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Webtoons: A New Kind of Digital Entertainment
Jul 07, 2021
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Reading comics has always been a great pastime for many generations. From comic books that became blockbuster movies, TV series that lasted several seasons, the birth of comic cons, the evolution and development of the comic industry is exponential.

Japanese publisher Jump has also dabbled into phone apps to make their published manga available to overseas fans. But it doesn’t end there, with the advent of apps and digital media, the old hard copies of comics are slowly decreasing in production and digital comics have been on the rise.

One of the more recent developments in the international comics industry is webtoons.

This is the type of digital comics that was created in South Korea. Compared to its digital comic predecessors, webtoons have one long vertical strip to scroll down every chapter for convenience and continuity. The other digital comics still use the tap left or right for every page. It was created so as to make the reading experience on smartphones as easy as possible and the entertainment value of reading it unhindered.

Another notable difference of webtoons from other digital comics and manga is that it is usually published in color and not just in the usual black and white versions. Apart from that, they have also added some features that were not available in the older versions of digital comics. This has made webtoons distinctive and improved from their predecessors. Authors have contracted musicians to create soundtracks added to the webtoon itself.

It gives a dramatic flair in an important scene and jumps scare characteristic to a suspenseful moment. The soundtrack plays as the reader scrolls through a scene. Most of the time, there would be a warning that a soundtrack has been added on the top corner of the panel at the start of the chapter. This would warn and enable a user to mute the incoming soundtrack or put a headphone in if he or she is in a public space.

Another distinguishing feature of the webtoons from digital manga and comics is animations. Animations were added for special scenes and stylized movements. Usually, these are used to connote speed, automobile movements, and other similar situations in the chapter. It brings an added entertainment value to reading comics without making them look cartoonish.

Some vibrate function is also featured in some webtoons, usually in the thriller and suspense genre. Even if, say, you have muted a scene from the soundtrack, the vibrate feature will still be available. This is used as an emphasis on the jump scare effect of the soundtrack.

Lastly, webtoons have their own censorship in their media. Although South Korean censorship laws are different, they also made webtoons not only a children’s form of entertainment it also caters to full-grown adults. Hence, ratings for the webtoons are based on age, the first one is for All age groups, the next one is for 12 years old and older, another one is for those who are 15 years old and up, and lastly 19 years of age (Korean age) or 18 years of age (western).

The origin of the first webtoon is the South Korean web portal Daum which also owns KakaoTalk.

The Daum webtoon portal was launched in February of 2003. Naver, its competitor, also launched Naver webtoon in 2004. Naver is also currently the owner of the app, Wattpad, and also published more webtoons than Daum.

However, it was not until the 2010s when webtoons were translated into English to cater to the international market. It is worth noting though that there are some smaller South Korean publishers, like Lezhin and Toomics that have their own translation service and also made webtoons accessible to English speakers.

The Line webtoon app makes it easier for the international market to be a webtoon artist if you have a talent for storytelling and artistic skills to convey it. There is a sign-up page on their website and a creator resource that helps an artist get started. For hobbyists or anyone passionate who wants to monetize their creations, there is an ad revenue sharing program for which they can apply for.

The prerequisite is 1,000 subscribers and 40,000 monthly page views. Depending on the success of the series, a creator can get an added $100-$1,000 extra. According to an interview with a popular webtoon artist, a featured artist is paid between $100-$2,000. Artists can also make more by being sponsored by viewers on Patreon or Buy me a Coffee.

The most viewed webtoon in the Line webtoon app with a whopping 299 million views is the romance series Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe from New Zealand. The most popular American webtoon featured artist is Uru-chan who created the action-packed series called Unordinary. Another popular international webtoon artist is the Filipino artist named Fishball. Her slice of life series,

My Giant Nerd Boyfriend has 158 million views on the app. Another popular American webtoon artist is Mongie. An information technology employee who moonlights as a webtoon creator, she has found success with her series named Let’s Play which has 145 million views. Around 42% of the creators on the app are females.

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