New Cyber Force Chapters Debut On LINE Webtoon


Cyber Force is back, and thanks to LINE Webtoon, it’s free to readers in weekly installments beginning today.

The Korean digital comics platform has been making strong inroads into the U.S. market, announcing partnerships with the likes of Stan Lee and Buzzfeed Comics in recent weeks. But perhaps its most interesting initiative is the one it’s hatched with Top Cow Productions to deliver Cyber Force to readers in a whole new way.

Marc Silvestri’s original Image property has already been a comics trailblazer several times in the past, like when it celebrated its 20th anniversary with a new volume funded through Kickstarter. Partnering with LINE Webtoon continues that tradition by taking a big leap to digital with new stories written by Top Cow president Matt Hawkins.

According to Hawkins, the idea was first hatched through conversations with LINE Webtoon Director of Content Tom Akel and progressed naturally from there.

“Marc Silvestri and Tom Akel have known each other for a long time,” Hawkins said to Bam Smack Pow in a recent phone interview. “He had approached us about doing something online, because they were trying to do more American stuff, and he mentioned Cyber Force. At the time, we had just wrapped up the art that we launched on Kickstarter, so initially, it was like, eh, why don’t we do something else? But the more we thought about it, the more it kind of made sense.”

Part of that was due to the ongoing Aphrodite IX book that tells stories set in the future of Cyber Force. Hawkins had the seed of an idea for a tale to fill in some of the gaps between the two series, and with the help of a few other creators, came up with a plan to tell it on the LINE Webtoon platform.

The result will appear in the equivalent of five pages of a regular comic book per week, something that Hawkins says he hopes will be “on par with a mainstream paid comic book experience.” Though he acknowledged some adjustment to the format for both his writing style and the artists on the project, he also said there’s another big advantage to this particular digital portal: it costs readers nothing.

“They had this great platform, with all these eyeballs looking at it, and there seems to be a real reluctance from people who aren’t already hardcore comic readers to buy new comics,” Hawkins said. “Someone’s more likely to try something that’s free, and if someone’s unfamiliar with something, they’re unlikely to pay for it. We already have sort of a Cyber Force audience. We did the Kickstarter and raised $130,000, so we knew we had that audience, but we’ve always been curious about trying to reach out to bigger audiences to see how we can grab more readers and get more appeal. So that was kind of the main interest from our end, and the LINE people just made it so easy for us to do it.”

To test the waters, Top Cow offered some previously published Cyber Force comics that were posted on the service this summer. Once the reaction to that was solid — even though it was material that wasn’t optimized for app or online reading — it made sense to pursue the mutual interest in having LINE Webtoon host new content as well. It’s also a true partnership in the sense that both companies are sharing the costs.

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“These guys made it easy for us, and the fact that they covered some of the cost for it was certainly an added benefit, but I think even if we had to pay for it ourselves, we probably would have done it, given now that I understand it and kind of see what it is and see the level of quality,” Hawkins said. “I really like these guys. They’re doing really good work, and I have the app on my phone, and there’s three different stories that I’m looking at now, and it’s kind of fun. I’m enjoying it.”

The other benefit is that LINE Webtoon offers such a diverse array of comic styles that there really is something for all tastes. If some new readers latch onto Cyber Force and want to seek out Aphrodite IX in their local comic book stores, so much the better.

If it proves successful, Hawkins says he can see Top Cow offering more older material as well as developing more new stories with LINE Webtoon in mind. For now, the excitement about the weekly installments is real on both sides.

“These guys are straightforward, they’re all about comics, and I can just tell by the variety of comics that they have on there that they’re trying to appeal to everyone.”

The first chapter of Cyber Force is available now via LINE Webtoon. The app is a free download from the iOS App Store or Google Play for Android.