Thoughts on the DC/Webtoon Thing

By | Wednesday, August 18, 2021 Leave a Comment
As you may have heard, it was announced yesterday that DC has come to an agreement with Webtoon to collaborate on upcoming webcomics using DC properties. They didn't mention specific characters or creators, but we're basically talking about official Batman webcomics.

Or are we?

Well, we are in the sense that it sounds like the stories are intended to be tied to the DC Universe canon. The official statement only says about that: "The agreement will see DC and WEBTOON collaborate on several upcoming webcomic series’ set in the DC Universe." If they were talking about doing kid-friendly versions like Teen Titans Go or DC Super Hero Girls, they would have used language like "starring iconic characters from DC's vast catalog of properties" or something like that. So, in theory, when Batman shows up in one of these webcomics, it will be the Batman as it were.

However, there's an understated key line in the announcement that suggests the characters they won't be focusing on. That key line is about how they aren't releasing any details yet. "Additional details – including information about local language translations – will be supplied in the coming weeks." That bit about local language translations is critical in pointing to their thought process here. Webtoon is owned by Naver Corporation, which is a wildly successful company... in South Korea. DC has the infrastructure already to host webcomics if the goal was strictly using the web to advertise; that was part of the point of their Zuda competition a decade ago. By teaming up with Webtoon, and with the acknowledgement that they're very much looking at having the webcomics presenting in languages other than just English, DC is indicating that they are deliberately trying to break into the online southeast Asia market that Naver has such a strong IP command over.

Now why do I think that means they will not be focusing on certain characters? Because DC's big name heroes -- Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in particular -- already have phenomonal recognition worldwide. They were literally some of the most recognizeable characters on the planet, even before the relatively recent spate of movies. DC does not need to do any additional advertising to tell people about basically any of their characters that have had their own movie in the past decade. So I'm pretty sure these webcomics will not feature Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Captain Marvel/Shazam, or anyone from Suicide Squad. Probably everyone from the TV shows will be out of the running too, so no Green Arrow, Supergirl, Batwoman, Black Lightning, or Doom Patrol.

That's not to say these character won't show up at all, but I strongly doubt they'll be title characters. My guess is that, since DC seems to be interested in introducing foreign audiences to some of their characters, we'll be seeing webcomics featuring characters like Dr. Fate, The Question, Mister Miracle, Booster Gold, and the like. Characters that might have strong followings but not wide ones.

DC Comics is still an R&D arm for Warner Brothers. Recall that Webtoon is still primarily a free platform for readers, and DC's intent here is to build character/brand awareness in non-US markets. They're leveraging Webtoon as a promotional tool and they don't need to build awareness of Superman. They want to see what characters and ideas resonate in Asian markets, so that they can start making TV shows and movies about them too. Does that mean we'll get an Elongated Man movie? I have no idea; I don't know what charcters DC wants to promote and what might catch people's interest on the other side of the globe. But then, finding the answers to that is what this is all about!
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