Can Oni Press and Lion Forge win the game of comics as one house instead of two?
It is easy to see that comics books have exploded across just about every form of media, including animation, video games, plays, TV shows, web series, to 12 years spanning, 22 films long mega movie universe and that’s just Marvel. So what’s the little publisher to do? On Wednesday Oni Press and Lion Forge announced a merger of the two companies in the New York Times.
This move, according to the company, will strengthen their library of original comics and graphic novels and help them to leverage their characters on other media platforms, including animation and film. Publishing will come out of Portland, Oregon, where Oni Press is located and no time frame for the merger has been released,
“There’s a lot of alignment, and we were going down the same path,” said David Stewart II who founded Lion Forge in St. Louis with Carl Reed in 2011 with the intent of publishing ethnically diverse creators and ethnically diverse characters. Whereas Oni Press founded in 1997, has produced a catalog that includes Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series, print editions of Erika Moen and Matt Nolan’s sex education webcomic Oh Joy Sex Toy, and Greg Rucka’s detective series Stumptown, which has been picked up by ABC as a drama starring Cobie Smulders
As with all mergers, the two publishers now one will re-structure, seeing Oni’s James Lucas Jones serve as president and publisher, with Sarah Gaydos becoming editor-in-chief. Oni’s editorial team will lead “creative and business operations,” according to the release, with current president and company co-founder Joe Nozemack moving into a board and advisory position. The consolidation of the two companies will also see Lion Forge Associate Editor Christina “Steenz” Stewart laid off or in her own words when she tweeted “Can’t say anything about the merger. But I’ll be looking for freelance work soon.” More staffing changes are to come as over 20 people are employed at Lion Forge and just under 20 at Oni. The merger was negotiated by Edward Hamati, the president of Polarity, a media company Mr. Steward founded last year to help develop Lion Forge characters outside comics.
Jones said in a statement. “In an increasingly competitive marketplace, where the business of comics and graphic novels is rapidly evolving, this merger is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our two companies to pool our resources for one goal: to create the finest comics and graphic novels for everyone.”
Polarity will be the majority owner of the new company and has already begun to create new distribution channels and earlier this week the company announced the formation of an animation studio that will produce content for movies and TV. “We’re very excited about the resources and the business expertise that David and Polarity and Lion Forge folks are bringing over,” Mr. Jones said.
“So many potential partnership conversations that we’ve had in the past were really focused on looking at us like an intellectual property farm,” Mr. Jones said and went on to added that he still had interest in other media ventures, but “at the end of the day, the mission is about publishing books.”
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