From Comic to Screen: Adapting Webcomics

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Filmmakers are constantly seeking the next great idea that will land them a smash hit with audiences. With the inundation of mega-franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the unending deluge of Star Wars content, and the multitudes of remakes and reimaginings, it’s near impossible to find a truly fresh and original idea. Sometimes filmmakers think they’ve hit a gold mine with adaptations – many a video game and novel has been subjected to the Hollywood machine with varying degrees of success. But, more recently, these creatives and executives have been discovering the creative and artistically diverse media of webcomics. Webcomic artists have been quietly releasing hundreds of pages of their own original stories, most of which are free to read online, for people to enjoy. More recently, several of these webcomics have been successfully brought to the screen, blowing past all expectations and generating massive traffic for both the live action adaptations and their original webcomic pages. 

First, is Netflix’s new series Sweet Home, based on the webcomic of the same name by South Korean writer/artist team Kim Carnby and Hwang Young-chan. Originally published on Webtoon in 2017, it had a successful 140 chapter run that garnered enough attention it was optioned for a live-action adaptation. The show debuted on Netflix in December 2020 to unbelievable success – within three days it reached 3rd in the Top 10 list in US Netflix. Met with mostly positive critical responses, Sweet Home centers on a mysterious “illness” in South Korea that sweeps across the nation and beyond.; this unexplained illness causes humans to transform into hideous and deadly monsters that present a violent threat for the remaining human population. The story follows Cha Hyun-soo, a suicidal teenager who moved into a run-down apartment complex shortly after losing his family in a car accident. When the monster outbreak starts, he discovers with horror that he, too, is infected and will inevitably become one – but somehow manages to hold off succumbing, instead vowing to use his newfound abilities to protect the humans he lives withWhile the show itself feels like it loses most of its momentum in the later episodes, the personalities of the survivors keep the viewers invested in the story so that the cliffhanger at the end of the show, teasing a potential second season, will tempt audiences to return 

Kingdom is another South Korean series released by Netflix, with season one debuting in 2019. Described as a mix of zombie thriller and historical period drama, Kingdom is also based on the webcomic series Kingdom of the Gods by Kim Eun-hee and Yang Kyung-il. The show was met with rave reviews, with critics praising the acting, story, and intrigue that added much-needed depth to the source material. The show focuses on Yi Chang, Crown Prince of Joseon and heir to the throne until he is usurped by the power hungry Haewon Jo clan. In his journey to discover the truth of his father’s mysterious illness, he encounters victims of a dangerous and seemingly unstoppable plague that turns its victims into bloodthirsty undead. What really ramps up the tension is the show’s setting  the waves of undead sprinting out of the pitch-black night towards a line of soldiers wielding swords and muskets is one visual I will not soon be forgetting. 

For fans of horror, both Sweet Home and Kingdom will not disappoint. Both shows are available for streaming on Netflix, and are bound to provide hours of entertainment and high-stakes action.