In her Create Readers blog post 'Graphic novels' is not comics’, Comic Creator Indira Neville writes:
The most important thing to say up front is that while all graphic novels are comics, not all comics are graphic novels. Graphic novels are a particular type of comic. It goes like this...
Comics is the medium (like ‘poetry’ or ‘film’ is a medium).
A comic is any work in the comics medium regardless of genre, length, or format (like ‘a poem’ or ‘a film’).
A graphic novel is long-form work of fiction in the comics medium (like an ‘ode’ or a ‘feature film’).
— 'Graphic novels' is not comics
Published in book format, they can be fiction or non-fiction, and usually tell a stand-alone story with a complex plot. Graphic novels like Watchmen bring together an episodic series.
The term 'graphic novel' was coined by Will Eisner to distinguish his book A Contract with God (1978) from collections of newspaper comic strips. He described graphic novels as consisting of 'sequential art' — a series of illustrations which, when viewed in order, tell a story. Will Eisner is seen as the founder of graphic novels, and the industry award is named in his honour.
Although today’s graphic novels are a recent phenomenon, this basic way of storytelling has been used in various forms for centuries — early cave drawings, hieroglyphics, and medieval tapestries like the famous Bayeux Tapestry can be thought of as stories told in pictures.
— Jeff Smith, creator of Bone
Manga, or 'whimsical drawings' if literally translated, are Japanese comics, read in the reverse order from English books. Manga is often in black and white and published as a series in magazines or volumes with genres ranging from romance to science fiction.
Manga differs from American-style graphic novels in both the storytelling techniques it applies, such as wordless panels, and in the subject matter with each book closely targeted at a specific demographic.
Viz and TokyoPop are publishers that have translated a broad number of Manga titles into English.