Oni Press Issue Statement About Firings Not Written By Anyone At Oni

Last night, while I slept, Oni Press, the comic book publisher of 25 years standing, that was merged with Lion Forge under the umbrella of the new Polarity company a few years ago, issued the following statement;

With wildly sensationalistic rumors circulating and false information spreading, we'd like to reiterate that recent personnel changes at Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group were made with the sole purpose of evolving the company and brand, and positioning it for long-term success.

We're proud of our long history in the business and continually strive to be better and do better. We started Lion Forge Comics 11 years ago specifically to make great creator driven content, and Oni's history is 25 years in the business. Within a new framework that is being worked on now, we remain committed to publishing groundbreaking content, embracing pioneering creators, and advancing authentic diversity and inclusion. We see an incredibly exciting future not just for the company but for our fans and content consumers worldwide.

Oni Press Issue Statement About Firings Not Written By Anyone At Oni

It is unclear who crafted the statement, as  Director Of Publicity Tara Lehmann, Senior VP Marketing Alex Segura or even Marketing Manager Henry Barajas, are all no longer with Oni Press. So let's summarise a few things, and talk about what I have been hearing this morning.

Oni Press/Lion Forge has been hitting the headlines recently, with former owners James Lucas Jones and Charlie Chu pushed out by parent company Polarity, others departing voluntarily, and their newly reprinted Gender Queer: A Memoir graphic novel landing them, and its writer/artist Maia Kobabe, with obscenity criminal lawsuits in the state of Virginia. as well as Oni Press getting allegations of non-payment to comic book creators. Bleeding Cool looked at other recent work moves, and concerns of overwork, leading to notable gaps missing from the publisher's schedule, with nothing at all published in May. Associate Publisher Michelle Nguyen has been credited with doing the lion's share of the publisher work over the last year, as well as managing the company, but that is a lot of work that would normally be shared by others, especially from a non-senior position. Gaps in publishing schedules, and projects remaining in limbo for years have squeezed Oni's production more, than paper issues and printing presses might have. We also noted that Oni Press had cancelled their SDCC booth, snapped up straight away by Good Smile.  But now Oni seems to have been reduced even further to what has repeatedly been described to Bleeding Cool as a "skeleton crew" of Michelle Nguyen and Senior VP of games & operations, Steve Ellis.

Yesterday, Oni Press cancelled their SDCC panels as well which, given one was to be a twentieth-anniversary panel led by James Lucas Jones and Charlie Chu looking into the past and future, would have been an interesting one if it had still gone forward. And there were more sackings.

Senior editor Amanda Meadows posted "Hey y'all, I just got laid off from Oni Press today. Hit me on my personal line."

Senior editor Jasmine Amiri tweeted "Hi folks, I was just laid off and am no longer with Oni Press. If you need me, DMs are open."

Marketing Manager Henry Barajas tweeted "Today is my last day at Oni Press. I worked with some fantastic folks, creators, and retailers. I'm looking forward to the next chapter in the ever-changing comic book business."

Alex Segura posted this morning, "This was my last week at Oni Press. I'm thankful for the many wonderful colleagues, creators, business partners, and friends I had the pleasure of working with during my time there. Thank you for your kind words and heartfelt thoughts."

Oni Director Of Publicity Tara Lehmann tweeted "Well. It's not the timing I hoped for, but I guess it's time to say that as of this week I am the Director of Publicity for @TKOpresents. As a recent article states, this was already in the works for me and is unaffiliated by the recent turmoil at Oni Press. Coming to TKO is an exciting start to new opportunities, titles, & talent that I am incredibly eager to begin working with. I can't wait to share everything we have planned in the coming months. For any press inquiries or to join our newsletter, reach me at tara@tkopresents.com.  My heart and soul goes out to the folks at Oni Press —I'm so sorry this is happening. You absolutely don't deserve this. To all who were let go, I hope you land somewhere safely and soon. And to all those who remain, stay safe.

But it was Desiree Wilson, Former Associate Editor at Oni Press and now a literary agent with The Bent Agency who specialise in making graphic novel deals, who tweeted a list of observations and allegations that may have triggered Oni's press statement. She tweeted "I have it on pretty good authority that Oni is dropping all their creator-owned stuff next and keeping IP only. I'm serious, creators, protect yourselves and if you need help figuring out how to get outstanding payments, ensuring you get your rights back, etc, my inbox is open. This is Liquidation 101. One confirmation from a creator recieved re: the dropping of non-IP properties. This is just … a mess. As things always are and were with Oni. I have absolutely nothing nice or comforting to say. I am genuinely sorry for the fantastic staff and creators who are about to be set adrift into the wilds of an already terrible publishing landscape. I'd hoped getting rid of Ch* and JLJ was enough but it's always about money. Please know: if your book is already published, you're going to have a different termination/out clause than someone who isn't published yet. A lot of creators who are not published might already meet the requirements for exiting their contract at no harm to them depending. If you're published, I can't say much without seeing your contracts. If you have an agent, CONTACT THEM. This is why you pay them 15%! This is all based solely on my memory of the contracts I saw while working there. This may have changed. But I've gotten at least two creators out of those exploitive contracts, so hope is not lost. If you find out your book is being cancelled, request a termination agreement."

Former  Oni Press Marketing Manager Rachel Reed tweeted "Oni Press creators: now is the time to check your contracts for an out clause that might explain how to revoke publisher rights. Especially if your book is barely through the pipeline. Now is the time to get out. If you have an agent or a lawyer, hit them up TODAY."

Creator Jim Zub tweeted "Gutted to see so many friends and colleagues let go from Oni Press. Wondering if the rumored "skeleton crew" being kept on will include people working on the project we were set to announce next week. At this rate I feel like I'm going to find out via Twitter…"

Alejandro A. Arbona tweeted "Really weird time to have an OGN in the works at Oni Press, that's for sure"

Jay Faerber echoed that, saying " So sorry for all the folks let go from Oni Press today. What a disaster. I've got a graphic novel with them slated for October. Will it still come out…?"

The idea of Polarity selling Oni Press seems to be a foolish one as, like Image Comics,  Oni Press owns no IP rights to anything aside from its own name. Polarity would just be selling contracts, and ones that creators might not be minded to renew, now that their editors and publishers have been fired. It is also noted that Oni has fired every single one of their POC staffers. This appears to be Polarity swooping in, trying to clean house, and not really knowing how comics work. Which of course in the long history of the comics industry is far from the first time that has happened. It just seems that people do seem determined not to learn from history.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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