WEBTOON: Out with the old and in with the new

Comic culture has remained unchanged for decades. Now, WEBTOON’s free digital comics are ushering in a new era of graphic novels for modern audiences.
As virtual media continues to dominate the world, WEBTOONs digital comics are revolutionizing the comic book world through an immersive reading experience and captivating art styles.
As virtual media continues to dominate the world, WEBTOON’s digital comics are revolutionizing the comic book world through an immersive reading experience and captivating art styles.
THE MIRROR | ABIGAIL KIM

On the list of classic collectibles, comic books come in first place. Vivid line art, explosive onomatopoeias and conquering protagonists have been staples of graphic novels since Superman’s debut in 1938.

Since the rise of the digital world, paperback comics have disintegrated into a fad of decades past. However, a bridge between the old and new age is radically transforming comic culture for the better: WEBTOON.

Developed by the South Korean Naver Corporation in 2004, WEBTOON is an online smorgasbord of free digital comics across all genres. Organized in vertical strips on one continuous page, webcomics captivate readers with enthralling plot lines and enchanting art styles. It’s no wonder the platform has exceeded 1 billion annual views and is swiftly approaching 700 million monthly users across Europe, Asia and the United States. 

Korean industries already have the world in a tight grip, and WEBTOON’s mind-blowing popularity has expanded South Korea’s cultural influence on even grander scales. Through their accessibility, diverse range of genres and empowerment of artists, webcomics are amazingly reworking the comic world. 

WEBTOON’s accessibility feeds into our developing “snack culture,” or the trend of consuming media in bite-sized portions of under 15 minutes. Whether you’re riding the bus to school or waiting for food at a restaurant, webcomics provide the perfect quick fix of entertainment. WEBTOON is my personal go-to when stuck in a long line—nothing beats a dramatic manhwa to pass the time. 

In the bygone era of paperback comics, one had to purchase multiple books to peruse different types of stories. Now, the convenience of WEBTOON allows readers to explore an endless array of genres with the simple tap of a screen. From action-packed superhero stories to mysterious sci-fi tales, webcomics appeal to the tastes of all viewers. A Korean drama fan might indulge in the heart-fluttering “See You in My 19th Life,” while a diehard thrill seeker may find their heart pounding from reading “Sweet Home.” 

WEBTOON has even influenced my own genre preferences. I’ve never been inclined to suspenseful storylines, but nail-biters like “It’s Mine” and “The Guy Upstairs” have transformed the Thriller category into one of my favorites. 

Viewership is essential, of course, but WEBTOON would be nothing without its talented creators. In granting free publication and opening doors for revenue, WEBTOON empowers producers to hone their craft and make money in the process through paid content and ad-revenue. According to Forbes, the top-earning creator of 2021 accumulated over $9 million, and numerous popular creators are trailing close behind. In short, the days of starving artists are diminishing. 

Not only is there lucrative financial gain for them, but creators can now interact with readers in ways past comic artists could never achieve. The digital world enables effortless social interaction through online chats and discussion forums. For the first time in comic history, creators can instantly reply to readers’ reactions through WEBTOON’s comment section, forging connections between artists and fans. Born from these comment forums are online communities that allow users to gush over their favorite characters and share plot theories. 

WEBTOON is an unmistakable force to be reckoned with, and its influence has creeped into other countries. An Indian company recently released Toonsutra, a WEBTOON-like app that showcases comics based on popular Indian movies and shows, including “The Legend of Hanuman,” “Baahubali” and “Chakra the Invincible.” Additionally, in 2019, a French corporation launched Webtoon Factory, the first European service to offer digital comics. 

Though its hold on international consumers is evident, WEBTOON’s influence can be observed most notably in the Korean drama industry. 

K-dramas have captured the hearts of American fans, as viewership increased by 200 percent between 2019 and 2021. Unsurprisingly, a myriad of successful dramas—including “Kingdom,” “Yumi’s Cells,” “Nevertheless” and “All of Us are Dead”—are adaptations of popular webcomics. 

Sarah Kim, head content officer of leading K-drama platform Viki, revealed in a TIME Magazine article that WEBTOON-based productions placed in Viki’s global Top 10 list during their release, some even ranking number one. Thanks to webcomic adaptations, actors like Cha Eun-woo and Song Kang have risen to fame after working on “True Beauty” and “Sweet Home” respectively. 

WEBTOON’s global success and impact on numerous industries illustrate its drastic redefining the comic world. Paperback copies are extremely limiting to both creators and readers, but WEBTOON’s trouble-free publication process and sensational viewing experience are revolutionizing comics in the present era. Whether you’re a longtime graphic novel enthusiast or curious consumer, consider perusing your first webcomic. Get lost in the stories that are marvelously reinventing comic culture and anticipate the impact WEBTOON will continue to make on the world.

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About the Contributor
Abigail Kim
Abigail Kim, Staff
The most magical thing to do in this world is to escape it. This is the power of reading, and it is a force I readily succumb to. A delectable story fills me with the greatest joy, and inventing extravagant tales offers a luscious meal to my hungry brain. My greatest wish as a beginning journalist is to communicate the wonderful quirks of the world through my perspective and to share the divine opinions of every viewpoint. In the eccentric witch’s brew of my mind, I weave characters, conflict, and emotions in fictional writing and dancing, or, as I like to call it, storytelling with the body. On a separate note, if I’m not hunched over my computer, you may find me chomping away on dark chocolate or shrieking at the top of my lungs at a KPOP concert. 
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  • K

    KatieJan 22, 2024 at 3:05 pm

    Wow! I didn’t know this about WEBTOON! This is a great article Abigail!

    Reply
    • J

      Jabeel lussenMar 5, 2024 at 10:22 am

      I also like this so well and also also love a lot webtoons in south korea specially the new rabbit webtoon site newtoki.co.

      Reply