoint which is not their own or contradicts what they view as morally right and good, is expressed, no one should have access to that information. Graphic novels such as PersepolisThis One Summer, and Fun Home  are challenged and banned because people do not like or agree with the characters portrayed solely for being who they are. They believe the books inappropriately promote Islam, portray LGBTQA+ characters, yes simply having an LGBTQA+ character is enough to warrant a challenge in many cases. While it is ok to self regulate your reading habits or those of your children, it is not ok to limit access to the items which another person can see themselves reflected in the page. It is the goals of libraries to make all types of information available to the public and leave it up to them to decide what they like to read, what they don’t, discover the truth, or consider something new.

Mis-appropriation of historical context

2017.39 tintinComics have been around for a very long time in many countries and have promoted terrible stereotypes. It is something that has been acknowledged and studied in popular culture studies for decades. Tintin in America was recently challenged due to the portrayal of Native American and similarly, Tintin in the Congo uses horrific stereotypical depictions of Africans. Herge was writing Tintin in the 1930 and a lot has changed in society which makes images like these difficult to address. Many people will liken it to the contemporary debates of the use of stereotypes, like the Redskins and the Braves, as sports team logos; however, this debate runs deeper than multi-million dollar sports teams trying to stick with tradition. Comics like Tintin are a time capsule of popular culture and a powerful tool to start a discussion about racism, stereotypes, and colonialism. What is most important with books like Tintin is the context in which they are presented. This is an old book with old views and must be read as such, what was believed and felt then is not what is believed and felt now. Should it be shelved in the adult collection, allowing adult to decide when to share the book with their children? Does shelving things in the adult collection really prevent fans from seeking out all the books by an author. These are all question which must be addressed while balancing the need for a censorship free library experience.

Dealing with a request to ban or challenge a book is always difficult to handle, but there are many great resources available to librarians. Check ’em out!

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund http://cbldf.org/ 

ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom http://www.ala.org/aboutala/offices/oif

ALA Banned Books Week http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks


Web and Digital Comics Monograph Cataloging

I was recently working on cataloging some locally produced content and the creator’s website deemed their style “un-categorizeable”. As a cataloger, I am always amused when a creator thinks their content is so unique that it cannot be compared to another form of work currently in existence. Sometimes, it feels like it is my job is to pigeon-hole content into categories which don’t quite feel right or are not comprehensive, like LCGFT. Genres and forms are one of the most frequent markers for people to narrow down what they are looking for in terms of searching.

While there are many genres for comic books, it can be difficult to know when to practically apply them. For example, this week I read Black Hand Comics by Wes Craig, known for his art on Deadly Class. Black Hand Comics was originally published as a webcomic, a short, three or more panel comic published natively on a website. Other webcomics include Mike Norton’s Battle Pug, Katie Cook’s Gronk, and the works of Emily Carroll. Webcomics shouldn’t be confused with digital comics, which are presented as full length comic book issues with a traditional grid structure. Digital comics include Panel Syndicate’s Private Eye and Monkey Brain’s Bandette.

Blackhand Comics HC

But, what happens when a webcomic is collected and printed as a physical monograph? Are there certain genres or subject headings you can assign to convey the original format? Can you use WEMI (work, expression, manifestation, item) principles to express the relationship between the original webcomic and the printed edition?

Currently, there are no LCGFT headings for webcomics or digital comics. In LC J 110, it explains that using the genres “webcomics” or “digital comics” would only be applicable when cataloging the digital resource itself, “assign genre/form terms only as they come readily to mind after a superficial review of the resource being cataloged”. However, another guideline states, “assign terms based on analysis of the resource being cataloged. Genre/form terms do not need to be justified by descriptive cataloging elements” and, “consider the intent of the author or publisher, and if possible, assign terms for this orientation without being judgmental.”  The original intent of the creation of this comic was as a natively digital comic.

If you have a dedicated comic book readership and want to convey the webcomic or digital origins of an item, I have a few suggestions.

Doing a bit of research, you could add a 500 note of “Selections from the webcomic Battle Pug, http://www.battlepug.com”. This could leverage the keyword search function of the ILS to pick up the term webcomic..

You could add an 856 Electronic Location and Access field with the webpage to the web or digital comic. In the definition of the 856 field, it states, “use field 856 in bibliographic record for a resource when that resource of a subset of it is available electronically… and access a related electronic resource or an electronic version of a non-electronic resource described in the bibliographic record”.

Using WEMI principles, you could also include a 700 added entry for the creator and the title. This would also link various forms of a webcomic and the printed versions.

700 12 |i Container of (expression): |a Carroll, Emily. |t Comics. |k Selections.

700 12 |i Container of (expression): |a Norton, Mike. |t Battlepug. |k Selections.

Finally, you could include local genre/form headings in you bibliographic records. Be sure these are indexed for faceted searching within your OPAC.

655 #7 |a Digital comics. |2 local

655 #7 |a Webcomics. |2 local

Do you have a special way to connect your patron’s with web or digital comics? I’d love to hear from you. Leave your comment below or reach out on Twitter @librnwithissues

California Dreamin’


California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot before the Mamas & the Papas
By: Penelope Bagieu
Published by: First Second
Pages: 266 pages
Genres: Biographic comic

Music is the nexus of culture, it can summarize an entire generation, give you a taste of what life was like. From the flapper Charleston dancing, fast pace jazz of the 1920s, illustrates it’s decadent lifestyle; Rock’n’Roll of the 1950s, ushering in a new generation of consumers, the teenagers and all the delinquency that comes with it; and folk-rock music, beat poetry inspired songs of the 1960s, where Ellen Cohen, better known as Mama Cass, gained her time in the spotlight.

In Penelope Bagieu’s California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot before the Mamas and the Papas, the French graphic novelist takes a brief look at the life of Ellen Cohen, a young woman from Baltimore with a voice unmatched by any other; but, in the early 1960’s, many were unwilling to see anything besides an overweight woman. Inspired by the underdog tale of Florence Foster Jenkins, though with a truly beautiful voice, Ellen left home determined to be a singer, not letting anything get in her way, stating in the dark to her siblings after bedtime, “I’ll be the most famous fatty in the world”. Traveling from musical group to musical group, Cass never finds a group willing to accept her 100%, her creative talent, carefree lifestyle and rocky emotional relationships where in continuous tension with her bandmates, including those in the Mamas and the Papas.

Each chapter of California Dreamin’ is told from a different person in Cass’ life, providing a different perspective and gives Bagieu the ability to use different storytelling techniques, keeping the reader engaged. Chapters told from her family’s perspectives are personal, tending to deal with her psychological state and how she ended up as a woman with a stiff upper lip. Bandmates and managers offer details about her wild creative side, writing songs off the cuff and harmonizing instantly with any sound.

california-dreamin-first-secondIt is difficult to use one art form to describe another. Writing a story about the songwriting process is akin to a choreographer planning a ballet, you must listen and see something. Bagieu brings the songwriting process to life in a four page spread depicting how California Dreamin’ was first conceived. For the most part, Bagieu follows a standard comic format, using a two by three grid as fits the book size. However, on a trip back to Baltimore, Cass and her bandmates do drugs in her parent’s basement, with dilated pupils, frantic singing, and mustard paintings on the wall, the book transforms from a biography to an exercise in creative explosion. The constraining lines of everyday life disappear from the page and what remains is creative energy. California Dreamin’ comes naturally to Cass, but other members fight her musical intuition, but in the end, a beautiful song is born.

Yes, the book may be a biography, a snap shot of Cass Elliot’s life, but at its heart, it is about a woman who was never taken seriously because of how she looked. You can have the rawest, natural talent, but if you don’t look the way society wants you to look, you’ll have a hard time being taken seriously. Bagieu’s artistry and unique storytelling techniques makes this a compelling and quick read, a book that will leave you wanted to find more inspiration women who stood up to society to pursue their dreams.