Webtoon Breaks the Superhero Mode of Comic Adaptations

When it comes to comic book/graphic novel adaptations on television, almost all of these shows are based around superheroes. Be they adapting Marvel and DC characters or independent comic books, these shows are based around action, adventure, capes and tights. However, there’s one growing exception, and it’s TV shows based off of Webtoon comics.

From horror shows such as Sweet Home and hellbound to the most recent series heart stopper, Webtoon moves the comic book pendulum a bit away from superheroes and into more diverse territory. Of course, the rising popularity of K-Pop helps in this regard, too. Here’s how this could change the game when it comes to TV show adaptations.

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Most Comic Book TV Shows Are Based On Superheroes

The superhero craze isn’t just for movies; it’s also affected television. The true beginning of this trend can be seen with the Arrowverse, which began 10 years ago with the CW series Arrow. Adapting the DC Comics hero Green Arrow, this show was followed by several others on the network that did the same with other characters. The Arrowverse now seems to be winding down, but there are several other DC Comics shows to replace it. Series such as Doom Patrol and the upcoming spinoffs of the 2022 film batman give DC’s characters a much more prestige treatment on the small screen, and Marvel’s much in the same boat.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe first had a show with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while the mature-audience Netflix Marvel shows took things to a whole new level. Now, there are “home brew” MCU shows on Disney+, all while other, more indie comics get their turn on the tube. TheBoys, invincible and The Umbrella Academy are all based on independent superhero titles, with most of them taking things in a much darker direction than Marvel and DC do with their properties.

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For the longest while, the sole exception to the superhero comic book TV show rule was AMC’s The Walking Dead, which began its run before the Arrowverse and even before the MCU really got into the swing of things. Now, Webtoon is changing the game and giving some variety by virtue of its titles taking off on television.

Webtoon Adaptations Are Non-Superhero Comic Book Shows

hellbound, All Of Us Are Dead, Sweet Home and several other shows are all based off of comics from the Webtoon service, which has its origins in South Korea. This coincides with the immense international popularity of Korean media in general, with K-Pop and K-dramas getting big with global audiences long before even Webtoon did. Many of these shows and their corresponding Webtoon series are in fact Korean, though that’s not the case with the Webtoon/graphic novel series heart stopperwhose creator Alice Oseman is British.

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The Korean Webtoon adaptations that have been the most popular in America are definitely on the more horrifying side of things, but many of these shows are also romance stories. None of them are also in the same genre as superhero comic book shows. It proves, much as The Walking Dead should have, that adaptations of non-superhero comic books can work. In fact, these Webtoon adaptations outnumber the number of American comic book shows that are unrelated to superheroes.

The ABC adaptation of Greg Rucka’s Stumptown was canceled after one season, with the incredibly loose DMZ adaptation on HBO Max suffering a similar fate. Webtoon adaptations counteract those show’s failures, and their sometimes more “mundane” or realistic concepts make them easier (and cheaper) for networks to adapt. This is especially important nowadays, with so many networks and streaming services having to count beans when it comes to show costs.

As Webtoon gains more of a publishing and fandom presence, many networks will likely take notice and use the service as an adaptation content farm. With the superhero bubble potentially bursting more and more by the day, this is ultimately a good thing for television diversity.

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