The digital comics platform LINE Webtoon is known for their innovative approach to publishing comics. Webtoon’s mobile-first approach allows readers to consume comics in a way that feels native to the digital devices they use every day, aka vertical scrolling. The most exciting part of Webtoon’s digital comics creation platform is perhaps not the platform itself but rather who is utilizing it. In 2016, it was reported that 42% of Webtoon’s creators were female with another 48% of their comics containing female leads. Comedy, slice of life and romance series do particularly well. That’s certainly the case for the webcomic creator and illustrator Leeanne “Mongie” Krecic. Krecic began her romance series, Let’s Play, in 2017. Her comic now reaches more than 1.3 million subscribers. I wanted to know more about the person behind the series and their path to finding success on Webtoon.
For those of you unfamiliar with the series Let’s Play, here’s a quick synopsis:
“Sam wants to be a game developer, but before her career can get started, a popular gaming personality posts a video of himself playing her first game and gives it a bad review. To make matters worse, she soon finds out he’s her new neighbor! A story about gaming, memes, and social anxiety. Come for the plot, stay for the doggo.”
Krecic is one of Webtoon’s breakout success stories from their Discover vertical. Discover allows creators the ability to publish their work to Webtoon’s platform, taking advantage of their massive global reach and readership. You may recall back in June; we covered LINE Webtoon’s latest Discover Creator Contest, which seeks to develop and partner with more creators through prize incentives. I decided to begin our interview by asking Krecic to tell me a bit about herself and how she ended up creating webcomics.
KRECIC: “I live in the Midwest, and I have a degree in computer science. The last art class I took I was 12. I was a programmer for an internet-based company for 11 years; I was the head of IT there. I’ve been reading comics, like X-Men, since I was a child. Then I got into manga in the mid-90s and have been reading manga ever since. Then in the early aughts, I started reading webcomics. I think it was four years ago; I got turned onto Webtoon by an artist called Stanley Lau, who’s known as Artgerm, online.”
ANDREA: “I would love to know how your evolution on Webtoon happened, what was it like when you first started and what is it like now?”
KRECIC: “I first started posting on Discover in April of last year I think it was. I updated the comic every two weeks because at that time I was still learning, I was still trying to get comfortable with drawing the characters and was trying to transition into a new career as a comic creator, so every two weeks really worked for me. I would update every Friday on Discover, and I was really my own advocate. I’d post on Twitter, on Tumblr, all that kind of stuff, trying to advertise my comics. Then on Discover, I think it was around August of last year, I was contacted by my editor, David, by Webtoon. He asked if I was interested in becoming a featured comic.”
ANDREA: “Yeah, I was wondering about the weekly production because that seems like so much work to do weekly release. What does a normal week look like?”
KRECIC: “I have a software that runs on my computer since I do everything digitally. The software is called RescueTime, and what it does is it tracks the activity of my mouse. As long as my mouse is active, it tracks the software I’m using at that time, and then it labels it based off of production. So I can check the software now if I wanted, and I know I got an email update from last week; I worked 62 hours last week. And that is active work, that’s not going to the water cooler, that’s not a lunch period, that is me sitting at my desk actively working and drawing my comics. Before I got a colorist I would work about 60 hours week, so now I’m about 50.”
ANDREA: “You said you initially grew your audience natively through Twitter and Tumblr. Do you find variance in fan responses based off of what social media website you post stuff to?”
KRECIC: “Well, it’s definitely been very different between each social media outlet. For instance, Tumblr, for whatever reason, I’ve always had the worst luck with Tumblr. Maybe I don’t fully understand how to tag things. I haven’t been on Tumblr for ages. I actually have all of my social media linked together with other applications to post from one to other so I don’t have to do go to every single one if I don’t want to. My Instagram, I think it has maybe 60,000 followers now. But Instagram is very visual, so if I’m posting previews of an upcoming chapter that always gets a lot of activity. So when I was on Discover, if I was posting things like panel shots or just illustrations that I did, it would catch a lot of people’s eye, and they would help spread the word. Twitter didn’t really go well until after I became a featured comic. Facebook was absolutely a joke. Facebook is mainly just my family, and they never really did much with it. I mean, they love and support me, but it’s not their thing.”
“Reddit was actually interesting because if you post something that has a lot of interesting topics it gets people on Reddit talking, like controversy. So that can get a lot of eyes. And it can kind of be a, what do they say about publicity? There’s no such thing as bad press or something like that. I think the most activity I actually got was probably through Pinterest because if I shared things like character sheets and progress shots, that really seems to do well. Each has its own niche of what it wants to be. I actively post previews of each chapter to stir up interest, and I can tell based off what that content, which social media it’s going to be better on.”
ANDREA: “So, I probably should have asked this before, but where did the concept for Let’s Play come from?”
KRECIC: “I watch a lot of YouTubers, and a few years ago I was watching a let’s player and they were playing a fan made game. The game itself was made, pretty clearly, by an amateur or somebody new to programming. The let’s player was getting very frustrated with the game, and that person may have been having a bad day, we don’t know what was going on in their life… They basically just had a huge rant and went off on the game. I couldn’t help but think whoever created this game is probably watching this video right now, and is probably crushed that their hero is just lambasting their game they put a lot of effort into. The question was, what would happen if that let’s player and that creator ever met in person? Would the creator ever say that they made that game, admit to it, would they confess? Would that let’s player apologize, or be like, “Hey, good luck on your next game”, or whatever? My mind just went down that kind of tunnel. I also knew I wanted my first story on Webtoon to be a romance. I really wanted to see more female gamers because there’s a lot of gaming webtoons and webcomics, but there’s not really any from a female standpoint. I’m a female gamer, hardcore, so I wanted to see that represented.”
ANDREA: “Can you tell me more about Sam’s social anxiety, about that component of the webcomic?”
KRECIC: “I would say, 20 years or so I dealt with horrible social anxiety that resulted in me getting physically sick. Mine wasn’t so much with just people in general, mine was with dating and stuff like that. It really kind of stemmed from a lot of undiagnosed health issues and dietary intolerances, and all sorts of things. What it came down to was after 20 years I finally thought, “I can’t do this anymore on my own, I need to get help”, and pursued a therapist, and she was able to help me.”
“I think a lot of people I’ve spoken to, and a lot of my friends are very similar to characters in Let’s Play. They all deal with social anxiety. I mean, I think everybody does to a degree. I wanted to have Sam have this issue with social anxiety, and expose it in this media form where people can go, “I totally relate to that.” Then they see potentially how she can overcome these barriers and these hurdles, and they can maybe give them the hope or courage or idea to try to help themselves, sort of thing. My biggest regret is that I dealt with it for so long and I didn’t do anything about it. I don’t want anybody else to have to go through that.”
ANDREA: “I’m sure this is a question you get all the time but what would you say if there are people starting out, what’s your advice for would-be creators out there?”
KRECIC: “You’ve got to be your biggest fan, you’ve got to believe in yourself, and you’ve got to believe in your story because if you don’t then why should anybody else? If I didn’t believe in Let’s Play as a good story, there’s no way I can sell it as a good story if I don’t think it is. You put hard work in if you believe it’s a good story and if you think it would do well then tell me. Tell me the good stuff about it, don’t put emphasis on the bad.”
“The other important thing is to learn the difference between criticism and critique. I think critique is somebody trying to help you get better, criticism is someone trying to hurt you. It’s like if someone says, “Wow, this character is ugly” that’s criticism. If someone says, “Hey, I think you might want to think about how you’re doing your perspectives, it might seem a little bit off. I think maybe you can look into that.” That’s critique. Some creators can have a hard time telling the difference between those.”
ANDREA: “Has the success of Let’s Play surprised you at all?”
KRECIC: “The response has been very positive and I feel extremely fortunate, but also very surprised. I thought there was a strong chance that people would like my comics, but I didn’t think it was going to be like this. I had hoped it would be successful, I didn’t realize it would be as successful as it has been in such a short period of time too. I’ve been very lucky. Very, very lucky.”
ANDREA: “So what’s next for you? Any big plans?”
KRECIC: Well, finish Let’s Play. It’s probably going to go for another maybe 200 chapters, so that’s probably a year and a half, maybe two. I’ve got four other stories in my head that are completely different, like in genre, in background, everything. I think I’d really like to do an action comic, and maybe do one that’s a suspense, or one that’s a fantasy. When I come down to it, I really end up always going back to comedy. I could do action with comedy, I could do fantasy with comedy. I just like making funny stuff.”
If you want to keep up with Let’s Play you can follow the webcomic on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. To watch episodes of Let’s Play, head over to the Webtoon series page. Let’s Play updates with a new episode every Tuesday.
Portions of this interview have been edited for clarity.
Andrea Ayres writes about comics and representation in pop-culture.