Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal
There has been a lot of debate about the future of comics. The ‘direct market’ of independent comics shops has been hit hard by covid. The comics selling element of those shops seems to be in decline. The weakness of the pound has made imported Marvel and DC books outlandishly expensive. Readers have switched to waiting for the trade paperback (if there is one), switching to digital and in too many unfortunate cases, pirating. Even more unfortunate, some have quit altogether.
The end of the Diamond distribution monopoly has caused further problems with even getting the books in the first place. Comic companies like DC are cutting back or even closing their offices. Stores now rely on sales of graphic novels but also games, action figures and Funko Pops, for as long as that craze will last.
But comics is a resilient medium. New audiences have sprung up almost unnoticed by the existing groups of comics fans. These new audiences tend to be younger and more diverse and many of them are coming via webcomics. An excellent example is Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal – which went from Instagram to the webcomics platform Webtoons and has now been published as a book by Drawn and Quarterly. The comic has more than 219 thousand followers on Webtoons and has more than 27 million views.
Woman World is a humorous comic which explores ideas of gender using the notion of a world in which men no longer exist. New generations of young women try to imagine what the world would have been like with both genders – shining a light on some of the ridiculous aspects of our present society.
A good example is the young woman who becomes obsessed with the film Paul Blart Mall Cop and sees it as a reliable guide to the society of the past. Another scene sees a ‘tomb raider’ style trip to what turns out to be a Starbucks.
One of the interesting features of Woman World is how it deals with some very serious issues with a very light and skillful touch. One character is disabled, with an artificial leg, one has had a double mastectomy another is a trans woman (the oldest character and the last on the planet that had ever been male.) None of these characters are especially remarked upon. They simply live their lives alongside everyone else.
Just as Love and Rockets tackled the notion of otherness with its focus on latinx characters and especially women, so Women World holds up an ideal of a society without exclusion, alienation or otherness. The notion that what is needed to achieve this is the removal of men is of course both politically bold and also pretty funny. The new society has new problems and conflicts however.
Woman World is distributed via Webtoons. The Webtoons format is a vertically scrollable page delivered via their app. This is ideal for mobile phones and tablets and has helped the South Korean company establish a market especially among younger readers. Webtoons also has a high female readership, in 2016 they reported that 50% of their global readership were female. 42% of creators were female.
Typically webtoons strips use very few panels and this is also true of Woman World which typically has between three to eight panels. In this it follows closely the form of traditional newspaper strips and a similar rhythm can be seen in the narrative. We can see the resemblance to the format that Rodolphe Töpffer used in his pioneering Histoire de Mr. Vieux Bois comic from 1827 – often seen as one of the earliest comics. Both comics are satirical, using the medium to poke fun at contemporary society.
The art style of Woman World is also very reminiscent of the newspaper strip format, with a simple cartoony line. Facial expressions carry the emotion of the strip surprisingly well. Woman World is a fun and accessible strip that deals with serious issues. It is also hugely popular. If you want to look for the future of comics then this would be a good place to start.