Webtoons Killed the Comic Book Star

Webtoons Killed the Comic Book Star

“The reason comic books are dying is that people just plain don’t want to read them anymore. It has nothing to do with them having gone so-called, ‘Woke.’”  

That is the explanation people like Dan Slott are giving for the complete collapse of the American comic book.  There is, of course, the problem of Manga sales. 

Their reply to that is, “(*snort*) M-a-n-g-a, those aren’t comic books.”

But the real problem for their argument is webtoons.  They generated 100 billion views in 2019. Think about that, 12 x the population of planet Earth read webtoons in 2019.

Clearly, the market for “art displayed in a sequence to relate a narrative” is alive and well.  And given the demographic for that market, it’s going to be around for a long time.  And now you can’t even say that the superheroes aren’t relatable to kids because Batman: Wayne Family Adventures has a death-grip on number #1 at Webtoons.com.  And Webtoons.com is the current (but not future) leader in the English-speaking market. Admittedly, the Wayne Family Adventures is a hell of a lot more family-friendly than anything DC or Marvel has made in years.

Going off of current trends, it looks like the webtoon has a solid future ahead of it. But is there one for the comic book?

When I entered this world, the 33-vinyl record was the only means available to listen to your own personal music at home unless you were an audio super-nerd with a reel-to-reel tape recorder.  Vinyl held its own against the 8-track tape, (because it was utter crap and you would start hearing all four tracks simultaneously about the 20th time you played one).  And playing records in a car was always problematic. 

Vinyl didn’t do quite as well against the cassette tape.  Like the 8-track, you could play it in your car but once the Walkman and its infinite clones hit the market, cassettes took a huge bite out of vinyl sales.

This is for Gen-X only.  Nobody else will get this.

Cassettes also opened the option of the mixed-tape. For the Zoomers in my audience, the mixed tape was a primitive form of playlist.  Although it took a lot more work to make one.  What Starlord was playing on his Walkman was a mixed tape.  Thank you for making me feel ancient.

However, cassettes wore out pretty easily too, as they were also given to sound degradation with repeated plays.  Vinyl was still a viable market.

Until the CD came along.  You could do everything with a CD that you could with a cassette, to include mixing once iMac came along.  The quality was close enough to analog for the vast majority of people. It was the end for records.  

Or so we thought.  The fundamental problems with audio compression made those files completely unacceptable for the true music aficionado or for the hipster that was pretending to be one.  Consequently, the market for turntables never quite died. Which sent music producers back to the vinyl mines, grateful that there was still someone out there that was willing to pay for something.

The problem is, I don’t see this happening for comic books.  The collector’s market is one thing, those comics shops have already made the change and have largely stopped buying new content from the Big Two.  

By now most of you have experienced the differences between a comic book and a webtoon. Instead of jumping from panel to panel, a webtoon is a continuous vertical tapestry. Although, the difference in art between a webtoon and comic book is the most telling.  It’s almost the same issue as compressed digital music files versus analog record tracks.  The vast majority of webtoons are drawn on an iPad Pro and then sent off to whoever does the lettering, assuming the artist doesn’t have to do it himself.  There is no getting around it, the art in webtoons just isn’t as good.

For most webtoon companies…

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