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[Up & Coming] Webtoon artist Kim tells stories of hardships with humor

‘Artists need to not only tell stories, but also draw multiplatform strategies’

Comic artist Kim Mi-kyung is a realist. She also has a bit of a dark side. People had often told her that she was too honest to create funny, cute characters and cartoons.

But Kim said her character traits have proven to be useful in creating comics such as “How I Got Married” and “Fantastic Cosmetic.” She has been writing comics under a pseudonym Kim Fanta, named after a soft drink she used to enjoy drinking when she was young.

“Comics that I have created over the years were mostly based on my experience of going through hardships in life,” said Kim, 35, in an interview. “I used my own personal characteristic as a strength to recreate stories in a funny way.”

“How I Got Married” is about a couple facing conflict and misunderstanding while preparing for marriage, which often involves blending families from two very different backgrounds.

A comic self-portrait of Kim Fanta.
A comic self-portrait of Kim Fanta.

She shares her own knowledge and techniques about cosmetics through “Fantastic Cosmetic” and its sequel “Fantastic Cosmetic for Men,” which show readers how to use cosmetic products easily. “My Spontaneous European Trip for 45 Days” is based on her unplanned trip to Europe.

“I wanted to write realistic yet humorous comics basically to introduce readers that there are more comfortable ways to do things in life,” she said.

It was never easy for Kim to become a comic artist, often finding herself in the wrong place in a wrong time.

She started writing comics for book publishing houses in 2006 when the book industry was beginning to face a decline, and webtoon platforms were rapidly rising.

It took her eight years to debut her first PC webtoon, “How I Got Married” on a Daum Kakao platform in 2014. Her previous works, including “Fantastic Cosmetic” were published as comic books.

“I strongly believed in writing comics for books,” Kim said.

“But I realized that technology was changing the landscape, and I was wandering in the middle of books and webtoons trying to find a way to debut on the Web,” Kim said.

“How I Got Married” was a hit, with each episode recording 100,000 views on average. If this webtoon had not worked, she said she was going to give up comic drawing and go back to teaching English at private institutions.
A female webtoon character based on Kim’s life in “How I Got Married.” (Kim Fanta)
A female webtoon character based on Kim’s life in “How I Got Married.” (Kim Fanta)

With her successful webtoon debut, she thought she could finally settle down as an artist.

But then soon came the mobile era.

She released “This is What She Thinks” – sort of like “Sex and the City” meets Korean film “Girls’ Night Out” – on Lezhin Entertainment’s mobile webtoon platform.

“As a comic artist, I used to think that you only need to create good stories. Not anymore,” said Kim.

“Now, you have to not only forecast and read trends and audiences, but also strategize on which platforms or markets you want to tell stories.”

This is why she respects veteran comic artist Huh Young-man because he introduced a series of hits on multiple platforms such as magazines, books, TVs, movies and the Internet throughout his career. Huh is known for his blockbuster comics such as “Beat,” “Tazza: The High Rollers,” “Superboard” and “Mr. Go.”

“We need to constantly study like Huh to make it in this business,” Kim said.

By Park Hyong-ki (hkp@heraldcorp.com)

Up & Coming is a series of interviews with emerging artists in various fields of arts and entertainment. ― Ed.

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