Though Webtoon launched globally only six years ago, its reach and influence over the webcomics market has grown exponentially in that time. The platform boasted over 100 billion annual pageviews last year, and original anime and comics based on Webtoon’s most popular properties have been licensed to Crunchyroll and Legendary Comics. But this new partnership will mark the first time an American comics publisher has joined the legion of independent writers and artists in publishing original content to the site.
“The WebToon platform and audience is perfectly suited for the Archie brand, and we’re excited to partner with them to create new stories that expand and build on the tales we’ve been sharing with fans for almost 80 years,” said Archie Comics Co-President Alex Segura in a statement to Polygon. “Archie’s goal is always to be accessible and everywhere, and this is another step in that direction. We’ll be sharing more details about the story and creative [team] soon, and we can’t wait to hear what fans think about this major digital partnership.”
“We are thrilled to add [an] Archie series to our program as we are constantly looking to broaden our offerings on the platform for the US audience,” said David Lee, head of content for Webtoon. “This story will provide an opportunity for Archie fans to experience the vertical scroll format on Webtoon and we appreciate Archie Comics for allowing us to be creative with our pitch.”
As Lee alludes, this will be a major shift for Archie comics — not in migrating to a digital format (Archie’s own in-house app launched in 2012), but in adapting to the vertical “infinite canvas” layout that’s become central to WEBTOON’s brand, a holdover from the company’s early 2000s roots when there was no such thing as reading comics through an app. Then again, Archie itself is not a company that’s afraid to adapt; since the debut of Life With Archie in 2010, a sober “what-if” series exploring alternate futures for their permanently-teenaged cast, the publisher has embraced a wide variety of new and unique directions for the kids of Riverdale, from the zombie apocalypse spinoff Afterlife With Archie to a complete stylistic relaunch of the main series — and, of course, the camp-yet-gloomy teen drama/murder mystery that is Riverdale.
Though it remains to be seen who will join the creative team for this new series, which is set to debut sometime in 2021, Segura’s on to something when he says that Webtoon and Archie are well suited for one another. Of the top 10 most popular Webtoon strips right now, seven are romance comics, while another two are comedies, so it’s a safe bet that the classic Archie formula of cute and quirky teens bickering over relationships and occasionally stumbling on weird misadventures will fit in just fine. This partnership of American comics’ most aerobic brand and the world’s highest-trafficked webcomics portal seems tailor-made for the tumultuous modern moment in comics.