Comic Book Curious

DC and Webtoon: The Gentrification of Webcomics

March 15, 2022

DC Comics, home to the World’s Greatest Superheroes announced on August 17th, 2021 that they would be entering the world of webcomics through a partnership with Webtoon, the internet’s premiere source of webcomics. While little has been said about the future of this deal, or any of the “several” titles planned, DC has already released their flagship title Batman: Wayne Family Adventures to mild success with a view range from 115k at launch to 53k on their latest episode. As of today, DC has already released 11 episodes of Wayne Family Adventures that you can read for free right now. With little buzz around the project, a drastic decline in readership, and no information on the possible future of the deal, I am afraid to call any of this a success for DC.

Batman Wayne Family Adventures cover  from Webtoon

Credit: DC Comics

Batman: Wayne Family Adventures follows the whole of the Bat Family as they try to do their best to navigate both a social life, and being the sidekick of the World’s Greatest Detective. Written by CRC Payne, with art by Maria Li, inks by Starbite and Letters by Kielamel Sibal, Wayne Family is a slice of life book, outside of the main DC continuity, that offers readers a slower, more character based drama. This day to day approach is a very popular sub genre on Webtoon, and one that DC was very smart to capitalize on with their first webcomic.

Webtoon, if you don’t know already, is a Korean based webcomic site that allows readers a vast ocean of free content to read that is updated almost weekly by the creators themselves. Series are released in “episode” format, rather than issues, and each episode can be rated independently, giving the community a ready made discussion board right below each post. Webtoon offers us in the United States a peek into the world of comics outside of our country, such as the very popular slice of life genre, which is the aforementioned tone DC has chosen for Wayne Family.

On the other side of the coin, Webtoon gives its creators a surplus of unique and free options to self publish their comics. Your team sets the pace and release schedule of the book, and you are given the option of regular, single page formatting, or the digital comic exclusive “never ending panel” style. Here, the entire comic acts as a single page that you can continuously scroll through during your reading, rather than a digital approximation of a book.

I personally used it for a while last year when I produced my two comics, Odinson and The Sentinel. Because of this, Webtoon is very near and dear to my heart, and I believe it to be the premiere place for self publishing on the internet. No where else is going to offer both readers and creators the freedom and options that Webtoon does. This is exactly why DC’s move to the platform has me in such a tizzy.

The world of comic books, though popular, is one of the hardest places to find your way into. In my experience, It is a winding road of doubt and confusion with no clear path to break in, and many, MANY hoops to jump through. You want to write comics? Well, you had better also take the time to teach yourself how to market not only your book, but yourself and learn how all of the algorithms, on all social media websites work to ensure that someone is reading your book.

Logo for Webtoon

Credit: Webtoon

Because of the extra work that goes into making your story, success in the medium is almost exclusively built upon the idea that to make it, you MUST have a publishing deal, and that deal must be with a company that has already released several hit books. This bridge is made easier by sites like Webtoon, and it’s competitor Tapas, which offers a similar service. These sites give creators a place to house their work, and build a name for themselves, something that would be impossible to do without that golden publishing ticket. With the recent news of horrible abuse going on in the comic book industry, the power that sites like Webtoon give to their users is something that cannot be overlooked.

As DC moves into this space, they run the risk of completely over shadowing new talent. Yes, the books are free to read whether you are DC Comics, or Isaac Willbanks, but the brand recognition of something like Batman is always going to be more popular, in America specifically, than anything going on the Webtoon indie scene. Nothing like this has happened yet, and maybe nothing will, but the more success these bigger companies find on smaller platforms, the worse things are going to get for young talent. It is important for these mega corporations to do all they can to stay out of the spaces made for the little guys, and look for other measures to get readers on board with new titles, like maybe lowering the prices of their books.

A very healthy alternative to this approach would be the current method Marvel is using. Marvel’s digital comics hub, Marvel Unlimited has released an entire line of their own, Webtoon style comics that are exclusive to their app. Some of these titles have even been graced with top named creators, such as Jonathan Hickman, and Gerry Dugan. This line has been branded as the “Infinity” line, which is named after the popular vertical webcomic format that Webtoon is known for. What Marvel has done here is essentially what DC is aiming to do, but in a much more medium friendly way. These books don’t take up space on other independent publishing apps, nor do they operate the same way that a digital American comic does, which scratches the itch of those looking for something new and exciting. To me, this is the best of both worlds when it comes to publishers dipping a toe into webcomics.

This isn’t about the quality of the books, or that I implore you to go and read some of the amazing books that are on Webtoon, to really get an idea of what is out there. The genre’s are so broad and the sheer density of content is unmatched. Then, go and read some Infinity Comics while you are at it. I think what Marvel has done is a great thing that needs to be shared with the rest of the community. As for DC, we can only hope that something good comes out of this move, rather than some short lived novelty.

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