Callum Waterhouse ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Story and Art by Stephen McCranie
For those of you who do not know, webtoons are a vibrant part of the Korean manga industry, known in Korean as manhwa. The difference between a webtoon and a traditional webcomic is mostly in the presentation. While most webcomics are presented in the form of individually posted pages (which are later assembled into chapters) each chapter of a webtoon is posted as one continuously scrolling page. The process is similar to DeviantArt comics. For those who need a more concrete visual, most webtoons, if physically printed, would require a book that would be roughly fifteen inches in length and would require both pages to take up one continuous illustration. This special format, as well as the fact that webtoons exist separately from the traditional publishing industry, has allowed a number of creators to stretch the limits of artistic and narrative conventions.
Originally, webtoons were not very well known outside of Korea, but over the past decade, a number of websites focused solely on releasing multilingual translations of popular webtoons have allowed the medium to take a foothold here in the west. This has even lead to a number of western creators trying their hand at webtoons, with interesting results.
However, as popular as webtoons have become, it’s still surprising how many comic lovers here in the United States have never heard of them. To rectify this, we here at Emertainment Monthly have decided to do a series of webtoon reviews to help give aspiring readers a good idea of where they might break into the genre.
There are few better places to start than with Stephen McCranie’s Space Boy, one of the best pieces of sequential art to come out in this or any other format in the past decade. Like many great works of art, Space Boy wears many hats. It is at once a high school comedy, a story about overcoming loss and depression, a look into our future which is both frightening and exciting, and by far the most heartwarming series about cryogenic stasis ever written.
The story follows Amy, who has spent her entire childhood on a mining colony in deep space. During the first few pages, however, Amy’s father looses his job, and their family is forced to move back to Earth. Unfortunately, due to the great lengths of the travel involved, this results in Amy and her family spending the next thirty years in cryogenic suspension during the journey. When our heroine awakens on earth, she finds that technology has radically changed and that all of her old friends have grown up and had children of their own while she still has to attend high school.
Did we mention that this comic is mostly a comedy? Yes, despite the heavy subject matter and the weighty first few pages, Space Boy is actually bursting with fun. Much of this can be credited to the main character. Even when the comic moves into its darkest places, Amy brings each new experience of life on Earth with a sense of childlike wonder, and the image of a sixteen-year-old becoming giddy upon seeing her breath become visible at the start of winter makes for a great natural mood lightener.
As good as the writing is, however, it is the artwork that really turns Space Boy into a must-read classic. It is said that a great work of art is something that you could not imagine achieving the same effect with a different medium, and what makes Space Boy so brilliant is that could never have existed as anything other than a webtoon. McCranie takes advantage of the longer canvas to provide sprawling illustrations that evolve slowly as you scroll across it.
And these large backdrops are not just there to show off. McCranie uses these larger illustrations to further the emotions of a piece, like helping to visualize the joy of a girl seeing a sky full of birds for the first time, or illustrating the seemingly endless space between friends when a long silence passes. McCranie’s artwork lends a real sense of space to the story.
As stated above, Space Boy is a fun comic, and there are times when it will make you laugh. There are also times when it will make you feel, and perhaps even cry. That is why you deserve to read this comic. If you have ever felt like high school seemed to take place on another planet, if you have ever cried at an episode of Steven Universe, then Space Boy is an experience that you deserve to have.
What are you still doing here? Head to the website and start reading.