Before joining the mobile apps, Korean webtoon has developed a specific style and system optimized for web viewing. The stylistic form of its first generation features vertical layout, extended panels, and creative use of gutter space. Particularly, the vertical layout based on mouse-scrolling has become a popular format of Korean webtoon, in response to the industrial demands including online platforms, advertising inducement, free distribution, fan production, etc. Although the vertical layout induces different modes to express the time duration, movement, and feeling of characters, it is not conducive to zigzag reading in double-paged paper comics.
However, the advent of pay-platforms and popularity of mobile apps have rapidly changed the Korean webtoon production. Since a new platform Lezhin began to share the profits with the creators in 2013, the ways of getting profits has been diversified. The mode of mobile applications has transformed not only the profit structures of webtoon but also its stylistic forms. Apptoon’s finger-touching mode replaces the mouse-clicking mode of the first generation. The size of webtoon frames is adjusted to the screen of the apps: smaller boxes; diminished texts; and closer to the eyes. Remarkably, the new mode seems to keep conducting experiments to extend the audio, visual, and tactile expressions within the limited boundaries that do not violate the autonomous reading of viewers, despite the adoptation of sounds, movements, or tactile senses. This is because the way of displaying in frames has little difference from that of the comic book. Rather, the difference lies in between frames and frames. Now, creators should decide what kind of transition effects to choose or to eliminate so that audiences can perceive the screen as likely as possible. Thus, zooming in and out, moving up and down, and panning to the left and right seem to have become one of the directing grammars of apptoon.
I here looked at the changes in Korean webtoon’s displaying styles. It is probable that new challenge will appear depending on the technological and industrial conditions. But these challenges have to be produced within the limits in which the unique experience of comics can occur. If we overcome these limits, we might face a wholly new displaying style.