Interview with Webtoon’s Let’s Play Creator Mongie!
Hosted on the wildly popular platform Webtoon, Let’s Play is not your typical rom-com. Sam, an indie game developer, has recently gotten her first game reviewed by the popular gaming personality, Marshall Law. Only thing is, the Marshall hates on her game through the whole review video and Sam ends up bearing the brunt of the hate from his legion of fans.
The meet-cute comes when she finds out he’s moving in next door as her new neighbor and they both have to deal with the fallout of the watershed video. Despite this being the series’ impetus, Let’s Play tackles a lot of separate issues that expand as the story progresses. Audiences get to know Sam and Marshall, learn their insecurities and their strengths, and meet the people that shape their lives.
If you’re familiar with the Webtoon platform, then you’re probably no stranger to Let’s Play. It’s held a firm place on the Webtoon top charts, currently finding itself #2 in the Most Popular By All Genres, #2 in Most Popular in Romance, #1 in Most Popular with Males in 10’s and Males in 20’s, and #2 in Most Popular in Females in 10’s and Females in 20’s. With just over 40 episodes under its belt, the series boasts an impressive 9.68 rating and 4.5 million dedicated readers.
Let’s Play‘s fearless creator is Leeanne Krecic, or Mongie, as she is known to her readers. She, like her protagonist Sam, comes from a background in technology. Having worked in IT for many years, she took the big step almost two years ago into becoming a full-time comics artist.
Personally, I actually finally took the plunge to download the Webtoon app after seeing an ad for Let’s Play, and it was officially the first Webtoon I subscribed to, so it was a pleasure to get to talk to Leeanne about her work on her comic and with Webtoon, her inspirations, and what we can see from her in the future.
What brought you to publishing on Webtoon? Had you ever tried any other digital platforms before?
Yeah, some of the platforms that I’ve tried: One is the very basic self-publish, you know on my own site, sort of thing. And then I went to a website, at the time it was called Tapastic, I think it’s called Tapas now? I’m not entirely sure. But I tried there, and then the last place I tried was Webtoon. Before I was posting comics, I was reading Webtoon, on my own, so to me, Webtoon was sort of the end goal of where I wanted to end up, ultimately.
Cool. Did you have people on Webtoon that inspired you? Or people throughout the internet who inspired you? How did you get started, in drawing and art — like creating comics — then also how did you get started on this digital platform?
I’ve always been an artistic person. As a kid I was into art, and then I was into music, and then I decided I wanted to eat as an adult, so I decided to go into computers and make money. Then I needed a creative outlet. So, as I was programming in my 9-5 job — my big girl job — I was drawing by night with my alternate personality. I always loved being a storyteller. I loved reading comics growing up as a kid and I loved reading manga, so I just [thought] I really love these stories that I read, I love telling my stories, I would love to take this aspect of creating stories and put them in a visual media. So that’s when I learned, self-taught, to create comics and to be an artist.
When it comes to the digital… it fulfilled that technological fascination side that I have. I mean, I was in IT for a long time, grew up with computers, and I think that the digital aspect of tablets and software — it’s just neat. I have all the respect in the world for traditional artists, I think it’s amazing and awesome, and I ogle over that stuff all day long. But when it comes to media, digital is where I feel the most comfortable.
So, when it comes to telling a story, I felt that the best way to get my story out there is digitally, because it is the way of the future, as of right now. I appreciate printed media, but the vast majority of people nowadays have a smartphone, so they’re all connected in some way, shape, or form. And let’s face it, we all have idle time, whether it be waiting at the doctor’s or on the bus. Having a place where you can sit and go, okay, I’m going to spend ten minutes or fifteen minutes reading a comic while I wait for my doctor, who is getting back from his golf tournament or whatever… So I thought, I don’t have to worry about people buying my book, I can just provide them with access to my comic online. It just opened up a whole new world.
I think digital is obviously the path for the future, so starting there is definitely a better jumping off point, then transferring from printed media.
It sounds like you have a little bit of experience relating to your protagonist, Sam. Where did you get the idea for Let’s Play and are there any characters that are inspired by figures in real life? Marshall Law seems to be based off an amalgamation of different YouTubers and streamers. Where did you get your inspiration for the story?
I knew I wanted to tell a romance for my first comic and I wanted to pick a topic that is very applicable to what’s in the media today. There’s a huge culture that’s forming of these celebrity internet personalities on YouTube, and I follow a handful of them. I was watching one of them — and I would actually never say who it was — who was playing a fanmade game and the game itself was very rough. You could tell it was made by someone who was an amateur, but it was done with a lot of love and effort. Mechanically and functionally, it was flawed. Unfortunately that YouTuber was getting very frustrated with that aspect of it and kind of went on a tirade, a big long rant, over the course of the course of playing the game. And I always have YouTube videos playing in the background while I’m working, so I actually stopped and watched this thing unfold.
After the video was over, I felt awful for that creator, because it was a fanmade game! They may never have realized that YouTuber was ever going to play that game. So, what if that YouTuber and that creator met in person? What would that creator say? Would they respond? Would they even admit who they were, that they made that game? Were they still a fan? So, then I just had all these questions that I started thinking about how that would be an interesting story. And then I thought if I tried to make a rom-com, you could have the story arc where they’re moving in next door. It adds an interesting dynamic. So, that kind of inspired the plot of Let’s Play.
When it comes to Sam’s personality, she has these aspects that we see, these personifications of different emotional states like self-confidence and personal space. To me, the characters of Let’s Play are kind of those personifications of my own personality. Sam might be my own insecurity or lack of confidence, and Marshall is the upbeat side that also has the side of me that gets sad or down. Angela is my anger and Vikki is my calm side. They’re kind of my own personality traits that are personified in the story.
Yeah, I can see that! That actually leads into my next question, you don’t really shy away from issues like depression, or being self-conscious, or having anxiety. Did that come from not being able to see those mental health issues presented in other forms of media? Or did it just come naturally, as a part of these characters, that you had to portray them?
I think it’s both, actually. I really think that a lot of writers and creators skirt around mental health. And I admit it’s a slippery slope because you don’t want to pass disinformation or give bad advice. I’m not trying to give anybody any medical advice, rather, I just want to represent what people might be going through.
I think comics are about showing not saying. If you can show what’s happening in the story then do it, if you can draw it. If you can’t, then you say what’s happening. So, a lot of comics you read, you can have people in various emotional states and expressions. You can formulate that this person is probably bummed out or disappointed. But what if that person, who seems consistently sad (somebody people might classify that as a mopey character) might in actuality be suffering from depression? So, I am hoping in some long-term aspect, that my comic might make people more comfortable talking about mental health. And in doing so, they might feel more comfortable in asking for help. That is the ultimate goal in that regard.
So, when it comes to the characters, Sam is just socially awkward. She just has a lot of anxiety. I mean, her father is the same, and you could arguably say it’s a hereditary thing, that it just runs in her family. Marshall having depression, we’ll learn more about his side, because we’ve been following Sam for most of the story. I think for me, personally, I dealt with horrific social anxiety for decades and it wasn’t until I decided I needed help that it was like my life was anew. It was just so much better once I got help, and I would really like to help people have the same revelation.
Yeah, for sure! I’m really interested in seeing what else you have in store for the characters. I mean, it’s just a really great representation, in my opinion. Because I hadn’t ever seen a physical representation of mental health being portrayed like that. Where it’s very visual, and you can see what’s holding her back. It’s a great way of representing it.
And I think when people are really in those states — like if you’re really anxious or really depressed — it almost does feel like there’s a physical aspect to that. Like, there’s a physical presence of depression around you. And if your fear is public speaking, it’s almost like you feel like there is someone just on top of you, putting that pressure, that anxiety, on you. And I think when you’re stuck in an elevator, and Charles is next to you, and she has personal space whispering in her ear and she’s lying about being alright, I think a lot of people can totally relate to that feeling.
Definitely. I want to switch gears and ask what mediums do you typically use to create your Webtoon? Is it all digital? Is it hand-drawn on paper? Is it a mixture of both?
It’s all hand-drawn digitally. I use Clip Studio, which is a software, it’s made by a Japanese company. I use that for my drawing software. I also use a software by Google called Sketchup Make for the background, and that’s purely for time constraints. And then, Photoshop is the polishing software I use at the end, to put it all together with any effects. It also the ability to let me slice up the long comic and export it into a format that Webtoon can display.
So since you do have a day job on the side, do you find —
Oh, not anymore! I don’t have my day job anymore, actually.
Oh! So you’re a full-time artist?
Yeah, so it will be two years in October when I left my other job to pursue comics. It was one of those things where I was like, well, I’m not getting any younger, and I’m not happy where I’m at, I’m not growing anymore in this position, and I’m ready to have a creative outlet. It was one of those things where if I tried and failed, then I tried at least.
Yeah, better to have done than to not have even tried. Okay, since this is your full-time job, do you find it hard to manage personal life with the updating schedule?
I think it’s a lot of work. I have a software on my computer called RescueTime and it tracks all the activity on my computer and what application is active when my mouse is moving. I work somewhere around 50 hours a week on a chapter. So you can… I mean, I’ve had 19-hour shifts where I’ve worked to try and make a deadline, and that’s not a complaint, I mean this is something I’m very passionate about. It’s physically exhausting but mentally very rewarding. So, it’s hard to meet deadlines, but it’s not impossible, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable either. It’s just, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I kind of make it harder on myself by thinking, well, I need to fix this line art, or I need to do this, or this face isn’t right, and I spend more time on it than I should.
What is it like being able to communicate with your readers and see their reactions? Have there been any downsides to being able to see direct criticism and you put your stories up? Or is it mostly positive?
Well, there’s always a downside to being able to read negative feedback, but I mean, it’s awesome getting positive feedback. It’s also good when the chapter goes up, and maybe I drew a panel that people misconstrued, or I made a mistake or I forgot to color in a tie, something like that. You can immediately get that feedback, and you’re like, I gotta fix that real quick! You can’t do that in print media. Once it’s gone, you’re SOL.
My husband kind of rants about this a little bit. A chapter of mine could have ten thousand comments and there might be a small handful of people just kind of being jerks. Just being the anonymous internet commenters that they are, getting away with whatever they want to post. It kind of cuts you, but… I don’t know, I guess I’ve been drawing long enough that it makes me sadder that people are like that, like, man, what kind of life do you have that you feel like you get to do that or say that?
But, it’s definitely a positive thing having the feedback of readers. And I have a discord that I manage with a couple admins and it’s funny. It’s hilarious lurking in the shadows and watching what people are saying and who they’re shipping. It’s very rewarding, I think.
So has anything surprised you since you started publishing your stories? Did you go through the experience of going from Discover to Webtoon, or was it immediate? I’m not really sure if everybody goes through that process.
What I did was, I posted on Discover and was got picked up from there. I was contacted by my editor and he said Webtoon was interesting in featuring me. I think the most surprising thing was being on Webtoon and seeing how well my comic has been received. I mean, it’s my first title. I’m very much a noob when it comes to doing all this, and people really seem to be enjoying it. I’m very fortunate.
The other surprising thing is that Webtoon is just awesome. Everybody I’ve met has been very professional, passionate, and great. I guess, in my last job working IT, all the business politics you deal with, you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. With Webtoon, I just haven’t gotten a hint of that being the case. It’s been so refreshing. I just walk around on pins and needles waiting for something bad to happen, but it’s just because of my own experiences, not because of anything that’s giving me that indication. This is too good to be true! When’s something going to start happening? Karma is going to start balancing things out eventually!
It was also such a relief being contacted to be featured because I was really terrified I was going to not be able to pursue this as a job and I would have to go back to working IT. So, putting it on there was definitely a leap of faith. I was like, if I don’t get contacted, if they have no interest in doing my comic, then I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. And there’s always this mindset of after Let’s Play wraps up, what’s the future going to hold?
Yeah, that’s actually my next question. Do you have any sneak peek looks into the future of what you have planned? Or just stories you’ve always wanted to do, that you maybe didn’t think were as feasible, but they are now that you have this platform and now that you have this audience?
Well, I’ve got four different stories I could pick up tomorrow if I wanted to. Because I’m just always regurgitating these ideas and storylines. I think with Webtoon as a platform, one of the things I’ve done with Let’s Play and I would like to do more in the future is animation and interactive. Ideally, what I would love to do (and I’d hate for someone to steal the idea) but I love mysteries and puzzles, and I’d love to have an interactive platform, possibly with webtoon, where, in order to proceed or reveal different aspects of the story, you have to solve the puzzle yourself. Which is something you could technically do in printed form, but it’d be kind of tricky.
Right, it’s kind of like a gamification of the medium, which is always fun.
Right, exactly. I want readers to be involved, whether that be through the story or an interactive aspect. I would, in the future, like to do more intrigue, maybe do action. With Webtoon, you have things like parallaxing, which the site features, that some titles take advantage of. That would be amazing to use in an action comic, and it just totally excites my nerdy IT side. I would love to continue to make comics and I would love to stay with Webtoon for as long as they’d have me, as long as they’d put up with me!
Well, I hope we see more of those projects in the future because that sounds awesome!