Webtoons are the Superior Form of Comics


Michelle Lee, Opinion Editor

For years, manga and other comic books dominated the graphic novel market. Millions of people lined up week after week to buy serialized periodicals containing their favorite comics. Fans were so loyal that many artists were able to continue their series for years, publishing hundreds of chapters. While manga and comic books remain popular today, a newer type of visual media has taken the market by storm: the Korean webtoon.

Webtoons, comics that are produced and consumed over an entirely digital platform, originated in South Korea during the 1990s. Before that time, manhwa, Korean comics, were mostly serialized in print, similar to the way manga is. However, it was a dying industry due to high production prices that drove away many Korean consumers. When the digital boom began in the 1990s, many creators shifted their platforms online and created webtoons, reviving interest in the Korean comic industry and eventually becoming the primary form of comic consumption in South Korea. Since then, webtoons have expanded globally, finding particular success in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries, and for good reason. In the digital age of the 21st century, webtoons are the superior form of graphic novels.

Webtoons provide the most enjoyable reading experience for consumers. In print serialization, color ink is very expensive, which is why most manga and comics are published in black and white. The physical borders of pages also constrain the number and types of paneling artists can fit. In action-packed scenes, multiple panels crammed on a single page along with text bubbles dispersed throughout result in a very messy view for the reader. The lack of color only makes it more difficult for readers to differentiate scenes and actions on the page. However, webtoons are devoid of the limitations associated with the price of physical production and space. Consequently, most webtoons are published in full color, making the panels visually appealing and easier to read. Webtoons are also much cleaner and easier to read as panels can be spaced out. There is also no confusion as to which panels should be read first. Many artists also add soundtracks and visual effects to their art, making webtoons a more immersive experience overall.

“I definitely prefer webtoons over manga because of the full-color art,” said senior Purba Khan. “It’s also easier to look at and read.”

Beyond aesthetics, webtoons also lead to greater accessibility. These days, smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, providing access to webtoons whenever, wherever you are with a connection to the internet. Although online manga and comic books are becoming more widespread, the primary legal form of production is still in print. Most webtoons are also available for free, unlike manga and comic books, which further increases the accessibility of content and the size of the consumer base.

“With webtoons, all the chapters are gathered in one collection and it’s easy to read new chapters as soon as they come out,” said senior Sofia Mediana. “Manga are published magazines so there is no place where multiple chapters are published together for easy access. We have to wait until the publisher releases compiled volumes separately, which can often take months.”

Even with all those benefits, the biggest factor behind webtoons’ rise in popularity is the community it fosters. Webtoons are still serial-like manga and comic books, but because of their online format, fans are now able to communicate with each other and the artist. After every chapter, fans can share comments and reactions on forums, creating a sense of community that naturally draws more readers in. Artists are also able to directly gauge audience reactions and improve their work, creating a mutually beneficial relationship that ultimately results in higher quality webtoons. Printed comics simply do not have the same ability to connect people together and have become increasingly inconvenient in a digital world.

“It’s always fun to see comments and reactions from other readers after every chapter,” said Purba. “It feels like I’m part of a community the same way people like reading comments on YouTube.”

“My favorite webtoons all have discussion boards where readers can share theories about the story with each other,” said Sofia. “It just makes the reading experience more interactive and engaging to me.”

With that being said, if you have not checked out webtoons already, Line Webtoon, Tappytoon, and Tapas are just a few platforms you can browse through to get started. While manga and comic books will never completely disappear from the market, they must now compete and adapt to new formats if they are to maintain their standing in today’s digital environment.


Photo courtesy of Miika Laaksonen on UNSPLASH.COM