NCT 127 to Launch the First K-Pop Graphic Novel, ‘Limitless’ (EXCLUSIVE)

The past year has seen the K-pop industry expanding into everything from ETFs to Broadway, and today, March 15, marks its leap into the comic and graphic novel world: Top group NCT 127 has teamed up with Z2 Comics alongside Universal Music Group and its Korean label SM Entertainment for “NCT 127: Limitless,” an original graphic novel from the act to mark the first officially licensed K-pop print comic.

With its title taken from the group’s 2017 single of the same, “Limitless” is both a hardcover and deluxe hardcover manhwa (a general term from South Korea for comic books and graphic novels with a distinct, detailed artistic style) to share a multiverse-hopping, reality-blurring tale of NCT 127 rehearsing for a sold-out stadium show in New York City.

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“The night before the concert, however, the group encounters mysterious dreams, thrusting Mark, Johnny, Taeyong, Jungwoo, and Doyoung in otherworldly scenarios,” 2Z Comics shares in a press statement. “This ultimately creates a reality-crossing mystery that the five members, alongside Taeil, Yuta, Jaehyun, and Haechan will unite to solve. As NCT 127 grapples with this enigma, they must overcome their fears in both the real world and this new, surreal dreamscape.”

Art: Kayla Felty and Megan Huang
Art: Kayla Felty and Megan Huang

NCT 127 most recently wrapped multiple arena dates in the States, Latin and South America as part of their “Neo City – The Link” world tour, including dates at Los Angeles’ Arena and the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. This week, the group returns to the Billboard charts as their “Ay-Yo: The 4th Album Repackage” LP bows at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on World Albums.

“We’re overjoyed to unite with Z2 Comics to witness NCT 127 expand beyond the boundaries of music into graphic novels,” says NCT 127’s label SM Entertainment, home to other top K-pop acts like aespa, EXO and Red Velvet. “NCT was designed as a project of unlimited potential, unrestrained by geography and formal boundaries.”

BJ Yang, CEO of Universal Music Group Korea, points to how world-building and concept-focused K-pop artists’ intellectual property is particularly adept for merchandising and creative opportunities beyond music.

“It is truly great to see how music and artist IP expand without boundaries,” Yang says. “From our existing partnership with Z2 Comics, and together with SM Entertainment, Universal Music Group has successfully managed to crossover K-pop intellectual properties to the graphic novel industry. Together we have created a unique way to enjoy graphic novels, music, and the K-pop genre all-in-one. We can’t wait to see this project come to life and land in the hands of music fans all around the world.”

Adds Z2 Comics’ Chief Executive Officer Kevin Meek, with a shout-out to NCT fans, affectionately known as NCTzens: “I am thrilled to partner with NCT 127, SM Entertainment, and UMG to deliver the first K-pop–centered graphic novel of its kind. We’re beyond excited to bring NCTzens and K-pop fans around the globe a beautiful and thought-provoking piece of art that will be core to the NCT universe.”

NCT 127 represents one unit of the NCT universe, SM Entertainment’s ambitious boy-band brand project. Initially conceptualized as having unlimited members, the current 23 members of NCT divide into offshoot units like NCT DREAM (a young, seven-member group that takes on more youthful sounds), WayV (a team based in China), an upcoming sect focused on Japan, and more. As part of an internal restructuring following the intense takeover battle between Korean tech giant Kakao and BTS label home HYBE Corp., SM CEOs Chris Lee and Tak Young-jun announced that NCT would no longer have infinite expansion and the forthcoming Tokyo-focused unit would be its last.

“NCT 127: Limitless” comes in standard hardcover and deluxe hardcover editions, publishing in late summer 2023. Allison Goulet-Scott co-wrote the graphic novel with art by Kayla Felty and 24×4. Felty and colorist Megan Huang are the cover artists. Similar to multiple covers K-pop artists employ for album releases, the standard hardcover of Limitless will come with nine variant covers, each featuring members of NCT 127. Meanwhile, the deluxe hardcover comes signed along with nine art prints illustrated by Felty, a custom trading card featuring the group, and a certificate of authenticity.

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