A single, over-arching story spanning over several issues. A simple arc is typically 6 issues long. It can be as short as 2 issues. Technically, there can be no upper limit to how long an arc can take.
For example, The Outsiders War arc of Green Arrow spans from issues #25-31.
A single over-arching arc contains smaller arcs. In the same way, a single season of a TV drama consists of smaller plots all contributing to the season’s main plot.
For example, Batman: Zero Year is a year-long, 12-issue arc containing 3 smaller arcs. Secret City, Dark City and Savage City are the three chapters/arcs making up the entire story.
A history/timeline in which one or many stories take place
The age of comics when they were most popular. This is arguably from the 1930’s to the 1940’s.
A point in the series where you can start reading without feeling too lost. The beginning of an arc is usually a good point to start. The start of the writer’s run is often better, since writers like to start with a clean slate to tell their own stories.
Say you want to catch up on the latest issue of Green Arrow (say the latest is #31). You can start at #17, where the current writer, Jeff Lemire, starts his run on the series. Or you can catch up on the current story arc beginning at #26. Starting at #1 would not only be expensive, but also a bad read, apparently.
A box made specifically for storing comic books.
The age of comic books when stories became darker and more psychologically complex. This spans from the mid-80’s to present day.
A list of comic book series’ you’ve arranged with your comic book store to put on hold for you every month.
These can either cost you or save you money, depending on the store. The place I go to charges $20 to hold as many books as I want for the year (not a bad deal). I hear some places give a discount if your list is big enough.
A mostly continuous set of issues in a comic book series done by a single creator. Usually, this refers to the writer.
For example, writer Alan Moore‘s run on Swamp Thing spans from issues #20-64.
A creator’s run could span over several related series’. For example, Grant Morrison‘s run on Batman refers to
Note: A typical creator’s run on any series isn’t as long as Morrison’s Batman.
When a comic series/run is self-contained, that means that it will not affect or be affected by other series’/runs.
Mainstream superhero comics tend not to be self-contained. Most comics published by DC and Marvel take place within their respective publisher’s mainstream universe, so characters can step on each other’s toes time to time.
For example, Saga has a universe of its own. No other comics take place within this universe. It is self-contained.
The Amazing Spider-man takes place in Marvel’s mainstream universe. So does Daredevil. The heroes of these two books came together in Daredevil #8. Their storylines intertwined with eachother. These series’ are not self-contained.
Like a longbox, but shorter.
Lists of comic books a publisher will release on certain months.
Publishers use these to tell suppliers (and readers) about new comics they will release a few months ahead. A solicitation would usually show the issue’s number, the description, creative team and cover art.
Warning: Since they describe future issues, beware of spoilers!
Comic art that spans across the whole page.
A single volume collecting several issues of a comic book.
Like a spread, but it spans two adjacent pages, left and right.