For fans of comics and graphic novels, the Eisner-award publisher Oni Press is best known for works such as Jonna & the Unpossible Monsters, Scott Pilgrim, and plenty more. But just days ahead of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Oni has announced its plans to not attend the convention. And following that sudden news, the situation surrounding the publisher has become even more complicated and mired in controversy.
Earlier in the week, Oni announced layoffs for senior staff that included Alex Segura, senior VP of marketing and sales; sales manager Henry Barajas; and senior editor Amanda Meadows. At time of writing, its remaining senior staff are senior VP of games and operations Steve Ellis, and associate publisher Michelle Nguyen. These layoffs come two weeks after publisher James Lucas Jones and creative/business development VP Charlie Chu were let go, both of whom were meant to moderate both of Oni’s now canceled SDCC panels.
With rumors of a skeleton crew operating at Oni, comic creators currently working with the company—and who’ve allegedly yet to receive any form of communication about the future of their projects—have made their feelings about the situation pretty clear. And as a result, that lack of communication has led to comics creators warning one another to protect their work and ensure they have everything they need, including legal justification, to take their work elsewhere.
DJ Kirkland, an artist who created the Oni series Black Mage with writer Daniel Barnes, noted that Oni’s radio silence on the matter is nothing new, as the company was frustratingly silent when they were being acquired by entertainment company Polarity LTD back in 2019. Back then, Oni merged with indie publisher Lion Forge, which later led to laying off nine of its collective staff, a move that received sizable blowback from the comics community. There are also allegations that Oni haven’t been paying their staff on time, if at all. Kirkland called the company out, tweeting that this has been happening “for far too long. The Oni Press we loved to work for is gone at this point.”
In a statement of their own, Oni Press said that the accusations were “wildly sensationalistic rumors and false information...We’re proud of our long history in the business, and continually strive to be better and to do better.” With a promise to keep promoting diverse voices and embracing new creators, Oni claims an “exciting future” is in store, thanks in part to a “new framework” for the company actively being worked on. At time of writing, its remaining senior staff are senior VP of games and operations Steve Ellis, and associate publisher Michelle Nguyen.
We’ll have more on Oni Press as the story develops.
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