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Webtoons

Naver vs Kakao: Webtoon rivalry extends to superheroes

The two Korean platform giants team up with Marvel Comics and DC Comics, respectively, to offer popular superhero webtoons

By Jul 06, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Popular superhero series to be offered as webtoons by Korean platform giants Kakao and Naver (Graphics by Jerry Lee)
Popular superhero series to be offered as webtoons by Korean platform giants Kakao and Naver (Graphics by Jerry Lee)

The fierce competition over webtoons between Naver Corp. and Kakao Corp. enters another round as the two South Korean platform giants join forces with American comic book publishers to roll out superhero webtoons.

Naver has partnered with Marvel Comics, the publisher of Avengers and Iron Man, and Kakao has joined forces with DC Comics, the publisher of Batman and Superman.

On July 6, Naver Webtoon will unveil Marvel Comics' hit Black Widow as a webtoon. It marks the first time that an original Marvel comic will be made into a webtoon, kicking off the Marvel Webtoon Project.

Starting in September, Naver Webtoon will also release webtoons based on Marvel Comics' intellectual property portfolio, including Eternals, Avengers, Spider-Man and Hulk.

Meanwhile, Kakao began rolling out webtoons based on DC Comics' popular series such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League in April. The two companies began their collaboration in 2019 after DC Comics reached out to Kakao Entertainment to create webtoons based on its IP portfolio.

Webtoons have become a global trend. Its digital formatting allows users to read webtoons by scrolling down vertically, customized to digital devices such as smartphones and laptops.

WEBTOON RIVALRY INTENSIFIES

The intense rivalry between Naver and Kakao shows no signs of cooling as they vie to become the industry frontrunner. The two platforms have taken their webtoon battle abroad -- extending into the US, Japan and Southeast Asia.

Also, the two companies have been ramping up M&A activities this year to beef up their IP portfolios as they wrestle for the top spot in the storytelling market.

Naver has acquired the world’s biggest web novel platform Wattpad for almost $600 million, while Kakao has purchased US-based mobile fiction startup Radish Fiction Inc. and the third-largest US digital comics platform Tapas Media Inc. 

Write to Min-ki Koo at kook@hankyung.com

Danbee Lee edited this article.

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