Comics aren’t a new phenomenon, so what makes webtoons unique and contributes to their immense growing popularity?
Posted 20.10.21, 00:06 AM
The world of Webtoons
With the advent of smartphones and the increasing accessibility of the world’s population to them, most forms of reading have greatly evolved online. From short stories to novels, most people prefer to read it with just a few clicks. Comics aren’t a new phenomenon, so what makes webtoons unique and contributes to their immense growing popularity?
As the name suggests, webtoons are comics that are read and published online. The word “webtoon” is simply a combination of two words: “worldwide web” and “cartoon”. This form of comic book originated in South Korea in the early 2000s. The Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) claimed that the local sales volume of the webtoons market in 2019 was $ 577 million. Now the phenomenon is growing rapidly all over the world as well. In recent years, several webtoons have also been turned into hit shows, such as Sweet Home, Itaewon Class and True Beauty.
What makes them different from other forms of comics such as traditional comics and Japanese manga? This is mainly the way they are formatted. It was the realization that web browsing relied heavily on scrolling down that led comic book creators to format their panels from top to bottom for a better reading experience. This singular gesture turned out to be the perfect solution. Needless to say, the subsequent boom in smartphones only helped this process and we quickly had platforms like Twitter and Tumblr timelines formatting their content around this browsing experience.
The evolution of Webtoons
When most comics were designed horizontally, webtoons started the vertical trend. In the early years of its evolution, webtoons were mostly published independently by artists on the Internet, compared to physical copies like comics and newspapers, which was the most commonly used format at the time. It all started with Chollian, a now defunct Internet service engine, which created Chollian Webtoon to provide webtoons to readers in August 2000, writes Ji Hyeon Yun in an article on Medium. Gradually, other platforms were built, notably those of Naver and LINE. Artists have also been signed up, often to provide exclusive content on a particular platform.
Webtoons are incredibly convenient for the artist as well as the reader. Scanning is much more convenient and often takes less time than manually drawn comics.
It also helps the creator to produce more content, more frequently. It’s also easier to reach the target audience through a webtoon rather than a physical comic, as finding a publisher and widespread distribution takes time and money. The ease of access and sharing has also made it possible to circulate translations of works more easily than with paper copies. It is easy to share and also provide comments and encouragement to the creators, which in turn leads to better product content.
India and Webtoons
The global popularity of webtoons has now spread its wings in India. Some of the most commonly used platforms for accessing webtoons in India include WEBTOON (formerly LINE Webtoon), Tapas, and Webcomics. Among them, WEBTOON is one of the world’s leading platforms, with millions of users and original stories. Recently, they signed a partnership agreement with DC Comics and HYBE (the entertainment company that runs the BTS global powerhouse, among other artists), to create original content.
India also has its own webtoon platform – Kross Komics and Toonsutra (to be launched). Kross Komics was launched in 2019 with the aim of targeting Indian readership for webtoons as well as providing Indian digital comic creators with the opportunity to showcase their webtoons. Toonsutra, an initiative of Graphic India, will soon be launched as the first webtoon application exclusively for Indians. In addition, he also plans to bring webtoons in various regional languages ââin addition to Hindi and English. Almost all of the previously mentioned apps are available on iOS and Android.
Knowledge of Olympus
Rachel Smythe’s Lore Olympus began serialization in 2018. It is based on the mythological tale of Hades and Persephone and also features other gods and goddesses. The art style is magnificent, as is the story, which is a unique and very enjoyable modern tale of classical lore. Recently, physical copies of it have also been released, along with the first 25 episodes of the webtoon. It was also announced in June 2020 that Netflix would be directing an animated series based on Lore Olympus.
Kim Carnby and Hwang Young-chan’s Sweet Home follows a young boy, Cha Hyun Soo. Hyun Soo is left all alone after his family dies in an accident. Shortly after moving into a new apartment, he discovers strange incidents, followed by humans transforming into monsters characterized by their desires. Hyun Soo and his fellow apartment dwellers try to survive barricaded inside the apartment as monsters hunt outside in this thrilling webtoon. A Netflix series of the same name was released in 2020, featuring Song Kang, Lee Do-Hyun, and Lee Si-young, among others.
A relatively older webtoon, Winter Woods from Cosmos and VAN.J is an interesting mix of horror, mystery and fantasy. This refreshing take on a Frankenstein concept revolves around Winter Woods, who learns what it’s like to be human after a lonely existence spanning decades. The illustrations in this webtoon are stunning and beautifully capture the story and its characters. It’s not violently dark but just enough for readers to question their ideas about the characters.
Originally a web novel, Chu-Gong’s Solo Leveling was serialized into a webtoon starting in 2018, with artists Hyeon-Gun and Jang Sung-Rak. The story takes place in a South Korea where portals to dungeons with monsters suddenly open. The fighters against these monsters are humans with special abilities called “hunters”. The webtoon follows the journey of Sung Jin-Woo, who is initially dubbed the “Weakest Hunter”. The captivating art style and stunning characterization contribute to the immense popularity of this webtoon.