Ports in the Storm: Building or Finding a Home for Your Webcomic

An interview with HikaTamika, written by James L. Sarandis

Hello, folks. We’re gathered here today with the wonderful artist HikaTamika, because Webtoon (by Naver), one of the largest and most lucrative webcomic sites, has decided to shit where they eat and introduce AI art tools to their site. Hika, it’s my understanding that you were [the] one who happened to unearth this fact. Could you tell us a bit about it?

H: I’m working on a zine about how lately, the Internet has become a lot like feudalism. Social media sites have begun selling our data for use in AI, and certain webcomic hosting platforms have turned into intellectual property licensing farms. When looking for graphics to include in the Webtoon section of my zine, I found Webtoon’s brand assets page, where I then found logos for Webtoon’s AI branch, and the projects they’re developing within it. Most of which the webcomic community hadn’t yet heard of.

I know this has been very disheartening for you. If I may quote you from Bluesky

I just feel bad because where are people meant to GO[?] 😭

ComicControl is only being updated on a fork, Grawlix is only being updated on a fork, RareBit is an HTML template, not a CMS…

The only webcomic CMS I know of [right now] still being maintained by its creator is Toocheke.

I feel like I’ve scared people into jumping off a ship and into the ocean ‘cause no one has cared to make little wooden boats for ages (because the ship market dwarfed them).

While it is disheartening that they made that decision, we webcomic folk still have options, so let’s talk about it.

Firstly, what is a CMS? My first thought is “Comic Making Site;” is that inaccurate?

H: Content Management System! Like WordPress. The user gives it posts and pages, and it spits out a nice looking website and RSS feed for you.

Earlier you mentioned “updated on a fork”. Is that similar to Linux in which it’s open source but not updated by the original creator, making updates more scattershot?

H: Exactly! Yes. Like Linux. ComicControl and Grawlix were the main two CMSs for webcomics, but right now, only dedicated users update them. WordPress comic plugins (excluding Toocheke) have been similarly abandoned.

Would sites like Comic Fury and The Duck (formerly Drunk Duck) be considered CMSes, or do they lack a level of customization the others provide? Or is it some lack-of-ownership situation similar to Webtoon and Tapas?

H: They’re more like hosts/platforms in the same way Tapas and Webtoon are (except they care about us more, haha!). Slightly more on the “host” side than Tapas/WT.

The term CMS is moreso used for stuff people deploy on web server space that they’re renting.

Ah, so if you are putting out money for a dedicated good looking website a CMS makes sense?

H: Yeah if you’re paying for web hosting, a CMS is the way to go. If you’re just paying for a domain/URL, I think there might be ways to hook it up to your ComicFury/Drunk Duck?

Thank you so much for the information HikaTamika! Where can we find you, and are there any projects you’d like to share with us?

H: I’m chattiest on my Bluesky, but I do my best to crosspost all over the web (https://hikatamika.com/links/). I feel like my original character comic collection, Astra*Mix Minis is relevant to mention, though it has a loose update schedule. My website is a great place to keep up with what I’m making!

James L. Sarandis is the co-creator of the comic Eye Hand Voice, and a writer of comics and prose. They are embracing their art to become the cartoonist they want to be.