January. 24. 2022
Webtoons are growing as a tool for the entertainment industry to develop intellectual property
|The BTS-inspired webtoon series, ‘7FATES: CHAKHO’ / Courtesy of Naver Webtoon|
By Park Han-sol
Day by day, it becomes more and more difficult to define “webtoons” simply in the genre of comics.
As more K-pop agencies, drama production houses, and even game developers join in to create webcomics based on their original content, webtoons have become a crucial marketing tool to expand reach. of their intellectual property (IP) and create unique “universes”. which will attract dedicated fanbases.
This month, the webtoon that created instant buzz in the industry was none other than the BTS-inspired comic book series, “7FATES: CHAKHO.”
Borrowing the idea of “chakhogapsa,” or professional tiger hunters from the Joseon era (1392-1910), the urban fantasy series revolves around seven monster hunters, with each character inspired by a member of the septet.
The webtoon, published in 10 different languages, surpassed 15 million views worldwide just two days after its January 15 release, setting an all-time record for digital comics published by Korean web portal service, Naver.
In addition to “7FATES: CHAKHO”, BTS’s agency HYBE has also released two other popular original web-based fantasy comics featuring its artists: “Dark Moon: Blood Altar” with the group of rookie boys ENHYPEN and “The Star Seekers” with Demain X Ensemble (TXT).
But of course, K-pop agencies aren’t the only companies profiting from the growing popularity and potential of webtoons.
|The webtoon series, “Our Beloved Summer,” which serves as a prequel to the SBS drama of the same title / Courtesy of Naver Webtoon|
SBS’s “Our Beloved Summer” has become one of the latest shows to produce a webtoon based on the romantic comedy’s narrative surrounding its two leads, Choi Ung and Kook Yeon-su.
As a prequel to the drama, which follows the reunion of former high school sweethearts, the webtoon of the same title takes readers back to the two characters’ school years.
KBS’s 2014 romantic thriller “Healer” and JTBC’s 2019 romantic comedy “Be Melodramatic” are some of the other K-dramas that will be adapted into webtoons in the coming years.
Game publishers are among the new players who have joined the trend of creating webtoons as a narrative platform to expand their universes and characters.
Last November, KRAFTON released three separate webtoons inspired by its representative multiplayer battle royale game, “PUBG: Battlegrounds”, where each player collects weapons and items to kill others on the island. The three comics―“100,” “Silent Night” and “The Retreats”―fuse the genres of action-thriller and sci-fi to tell gripping stories of each character in what the company calls “the ‘PUBG universe’.
Lee Hee-youn, head of IP business at Naver Webtoon, told The Korea Times that these projects are all part of the unprecedented efforts of [content] experimentation, made possible by the growing collaborations between the webtoon and entertainment industries.
Jang Min-gi, a professor of media communication at Kyungnam University, explained that the phenomenon can be seen as “the merging of different content formats”.
“Previously strict boundaries between entertainment genres like webcomics, dramas and music are disappearing instead of a gigantic and complex IP ‘universe’ that can be developed and crafted across different platforms,” she explained.
Whether it’s K-pop, games or dramas, “Every type of original content and character development becomes something that can be expanded and then consumed in multiple formats. [including webtoons]. This allows users to invest in their stories for a longer period of time,” she said.