With the success DC Comics has had with its entrance into the WEBTOON market with their first series titled Batman: Wayne Family Adventures you knew that Marvel wouldn’t be far behind. Marvel has already been dabbling into the Webtoons game with the launch of the Marvel Infinite Comics brand of comics on the Marvel Unlimited app late last year. Now, like DC Comics before them, Marvel has announced a partnership with WEBTOON to release a new series titled Eternals: The 500 Year War. With this being a major news item I’m going to dig into what this could mean for the Marvel brand.
WHAT IS MARVEL AND WEBTOON’S PARTNERSHIP?
Before getting into my thoughts on what this partnership will mean for Marvel and WEBTOON let me first mention the details that were released in the press release. From the article announcing this partnership on Marvel.com it was revealed that the Eternals: The 500 Year War will a be a comic book that launches its seven issue run first on Marvel Unlimited before being released on the Webtoon platform on January 20th. All seven issues of Eternals: The 500 Year War are currently live on Marvel Unlimited to read exclusively for subscribers under the Marvel Infinite Comics banner.
For this new series Marvel has assembled a number of creative talents to work together. The writers for the series are Dan Abnett, Aki Yanagi, Jongmin Shin, Ju-Yeon Park, David Macho, Rafael Scavone, Yifan Jiang. The artist line-up for the series includes Geoffo, Rickie Yagawa, Do Gyun Kim, Magda Price, Marcio Fiorito, and Gunji with coloring by Matt Milla, Carlos Macias, Fernando Sifuentes, Pete Pantazis, and Felipe Sobreiro. Each of these creators have been paired up to work on individual issues of Eternals: The 500 Year War that tell different stories of the team with the characters we saw star in the MCU’s Eternals movie.
In talking about this new series and partnership C.B. Cebulski, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel, said “These stories also break down borders and provide excitement beyond anything fans can imagine with these diverse, multi-cultural characters.” While David Lee, Head of Content at WEBTOON U.S., said “This series is perfect for anyone who wants to see more of the incredible Eternals in action, expanding their universe with new stories and a new format on WEBTOON.”
INITIAL RESULTS OF MARVEL AND WEBTOON PARTNERSHIP
Unlike the partnership between DC Comics and Webtoon this announcement by Marvel does not include the mention of more comic books launching on the WEBTOON platform. Right now it is strictly sticking to just the Eternals: The 500 Year War. So it is not clear if the other Webtoon vertical style comic books that were released under the Marvel Infinite banner last year will eventually make their way to the Webtoon platform. Those comic books are ready if that is a route that Marvel decides to go on since they were created with their own Webtoons comic book art style that Eternals: The 500 Year War implements
Given that Marvel released Eternals: The 500 Year War on the Marvel Unlimited app when this announcement was made I did get a chance to read all seven issues. Based on my experience this series is yet another experimental Webtoon-style series that Marvel is forcing their own comic book art style into. The biggest problem the seven issues of Eternals: The 500 Year War run into is that they don’t maximize the artistic style that has made the series on the WEBTOON platform so successful. Instead they force their comic book art style into the Webtoons format. That leads to storytelling from both an writing and art perspective that just does not work as intended.
Which brings us to the problem that Marvel is already running into with trying to get into the Webtoon game. Rather than looking for talent that understands what works for the massive audience on the Webtoon platform they are stuck with thinking they can force their Marvel art style into the platform. This makes the initial impression of this Marvel series be that the belief this will work is because of the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That is pure hubris that Marvel is showing.
If Marvel truly wants to tap into the market they should be seeking out talent that have found success working on other series on the Webtoon platform. Because trying to think that Webtoon is simply just a vertical comic book will not lead Marvel to the success they believe they should have on such a popular platform. The experience needs to be tailored with both writing and artwork. Without that true investment fans of the WEBTOON platform will quickly see through Marvel being a corporation trying to invade their space instead of creating unique reading experiences that maximize the format they love.
For as negative as I sound in the initial showing that Marvel has provide us with this partnership with WEBTOON not all is lost. Marvel has a wealth of characters that could truly thrive by having series on Webtoon’s that are unique to the type of stories that fans love on that platform. Spider-Man immediately comes to mind as the adventures of Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson, and others in the franchise would fit perfectly for the slice-of-life genre. There could also be a Thor series as various types of mythologies work well on the platform.
All this is to say that there is a lot of potential if Marvel is truly invested in making the partnership with Webtoon something that is a long-term success. Marvel has the characters to make this partnership a fruitful one. Marvel must invest genuine time and effort to truly be part of the community of creators and fans that is on the Webtoon platform. Simply have fun exploring the creativity the format and platform has to offer.
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