Tag Archives: comics


Q&A with the Founder of Tapastic, a Global Webcomics Portal

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

As one of the most wired countries in the world, South Korea has constant access to some of the fastest high-speed Internet and niftiest smartphone apps. Consequently, Korean web cartoons, or “webtoons,” have swiftly become a popular and powerful storytelling medium over the past decade.

Several webtoons have already been adapted into successful Korean films and dramas, including Misaeng, The Girl Who Sees Smells and Secretly, Greatly.

According to KT Economic Research Institute, major search portals Daum and Naver attract more than 6.2 million webtoon readers daily, and the market size of Korea’s webtoon industry is estimated to double to $800 million by 2018.

However, webcomics have yet to reach that same level of popularity, accessibility and community in the United States—and that’s where Tapastic comes to play.

Billing itself as the “YouTube of webcomics,” Tapastic (a portmanteau of “tapas” and “fantastic”) is a San Francisco-based webcomics portal that offers more than 105,000 comics created by over 5,400 artists worldwide. The company launched only three years ago, but it now boasts $3.4 million in backing from Korean and American investors, including Daum Kakao, SK Planet and former Facebook Chief Technology Officer Adam D’Angelo.

Chang Kim, the founder and CEO of Tapastic, is no rookie when it comes to building new digital platforms. He co-founded TNC, a Korean blogging service that was acquired by Google in 2008, and subsequently worked as a product manager for Blogger. Prior to that, he was a content strategy manager for Samsung Mobile.

Kim recently took time out of his long train commute in San Francisco to speak with KoreAm about Tapastic’s beginnings and growth as well as the globalization of webtoons. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.


KoreAm: Can you tell us a bit more about Tapastic and its mission?

Chang Kim: Tapastic, in a nutshell, is an open platform and community for comics. For readers, it’s the best service to find and enjoy bite-sized, snackable comics. So overall, Tapastic is like YouTube or SoundCloud, but for comics.

We believe there are so many talented comic creators who want to express their awesome stories in a visual format. Our mission is to build the best platform for these comic creators to share their authentic visual stories, build a strong brand and massive fan base and make money from their creative works.

What inspired you to create this publishing platform for webcomics?

I remember ​Koreans using social networks, Internet telephony, virtual gifts, online gaming and many other Internet services as early as the late ’90s—when the rest of the world was only beginning to grasp what the ​Internet was. But the Korean companies that provided those services largely remained in Korea, instead of becoming global brands.

So I really wanted to give it a try myself—namely, spotting an interesting and innovative Internet service model in Korea and taking it to the global market. While researching the Korean market, I found out how crazily popular webtoons were and thought it would be cool to build a webtoon site with global content from global talent​. That was the beginning of Tapastic.


Comics artists are able to self-publish their works on Tapastic. What would you say are some of the benefits for these creators?

Tapastic is not just a content publishing site. It is, first and foremost, a thriving community and social network around comics. Fans can not only follow their favorite creators but also support them on a monthly basis. It’s like buying a cup of coffee every month for their favorite​ creators to show appreciation and help them continue their awesome work.

We really focused on building awesome community, and as a result, we have fantastic community engagement. For example, our site’s overall engagement metrics grew by almost 10 times over the last year or so alone. So the first benefit for comic creators joining our platform would be becoming part of this ​very ​enthusiastic community.

We also help creators make money from their content through our monetization features. Creators can ​earn ads revenue, get monthly support from their fans or sell their completed comic series in our Premium section.

Why do you think webtoons are so popular in South Korea?

​I​t’s simple: Korean webtoons have some of the most amazing stories. That’s how webtoons could​ attract mainstream users who didn’t necessarily read a lot of ​comics before (that includes myself), and also why some of Korea’s top TV dramas and movies are based on webtoons. By building an open platform and attracting talented visual storytellers, Korean webtoons were able to build a rich library of awesome stories, similar to the way YouTube attracted many new talents and a massive volume of fresh, high-quality content.


What differentiates Korean webtoons from traditional American comics?

The U.S. has a rich comics tradition. Everybody has fond memories of “mainstream comics,” such as Calvin and Hobbes, which actually once had a great impact on U.S. culture and society in general. But today, the comics industry in the U.S. has become a niche market—think superhero comic books sold in local comic book stores.

Though comics continue to be a major source material for blockbuster movies and TV dramas in the U.S.​, comics as a medium ​itself ​has largely become a niche. We hope Tapastic will help users, especially young millen​nials on mobile, re-discover the great storytelling power of comics.

There are, in fact, already quite a few ​popular webcomics in the U.S., such as The Oatmeal. What the U.S. doesn’t have yet is a platform and community like YouTube​. That’s what Tapastic is trying to ​bring about. ​

Tapastic offers a translation service for its creators, which is a rather unique feature for a webcomics portal. How many series have been translated into another language?

We’ve translated more than 60 high-quality Korean webtoons. Given that webtoons started in Korea, there’s still ​a lot of great content that has never been introduced to the global audience​. Right now, we’re doing translations by ourselves, partly because translating comics in the correct fashion is quite difficult. In the future, we plan to add crowd-sourced translation feature.

Are there any Korean artists from Tapastic who have successfully crossed over to the American market? And are there non-Korean creators who have found success in Korea?

Most of the Korean webtoons that we’ve brought on have been very well received by the ​American fans, thanks to great art quality and compelling stories. But in this age of social media, content quality is often only half of the equation. Creators that thrive are the ones who actively engage with their fans and constantly communicate with them. Content publishing is increasingly becoming a two-way street.

We’re now starting to see some Korean creators more actively engaging with their fans. Mika is a good example. She’s based in Korea and never published her comics outside of Korea before joining Tapastic, but now her fanbase lies mostly outside of the country. And she’s really actively ​interacting with her fans.


We’re also planning to introduce high-quality global webtoons to the Korean audience. A Tapastic comic series titled Juju’s Diary, which created by a Brooklyn comic studio, was introduced on Daum’s webtoon section and found great success, which led to the creation of the series’ second season.

Where do you see the medium of webcomics in the next five years? Do you expect to see more international collaborations?

We definitely think webtoons will gain more popularity outside of Korea. The concept of Internet-based open publishing platform and community around visual stories is obviously globally translatable. In the Internet industry there’s the saying, “Mobile is eating the world.​“ Mobile Internet is changing people’s lives in a fundamental way (think Uber, for instance), ​and no industry, including the comics industry, will be spared from those fundamental changes.

Can you recommend some webcomics to our readers who are unfamiliar with the medium?

I personally like comedy series. My personal favorite is Cheer Up, Emo Kid; it’s slightly vulgar, yet crazily witty. I also like Lunarbaboon (I’m a father of two), Sarah’s Scribbles, and Medical Tales Retold (fan-submitted wacky medical stories). In other genres, the amazing art quality of Fisheye Placebo is knocking my socks off every single time I’m reading that comic.


You can read more webcomics through the Tapastic website or mobile app (available on iOS and Android). To learn more about Tapastic, visit their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @tapastic.

All images courtesy of Tapas Media

Subscribe to our daily newsletter


Korean Webtoons to Be Published through The Huffington Post

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

South Korea’s top webtoon artists will have their works translated into English and published through the Huffington Post, a major online news outlet in America, as part of their push to go global, reports the Korea Herald.

“We’re currently in talks with the Huffington Post regarding what to publish and how to publish (it),” Lee Seong-wook, a representative of the cartoonists’ guild Toonion, told Yonhap.

Toonion was launched by 15 artists last month with the goal of globalizing their “webtoons,” or serialized webcomics. Many industry officials see the Toonion and Huffington Post collaboration as Korea’s first serious attempt at penetrating the global comic book market.

avengers-electric-rain-korean-superheroWhite Fox, a Korean superhero, will be featured in Marvel’s U.S. comic books.
(Photo courtesy of Geek Nation)

Joining the project are Korea’s most influential cartoonists, including Koh Young-hun of Avengers Electric Rain, Yoon Tae-ho of Misaeng (Incomplete Life) and Yang Woo-seok of Steel Rain. All three artists have achieved mainstream success not only in digital media but also in traditional storytelling mediums.

While Koh’s original superheroine character, White Fox, has recently joined the Marvel Universe, Yoon’s webtoon, Incomplete Life, has been adapted into the very successful Korean drama of the same name back in October. In addition, Yang made his directorial debut last year with the box office hit The Attorney, which became the 8th bestselling Korean film of all time.

restmb_jhidxmakeDrama adaptation of Misaeng (top) and hard copies of the original graphic novel series.
(Photo courtesy of Korea Herald)

According to Lee, the first batch of translated webtoons should be available in the first half of 2015 at the earliest. Toonion also plans to set up another entity, currently named “Rolling Story,” for the U.S. branch.

Webtoons have quickly become an enormously popular form of entertainment in South Korea, which boasts the fastest Internet speed in the world. These comics are published weekly through major search portals such as Naver and Daum and attract up to 6.2 million readers daily, according to KT Economy Research Institute. As of 2014, Naver has published 530 webtoons since 2004 while its competitor Daum has published 434 since 2003.

“South Korean webtoons have developed with its fast internet and well-equipped mobile devices,” said Lee Do-hyeong, the chief of the comics story industry team at Korea Creative Content Agency. “As other nations are experiencing the same thing these days, I think it will help webtoons to go global.”

White Fox

Korean Superhero White Fox to Join Marvel Universe


A Korean superhero will be featured in American comics, Marvel’s Senior Vice President C.B. Cebulski announced on Wednesday.

White Fox, who was created by Youngh-hoon Kim, originally debuted in Avengers: Electric Rain, a “webtoon,” or a short webcomic, produced by Disney Korea and Daum, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The character is based on the Korean myth of the nine-tailed fox and appears alongside the movie incarnation of the Avengers, although it is unclear whether she will show up as an Avenger herself in the U.S. comics.

Electric Rain features serialized stories that appear in a vertically scrolling format that are viewable on web pages or in apps. The webtoon format is apparently hugely popular in Korea and is gradually taking the place of print comics. Currently, the Korean webtoon is on its sixth episode, and the ninth installment will explore White Fox’s origins.

Ko created the character himself and approached Marvel, according to ICV2. Marvel approved it with a few minor tweaks, and a successful reception in Korea convinced the company to add her to the U.S. comic community.

White Fox will be joining a growing number of Marvel superheroes diverging from the “traditional white male lead.” Ms. Marvel features a 16-year-old Muslim teenager who takes on the identity of Captain Marvel; Sam Wilson, formerly known as the Falcon, took over the role of Captain America last month; and a new female Thor was revealed back in July.

Marvel has had recent success in Asia as well. Japanese magazine Brutus features a crossover between Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy with Attack on Titan. In addition, the anime series Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, a collaborative production with Bandai and Toei Animation, debuted on Japanese television earlier this year.

Photo courtesy of Young hoon Ko/Marvel


Writer Greg Pak Takes On 'X-Men' Comic Book


Comic book writer Greg Pak will be taking his literary skills to the “Astonishing X-Men” comic book, publishing giant Marvel announced yesterday.

Pak, coming off a successful five-year run as writer for “The Incredible Hulk,” will join forces with artist Mike McKone for the November issue of “The Astonishing X-Men.”

Although Pak might be best known for his work on The Hulk, he’s ventured into the mutant of the Marvel Universe on numerous occasions with limited series focused on Magneto as well as the Phoenix Force. But his run on ASTONISHING X-MEN puts him at the heart of things, dealing with X-Men’s biggest players.

“I am so ridiculously happy to be working with Mike on this book,” Pak told Marvel.com. “He’s tearing it up with his trademark clean lines, dynamic action, and phenomenal character work. And he’s cranking up the sexy like nobody’s business.”

The New York-based writer is also a filmmaker and made his feature film directorial debut in 2003 with “Robot Stories.”