Katie Kubert, DC’s Group Editor of Global Publishing Innovation, was one of the moving forces behind DC’s webtoon program, which launched in 2021 (see “DC Universe Characters are Coming to Webtoon”). Currently DC has four series running on the Webtoon platform, and they recently announced print editions for three of them, Batman: Wayne Family Adventures, Vixen: NYC, and Zatanna & the Ripper (see “DC Webtoons Coming to Print”). We talked to Kubert about the thinking behind expanding into webtoons and how the print editions will encourage readers to explore the DC backlist.

Why did this seem like a good idea, to make new DC Comics and put them online for free?
Our goal as a group is to find new readers, mainly people who are familiar with our material, they know  who Batman is, they know who Superman is, maybe they never read a comic book before, but they've seen a movie, they've watched a TV show, they've played a video game. Our group as a whole are focused on getting those new readers to actually pick up a comic book and read our content. So when we're thinking of areas to develop, Webtoon is such a natural partnership for us. They have this amazing, amazing audience and slate of content, and it's so easy for people just to pick up their phone and scroll through and start reading.

So we really wanted to create something that would appeal to fans who have never been into a comic book store before or have never picked up one of our digital comics. We worked extremely closely with Webtoon; they had some ideas, and we both kind of worked together and were like, okay, these, these will appeal to our audience.

Then by putting them into print, we're hoping to get the additional readers either from local comic stores or people who never read it on their phone, or they want to own the whole thing. We want to have it in print so that people can have that print reading experience, too.

Do you have any sense of the demographics of these readers? Are you pitching this at any particular group?
The Webtoon audience is a little bit different from the mainline DCU audience. It's a little bit younger, skews a little more female. And we create content based on that audience, because we want to make stuff for the fans that are already there, and we're hoping to bring new ones in. So there are a lot of female protagonists, a lot of romance elements, and the art style is a little simpler. We don't want to make something for an audience that isn't there. We want to make something that appeals to readers that are there and hopefully pull in new ones.

Are you going light on continuity in these stories?
Not as light as our DC books for young readers line. These are comics that could live within the DCU. They're more evergreen stories.

Are they continuing stories, or are they complete in a single episode?
It's different for each series. Batman: Wayne Family Adventures is episodic, meaning, they're either one-and-done episodes or they're two-parters. Vixen: NYC and Zatanna & the Ripper are continuing stories, so they're built more like a traditional comic where there are arcs and B plots, and C plots and overarching villains. Batman: Wayne Family Adventures is just little snippets, little fun stories, but some of them are also very meaningful, and they touch on issues that people can relate to, like acceptance or confidence or how you balance dating and being a superhero in a very short timespan.

It sounds like the goals of the webtoon program are similar to those of your original middle-grade and YA graphic novels, in that they are bringing the characters to new readers. How are the webtoons different?
It is a different audience. It's a bit older, probably around the early 20s. It's not mature content, but they do deal with some more adult themes or things that an older audience might connect with, in ways that a middle grade or YA audience will not. Like Zatanna, she turns 21 in the book, and she's very excited, she's stressed, and she has her first drink, and she hates it. It's a bit more emotional from the content side than the books for young readers.

And these are more evergreen. It's not like there's a different version of Bruce Wayne or Zatanna or Constantine, so if you're reading the webtoon, it’s supposed to be a pretty seamless transition to our main line.

Something that we tried in the print editions that I think is going to really help with that, and it's something I'm hoping that it will not only get new readers but get them to start picking up comics in our main line, is a section that’s like, “I want more.” For Wayne Family Adventures, we're like, “I want more Batman, Bruce Wayne,” and then there are a few comics from our backlist. And then we summarize them: I want criminal conspiracies, I want to read something with daddy issues, I want to read something with romance. It says exactly what book to get. We're hoping it makes it really, really easy for readers to just say “Okay, I read all this, I'm waiting for the next one to come out. But here's some other comics I can pick up that sound like something I'd be interested in.”

So you’re pointing people towards trades?

What will the format be of the print books?
We did a lot of research to see kind of what was already out there, what readers in this space come to expect from a print edition. It's not exactly like a manga collection. It's not exactly a YA collection. We looked at format, we looked at actual book size and page size and page length, and what we landed on was a 6” x 9” book. They're all about 208 pages. That way you feel like you have something pretty hefty, but it's also really easy to just pick up and go.

What's the price point going to be?

And are they full color?

That’s a pretty good deal.
Yeah, it's pretty awesome. And we'll have those “I want more” sections in the back, and we also have some character designs, things from the webtoon creators themselves that people haven't seen yet online. Because people are always interested in how to make their own. So a lot of it is, here's some processes, here's how this is actually created, because it's a little bit different than how we make our traditional comics.

Did you have these optimized for print already?
Absolutely. It was something our pre-press department worked really hard on. We want to make sure that the value is there for people who read it on the phone for free, but we wanted to make this content proposition something that people really felt like they wanted to buy. So the pre-press department, myself, my associate editor, we all worked extremely hard to make sure that the story flow was there, make sure the panels were there, make sure nothing is missing from the digital version. So it really feels like something special when you when you have it.

What's the age rating going to be on these?
I think it's the same as our general line, 13 plus.

Is your focus is going to be on bookstores or the direct market?
That is a good question. I want to say both,

I know that a lot of hardcore Batman fans or hardcore any DC fans are always looking for a way to get their friends into reading comics, so it's something that people can pick up and be like, “Hey, listen, I know you've ever read a comic before but read this and let me know what you think.” It's a really good entry point for someone that wants a super entry-level way to read our content.

What can you tell me about the creators?
The creators for the [webtoons] that we're producing right now have not really worked in the mainline continuity, because we wanted to get people who were masters of that [webtoon] space, who really knew what they were doing. Webtoon should get all the credit for that, and the creators themselves. While they have not worked on mainline comics, they know how to tell a comic book story. Getting the people who were masters in that space to tell these stories was extremely important to us.

How much control does DC have over the process? Do you just tell them to do a Batman family adventure story and back off?
It was an extremely collaborative process with these comics specifically. Webtoon came up with the pitches, sent them to us, we read them and gave their notes back, and it's been that way ever since. Sometimes they would they would draw a character in a different version, and I'm like, “No, it should be more of an evergreen version, so people can connect when they see this character here.” They want to make sure that that character looks the same wherever they happen to pick up a comic.

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