From Books to Browser: The Growing Webcomic Industry

Webcomics are a growing form of comic book publishing that uses technology to share their stories.

Over the past few decades, visual and technological advancements in comics have made great strides. Since the mid-1990s, with the growing popularity of the World Wide Web, creators began to realize the potential of the Web to publish their own works. lifted from some of the shackles that traditional print comics held them with.

Webcomics are a form of comics published through a website or app. This can be done through the author’s domain name or one of the many publishing portal services we offer today. Usually, webcomic creators release new content on a weekly or monthly schedule, tagged as an episode or an update.

Among these services, Tapas and Webtoon are the most popular sources for reading a variety of webcomics. These services allow their audience to read a majority of their series vertically rather than horizontally. This allows comics to be read seamlessly on scroll, rather than being limited to four or five panels and page-to-page transition changes. Other individually hosted comics, such as “CucumberQuest”, may feature formats that mirror traditional comics. The medium, format, and genre of webcomics vary from series to series.

Both of these services originated in South Korea but have expanded to reach international audiences. Webcomics are an important form of entertainment in South Korean culture. Many of the webtoon ones have been adapted into anime or K-Dramas (Korean live-action drama TV series).

However, English-speaking webcomic writers and artists also have the chance to see their series go from webcomic to the big screen. In October 2019, the Jim Henson Company announced that it would be partnering with Webtoon to create an animated series adaptation of “Lore Olympus” by New Zealand creator Rachel Symthe. In June 2020, it was announced that the anime series would premiere on Netflix.

Tapas and Webtoon are both built on a freemium model, where the service is mostly free, but users can pay through micro-transactions for additional features. They offer both a platform for growing authors to host original content as well as a selection of promoted content.

However, the Tapas and Webtoons freemium templates are structured a bit differently. Tapas Featured Content has a few free first episodes, but at some point asks you to pay “ink” for each subsequent episode. While Webtoon offers the option for the entire series to be free but offers a “quick pass” for episodes that are not yet released to the public. This fast pass allows users to purchase individual episodes up to four weekly updates before what’s available to everyone. Each fast pass costs about five coins, which equals 50 cents.

Being the more popular of the two giants, Webtoons currently has over 67 million active users. Building on its success, parent company Naver was able to trademark the word “Webtoon”. Earlier this year, Naver launched Webtoon Studios, a production studio that will increase the company’s presence in film and television; alongside this they also announced partnerships with Bound Entertainment, Rooster Teeth Studios and Vertigo. Naver also acquired WattPad for around $600 million in a bid to expand its name as a multimedia storytelling company.

With the growing success and expansion of webcomics into the realm of filmed entertainment, the question arises of whether webtoons can become a household name like DC and Marvel.