Metadata for Graphic Novels and Comic Books: Comic Book Markup Language and Advanced Comic Book Format.

Author:Wright, Vonda E.

Literature and overview

In recent years comic books and graphic novels have gained in popularity within libraries and in the culture as a whole. Collections of comics and graphic novels are being cataloged by both private collectors and libraries. The creation of digital content in this format and the preservation (Whittaker, B. 2006) of physical items have led to the creation of several schemas for adding appropriate metadata to these items.

The information in this literature review will be presented thematically, by addressing the general topic of the metadata schemas for graphic novels and comic books, the needs of those using the different schemas for the graphic novels and comic books, and the specific schemas for this format with the primary focus on the Comic Book Markup Language as created by John A. Walsh (2012). The themes of comic book and graphic novel metadata issues and benefits will also be explored. The following 10 resources are reviewed to give the best overall view of this topic and the issues surrounding it. The following paper includes a variety of different types of resources including organizational websites, journal articles, research papers, and user created content.


The comic and graphic novel formats were early adapters to the digital model with many titles being available only online. (Hoover, S. 2011) Private collectors and specialty collections by information centers have digitalized their physical items to preserve and share them. This has led the user created metadata schemas to better catalog this format in private collections. These user created schemas have their limitations and issues that make them problematic to control at the large scale for information institutions. However the user created application has the benefit of being extremely easy to use and relatively easy to share the information created with others. These user created formats are based on xml and Dublin core schemas. The scholarly version of the user created model is based in Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and is a more controlled, and therefore less basic user friendly, format that is more suited to information institutions use. Comics are generally short 32 pages or less and serial, but graphic novels are the longer titles that can either be standalone or serial. (Adamich, T, 2011)

Types of schemas for comic books and graphic novels

While both Dublin core and a basic XML could be applied to comic books and graphic novels, neither are designed to deal with both images and text within the same item. Here are the schemas designed to provide metadata for the format.

Comic Book Reader (.CB7, .CBA, .CBR, .CBT, AND .CBZ)

These all refer to the personal file manager that are created by users with this varying file type. The two most popular are CBR and CBZ. Harding disrobes the file managers as being "iTunes like" (2014)

Advanced Comic Book Format (ACBF)

While notably better and more controlled than the first two schemas it has issues, namely that it is not widely used. It does list a singular digital library that uses its format. ACBF separates the image and text layers and adds metadata for each separately. This focuses on the format rather than the storyline of the item.

Comic Book Ontology (CBO)

Created by Petiya, S. this ontology tries to bring together information and create linked data using RDF/XML. (2014 Comic Book Markup Language (CBML) is based on the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) format. This schema allows for the addition of metadata for not only the text and graphics within the item, but offers the ability to address additions to the comics such as fan mail, news, and advertisements within the item that may be relevant. This schema was created and defined by John A. Walsh on the University of Indiana's webpage, It also has the most defined classes and use of each field with a more controlled vocabulary. Walsh's CBML uses the TEI tags but with the addition of ; ; to better catalog the items. The webpage offers detailed description of each tag and how it would be applied to the item. (Walsh, 2012)

The needs of the user

Private collectors favor the CBR and CBZ schema due to the easy to use tools and the ability to customize the metadata to their personal tastes and needs. Due to the high use within the community it is easy for the records to be shared and modified by others. The lack of controlled vocabulary allows them to add personal tags and information they feel is relevant to their personal collection. However, this freedom is the reason it is not the best choice for institutions like libraries and museums.

Benefits and issues

The user created files do not allow for metadata to be added directly (CBR and CBZ), while there are extensions for the file readers for these file types that do allow for some metadata to be added. They do not promote the use of controlled vocabularies and allow for user tagging. The reader files are widely used and it is likely that institutions will be incorporating metadata into this files. These standards for metadata cataloging of comics and graphic novels requires levels of information for most institutional applications.

Project description:

This project has 2 parts, 1. detailed crosswalk between the ACBF, CBML, and DC and 2. a small collection of 5 records created from CBZ and CBR reader files from the Digital Comic Museum public domain collection cataloged in each of the three schemas ACBF, CBML, and DC.

The crosswalk was first created using information from each organization's websites. After creating the crosswalk records were generated for each of the comics in Dublin Core, then using...

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