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Webtoon 'Navillera' nominated for renowned Eisner Award

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Webtoon "Navillera: Like a Butterfly" / Courtesy of Kakao Entertainment

By Park Han-sol

The Korean webtoon, "Navillera: Like a Butterfly," which tells the heartwarming story of a 70-year-old retiree who pursues his dream of becoming a ballet dancer, was nominated for this year's prestigious Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.

Established in 1988, the Eisner Awards are also referred to as the "Oscars" of the comic book industry and are presented at the annual San Diego Comic-Con International in July.

Named in honor of the acclaimed American cartoonist, Will Eisner (1917-2005), who revolutionized the genre of comic books in the 20th century, the prize aims to bring attention to and celebrate the best publications and creators of comics and graphic novels.

"Navillera," written by Hun and illustrated by Jimmy, is in the running for the prize in the Best Webcomic category. Among the category's five nominees, it is the only work that was produced by Korean creators.

The other four competing titles are: "Batman: Wayne Family Adventures," "Isle of Elsi," "Lore Olympus" and "Unmasked."

"Navillera" follows 70-year-old Shim Duk-chul, a retired postal worker who becomes determined to pursue his passion for ballet after the death of an old friend ― much to the surprise of his family. His heartening journey, joined by 23-year-old ballet prodigy Lee Chae-rok, who becomes tasked with teaching Shim, shows the beauty of chasing after one's lifelong dream even in the face of obstacles as great as one's own mortality.

As of this month, the webtoon has accumulated over 96 million views in Korea alone, according to Kakao Entertainment. It has also been translated and released in other regions including North America, Japan, China, Thailand and Indonesia.

Riding a tide of popularity, the story was adapted into a musical in 2019 and a drama series last year starring Park In-hwan and Song Kang as lead actors.

"It feels absolutely surreal to be nominated for the Eisner Awards," Hun, co-author of the series, said in a statement. "Because 'Navillera' deals with universal themes of family, dreams and life, I used to hope that, if it's executed well, it could be loved anywhere in the world. It seems that my dream came true."

This year's winners will be announced at a gala awards ceremony on July 22 during the San Diego Comic-Con.

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