SDCC ’23: How DC and WEBTOON built their new universe

By Defne Sastim

One of the most successful comics under DC’s belt right now isn’t a traditional comic book at all – it’s a webcomics series from DC on the WEBTOON platform.

It all started with an idea to collaborate between the two comics giants. DC had the characters, history, and longtime fans to make a series successful. WEBTOON had the audience on its incredible platform to take a series to the next level. And that’s exactly what happened- the first series under the partnership was Wayne Family Adventures, which boasts 1.3 million subscribers and 92.6 million views on the WEBTOON platform today. The series centers the slice-of-life adventures of Batman and the various Robins, affectionately known as the “Batfam” by the fandom.

Since then, the collaboration has only grown. DC has launched Vixen: NYC, Zatanna & the Ripper, and Red Hood: Outlaws on the platform, and the series have all flourished. Starting next month, Wayne Family Adventures Vol.1 and Vixen: NYC Vol. 1 will leap from screen to page as graphic novels in print for the first time. Zatanna & the Ripper Vol. 1 will follow in October.

Producer of Vixen: NYC Mickey, Wayne Family Adventures writer CRC Payne, Red Hood: Outlaws writer Patrick Young, Editor-in-chief of DC Comics Marie Javins, and VP of Content at WEBTOON David Lee were all in attendance at a panel last week to discuss the DC and WEBTOON partnership and where it might be headed.

Marie Javins and David Lee shared how the collaboration started. As Javins described it, the idea of the DC universe on WEBTOON would serve as the “gateway drug into the world of comics” – a collaboration that would bring new readers through WEBTOON into DC comics, and would bring comics readers to the WEBTOON platform. Even now, that approach is realized even in the print version of the comics, where readers will be able to peruse a reading list for comics recommendations.

The recipe to their success? A fan-first approach. Mickey, Payne, and Young all described themselves as long-time fans of comics and DC’s characters. Their passion for the characters brought a life to the projects that helped them succeed. In many instances, as Payne pointed out, many of the plot points in her imaginings of the DC continuity are pulled directly from the comics they’re inspired by — throwaway lines and jokes in the main universe continuity are expertly spun into full episodes featuring the Batfam.

Another key element of the success of the DC universe on WEBTOON is undoubtedly the content, though it wasn’t discussed in depth at the panel. The format and the accessibility of the WEBTOON platform aside, the writers on these series are taking a fresh new approach to these characters. In some cases, the approach is something fans have been clamoring for. In the main DC continuity, fans who are invested in the interpersonal relationships of the Batman characters get wedding-baited. In the world of WEBTOON, such antics would be out of place. Characters talk about their trauma, they bond, they good off, and they bring a a feel-good family element that fans have been wanting for a long time.

A defining part of the collaboration for writers Payne and Young has been the freedom they feel. “I don’t think I’ve ever been told ‘no’ to a character” Young said, emphasizing the opportunity that kind of freedom brings. This allowed Young to pull really obscure characters up to the mat and breathe new life into them.

One of the biggest discussions on the panel was around the format of WEBTOON itself: the vertical scroll. According to Mickey, it was not just an interesting format for planning out, storyboarding, and producing the webcomic, but also a new opportunity for creativity when adapting those same webcomics to a graphic novel format for print.

It was the print version of the Wayne Family Adventures that attendees got a sneak peek at on Thursday, bound in what’s becoming a recognizably WEBTOON 6” by 9” format. “It’s like reading a new comic”, Javins said, describing the new formatting on the fan-favorite series.

Batman: Wayne Family Adventures Vol. 1 will be out August 1st, Vixen: NYC Vol. 1 will be out August 15th, and Zatanna & the Ripper Vol. 1 will be out October 3rd

Miss any of our earlier SDCC ’23 coverage? Find it all here!

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