Tom Akel, the head of content at Line Webtoon, the mobile comics platform, has been removed from his position, I’m told.
It’s the latest shake-up in the still growing mobile comic field that started building in the US a few years ago.
Akel joined Webtoon with their push into the US market and global launch of their mobile app in 2014. He was formerly the head of MTV Geek, their entry into the nerd blog space, which shut down in 2013.
Under Akel, Webtoon presented a mix of US comics stars including Stan Lee, Marc Silvestri and Warren Ellis, and home grown viral comics stars such as Michi and UnOrdinary by uru-chan. The Red Hook, by Dean Haspiel and most recently Outrage by Fabian Nicieza and Reilly Brown were other popular more traditional strips. .
Barely a month ago Akel was talking digital comics at NYCC on a star-studded panel (above) called “Welcome to the Digital Age of Comics” that also included Akel (third from right above) as well as (L-r) Ben Wolstenhome of Madefire, creators Haspiel and Michi, Akel, myself and Michael Son of Tapas.
New York Comic Con 2018
Welcome to the Digital Age of Comics.
— WEBTOON (@webtoon) October 6, 2018
In Korea, Webtoon – which is owned by Naver, essentially the Google of Korea – is a ubiquitous entertainment presence, with some comics getting 5 million views a week on mobile. While mobile comics are well established in Asia they still haven’t had the kind of smash hit penetration in the US, which remains a much coveted market.
I’ve been sensing some changes in the mobile comics space of late, especially as phablets and larger iPhones make reading comics naive to the platform a more pleasurable experience. While it’s not clear what this means for Line Webtoon overall, I’d make an educated guess that they will continue to try to gain a foothold in the US market.
As for Akel, he’s a talented executive who will show up somewhere else very soon. Under his watch Webtoon had a huge marketing presence and, it must be said, threw some of the best parties. It definitely helped get their name out there as a major player.