No matter the platform, comics have always been a staple reading material for me since middle school, especially webcomics. I got drawn in at a fairly early age due to one of my cousins creating his own long-running web comic for pretty much as long as I’ve known him. Slowly that love of comics branched off into other areas, and I have to admit, I haven’t been reading them as much as I used to anymore. Maybe it’s because of life getting in the way or maybe it just due to the wide breadth of other reading material I’ve gotten drawn into recently including manga and a random assortment of prose novels. But once in awhile I like to go back and revisit webcomics, and I’m always reminded why I love them each time. There’s just so much creativity and new and interesting ideas that I think the very format of webcomics allows to flourish.
Which brings me to WebToons, something I only just recently downloaded on my phone and started digging through for new comics to read. Most of them I think are from Asian authors since it’s affiliated with LINE, an app not many people in North America use, but there are still the occasional comic created with a Western setting. Over the course of the last half year or so I’ve managed to find some great romance comics on the platform, a lot of them autobiographical, but there are still quite a lot of them that delve into fictional worlds. Below are three recommendations of good romance comics I found on WebToons.
This was the comic that started me on my WebToon journey. It was originally recommended to me by a Mother’s Basement video and seemed enough up my alley for me to follow-up on the recommendation and actually start to read. The comic itself is created by Mongie, a graphic designer and coder who has done banner and avatar work for various youtubers like Markiplier and the like. This is significant in that the comic itself focuses on the life and troubles of Sam Young, a coder and indie video game developer who just finds out that her first game has just been review bombed by a pack of ravenous fangirls, unwittingly sent into a frenzy by the famous Youtuber Marshall Law. To make matters worse, Sam finds out that said Youtuber is now her new next door neighbor. Cue K-drama hijinks.
Let’s Play draws from a lot of different influences including K-dramas, shoujo, video games, and geek culture and wraps it up into an entertaining package. I really can see why this is one of the most popular comics on the WebToon platform right now. It’s not just all the references, for which there are many, but the characters, the story, and the art that really works together to give you a cohesive experience that can be rare in comics about video game and geek culture sometimes. It manages to also take these aspects and digs deep, discussing the differing mental health issues some of these characters struggle with on a daily basis.
I think that’s the big aspect of this comic that really struck me. Seeing the different ways these characters struggle with their lives and their mental illness. Marshall is a Youtube celebrity pretty much, and we can see in various interactions that he really cares for and about his fans, but this also means an “always on” personality which tends to push his true feelings down behind a mask. Once and awhile though we see his depression rear its ugly head as he worries over his schedule or his fans. And in these fan interactions we also see the sometimes ugly nature of parasocial relationships: when fans take their love of something or someone (who they most likely have no actual real-life relationship with) to the next level, often acting out of anger or betrayal to insult, vilify, or harrass perceived “enemies.” In this case, the perceived enemy of Marshall Law is Sam Young and her indie game.
In terms of Sam’s character, I really think she’s a great lead for this series. She follows some shoujo conventions of being shy and introverted, struggling with her own inability to speak up for herself, but she possesses a lot of inner strength at times too that inspires loyalty in her friends and the people that surround her. She tends to see her world through the lens of video games and geek culture, using these references to make sense of situations which in turn makes a more multi-layered story for us as well. But that inner strength also tends to draw people towards her and she finds herself with a couple very hot men in her life. It’s one of the dangerous parts of this comic, the potential for shipping wars, but since the characters are so well-developed I find thinking about all the potential relationships an interesting aspect of the comic as well.
This comic probably deserves its own review at some point, looking back at what I’ve written so far, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of some things I wanted to talk about. So be sure to look out for that in the future.
Love Advice from the Great Duke of Hell
This comic has to be one of the funniest rom-com’s I’ve read in a long time. Love Advice from the Great Duke of Hell is more comedy than romance, combining absurdity and deadpan humor to create something truly unique. I can’t help but snort-laugh every time I read a new episode, not just from the dialogue and comedy but from the art and expressions that Unfins draws. Their art is honestly the major highlight of this one. But next is definitely the demon summoning.
The comic centers around your average, everyday teenager Paul, who is having a tough time in his love life. The girl he has a crush on doesn’t know he exists, his family is clueless, and his friends can’t help him. So Paul turns to the only thing he feels will help him win the heart of the girl of his dreams: summoning a demon from the dark recesses of Hell.
Like I said above, I love Unfins’ art. It’s sketchy, but the character designs are strong and the expressions absolutely nail the deadpan humor and gags that are in each episode. They also have a knack for switching from limited detail in one panel to a lot of detail and shading in the next to really get those gags or important moments to hit home with as much effect as possible. The vertical format of WebToons is used very well here as well, with long scrolling pauses between panels to give that extra bit of timing to gags, sometimes with only a speech bubble sitting in white space until you scroll to the next panel. The panels also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, sometimes morphing with smoke effects to make it look like it’s blending into the white background instead of having straight black borders.
There’s not too much of a story in this comic, but there’s enough to present an engaging comedy filled with gags, pop culture references, and supernatural elements boarding on the absurd. There’s 29 episodes so far, but the story follows the plot of Paul trying to win the heart of his crush through demonic abilities and the advice of the Great Duke of Hell. It also includes a subplot of a secret agency searching for the source of some weird happenings in the city (that happen to be all Paul’s fault). I find it more entertaining for the well-timed gags and absurd demonic happenings than for the main story, but it does provide a good backbone for the comic overall.
Super Secret is one of my most favorite finds on WebToons. It’s an adorable comic about two people who have been friends since they were children, but one of them has managed to hide the fact that he’s a werewolf from the other for years with the help of his equally supernatural family. It’s like a cute girl next door K-drama with a supernatural twist. What makes matters even better is that is just finished in January. After 143 episodes, the author Eon has concluded the comic, and I have to say I love how it came out and I can’t wait to see if they come out with anything else in the future.
One of the things that sets this comic apart from the rest I’ve mentioned is the art. It’s very stylized, almost chibified in its character designs. I really like how simplified the art is with its almost soft feel to the characters and color palette. It kind of sets itself apart from some of the other comics that try to focus on beautiful characters and sell the fanservice aspect (like some of Let’s Play above). And while Eon’s art is simple, I still think it manages to capture a wide range of expressions and emotions throughout the comic. There are a lot of great emotional and comedic moments that I think go over well even with the art style. The proportions are strong, the character designs are interesting and varied enough, and I think you even get a good sense of the character’s own fashion style through Eon’s designs.
The one think I will say about this comic that does take a back seat to others is Eon’s use of panel design. I’m a sucker for creative use of space and interesting panel designs and layouts and WebToon’s unique vertical scroll allows for some interesting panels and layouts that can help with timing, pacing, and impact of certain scenes. Super Secret uses a very basic 4-panel design and groups multiple of these collections of panels into one episode. It reads like a very basic webcomic, which in itself isn’t bad, I just get drawn more to the more complicated layouts. I still enjoy the comic as it is though.
I really enjoy Super Secret for the story too. It’s a cute supernatural story that also has a lot of comedy, drama, and romance interwoven in its 143 episodes. We have a family of supernatural creatures (a werewolf, a kitsune, a witch, a goddess, and a Frankenstein) that are looking after a human college-age girl who has known them all since she was a child. But through magic and manipulation she has not figured out who they really are until Ryan, the werewolf, reveals his true nature to her, the girl he’s had a crush on since childhood. Eon’s display of supernatural creatures can be absurd and comical at times, but it gets pretty interesting and starts to take a darker turn when we learn of the association that rules over all the supernatural creatures in the area. It adds another necessary layer to the story and a sense of danger for our main characters, Ryan and Emma, as the association doesn’t approve of humans knowing the supernatural exists.
I also find the romance between Ryan and Emma to be really sweet. They’re two fairly naive people who slowly come to realize, at least in Emma’s case, that their feelings for each other are more than that of friends. Ryan is the protective and practical to Emma’s air-headed and childish, but they make a good pair and I can genuinely say they both wind up growing a lot by the end of the comic. I also really love the smaller romances going on in the background as well. There’s a lot of diverse stories and romantic troubles that keeps the comic fresh and interesting as you’re reading.
I have a couple more comics I can recommend to you all as well, but for now these are my top three romances on the platform so far. I’m reallying enjoying how the WebToon app offers a different, more mobile focused experience for comic creation and consumption. Besides the vertical reading format, authors also have the option on including background music for each episode and it supports gifs that can add an extra bit of interest to any comic. I only just wish it didn’t tend to overheat my phone and crash the app sometimes, but I’m willing to deal with that to read some of these comics. Let me know in the comics if you have any other romance recommendations on that platform or let me know if you’ve read these comics as well.