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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Comments (23)

  • Michael Maier Reply

    I know that I do not speak for anyone except myself:

    I absolutely hate comics delivered digitally. Each facing pages or scrolling, they suck. The flow isn’t there. There is an artistry to comic books that is more than just art on a page. It’s pacing and such. I just don’t think it translates into digital well at all.

    And I do not for a second buy that people devouring “record numbers” of free content now will ever translate into them ever paying for a single page of comic art. Kids want free. Sure seems that they will devour crap that is free forever before ever thinking of paying $1 for something that would be of much, much greater value.

    September 28, 2021 at 8:55 pm
    • Jezek Reply

      I agree with what Vox mainly says: comics are not only here to stay but they’re here to grow too.

      However when it comes to the purity of a comic which I think Vox was lightly touching on, I agree more with this comment by Michael Maier. I’m sorry if I’m misinterpreting your original article in any way Vox.

      When it comes to what makes a comic fun for me and many others I believe, it’s all about the structure of panel flow. Seeing all of the panels on the same page actually creates a sense of movement and pacing that just isn’t present when one panel is presented at a time like it is digitally. It feels more like a shallow imitation of a movie than it does a comic for me personally. The amount of panels, what type, and building up to the page turn in the regular comic format is a real pleasure for me.

      I nevertheless read Arktoons and I support it on Patreon because I am slowly getting used to the format and I like the ideas in many of the comics. And webtoons needs competition especially from the creators here. I still continue to buy and collect what I consider to be “real comics” of course though.

      Fortunately overall, I see a market for all of these comic mediums – which goes to show how dynamic this thing is. Kickstarter and Indiegogo continue to have countless successes for regular formatted comics even for creators that aren’t part of comics gate. So one cannot just say crowd funded comics in general are part of some stupid cult or something. I’m surprised at how many fun comics are coming from people I’ve never heard of before.

      And then there’s these webtoon platforms which are proving to be very popular obviously. I just hope artists and writers can be compensated fairly in the long run.

      And manga sales in the USA proves that the standard non crowd funded comic market is still there when its good stuff.

      If someone was seeking a job making good stuff consistently from the Big two or if one was wanting to buy consistent good stuff from them, then yeah the industry looks horrid but fortunately we’re all at one of the very places that will make Comics live on and evolve in some manner I believe 🙂

      September 28, 2021 at 10:40 pm
      • The Dark Herald Reply

        Dude, I’m not Vox Day. The Dark Herald is literally a different man. I just run the Arktoons Blog for him.

        September 28, 2021 at 10:46 pm
        • Jezek Reply

          My bad. I’m just now getting into these sites that Vox is connected to and I assumed that because of how similiar Dark Herald’s thoughts and writing are to Vox that it was him.

          September 28, 2021 at 11:02 pm
    • Codex Reply

      Form follows function.

      Stories written for a vertical format like… hang on…Sithrah work as well online as those using a left to right then down and over.

      But both are inferior to the book in one’s hand, whuch is why I had to get upand check my bookshelf.

      On the otherhand figuring out howvto print a comic book is making me crazy.

      September 30, 2021 at 7:30 am
  • jorgen Reply

    There are people boycotting DC and Marvel due to their gay agenda, sure. But there is also the price. Comics were 1.25 to 2.25 in the 90s. Now what, 6? And you get less pages. “But they’re glossy pages.” Yet the art doesn’t deserve glossy pages. If they didn’t think they were Picaso (or whoever is considered great) then they would go back to the fuzzy paper with the cheaper oldschool ink and drop the damn price.

    Glossy paper with primo ink should be saved for graphic novels of stories already proven popular in the monthlies. It should not be used for monthlies because it just raises the price on a product that is basically toilet paper most of the time (when its coming from DC or Marvel for sure). They don’t write the stories to last so why are they printing them like they’re posters?

    As for the 8track vs cassette vs CD analogy, graphic novels are the CD. Shonen Jump is the cassette, and monthly American comics are the 8track. Webtoons is somebody passing by on the street humming the tune.

    Also briefly in the 90s comics were sold at the grocery store (between say 93 and 95) and then from 96-98 at Walmart even after grocery stores stopped. It was due to Supes being killed in 92 being so big and until he came back grocers sold the things. When Supes came back he had long hair, was shacking up with Lois in sin, and couldn’t fly for a while but wielded guns like rambo, and popularity dropped, they stopped carrying Supes and replaced him with Marvel stuff before giving up. Then Walmart carried mainly just X-men due to the popilarity of the X-men cartoon. But now they expect kids to go to a comic book shop with no car and pay 6 bucks for a monthly issue printed like its a masterpiece when the artists are just tracing older work because they can’t draw. So yeah, kids are gonna read whatever crap is free even if ita crap, because its all there is since they’ve been priced out.

    September 28, 2021 at 9:21 pm
    • Codex Reply

      Remember when you could collect enough cans to trade them in for a pop and a comic book?

      Different world.

      September 30, 2021 at 7:34 am
    • SirFalterBrawley Reply

      I prefer the matte pages over glossy, regardless of the art quality. Comic books aren’t wall art, they’re meant to be read, and glossy pages make reading more difficult.

      September 30, 2021 at 4:22 pm
  • Cloudbuster Reply

    “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.”

    Bot inflation of pageviews is real.

    September 28, 2021 at 9:25 pm
  • Brick Hardslab Reply

    There is an art to the layout of a comic book that digital works cannot or do not yet understand.

    To draw the gaze from one part of the page to another or another page entirely. To lead the reader through the visual part of the story and make that part of a whole is something a linear scrolling cannot yet do. That part of the art might be lost. The careful editing required for limited space might also change as the digital form allows for a much longer passage.

    September 29, 2021 at 12:26 am
    • jorgen Reply

      The viz app that just digitized manga does though. But that’s because its just actual manga digitized and not stuff created to vertically scroll in a browser.

      September 29, 2021 at 11:16 pm
  • Asko Reply

    Stand Still Stay Silent, on Hivemill. It’s a series done by a girl in Finland, and I think it’s pretty good. I’ve supported her by buying the books when she prints portions of the series.

    September 29, 2021 at 2:12 am
    • John Sheppard Reply

      I’m glad you reminded me of Stand Still. Stay Silent. It’s been a while since I’ve been over there. It’s slightly woke but well done. Beloved characters die and don’t come back. It’s world building is pretty good.

      September 29, 2021 at 11:20 am
  • Silent Draco Reply

    Step back and literally take another look at what Arktoons delivers. How does your eye track through frames? Do you follow speech, action, and text? The vertical tapestry differs from working on rectangular pages. Alt-Hero and beginning of Alt-Hero:Q are good comparators, if you have the hard copies. Arkhaven is keeping the high quality stories and art, and learning how to apply them digitally.

    You’re going old school from book back to scroll, with a different set of visual cues used. A lot of the book-formatted art is reshaped or sometimes recut to use vertical cues. The page-grade art frames are created first, and are printable in an easily stored non-digital format.

    Dude, you HAD to mention Walkman. Making me feel obsolete again.

    September 29, 2021 at 12:23 pm
  • William Reply

    Maybe I’m the only one to dislike reading comics on a website. I want to have the cbr or pdf file on my hardrive if it is digital. I can’t get invested in a comic on a website. Why should I care what happens in that storyline?

    I liked Alt-hero a lot, but it had proper ebook files fo me. I think I’m just too old for comics now, they have left me behind. I don’t think I’m going to try to take this ride, I’m out.

    September 29, 2021 at 1:25 pm
  • Dave Reply

    *sigh*; yeah, I’m going to be that guy. It’s a “mix-tape,” not a “mixed-tape” And CDs had NO compression; that’s what made them take up so much disk space. MP3s, on the other hand, had varying amounts of compression, depending on the bitrate. And yes, audiophiles and hipster poseurs still insist they can “tell the difference” when the compression is good enough to only throw up material a human cannot hear. See JPG vs. PNG

    Also, vinyl is compressed and has a EQ profile applied due to the limitations of both the material and the spiral tracks. It’s just a sound boomers were used to so it was what they thought music *should* sound like.

    As for Arktoons, they are indeed doing the work to translate the comic book layout to a vertical layout. Both the site and the content work to make “reading” the comics fun.

    September 29, 2021 at 2:37 pm
  • Ken Mcilwaine Reply

    nit pick: it’s not a mixed-tape, it’s a mix tape!

    September 29, 2021 at 3:19 pm
  • The Dark Herald Reply


    September 29, 2021 at 5:02 pm
    • bryce Reply

      “(*snort*) M-a-n-g-a, those aren’t comic books.”

      I can’t help but read that in the Razorfist Faux-Outrage Voice.

      I’d love for you guys to do a podcast conversation about this.

      September 29, 2021 at 6:24 pm
      • jorgen Reply

        Well if comic book means “color” then manga is not comic books. But if comic book means there has to be something “comic” (funny) then American comic books other than Archie are not comic books but manga are because manga does have humor.

        September 29, 2021 at 11:20 pm
        • Bryce Reply

          Hah! Now I want to see a full-on Manga version of Archie! Speedlines, chibis, and everything!

          September 29, 2021 at 11:31 pm
      • furor kek tonicus ( you're a sucker if you think Oprah wouldn't feed your daughter to Harvey Weinstein ) Reply

        there have been plenty of American “comic books” that were black and white.
        Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ( and all of their ripoffs like the Radioactive Hamsters were b/w. the longest running indie comic of all time ( Cerebus ) was b/w. Bone was b/w. one of the most awarded comics of all time, Will Eisner’s ‘The Spirit’ was b/w.
        color has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not something qualifies as a comic book.

        September 30, 2021 at 12:41 am
  • Eidolon Reply

    I’m enjoying the new format. I used to read comics but they’re so bad now I just quit. Arktoons has been great and I’m glad it’s successful so far.

    I think people are missing the point a bit. A lot/most of the Arktoons stuff so far is adapted stuff that was originally in comic book format. I agree that that doesn’t always work as well.

    But stuff that’s native to the new format has used it nicely. For example, Hypergamouse does a great job of using the vertical format and feels natural for it. Midnight’s War and Shade are the most “comic book” style things that have used the format well. With those I didn’t feel like I was reading something reformatted.

    It’ll take some time for all the creators to get comfortable and start using the new format effectively. It has advantages too — you almost get that cliffhanger feeling of the page turn with each new panel, which could be really effective for horror, action or comedy. You also have the potential for a nice continuous vertical flow that isn’t possible with standard pages.

    It’s still an evolving form. So far it’s mostly people used to the old format trying to adapt to it, but it will get more natural over time. I think there’s a lot of great stuff to come.

    September 30, 2021 at 5:10 pm

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