A year after WEBOON + DC launched their first series in collaboration, Batman: Wayne Family Adventures, to great success, executives and creators of two of the series that have followed—Vixen: NYC and Red Hood: Outlaws—sat down to discuss the experience of developing series starring DC characters for WEBTOON.
WEBTOON vice president for content David Lee admitted he felt that “this collaboration was just bound to happen.” But DC editor in chief Marie Javins remembered the idea of doing a DC book on WEBTOON as requiring a change of mindset. “I had to rethink how I look at pages of art,” she told the gathered crowd. “When you’re making a page you’re kind of following it [across the page] and you have these big spreads and giant scenes of cities. Suddenly you’ve got two inches and you have to have your thumb on it too.”
Even fans of Wayne Family had to adjust their perspective, she noted. “When Wayne Family Adventures was first launched a lot of people thought it was illegal. People just couldn’t conceive the people who make this kind of comic were saying it’s okay to make that kind of comic.”
What DC and their fans discovered, Lee explained, was that “WEBTOON could provide a different way to experience the characters.” In particular the vertical scrolling WEBTOON style lent itself to a slice-of-life type storytelling that was unusual for these characters. “To see characters that may not be relatable to you do relatable things, I think it’s very compelling.”
The format also gave the creators the chance to get to the heart of the characters. “One of the great fan experiences in reading monthly periodicals is knowing where your story fits within the grander scheme of that universe,” says Javins. “WEBTOON is not part of that ecosystem, so they can make brand new interesting stories. They are able to throw it all into a blender and pull out what is necessary. They can put all the Robins in one house together, or bring Vixen to New York for the first time.”
Patrick R. Young, writer on Red Hood: Outlaws, agrees. The WEBTOON format, he says, “is boiling these characters down to their essential elements.” Having come from the world of screenwriting, Young also found the vertical scroll format easy to work with. In film, too, he says, “There’s no breaks, no hesitations, no ads.”
For Manou Azumi, artist on Vixen: NYC, that vertical scroll meant exciting new possibilities for layout. On the standard comic, she said, “we have to think about the entire page lay out because the entire page is important.” On WEBTOON her focus could be much more zoomed in: “When you’re doing a vertical scroll you have to think how the next panels will play out. If you’re doing a joke you can space it out in a way that you can’t really do with a traditional comic book layout.”
She agreed that the format also allowed for a different kind of attention to character. “You want to make the characters powerful, but you still want to make them relatable.” She often accomplishes this by way of the facial expression she gives the characters, or by way of their situation. “I’ll draw them where they’re just hanging gout, they’re going to get hot dogs or ordering Chinese or just lying on the couch—just take them away from all of the action, tone them down and make them seem more human.”
Batman: Wayne Family Adventures has already been renewed for a second season, and three other series, including Vixen, Red Hood and Zantana & the Ripper, are in the middle of their first season. Lee teased they’re always considering other DC properties, but also different kind of stories. Their current DC series include action, comedy and comedy of age stories, he notes. “But there are more varieties of genre on WEBTOON.”
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