In case you haven’t noticed, the webtoon industry has been going through a meteoric rise in popularity over the past years. Just look at the K-drama sphere, and you’ll see that so many series have been adapted from webtoons. But, as big of a factor as those K-dramas are in getting eyes on webtoons, what makes webtoons so beloved today is the vast amount of creative, artistic, and narrative experiences there are to discover from reading them. While the most well-known US webtoon platform is Naver Webtoon, there are also other massive platforms out there that offer plenty of great webcomics to dive into. So, take a seat as I go over the top five major webtoon platforms and their most popular series.
“Lore Olympus” is a modern retelling of the Greek mythology surrounding the relationship of Hades and Persephone. The story begins when a young Persephone moves to Olympus and unknowingly falls in love with the God of the Underworld. A spiral of events ensues, intertwining the other gods and myths with the two lovers. How will it ultimately end for Hades and Persephone? The webtoon explores wholesome themes of love and friendship, as well as darker themes such as trauma and rape. All these blend modern issues with the stories from Greek mythology.
Since its launch on WEBTOON in 2018, “Lore Olympus” has amassed a worldwide fan base with over 6.4 million subscribers and boasts 1.3 billion views. The webcomic has since become synonymous with Naver’s Webtoon platform. To this day, Rachel Smythe’s glorious rendition of classical mythology continuously sweeps prestigious comic awards for its well-crafted narrative and striking art. Lore Olympus has also achieved a print deal with Penguin Random House, merchandise deals with several companies, and an animated series in development.
“The Beginning After the End” follows the tale of Arthur, an outstanding king who led armies and held a successful reign. That was until the day he met his unexpected death. But despite being ready for the afterlife, he opened his eyes to find himself not in heaven but in a small house he didn’t recognize. That was when he realized he was reborn into a different world filled with magic and monsters. With a second shot at another life, Arthur uses the opportunity to become the world’s greatest warrior. But such a goal doesn’t come easy as he faces challenges that threaten what he holds dear in his new life.
“The Beginning After the End” is one of Tapas’ Original webcomics. It has over 30 million views and is arguably the platform’s most popular and heavily marketed work. With its charming anime art style and action-packed plot, many readers consider it one of the easiest webtoons to enjoy. First published in 2018 and based on the hit web novel of the same name, the webtoon has since been translated into many other languages for overseas audiences to enjoy. It even secured a major publishing deal in 2022 with Yen Press, broadening its reach even more. While there is some controversy surrounding the artist’s unfortunate departure from the series, “The Beginning After the End” may continue to reign supreme on Tapas if the platform can get all their ducks in order before the webtoon’s sixth season.
A story on building love and self-esteem, “Under the Oak Tree” follows Maximillian and Riftan, a newlywed couple who come from two different backgrounds. Maximilian is the mistreated daughter of a duke, while RIftan is a lowly knight turned hero. Riftan, although often hard to read, attempts to make their relationship work. But Maximillian is too insecure to realize the authenticity of her husband’s actions. Because their union stems from force and fear, can it last if true love and care start to form?
Manta first launched in November 2020 as a strong and new competitor in the US webtoon market. Much of the platform’s rise to fame is due to “Under the Oak Tree.” With its steamy love story with characters readers adored, the hit series took the internet by storm during its English debut and continues to be a fan favorite. Over the past two years, “Under the Oak Tree” has been part of multiple collaborations, including its OST sung by popular K-pop idol Cha Eun Woo, which charted at #15 on iTunes worldwide. The webtoon is also set for future English print releases as Penguin Random House recently gained publishing rights to both the web novel and comic.
Set in historical Korea, “Painter of the Night” follows Baek Na-kyum, a talented but poor painter, and Yoon Seungho, a wanton noble. Na-kyum had forgone painting to live the life of a drunkard until Seungho took an interest in the painter, forcing him to create erotic paintings for his pleasure.
In recent years, Lezhin has become the webtoon platform best known for its BL content. It should come as no surprise then that “Painter of the Night” is among their most popular serialized series. Published in 2019, this erotic BL webtoon by Byeonduck caused a wild stir on the internet as fans flocked to Lezhin to read the steamy story. Fans simply fell in love with the idea of a Joseon Era dom/sub relationship. In fact, the webtoon got so popular that it even crashed Lezhin’s server at one point. The webtoon maintained its wild success ever since and just recently ended last month. While it currently only has Korean, Taiwanese, and Japanese print editions, with its proven record of generating profit, it is only a matter of time before the release of an English version.
Ludis, born the daughter of the Emperor and a commoner mother, was mistreated all her life for the impure blood that ran in her veins and the limp in her leg. All she ever yearned for was familial love. But all her efforts lead to nothing, as she is forced into being a sacrifice for a ritual to summon an ancient god. As she fell before a creature, the end of her life seemed near until the appearance of a mysterious man who changed her life altogether.
“Sacrificed,” a romance fantasy webtoon, is unsurprisingly the most popular series on Pocket Comics, with up to 14.7 million views. It comes with a classic rofan setup that all romance readers will enjoy. But the webtoon’s fast-paced plot sets it apart from other rofans, as those are typically slow-burn stories with +100 episodes. With multiple translations available for a global audience, the English version is offered exclusively on Pocket Comics.
Ten years ago, portals leading to dungeons filled with monsters started appearing all over South Korea. This phenomenon also brought about Hunters, humans who awakened with superpowers. Sung Jin-Woo was the weakest of all the Hunters but couldn’t quit his job of dungeon raids due to his mother’s costly hospital bills. One day, Jin-Woo and his party encounter a high-level dungeon. As the only one left and on the verge of death, a mysterious game pop-up appears before him and chooses him as a “player.”
Based on the hit web novel of the same name, “Solo Leveling” was first published in 2018 but got its official English release in 2020. It quickly accumulated millions of fans and is one of the most well-known webtoons today. With lots of action and pretty art, “Solo Leveling” was a classic power fantasy webtoon readers were instantly drawn to. Its explosive popularity has since led to greater projects. In 2021, Yen Press gained licensing rights and has published 7 volumes so far. Then, since debuting on January 6, 2024, the “Solo Leveling” anime adaptation has been a massive release on Crunchyroll. To top it off, Netmarble, a South Korean video game developer, is set to release an RPG based on the webtoon by Spring 2024.