Korean-style webtoons and webcomics are the future of comics

What happens when comics evolve for the future? For decades, comics and even press comics have maintained a certain look and a certain format. But now, with the omnipresence of e-readers and smartphones, how will comics adapt to this new screen reality? It turns out that a new comic book layout has taken off rapidly in Asia and is fast becoming the de facto format for reading comic books on new devices.

Enter the Webtoon.

The term “Webtoons” is of Korean origin, and is simply a colloquial term for online comics, or webcomics. What is unique to webtoons, however, is their format. Rather than reading left to right like newspaper comics or comic strips, webtoons are read top to bottom. This was a result of their early notoriety on the Korean internet portal, Naver.

Much like Yahoo, Naver is a website that hosts Korea’s Internet searches, emails, news, and personal homepages. It is on these homepages that webtoons have gained prominence. Built as a combination of a blog and a message board, internet-savvy South Korean bloggers realized that web browsing relied heavily on scrolling down. As a result, comic book creators have started formatting their panels from top to bottom for a better reading experience.

online webtoonsNaver, LINE

It turns out that this decision to change the comic book layout was incredibly future-proof. Not only did the rise of the smartphone follow soon after, but many websites like Tumblr and Twitter’s reverse chronological timelines became extremely conducive to information that can be revealed by scrolling down. Now, whether by accident or not, the top-down format of these comics lent itself incredibly well to reading and scrolling down on a smartphone screen or modern website UX.

Fast forward to 2014, and popular Japanese messaging service LINE launched the LINE Webtoon app, dedicated exclusively to hosting translated comics from Asia, as well as domestic comics from North America. Everything for Western audiences. The app retains the native top-down comic book layout for easy reading on smartphones and tablets. And LINE Webtoon was just the opening salvo.

Other services like San Francisco-based Tapas and Stela have adapted this vertical format. Compare the comics from these service providers to comic book apps like Comixology, and the UI differences quickly become apparent. While the Comixology app feels like scaled down comics for panel-to-panel reading, webcomic apps and the comic creators who produce them read naturally in almost any available screen space.

Webtoon artist

“Mobile is fundamentally changing the way people consume content,” said Chang Kim, CEO of Tapas. Herald of Korea Last year. For Tapas, it’s not just about making it easier to read on mobile, the app has started to adapt the payment model of mobile games for its comics. Much like a pay-as-you-go model, upcoming chapters are behind paywalls. While it might be inconvenient for readers in some cases (they can’t always get free comics), Tapas promises to split profits equally with comic book creators.

Even Marvel has jumped on Webtoons as a viable format. in 2014, the company introduced a Korean superhero, White Fox, exclusively for Korean webtoon portals. She was featured as part of a webtoon adaptation of The Avengers for domestic Korean audiences. White Fox was then introduced to American readers at the launch of All-New, All-Different de Deadpool #1 earlier this year.

It turns out that apps and companies that recognized the easy-to-read, easy-to-access potential of web comics stumbled upon a comic book format that lends itself well to a purely mobile experience. That’s huge as book publishers turn more than ever to smartphones and smaller screens as viable markets for books. And it’s not just the big publishers either.

Tapas appTapas

In the age of the internet, authors, artists, musicians, and any other content creators can realistically publish their works independently and still find success. It’s not guaranteed success, but many artists have found self-publishing to be a useful model that bolsters their rights as creators. In this regard, online comics have exploded on the internet.

The question going forward isn’t whether all comics will be drawn top-down in the future. This is how comic book creators will find the best way to deliver their content to an increasingly mobile readership. Webcomic vertical formats are just one way comic creators can cater to these new readers, as is Comixology’s Guided View, where comic book pages are dissected panel by panel for reading. easier, is another. The rise of webtoon-style apps could be the start of a digital comics arms race that will be determined by which format is best for readers who prefer their comics digitally. Whether on their phones, e-readers, tablets or laptops.