We all have lofty dreams when we're kids, but accomplishing them? That's something else entirely. Yet YouTube beauty star, Michelle Phan, is doing just that. Her latest venture includes debuting a digital comic book series, Helios: Femina. The series, which is only available on LINE Webtoon, features a heroine finding out the truth of who she really is and accepting her destiny.
That plot line sounds very familiar to Phan's own life and how she came to begin writing the series. She first started writing it when she was eleven years old, but put it on the back burner as she followed other passions. The elements of the story have stayed the same — despite growing up. "I'm older and my perspective has changed immensely," said Phan. "I can develop characters in a way that's more dimensional and not as calculating."
It Shakes Up the Traditional Comic Book World
With that said, Phan is hoping to break new ground in the ways comic books are created and distributed. Choosing LINE Webtoon, a digital-only publisher, was an obvious and calculated choice. "Having the ability to create a universe where I'm not limited by pages, I'm not limited by the type of paper I have to use, how expensive the coloring might be, printing it," said Phan. "Really, I'm given a blank slate where I can build a universe and go freely." LINE Webtoon, similar to YouTube, is powered by user-generated content. There is an approval process but virtually anyone can create and upload a comic and have people from anywhere read it. The design of LINE Webtoon is also familiar to those used to consuming content on a computer or mobile device. Users can pick a long scroll format where you can just keep reading, and as a creator, you can add in other interactive parts to your story. "I could have gone the traditional way and done the tried and true method of a graphic novel or a manga," said Phan. "I wanted a challenge [though]. I wanted to work with a new format that was different, that wasn't like a book because I don't really write books; I produce content online."
This Is For Phan's Followers, as Much as It Is For Her
Since it's online, Phan is hoping her followers — over eight million on YouTube alone — love and treasure her comic book series. She believes the format, its free availability, and the connection to Phan will draw them to the comic book. "What I think will draw a lot of my followers to check out my comic is that they know I've been wanting to do this for a really long time," said Phan. "So a lot of my followers have been following me for over 10 years and a lot of them know I've always wanted to go into story telling, the comic industry. So really in a sense, this is their way to commemorate this exciting new adventure for me, too."
Phan Wants People to Be Inspired From the Comic Book Series
While Phan is happy she'll have her followers join on her on this new journey, she hopes this pushes them to follow their own dreams as well. She understands that not everyone can follow their dream at the time they think of it, but also knows that not everything has to be rushed. Sometimes, it means "clear[ing] out the noises that one might go through from work, stress, everyday struggles of time," and other times it means finding the right team to work with you. That's a lesson Phan learned immediately while drawing out her comic book series. "Finding these team members is so important because essentially, you're trying to find someone who's better than you at what you're doing," said Phan. Though she didn't set out to specifically seek out female team members or advice from female comic book creators, she wants to learn more as she continues through this process.
Phan's comic book series officially launches today, with the first three chapters of the 26-part series out now. After today, anyone can download the new chapters every Sunday, beginning with March 27. To commemorate the occasion, Phan spoke at this year's South by Southwest festival in a panel titled "Women in Digital Comics." For now, she's not expecting too much about the release of the comic book series. ". . . What I'm most looking forward to is getting my comic out there and interacting with my followers on a new platform," said Phan. "I'm not expecting anything. I just want to tell a story and fulfill a childhood dream."