2023 found more and more of us scrolling down to read chapter after chapter of these addictive stories. Whether it’s called “webtoons” (with a small w), “TATESC,” “verti-scroll” or “scroll toons,” or originally published in S. Korea or created by digital comics creators from around the world, The Beat’s inaugural “best webtoons of 2023” list celebrates the best vertical-scrolling comics out there today, as featured on mobile apps and websites like Manta, Webtoon, Tapas, Tappytoon, Lezhin, and more.

See our picks for the most addictive webtoon reads that had our reviewers swiping down and throwing coins, ink, or credits to see what happens next. Also, check out our picks for some underrated gems that are worth a read.


Painter of the Night by Byeonduck on Lezhin
Painter of the Night by Byeonduck

Painter of the Night

Writer / Artist: Byeonduck
Publisher: Lezhin (completed)

When Painter of the Night began publishing, it seemed like it was all everyone on BL Twitter talked about. The story revolves around a nobleman named Yoon Seungho, who has earned himself a rather unsavory reputation as a man who will commit sodomy every night but always with a different man, and Baek Nakyum, a talented but poor artist who paints erotic paintings of men under a pseudonym. While the early seasons are difficult to read due to how big of a red flag Seungho is, one of most gratifying things about the webcomic is watching the two fall in love with each other, and how Seungho changes into a better man for Nakyum. There is nothing either of them won’t do for the other. – Hilary Leung


What It Means to Be You by Leebora, Ocean, Lanyong on Tapas Media

What It Means To Be You

Writer / Artist: Leebora, Ocean, Lanyong
Translator: David Lee
Typesetting: Luyan
Studio: Yeondam
Publisher: Tapas Media (continuing)

Probably the most emotionally resonant title I’ve read all year, I was drawn by the title itself and stayed for the story and characters. This comic has content warnings for things like suicide, suicidal ideation, domestic abuse, verbal abuse, and so forth. The story, at its core, is about a couple that bodyswaps after the wife attempted suicide, and how they learn to empathize and communicate with each other. They technically already loved each other, but their past traumas and starkly different upbringings led to mutual misunderstanding and a reluctance to air out their feelings. Winter and Violet, the two leads, are among the most compelling characters I’ve read in the last 10 years. They’re human. They both suffer, embitter, rage, despair, sob, and so very vividly get to experience and feel every single emotion in the spectrum. It allows them to understand just what the other goes through. 

The title perfectly encapsulates the perspective these two end up facing after all that they went through together. I’ve been dancing around the actual plot because I don’t want to spoil it, but any prospective readers just need to know that every sensitive topic that is approached by this story is done so in the most tactful way possible without sacrificing any drama or internal consistency in logic or hindsight. I need it in print NOW! –Marion Peña


Concubine Walkthrough by bongbong on Tapas Media
ⓒ bongbong / KAKAO WEBTOON Studio

Concubine Walkthrough

Writer: BongBong
Localization Manager: Jade Law
Typesetting Team Lead: Alex Culang
Publisher: Tapas Media (completed)

With its title artwork showing characters from a fantasized Chinese royal court drama,  Concubine Walkthrough might have you thinking it’s a historical romance. As you read the first chapters, you might think it’s just another “girl trapped in an otome game” story. But keep reading, because as this stylishly-drawn story unfolds, you realize it’s actually a deep and multi-layered science-fiction / romance about artificial intelligence, time loops and second chances. With elegant, distinctive artwork with masterful use of a limited color palette, Bongbong shows that following a familiar webtoon trope doesn’t mean you have to take readers down familiar plot paths – and if you’re especially clever, you can take them to places that they don’t expect.

When Yona was in high school, the online game “Concubine Walkthrough” was all the rage. Now that a new immersive VR version of the game has been released, a now 20-something Yona finds that she’s trapped in the game, playing the role of a manipulative, high-ranking concubine. The only way for her to escape the game is to win the affections of the Emperor. But what’s a girl to do when she’s the only one who knows that this is just a game, and everyone else she meets is just playing roles set out for them by the “Game Master?” But as Yona finds out, she’s not the only player from “the real world” in the game, and the game has higher stakes than she realizes. – Deb Aoki


Surviving Romance by Lee Yone on WEBTOON
Surviving Romance by Lee Yone

Surviving Romance

Writer/Artist: Lee Yone
Publisher: WEBTOON (completed)

If Surviving Romance was just about a teen romantic heroine escaping a zombie thriller, that would be enough. But it’s not just that. It’s also a critique of solipsistic reincarnation fantasies. A post-pandemic ode to collective action. A metafictional thriller in which the villain is compulsory heterosexuality. While Lee Yone struggles at times to juggle the comic’s huge cast, the finale solidifies Surviving Romance as their best sustained work. 
-Adam Wescott


Jinx by Mingwa on Lezhin
Jinx by Mingwa


Writer/Artist: Mingwa
Publisher: Lezhin (continuing)

This is a mature BL manhwa that focuses on Kim Dan, a physical therapist who’s lived an unfortunate life, owing money to loan sharks and paying for his grandmother’s hospitalization. His relief from these woes—if he can even call it that—comes from champion MMA fighter Joo Jaekyung, a rough and gruff man who has a strange jinx. In order for him to perform well in the ring, Joo Jaekyung believes that he has to have really satisfying (usually very rough) sex with someone the night before the fight.  Jaekyung set his sights on Kim Dan, and offers to pay him handsomely for his services. But Jaekyung is as tough in the ring as he is in the sheets, and Dan is in over his head. Their relationship is tumultuous, but Dan has realized he’s caught feelings for Jaekyung. Will the two ever have a romantic relationship? 

Jinx features some pretty spicy but rough sex scenes, but the story is what keeps me reading. The back-and-forth over whether these two men will have a balanced romantic partnership, and whether or not affection can be reciprocated, is a major draw of the comic. Mingwa’s art is also incredible, where the characters are expressive and full of emotion. I look forward to reading this every time it updates.– Kristina Elyse Butke


Under the Oak Tree by namu, Seomal, Suji Kim and P on MANTA
Under the Oak Tree by namu, Seomal, Suji Kim and P

Under the Oak Tree

Writers: namu, Seomal, based on an original story by Suji Kim
Artist: P
Publisher: Manta Comics (continuing)

If you haven’t heard of Under the Oak Tree, you must have been living under a rock. Or an oak tree, in this case. Under the Oak Tree follows Maximilian, the shamed stuttering daughter of the Croyso family, who is forced into a marriage with Riftan Calypse, a man who inspires intimidation and fear wherever he goes. While the story is a romance, the creator takes care to ensure that Maximilian is always growing as a character. From a timid young girl with little to no confidence to a young woman who is able to hold her ground, Under the Oak Tree never shies away from hiding Maximilian’s disability and it’s never seen as a weakness; her being more confident doesn’t mean that she stops stuttering. For those seeking a story with a steamy romance and strong character development, look no further than Under the Oak Tree. – Hilary Leung

The print editions of Under the Oak Tree graphic novels and prose novels will be published by Inklore / Penguin Random House.


Plum by Sam Kim on WEBTOON
Plum by Sam Kim


Writer/Artist: Sam Kim
Line Artist: Taylor Jung
Colourist: Rebecca Tan
Editor: Kristine Kim
Publisher: WEBTOON (final season)

Some vertical scrolling comics adapt well to print form, but some webtoons can only be experienced phone-in-hand, thumb racing along the infinite canvas. That’s Plum. That’s always been Plum

Sam Kim came roaring back post-timeskip for the final season of the eponymous Plum’s sports adventure set on becoming the fruit stacking champion. Fruit towering literally high enough to reach space, creativity is king and Kim reaches newer heights with a final tournament arc that brings a close to fan-fave character arcs in a somewhat rushed fashion heavy on chess piece movement than emotion.

 Today’s reality for a webtoon series features constant panel reuse and cliffhanger endings that become prologues next week. With Kim’s affinity for using multiple swipe splash panels and big white word balloons that use large font and faraway margins, Plum’s quicksnap pace reliably feeds the flick machine attached to your wrist. As a Waffle Gang lifer, it’s been a blast to see the wildly logical fruit stacking world burst with carefully curated produce-appropriate color palettes. Always the creatively efficient storyteller, Kim often resorts to added shading/highlight rendering for special panels which help pop against Plum’s classic flat color design. This season, when you’re getting webtoonpilled and need an outrageous sports anime to fill the void, fire this up, and go Plum crazy!  – Beau Q.


The Red Sleeve by Dopamine and CreativeSUMM on Tapas Media
ⓒDopamine, CreativeSUMM, KANG Mikang /Haksan Publishing Co.,Ltd.

The Red Sleeve

Writer: Dopamine, original story by Kang Mikang
Artist: creativeSUMM
Translator: Helen Cho
Typesetting: Luyan
Studio: Haksan Publishing
Publisher: Tapas Media (continuing)

The Red Sleeve is simply one of the most beautifully drawn, emotionally rich historical drama webtoon series out there today, full stop. Based on King Jeongjo (1752-1800), a real king of Joseon Era Korea and his slow-burn romance with a smart, strong-willed palace maid, Deokim, this gorgeous story sets the bar for vertical scroll storytelling, with its elegant scene transitions and subtle, moving depictions of the complex emotions that both the male and female lead go through as they deal with palace politics and their undeniable feelings for each other, despite the barriers that society (and they themselves) put in their way.

The Red Sleeve was also adapted as a live action drama that you can watch on VIKI, but take the time to read this series instead, so you can be surprised and delighted by the mix of slice-of-life/friendship between Deokim and her fellow court maids, the will-they-or-won’t-they playful romance between the Crown Prince and Deokim, and the compelling royal court drama that pits queens against princes, noblemen and commoners for the fate of the Joseon empire. – Deb Aoki


I’ve Become a True Villainess by Flowing HonEy, Bokyung Kong on MANTA
I’ve Become a True Villainess by Flowing HonEy, Bokyung Kong

I’ve Become a True Villainess

Writer / Artist: Flowing HonEy, Bokyung Kong
Translator: Katherine Stuchlik
Publisher: Manta Comics (continuing)

Villainess reincarnation stories have risen in popularity in the past year — and for good reason. I’ve Become a True Villainess is one such story and it follows a young woman who is reincarnated into the novel she is reading, but in the body of the villainess who is destined to die. Although I’ve Become a True Villainess does utilize some cliches, the story doesn’t feel bogged down by it. With interesting characters that capture the readers’ attention, and a plot that will keep readers on the edge of their seats (Betrayal! Romance! Mystery!), I’ve Become a True Villainess will take readers along Seria’s journey as she discovers what it means to love and to trust those around her. – Hilary Leung


Rendezvous by HUN and Jimmy on Tapas Media


Writer: HUN
Artist: JIMMY (Ji-Min Kim)
Studio: SuperComix Studio
Publisher: Tapas Media (continuing)

From the creators of heartfelt, ballet drama Navillera: Like a Butterfly comes something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT and yet completely addictive. Instead of the real-life drama of an elderly man taking up ballet at age 70 of Navillera, Rendezvous is a gripping, action-packed science fiction drama about the end of the world and how a group of teens try to find a way to stop the mysterious armored beings who seem to be behind the chaos that has nearly destroyed civilization.

As the story opens, high schooler Yiyeon Kang awakes in a hospital bed. He’s been in a coma since being injured after some severe bullying, but as he looks around, the hospital is in shambles, and he’s the only one there. He wanders out into the world and finds that the streets are littered with debris and only a few humans are left to scavenge for survival. He later finds that the world has been turned upside down by an alien invasion, and that his high school, one of the few safe havens for humans, is now under control of the bullies who sent him to the hospital in first place.

HUN writes a compelling story that will keep you guessing as Yiyeon copes with this new reality and the role he discovers he must play to change the future. As in Navillera, JIMMY draws wonderful characters that you instantly love and feel more and more connected to with every chapter. – Deb Aoki


After School Lessons for Unripe Apples by Soonkki on WEBTOON
After School Lessons for Unripe Apples by Soonkki

After School Lessons for Unripe Apples

Writer/Artist: Soonkki (@soonkki99)
Assistants: Maengin, Yulpi
Publisher: WEBTOON (continuing)

Mi-ae is a short middle school girl. Cheol is a tall middle school boy. The two of them were childhood friends, and now they sit next to each other in class. They’re clearly meant to be together–or are they?! After School Lessons for Unripe Apples is an excruciatingly slow burn about weird, awkward kids in 90s South Korea. It’s also an excuse for fantastic cartooning. Mi-ae’s design in particular is super expressive, going far beyond the stiff expressions and poses of many WEBTOON comics. A fascinating evolution of Soonkki’s previous mega-hit Cheese in the Trap. -Adam Wescott


Eleceed by Jeho Son and ZHENA on WEBTOON
Eleceed by Jeho Son and ZHENA o


Writer: Jeho Son
Artist: ZHENA / ZHENA Studio
Publisher: WEBTOON (continuing)

Jiwoo, a sweet and shy teen has a secret: He has the ability to move at super-speeds, but all his life, he’s been told by his mother to hide it from others. As a result, he’s had to move from city to city frequently and has made few friends except for the stray cats that he feeds on the way to school. But his life takes a dramatic turn when he finds an injured, very FAT ginger tabby cat and finds out that 1) the cat can talk and 2) the cat is actually Kayden, one of the world’s most feared and powerful “Awakened” beings, and 3) Jiwoo himself is actually an “Awakened” being himself. These revelations take Jiwoo into a world where he discovers that he’s one of many who have secret powers (ala the mutant teens from the X-Men), and as the apprentice of Kayden, he’s now the target of increasingly powerful rivals who want to take him down.

The title gives little hint of it, but Eleceed is one of the most action-packed, addictive, funny AND feel–good must-reads on WEBTOON today. The characters are fascinating and fun, and delightful to see their growth and friendship grow over time. The action/fight scenes are dynamic and exciting, and best of all, seeing the arrogant/egotistical Kayden acting in ways that almost any cat owner will recognize and laugh at is just the icing on the cake. This is a series I found by accident and ended up binge-reading it AND later re-reading it from start-to-finish again? Not many webtoons do that for me, but this one’s worth all the coins I threw at it and more. – Deb Aoki


Because i Love You by Tansae on MANTA
Because i Love You by Tansae

Because I Love You

Writer/Artist: TANSAE
Translator/Designer: Uptempo
Publisher: Manta (completed)

A mother’s love never fades. Ever.” Even before going in, I knew Because I Love You was going to break my heart in a beautiful way, and I was proven right. TANSAE’s honest look-back on her relationship with her mother and the impossible task of separating the care and happy memories from the abuse done in the name of ‘love’ was a heavy but thought-provoking read. Coupled with a simplistic yet evocative art style, Because I Love You will guide you through a journey about the different facets of love and the messy shapes self-care might take. – Merve Giray


Golden Hour by Kai Lysander on Tapas Media
Golden Hour by Kai Lysander

Golden Hour

Creator: Kai Lysander
Publisher: Tapas (ongoing, on hiatus)

A condemned priest, a powerful demon, and a sweet deal offered by the guardian angel. This is the setting we find ourselves in upon scrolling the chapters of Golden Hour, a Tapas Original webtoon. Lorne is in love with Buer, but the lifespan a human bestowed upon is far too short to spend enough time with his lover. If he is to stay by his side, he has to corrupt a soul. Interesting premise laced with religious symbolism, a vibrant color palette, dynamic paneling, and gorgeous character design, Golden Hour is packed with anything you might look for in a webtoon. Desperately in need of others to join me in appreciating this gem!
– Merve Giray


A Man’s Man

Writer: Lucas, adapted by Ha Neulso
Artist: Dogado
Studio: Jaedam
Publisher: WEBTOON (continuing)

Not all reincarnation / time travel stories take place in the land of dukes, castles and women with long flowing hair and frilly dresses. In the case of A Man’s Man, the action takes place in a setting that’s both familiar and fascinating – it takes its tech exec protagonist 20 years back in time to the era when Blackberry mobile devices were king and touch screen iPhones were just a futuristic concept on the drawing boards of engineers and inventors.        

The author of A Man’s Man has experience working in the tech sector, so the scenes where execs, engineers, and product managers talk about hardware specs, supply chain issues, and software development ring true while providing an insider’s look at the development of devices that changed the world. But it also has some thoughtful insights about women’s roles in the tech industry, especially when the 40-something Yuhyeon sees the world through the eyes of his 20-year old self and realizes that he has a second chance to right some wrongs that happened when he was too focused on his own career the first time around. – Deb Aoki


Beta Off Not Dating by Saena and Doojja on Tappytoon
Beta Off Not Dating by Saena and Doojja

Beta Off Not Dating

Writer: Saena
Artist: Doojja
Original novel:  MINTRAN
Translator: yw740030
Editor: Kelly Lee
Studio: Seoul Media Comics
Publisher: Tappytoon (complete)

An Omegaverse Boys’ Love webtoon with an unconventional pairing of alpha x beta, Beta Off Not Dating has been my joy to read on Fridays.

In a world where alphas and omegas feel immediate attraction to each other and all have roles to fill in the society, Juhyeok is the ‘normie’ as a beta. He’s had enough of their shenanigans, and he counts the days until he can leave his job to move to a country with betas. But first, he has to find a way to deal with his super flirty superior Sihyeon.

This webtoon is super funny and mindful of the themes and characters it introduces, has great balance and I do appreciate a good-looking, respectful green flag that is Sihyeon. If you’re looking for a completed, short series that is worthy of your weekend binge read needs, look no further! – Merve Giray


Wolf in the House by Park Ji-Yeon on Lezhin
Wolf in the House by Park Ji-Yeon

A Wolf in the House

Writer/Artist: Park Ji-Hyeon
Publisher: Lezhin (continuing)

Did you know that werewolves live among us? Well, in the world of Wolf in the House they do, and they have infiltrated our lives as chihuahuas, malamutes and poodles by day, and what they do at night… well, that’s another secret. Minsuk finds this out when he wakes up and finds that stray Siberian Husky he adopted is now a very hot, very naked and slightly clueless guy who wants him to help him get to Russia, somehow? 

This story has got everything that makes me swoon – great art, touching relationships with some high stakes drama and more than a few hilarious moments of mistaken identities, where handsome guys end up acting very much like… dogs, in the best way possible. The series recently restarted with some side stories that follow the adventures of the uhm… secondary couple in the story that take the series into the world of international espionage. -Deb Aoki


Steel Under Silk by snob on Lezhin
Steel Under Silk by snob

Steel Under Silk

Writer/Artist: snob
Publisher: Lezhin (continuing)

A BL historical drama for mature readers, Steel Under Silk features Yeonjo, a young man originally born to an aristocratic family, whose father was unjustly killed for high treason. With his family dead and his status lost, Yeonjo is reduced to being a slave. He vows vengeance against Kwon Hee-ryang, the new governor to the region and the man who carried out his father’s slaughter. Yeonjo must lie and play the part of a lover boy to Hee-ryang in order to infiltrate his household and exact his revenge. There’s a dagger behind Yeonjo’s smile and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. 

Full of intrigue, steamy scenes, and high tension, (not to mention beautiful art), Steel Under Silk is an engrossing read that makes you wonder what will happen next. Kristina Elyse Butke


Rodney R Rodney by Violaine Briat on WEBTOON
Rodney R Rodney by Violaine Briat

Rodney R Rodney

Writer/Artist: Violaine Briat
Publisher: WEBTOON (Canvas)

What looks like a cryptid, doubles for the local serial killer, and never fails to point out the neighborhood ordinances? If you didn’t know, sorry to introduce to you an actual nightmare to deal with Rodney R Rodney. Fraught with morbid comedy and surface-level threads that bubble but never boil over, R.R.R. is Violaine Briat’s first major outing into vertical scrolling comics. Originally formatted for social media strips and published in threads, R.R.R. can carry some webcomic pacing where a joke consistently punctuates the atmosphere about every 5-6 panels. But by prioritizing character performance and scene blocking along tall, thin compositions, Briat draws us into the troubling romance of Chad and Karen, the woes of a thirsty thirst-trap influencer, and into the mystery of Rodney R Rodney. Primarily cast in stark purple and blue to air out the mystery and creepy coldness, Briat’s inks and hand-lettering trend heavy and drippy, which adds an immediate ick to anything with Rodney’s cold, pallid yaoi hands on it. If you want a new thumb-scrolling fixation, look no further than the laughably creepy Rodney R Rodney– Beau Q.


To Be An Actor by Kimhaema, Gogwang and 2:00 on Tapas Media
Ⓒ Kimhaema, 2:00, Gogwang / C&C REVOLUTION INC

To Be An Actor

Writer: Kimhaema, original novel by Gogwang
Artist: 2:00
Localization: Kakao Ent.
Studio: C&C Revolution
Publisher: Tapas Media (continuing)

Now in his 40s, Jang Youngkuk has reached his lifelong goal: to be a famous actor. But after years of clawing his way out of poverty, Youngkuk realizes at the height of his fame that he got there after neglecting his mother, and doing whatever it took to get to the top has left him alone without any friends to share his accomplishments. After despair leads him to take his own life, he awakens to find that he’s a tween again, and that he’s been given another chance to do right by his mom by being an straight-A student and helping her out at the fish market where she works. But the entertainment industry beckons to him again, and Youngkuk must ask himself if he can ignore the call to be an actor once more.

To Be An Actor is my favorite feel-good webtoon read of the year. While there’s some “same-face” syndrome that makes it hard to tell some characters apart, the story is so heartwarming while giving a peek behind the scenes at a different side of the Korean entertainment industry, it almost makes that gripe seem inconsequential. It’s on a short hiatus now, but the fact that out of all the series I’m following, it’s the one series I looked forward to reading every Sunday. That says quite a bit about how much I love it and how much I’m looking forward to it resuming soon. – Deb Aoki

Don’t miss all of our “best of 2023” lists:
Comics and Graphic Novels | Manga | Webtoons | Anime | Movies | Television

In case you missed it, here is The Beat’s best of 2022.