On September 15, 2021, I confessed how I was having trouble getting into Webtoon, the Korean digital comics platform (see "Where The Eyeballs Are") until I found one webtoon that appealed to me; Batman: Wayne Family Adventures. With a story by CRC Payne, and storyboards by Maria Li, it features Bruce Wayne as the well-meaning but fairly ineffectual father to a family of (as Webtoon put it) “adopted, fostered, and biological superhero children.” Since then I’ve read a number of webtoons, but a year later, BWFA remains my favorite.
Webtoon lists BWFA as a “Slice of Life” comic, and while early on the emphasis was primarily on sitcom-style shenanigans, over the months it’s evolved into more of a light family drama.Stories can still revolve around silly competitions between Bruce’s “children” (Dick Grayson. Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and Duke Thomas). But more often than not., these sort-of siblings are always there for each other when one of them needs advice and emotional support when dealing with ordinary human problems.
But the really remarkable thing about Batman: Wayne Family Adventures is how it deals with Batman’s biological son, Damien Wayne. In the main DCU, he’s 14 and perpetually obnoxious, in BWFA he’s 9, and in spite of himself, still very much a sweet kid. In stories involving Damien, we’ve seen him struggle with making friends at school and trying to reconnect with his absent mother Talia Al Ghul.
The other interesting thing about this version of Damien is that he’s several shades darker than he is in the DCU, which makes sense given that according to her co-creator Denny O’Neil, Talia was “of mixed Chinese and Arab ancestry." Back then I had hoped this change would soon be reflected in at least one of the many (many) Batman titles, but so far it hasn’t happened. But given DC’s interest in diversity and inclusion, it would definitely be a good idea if they did.
Batman: Wayne Family Adventures has been nominated for Best Webcomic in the 2022 Eisner Awards.Archie Comics Rolls Out First Webtoon Series”). I’ve been enjoying BEE as well. It's an engaging, attractive slice-of-life soap opera, though I’m afraid it hasn't really lived up to its stated premise.
That being Ethel Muggs (a.k.a. “Big Ethel”) “used to be the laughingstock of Riverdale. Now she’s a successful New York journalist with a DGAF attitude” (DGAF being a euphemistic initialism for “don’t give an explicit vulgarity”), who’s returned to Riverdale “to take down Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and all the other Riverdale natives who made her life hell all those years ago.”
The only trouble with that is it seems to be a bit on the hyperbolic side. As a plus-sized person myself, I’m well aware of just how hellish others can make High School for you, and believe me I’m nearly 64 and I still harbor a surprising number of grudges that go back that far. But I’m not altogether clear as to what the Riverdale Gang actually did to her that was so horrible that warrants that kind of reaction-- other than hanging the epithet “Big” on her, that is.
There are flashbacks to a couple of unpleasant incidents, but her resentment towards Archie & Co. seems to have mostly come from having been excluded from the “cool kids” table. And the fact Jughead didn’t fancy her, ignoring the fact Jughead doesn’t fancy anyone.
If you haven’t been following Big Ethel Energy since the beginning, it'll be getting a paperback collection this August (see “Archie New: ‘Big Ethel Energy’ Webtoon Gets Print Edition”).
For more ICv2 Webtoon coverage, check out ICv2 Webtoon Week 2022.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.