Warning: Bongcheon-Dong Ghost is a horror webtoon, and as such, this post contains mature themes, images, and other scary stuff.
I don’t tend to venture into the realm of horror very often. I happened to stumble across Bongcheon-Dong Ghost by Horang (please take heed of the warning offered at the beginning) after a friend sent me a link. I naturally don’t tend to trust the links he sent me, so after pressuring him, I managed to wriggle it out of him that it was a horror webtoon, nothing more or less. Satisfied, I set the link aside for later perusal, at my convenience (for more information on internet-based comics, Tiredandvulgar’s post “The Rise of the Webcomic” is insightful). After a while, convincing myself that a peak wouldn’t hurt, I opened the link. I was in for a treat.
If at this point, you haven’t read Bongcheon-Dong Ghost, I would recommend you do so. Please take heed of the warnings.
Even reading the warning is spine-tingling; it lures you in and makes you wonder what on Earth could be so horrifying in a comic of all things. The quality that makes this webtoon perhaps so special is its use of mixed media. Scrolling down, suspense builds up. When I think of horror in comics, the most that I can conjure up is something gory and maybe a tad suspenseful. To me, it becomes more disgustingly creepy rather than scary.
So you scroll on through and then, bam, it hits you: Not just a horrifying face, but the noise, like a neck creaking. But most importantly, you can’t control it. You were able to scroll through at your leisure, and then at a certain point, auto-scroll kicks in, bringing a terrifying animation onto the screen, and all you’re left with is a horribly bloody face staring at you from your screen.
Sound is such a vital sense for creating suspense and thrill, we hear it all the time in the movies. By adding sound, it adds another dimension to the comic, and an additional surprise. Perhaps because we least expect it, it surprises us the most. Combined with auto-scroll and the images, it’s enough to make me jump in my seat.
So let’s continue wandering through the comic. I don’t know about you, but I was particularly cautious with the scrolling, one slow click at a time. That was what made it perhaps truly terrifying: the possibility that that might happen again at any point in the story, or could even happen multiple times.
But looking back at the comic after finally reaching the conclusion and learning just why this ghost haunted the apartment complex, a funny thing happens. You’re free to scroll through again and again without the awful noises and take-you-by-surprise auto-scroll and see the panels that comprise the animation. On closer inspection, the “gutters,” the areas between each image, were not a uniform length. It seemed that the larger the space, the more suspenseful it became. It increased the amount of time between viewing one panel and the next as you continue to scroll. There is the face at the end of the second animation sequence: it is the only time throughout the comic that something defies the normal boundaries of the panel, thus giving the impression that Cho, the ghost, is popping out of your screen. Even the manner she propels herself forward at the screen, at an unnatural angle, is disturbing and inhuman. By allowing Cho to exceed these boundaries, it only confirms her otherworldliness.
Although Bong-cheon Dong Ghost is described as a “webtoon,” I don’t think this excludes it from being within the purview of “comics.” These elements of sound and movement contribute to the both horror and the realm of comics simply because they are unexpected. To me, it is akin to a birthday card; you can open it and maybe it’ll play the “happy birthday” song and maybe there will be a little pop-up, but that does not alter the fact that it is, nonetheless, a card.
For more examples on other webtoons and flash comics, Cmccrzy’s “The Flash Comic: ‘Expanding’ the Definition” is a great read. Also, for an additional giggle, you can find hilarious reaction videos to the Bong-cheon Dong Ghost webtoon on YouTube.
All image credit goes to Horang, creator of Bongcheon-Dong Ghost.